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CSA recommendations?

Despite the winter dragging on, I am thinking about CSA's and summer! Does anyone have a CSA they particularly like? Organic v. conventional is not important. What is important is the price/value relationship, which is where my CSA last year fell down. We live in S. Mpls, but willing to pick up anywhere within approx 20 min drive. Any recs are much appreciated!

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  1. We tried a CSA two years ago and experienced the same price/value problem. Last year we just used the CSA money to shop our local farmers' market, and we were much happier with the results.

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    1. re: djtrouten

      This would be my recommendation as well. I did a CSA two or three years ago - ended up with only lettuce the first six weeks and while the variety improved later in the season, it wasn't enough to make me love the CSA (nice people, they work a few of the farmers markets, but I wouldn't do their CSA again). I know five other people who have tried five separate CSAs over the last two to three years and not a single person renewed for a second year. I think we just have too short and too unpredictable of a growing season to make CSAs the value and cornucopia of delightful surprises and variety that you might get even just a tad farther south (I'm so jealous of some of the CSAs my friends have in southern states).

      Go the farmers market - still supporting many of the same farmers, but you'll end up saving more money buying just what you'll need and reasonably use.

    2. Most CSA's grow very similar things. Pick the one that drops off closest to you. I dig the Bossy Acres women, but I am not a subscriber.

      1. You might consider going to Seward's upcoming CSA fair and speak to the farmers directly. http://seward.coop/posts/235

        ~TDQ

        1 Reply
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Thank you! I am in the process of deciding which to sign up with and this will be great!

        2. Completely agree with what everyone wrote. Most people on this thread are going to hate this, but it is what it is. A teachable moment on how capitalism works.

          The CSA construct subsidizes the farmers and their choices of what to grow and sell.

          The farmers market rewards growers who are growing and selling what people want to buy.

          I prefer to shop the farmers markets. And I'm happy to pay the premium for the first asparagus and heirloom tomatoes of the season, as opposed to the CSA who is growing as much as he or she can for the cheapest possible price. That's why there's lots of lettuce for six weeks. It's a super easy and cheap crop to grow.

          [An aside. Decades of gardening and years of starting seeds in my basement really makes me appreciate and understand pricing. Things like rosemary and leeks are difficult in our climate. Cukes, zukes, green beans and tomatoes are a breeze.]

          And, finally, shopping the farmers markets provides many teachable moments for the growers, who can see what is selling well at what price. Which provides them with better intel on what to grow and charge next year.

          Capitalism! It works.

          3 Replies
          1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

            Different strokes for different folks. I don't do a CSA, but I have several close friends that do, have done so for years, and love it. One does Harmony Valley CSA, both vegetable and fruit. Family of 3, and they go through their share pretty easily. They live in the burbs, are often out of town on weekends, and so getting to a farmer's market on a regular basis is difficult. One big bonus for them is that they try things that they otherwise wouldn't. In theory that can be done at a farmer's market too (though it seems Harmony Valley grows/gets some things that aren't found at most farmer's markets), but in reality, most folks buy what they're familiar with. He has brought in for me to try some really interesting items, including some of the best fruits I have ever had.

            Another set of friends use the Sogn Valley CSA, have done so for 3 years. They also regularly hit the NE farmer's market, and have an extensive garden. Yes, they eat lots of vegetables. While he's said that on occassion it can be a bit overwhelming, they give some away to family/friends, and they feel they still come away on the plus side.

            I don't see this as having anything to do with capitalism, other than it's an alternate system to going shopping for yourself. This is similar (though not exactly the same) to buying half a side of beef or a pig. You get a volume discount, and as a tradeoff, you don't get much of a choice in the cuts. Some cuts you get you wouldn't normally buy, and you get a limited number of some cuts that you would normally buy often. I've been splitting a pig with my FIL for a few years, and it's a fantastic deal.

            Lastly, as mentioned for the first set of friends, shopping a farmer's market isn't always practical or even an activity some folks like to do (gasp!!). Some folks travel many summer weekends, and if you work 9-5, that makes getting to a farmer's market difficult. Personally, I like going to farmer's markets once in a while, but not every week. I usually like to spend my Saturday morning's doing something else than being crowded in at the STP market. So the idea of picking up a box on the way home from work is appealing.

            1. re: foreverhungry

              I have to agree with you...we have been Harmony Valley members for 5-6 years now. While there are certain vegetables we dread (I'm looking at you, celeriac), we also get some varietals that would either be difficult to acquire, or prohibitively expensive, if we were shopping at a retail venue. (Purple potatoes, black tomatoes, garlic scapes). Not to mention quality is often significantly better.
              While it is probably not strictly cost effective, I see it as an investment in diversity. A farmer's market model is capitalistic- if you can't sell it, you can't grow it. A CSA model allows a farm to experiment with something that may not pay out for the first couple of years, or choose less productive (but tastier) heirloom varieties.

              1. re: forgottendreamr

                Even at the Farmers Market, there are plenty of non-organic and GMO crops. You have to do your research on who is selling what. The CSA's usually offer documentation up front as to their feel-goodery talking points.

          2. I love the idea of a CSA but it 's not pratical for me. Someone else deceided what I get. At a farmers Market I deceide. CSA's to me, seem like a ongoing contribuition to a Kickstarter campaign.