CSAs are For Food Lovers

Box of farm freshness no grocery store necessary.

The pleasure season of CSA (community supported agriculture) is upon us, and its time to sign up. After I renew my membership to my neighborhood CSA, crisp lettuce, greens, squash, string beans, potatoes, garlic, radishes, herbs, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and more will be delivered by my farmer weekly. Occasionally these vegetables have been picked only hours before they are in my kitchen. Its an incredible system organized by people who want to help local and small farms, and shames every grocery store tomato you'll ever eat after. A farm subscription that delivers boxes of veggies. Because I make a commitment to my farm's growing season all of these vegetables, and most of my diet, costs less than the farmers market, and less than sometimes than the grocery store.

Even if you aren't crazy about what grows, fruit, cheese, eggs, bread, and now meat CSAs are all options! The finest fish, beef, lamb, and heritage pork can be bought from specialized meat CSAs and sometimes packaged with vegetable and fruit CSAs. Its time to sign up, so lets think this out.

Farm to Table: How it works

-- Find a CSA group. Try to pick one that is located near your home or work. Most start in late spring May or June and end around Thanksgiving.

-- Sign up (now-ish in Spring) for a share that suits you. Full shares are good for families or splitting up with friends. Half shares are good for one ravenous vegetable eater or 2 average eaters. You may want to add eggs, fruit, flowers, or bread if their are options. It will cost more, but you won't regret it.

Local Harvest and the Rodale Institute nationally locates farms and CSA groups. In the NYC area Just Foods organizes CSA groups along with farm, food, education, and social opportunities. Eat Wild will help you find other meats and proteins.

-- Pay usually 2-3 installments by check. Some CSAs require payment up front. I pay $290 for 20 weeks of a half share. That's $15 a week for a breakfast, lunch, and dinner of big fresh flavored local vegetables, fruit and eggs. I only have to buy some protein and I'm set.

Farm veggies waiting for CSA share members.
This was a tomato heavy week, we had lots of those last year.

-- Pick up your share, this is a great day. You will be assigned (usually by email newsletter) a spot to pick up, date, and times. Thursday from 4-8 pm at a school, church, restaurant, or community garden is a very common arrangement. Your farmer delivers the vegetables and other food to the spot before hand. Food is often set out in bins with distribution amounts labeled. Every member checks in at the spot and collects the same foods, e.g. 2 green peppers, 3 lbs of tomatoes, 4 heads of garlic depending on the size of the share. See what kind of food you get here and here.

-- Cook or not. I eat raw with a little salt.

-- Volunteer the entire system is run by your community. Pitch in and help with distribution, write a newsletter, join the core administrators, suggest recipes, have a potluck, cooking demo, or visit your farm and see where your food grows. It may be required to help, once or twice.

Sample week, one of each variety fava beans, chard, tomato, corn,
eggplant, turnip, white acorn squash, basil, apple, potato, pear, onion.

Deciding if its right for you

Yes, if you...
-- enjoy a variety of vegetables
-- like eating fresh, flavorful, local, in season vegetables
-- cook!
-- support small farmers and their growing techniques
-- want farmer's market quality vegetables for less
-- have inadequate grocery options

Maybe not if you ...
-- need to choose your vegetables. That's right you get what the farmer is growing. Limited to no choice.
-- have an unreliable schedule that prevents you from collecting your share distribution weekly
-- prefer to eat out
-- feel oppressed by extra food. You could pickle, can, freeze, compost, or give away your extra food, but then again maybe there already aren't enough hours.
-- are not patient. Quantity and varieties of food change month to month, and year to year. Factors like weather, harvest dates, pest, soil, and general luck determine the foods you pick up each week. Expect less food and fewer varieties in the spring as seedlings are getting going. You have to wait until late July/early August for tomatoes.

This is going to be my fourth year with a CSA. I exaggerate on this blog (occasionally for emphasis) but trust that CSA vegetables has been my number one favorite food experience. Sign up now! Shares fill up in the next few weeks. Hit me with your questions and concerns, or if you need another kick in the pants.

Thanks to Food2.com for posting this story!


  1. Hi Naomi!

    I love your recipes, but searched desperately for the roasted pear one to find that it is missing on your blog! Can you re-post it? It was sooooo good!


  2. Hi Shana,

    Thanks much. SOrry about pears, snafu. Its back:

  3. Hi Shana,

    I'm planning on participating in the CSA this season, are your pictures and descriptions of a full or half share? Trying to decide what would be right for a couple with no kids.



  4. Mike, so exciting for you.

    The pictures are of a full share. A full share will feed a couple for sure. On average it was 7-12 (some weeks much more) pounds of food a week from my Ditmas Park. Its actually an over abundant amount of food, and I often froze or canned my food, which I later ate in the late fall and winter.


  5. Cool, thanks. Just signed up for a half share. And thanks for the flickr add. :-)


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