Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

School supported CSA

I've done a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription in the past through work, but they started doing drop-offs on days that I work from home and too late for my husband to pick up, so I haven't subscribed in years.

What's a CSA? It's basically when a farm offers a certain number of "shares" to the public, usually consisting of a box of vegetables and fruits, but other farm products may be included as well. Interested consumers purchase a share (or a "subscription") and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Well, my kid's school will soon be a drop-off site for organic produce from Full Circle Farms and I'm thinking of signing back up again for a family box. The issue I've had in the past with doing a CSA subscription is the weekly lack of preparation to deal with ample amounts of foods I either don't regularly eat, don't know what to do with or don't like.

Since my kids are fairly picky when it comes to fruits and vegetables, I don't really take them into consideration on whether or not to subscribe. And, since (I'm assuming) they'll only be delivering during the school year, it won't clash with my own backyard growing season. I love the fact that they have a year-round CSA, although I'm a little concerned about where they get all their produce. I don't want something included if it's in season or organic, but shipped in from far away.

What about you? Have you ever subscribed to a CSA and what was your impression? Is it worth supporting local farmers this way even though you may not want all that they deliver? Or, does your CSA allow you to switch out foods you may not like for things you do?


Christine F. said...

We have been participating in a local farm's CSA program for 3 years now and LOVE it. Yes, it can sometimes be a challenge with young kiddos in the house and an abundance of veggies, some of them rather strange. The positive on this is that they get to try things they otherwise wouldn't and you may get to as well. I can think of at least 4 things I had never tried before the CSA. You will learn ways to prepare the new things that everyone will enjoy (or at least tolerate) and if not maybe they just take a taste and eventually they will grow to like it. I find my kids will eat almost any veggie raw (even ones they have rejected cooked!) So we make dips with a huge variety of veggie sticks. I also now throw kale into an incredible (or alarming?)amount of things, (everything from smoothies to omlets!)and they are loved by everyone, even the kids. How did we eat these things with out kale before?? I end up freezing a lot of stuff for use during our long winters as well. Our CSA only runs during the Summer & Fall. I choose to pick up at the Farm to take advantage of the pick your own fields. Our program also has "swap" tables where you can switch out something you don't care for. Picking up at the farm also allows you the option of just not taking something you know you will not eat and choosing something else instead. Honestly we have never picked up a fruit or veggie that we haven't wanted to eat. I love that it is all organic and grown in the town next door. You have just reminded me I need to get my check in for next years share. Thank you Crunchy!

Jenette said...

They sum it up:
Cancel Anytime - No Commitment.
Home Delivery - We deliver directly to your home weekly, every other week, or monthly. (I do pick my box u from a drop ship site)
Customize your delivery - exclude items you do not like and add extra of items you do. (I did try it for a year before I modified the items)... I could not get anyone to eat kale

I don't think I would keep doing it if I had items we wouldn't eat... you can try to start a swap at the pickup site.

Robj98168 said...

I am joining a CSA for the first time this year. Like you were saying the delivery times and locations never worked out for me either, but thanks to our new Eat Local store, I have the choice of not one but two CSA's- Tiny's organic and Beauforts farm!!! I am so excited!!! I am not worried about things I don't likr as I like just about everything (except okra and eggplant) and am always willing to try new things- need to know how to prepare something? thats why god and Al Gore made the interweb thingy!

Caron said...

My CSA had a swap basket, where you could leave behind what you were not going to eat, and take stuff that others have left, if it interests you. Maybe you could suggest this to your farm.

shabadeux said...

I am also joining a CSA for the first time. It took some searching and e-mailing, but more CSA options are cropping (sorry) up around here!

Anyway, the one I chose has the best prices, a 20 week season in the summer and fall, and lots of great veggies. It's just me, so I'm going for a half share. At first it was scary to send off the big check (I had to do a 50% deposit) but I figure I spend more per week at the farmers' market anyway.

The drop off location should be close by. If it doesn't work out I will choose a drop off that's a little farther out but it's a grocery store and the produce is refrigerated.

I will probably continue to buy meat at the market, but my farmer sells some, too.

I'm excited!

Josef said...

My girlfriend and I joined a CSA for the first time this summer. It was only a summer and fall program. The initial payout was steep, especially for a grad student, but in the end was worth much more. Veggies that I would have never considered. A nice community at the pick up location. A lot of advice on good ways to prepare things. I am still overflowing with squash but slowly working my way through it and will be sad when it is gone. I second what Christine said on the kale. Where have you been all my life?

Cave-Woman said...

I've loved being part of a CSA. Sometimes we get foods that I don't know what to do with---so I have to get creative. Sometimes that ends well, others...not so much. However, the overall effect is trying more green leafy things than I would have if I'd been rummaging through the grocery store.

Maria said...

This was my first year participating with a local farm CSA (fall and winter only). It just ended last week. I was lucky that when I went to go pick it up, if I didn't want something in particular, I could say no and get something else. Very lucky! However, my daughter is the only one in our family of five who is picky, so that helps. I loved it this year and intend on expanding next year to the summer. And when I did get some new veggie....I went on line to get recipes...I now make the best BEET cake - truly sounds awful, but it is OMG delicious. I also froze a ton of veggies to be used this winter.

Anna in Atlanta said...

I did a trial run with a local CSA, and really loved it. Great veggies, and I was challenged to figure out what to do with some new ones. I had to quit, though, because it was just too much food for 1 adult and 2 pre-teens to eat up every week -- we ate wonderful veggie meals, but I still couldn't keep up.

If I find someone to split with or a half-box (or every-other-week option), I'd do it again in a flash.

Aimee said...

when I lived in the city I bought a CSA and split it with my sister - too much food for one family. Now I just trade and go to farmer's markets. But CSA's are still the best way to support local farms - they give the farms an infusion of cash when they need it, in the early spring. Some farms let you "pre-pay" and then pick out your own food, so you aren't stuck with whatever they give you, but can decide what you want.

The Nurturing Pirate said...

This post has helped me frame up one of my two New Year's Resolutions: 1. Start a compost bin. 2. Eat more seasonally, in preparation for joining a CSA next year. By looking at what they're delivering this year on a weekly basis, I can menu plan around that. BONUS: I have menus for next year!

Rosa said...

we've belonged to 5 different CSAs in 6 years. I like doing it, but i think i'm a minority customer - i wants lots of one thing so i have enough to can/freeze.

We split with friends this year and it worked out great because they like the veggies we don't like (turnips, radishes).

Rebecca said...

Jubilee Farm in Carnation offers a "locovore" option for their off season boxes. During the summer everything is from the farm itself. I've been a member for 5 years, and have been very happy with my shares.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Never participated in a CSA, since my family grows so much and would probably kick my butt :)

I did look into a meat CSA, but there aren't a lot of options around here.

Miss Sub said...

Full Circle Farms is great because you can swap things online and tell them things you'd rather never see.

I picked up at PNA. But that's much more convenient for me than you.

We got some really nummy stuff from them!

John at Cell Phone Recycling said...

I also want to join CSA and base on the feedback it's really fun to be a part of CSA. It's also good to know that schools are also a part of this program.

Chard Lady said...

I could not find a CSA in my area so I started with an organic veggie delivery service. I was expecting more variety and better quality. They did allow substitutions, but I couldn't choose what they were, so I oftentimes ended up with three bunches of kale, and it was often buggy. Even though they were really nice and always gave me credits, it was in the form of more kale, so I discontinued the service.
Now that I have a community garden space, I am quite spoiled. I can grow all my favorite varieties in the quantities I want, and in the right season. No more buggy summer kale here!

sled dog skippy said...

I've subscribed to Full Circle Farm CSA, since it was the only CSA available in Homer, AK. Yup, it was shipped from Washington. And the price reflected that same-day shipping. And trucking...

Crunchy, you are right about stuff being shipped from far away--it is organic, but from South America, etc.

You can do a lot of substitutions for items you don't want and always "pause" the subscription to decide if it's right for you (it wasn't for us).

Unknown said...

I had FC for awhile, after SPUD/Pioneer Organics (which kept messing up my order, maybe they have gotten better now). I ended up quitting since it was not convenient for my to always come puck it up. While CSA's were ok, the winter ones tended to get boring fast and it seemed like I was paying a premium for imported items.

Amy said...

Every summer. It encourages us to try new things. I usually throw a few kohlrabi out for the deer to eat, but usually eat the rest. Our CSA provides an electronic news letter each week with ideas and recipes for the items in our box. I am already looking forward to those greens. Our CSA is a single farm, so I know everything is local. It is an important thing to do! Everyone should try it!

Amy..again said...

Wait, how can a CSA not be local? By definition it has to be (Community Sustained). What you are describing is a Co-op. If they call it a CSA and ship things in they need to rename it!

Anonymous said...

I love my CSA! We just switched from delivery every week to every-other week. They deliver to our house, and have a "never send" option for things like okra or tomatoes (that I grow myself). It runs all year long, mostly because I live in an area where things grow all year round. The next step in my master plan is to start growing more of the stuff myself.

Nikki B.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to leave their link...

Nikki B.

knittingwoman said...

I also wonder how can it be a CSA if it isn't local? The only CSAs I have ever belonged to were with local farmers so everything came from their farms. There is a local delivery service from a business that sells farm produce from local farmers but also bulk stuff and produce from away but it isn't the same as a CSA at all. We belonged to a really small urban CSA last year that was on its first year and it was a mixed bag for us, basically we didn't get our money's worth for a variety of reasons. We will be giving it a second chance next spring.

knittingwoman said...

I should have added that the urban CSA drop off spot was our house:) that made it a lot easier.

cath said...

We've had a home delivery system for about 4 years. We're on the fence - we loved it at first, but now with a 3 year old and a 1 year old, we're experiencing what someone called kale fatigue. I just can't cook my way through it every week, and my husband now refuses to eat enough kale and beets to make it worthwhile. The great news is that our farmers markets are now so much better here than they were when we started, so while it'll be a bit of a rough go in winter, I think we'll probably quit the delivery in the spring and just use farmer's markets, freezing what we can for winter use.

Wendy said...

My CSA is the "credit" kind, where we pre-paid whatever amount we wanted in the late winter/early spring, and then, in the summer, we could go to the Farmer's Market or to their farm store and choose what we wanted from what they had available. The farm had just about everything that can be grown in my area, plus apple cider and maple syrup. I didn't have to take anything I didn't want or that I was growing myself, plus, if I didn't use all of the money I put down, it carried over to the next year.

For the first time ever they've opened their doors this winter and have available cider, storage vegetables, some things they were able to grow in the unheated greenhouses, frozen raspberries, and cider.

It's a great deal, and I wouldn't hesitate to join again.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE my CSA! The farm is about an hour away and once a week, they have a drop off point roughly halfway between my job & my home.

I paid quarterly - wonderful for me, as I couldn't afford the year in advance - and right now w no money coming in, I'm *very* grateful I'm still paid up for another couple of months.

Sometimes there is a swap box, and I confess I've turned in kale for corn on the cob (really, who would swap fresh corn on the cob?), but generally I just take what I'm given & learn to eat new things.

They don't do special orders, but I believe they made an exception for one person to not deliver onions, but exchange it for something else, b/c she was allergic to them.

Local food security is one of the things that is *very* important to me, so if kale & brussels sprouts are what grow in my area, that's what I'll eat. :)

And it does get easier. :)

And it's not all bad/difficult. We had fresh strawberries on November 16th!!! (In Canada!)

AND, they do try to grow a wide variety of food and varieties. I can think of at least four varieties each of onions & potatoes they grew this year, which reassures me they are practicing crop diversity.

"My farmer" & her husband are both children of farmers, so they have their own plus two family farms from which to pick. If there is not enough from their farms, they will reach out to other local farms and supplement.

She also lets us know if there is extra of anything on a given week & we can order that for extra $$. (Strawberries or tomatoes for example, for canning jam or sauce.)

Last night's basket was much of the fixings for a traditional Christmas dinner & then some: squash, cranberries, potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, apples, pears, pumpkin, and beets.

It's all as organic as it can be. (Some parts of one farm are in transition, but that's where they are heading. It's grown w/o pesticides/sprays, but just not officially certified yet.)

For me, it's perfect. I needed something local, organic, and easy. Everything other than dry goods comes from an hour away, and once a year I buy my dry goods in bulk from a flour mill a couple of hours away that really reaches out to local farmers to encourage and support their efforts.

My beans, oats, wheat, etc are from w/i three hours of my home & the mill also acts as a distribution point for bulk rice, raisins, and seeds.

They deliver it all at once (saving on transportation costs), give me free shipping and a discount on the groceries b/c it's such a large order, and best of all, there is nary a plastic bag in the lot. Being bulk, all the dry goods are packaged in double-layer paper bags stitched w string or in cardboard boxes! :)

Right now my CSA offers full or half-shares (suitable for 1-2 people or 3-4) and full year or eighteen weeks in summer (which was extended for an extra several weeks). I have a year round, full share and I will *definitely* be renewing next year.

The food is wonderful, I eat much better and more variety than I would on my own, I'm supporting local business, protecting local food security, and learning to be very content with what I have.

Life is good. :)

His in JOY

(: Sunshine :)

Molly said...

I used to do the Full Circle Farms CSA but I quit when it seemed just about everything in their winter boxes came from Mexico or Southern CA. It was mostly pretty corporate-organic, as well. Lettuce from Earthbound Farms, and so on. Might as well buy bagged organic greens from Trader Joe's and save some money.

Leanne said...

I've had a CSA share for several years.

First CSA we were part of I wound up not liking (the pick up was in complete conflict with shopping at the local farmer's market, and the range of foods offered definitely had that... um... hippie farmer you-should-eat-this-because-I-say-its-good-for-you vibe.)

The second (and current) CSA is very much a farm family, with all the long-term practicality of a multi-generation farm family.

We get a "winter share" as well as the height of summer produce. I find that I plant things the farm doesn't, or I plant more of certain things I know we'll eat. The winter share is often a mix of what can be grown in protected areas of the farm through the early winter (think carrots and cabbages), and food that was harvested in the summer then stored (think squashes, and onions, and potatoes.)

Unknown said...

I did not like the CSA. It was way too much greens and turnips and not enough of anything else. After about six weeks, it went bust and I lost all my money.

I prefer going to the Farmer's Market, supporting multiple farmers, and picking out what I want.