How to choose a CSA

Hello faith in plants friends! GC and I recently joined a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. Have you heard of them before? You get a weekly delivery of fresh produce from a local farm. It is seriously awesome for so many reasons: you are supporting local farmers and the local economy, getting fresh food, learning how to cook crazy vegetables…so many great things! I was part of a CSA back in college, and loved the experience. I got some veggies I had never seen before (kohlrabi, anyone?), as well as a 20 pound watermelon I had to lug home a mile another time. My roommate and I named the watermelon Bertha and later made melon smoothies for our whole freshman year floor.

When we moved to Virginia, I knew we wanted to join a CSA here. We did TONS of research on which one was best for us and our needs. We looked at several factors to make our decision, including:

  • Certifications
  • Pick up location, day, and time
  • Cost/share
  • Number of weeks in season
  • Cost/week
  • Notes

These are the factors that were important to GC and me. Another important thing to consider is their vacation policy–some CSAs will let you skip a week and pick up double the following week, others operate on a ‘use it or lose it’ system.

There are several online resources that are great for finding local CSAs.

  • Local Harvest is a great site that lists CSAs and other local food. You can enter in your zip code and filter the results to find a farm that fits your needs.
  • For the DC area, the Washington Post has a wonderful interactive map of CSA drop off locations.

I used both of these to do some background research but ultimately I made a table to do my comparison. You can download a template of my CSA Selection workbook I created to help you in organizing your own research!  Please note–all of these looked absolutely amazing when I was researching them. 

 

Name

 Certifications  Pick Up Distance, Day, & Time  Cost  Weeks  Cost/ Week Notes
Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop Organic  .5 miles

Tues

4-8 pm

$825  26   $32 Can add on fruit, natural medicine, bread, etc
Groundworks Farm Organic  .7 miles

Wed

3-6 pm

$650  22  $30   
Spiritual Food for a New Millennium   Biodynamic & Organic  1 mile

Wed

2-8 pm

$2000  52 (year long) $38  Includes bread & eggs, option to do 6 week trial
Bull Run Farm  Chemical Free  3 miles

Mon

5:30-7 pm

$700  20  $35  Fruit share add on, $120/season full share or $65/ season half share 
Rainbow Hill Farm Organic 3 miles

Thurs

3-7 pm 

$500   20  $25  
Earth Spring Farm  Organic practices (not certified)   4 miles

Thurs

Time TBD 

$500   20 $25  Can do customizeable shares for another $60, fruit shares 20 weeks for $100  
 Potomac Vegetable Farms Ecoganic  1 mile

Tues

Time TBD 

 $576 16  $36    Option to do fall for additional 8 weeks, can also add flowers and fermented foods

We ultimately decided to go with Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative for a few reasons: they are certified organic, the pick up location was closest to our house, we could go after work hours, and they have unique “Natural Farmacy” and “Veganize It!” add ons that you can do. They are actually a group of over 100 organic farms in the region that have formed this cooperative network. I’m sure any of these farms would have been great–the important thing is to support local farmers and get the healthiest, freshest food for yourself and your family.

We’ve been really happy with them so far. We pick up our food once a week from a volunteer’s house. They have a pretty good system. The first week someone accidentally took our bread and pantry item (part of the “Veganize It” share we get in addition to veggies) but they sent extra for us the next week so it was completely fine! I am hoping to sign up for their Natural Farmacy during the summer. 

Eat Local

our CSA bread + new plates

We’ve been getting so much food that it is starting to take up serious space in our fridge. Everything we’ve made has been fresh and delicious, and the root vegetables we have are great for longer term storage. Below is a photo of one week’s veggies from the CSA…seriously an amazing amount of food for the price. 

Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop CSA

one week’s CSA

You should have everything you need to get started joining your own CSA now! Let me know if you have any questions when you are doing your research and I can try to help.

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