Cooter

CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture)

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So, the wife and I are thinking of signing up for a CSA, specifically Great Country Farms.

Does anyone have any experience with a CSA share or with this particular farm? It sounds like an awesome idea.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, a CSA share entitles you to a certain amount of fresh produce from a local farm about once a week. There are a few in the area; some deliver and some you must pick up. Some also allow you to engage in a limited amount of "pick-your-own" activities in addition to the picked-up/delivered produce.

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This was my reply to a similar question about Great Country Farms on eG -

My husband and I split shares with another couple for two years. While we enjoyed the service, we found that we were overwhelmed with the amount of produce, and ended up not using too much of what we got. If I were more organized and had more room, I probably would have frozen and/or canned a lot of what we received.

The two years we participated also had less-than-stellar weather. The first year had a mild draught, and the second year they had flooded or nearly-flooded fields. While we did receive a LOT of produce, we found that we kept getting the same things in our bins, sometimes they were things we don't use a lot. As a member of the farm, you take a similar, though obviously much smaller, gamble to what the farmer does. You just don't know what will grow well each year.

We did go out to the farm a few times for u-pick, especially for berries, asparagus and later in the year, pumpkins. They generally don't put the more perishable (squashable) produce into the bins that go out. They do supply smaller pumpkins in the bins, but to get the big ones you have to go to them. Being able to pick what we wanted, within the designated limits, was a great benefit but we didn't get out there very much.

I loved coming home once a week to find out what was on our doorstep. It was like opening up a weekly present. I miss that.

The people who own Great Country Farms are very enthusiastic about what they do, and are very friendly. I would highly recommend them for a family that goes through a lot of produce. For us, the farmers market works better.

If you join, make sure you don't miss u-pick asparagus. There's nothing like eating it the day it was picked!

Hope this is useful. The thread I included this in is at: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=63382&hl=

Ann-Marie

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I have participated in a CSA a couple of summers, but probably won't do it this year. Last summer I limited my share to a dozen eggs a week and opted out of the fruit/vegetable shares.

I have mixed feelings about my experience. On one hand, it was very convenient and I had the opportunity to try some new and different things. And you can't beat fresh tomatoes and salad greens in the middle of the summer! On the other hand, it was very unpredictable from week to week as far as quantity/selection. Obviously weather plays a huge role in what can/will grow. The last few summers ranged from very wet to very dry to very cool. Surprisingly (to me at least), the dry summer was probably the most bountiful.

The farmer would open his farm up to shareholders a month or more before deliveries started so you could go out and pick lettuce/greens if you wanted and collect eggs. He also held a few 'events' at the farm including a solstice potluck picnic and a pumpkin picking day. He was a nice guy but I wonder about his farming skills :) . Seemed like something was always going wrong or a crop was getting eaten by deer/geese/turtles :o

Ultimately, I decided that I really like going to the farmers' market, often several times a week, and picking out what I want/need. I also feel like that may work out to be a better value. I spent approx. $250 for my 1-person share, with deliveries from early June to late October. In the low-producing years, it definitely didn't feel like I got my money's worth.

I think it's really important to support local farmers/growers, so I do choose very carefully which markets I go to. Old Town? - forget it! Del Ray? - every week! The eggs didn't turn out to be as good as I'd hoped and the random weeks when the farmer didn't bring enough, or forgot (!) them, made me decide that it really wasn't worth my while - esp. for about $4/dozen.

That's my 2 cents. I do think the ORIGINAL idea of CSAs - where the shareholders actually went out and worked at the farm - is a good one, but probably near impossible to implement in this day and age of traffic and over-scheduling B)

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Thanks so much for the info and link to egullet, abramer and Goldenticket. After seeing the pictures in the egullet thread, we're signing up at Great Country Farms since they'll deliver to our place in Del Ray.

Hopefully we can use most of what we get, and if not, it'll be a learning experience.

Thanks, again.

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I did a CSA for the first time last year and really enjoyed it, although I don't know if I'll do it again. A friend and I split a half share from Waterpenny Farms (chosen primarily for a pickup point close to our apartment). It was definitely a good way to try new veggies I wouldn't ordinarily pick up, and most of the time we ate everything we got, but I think I would prefer just going to a farmer's market and picking stuff out next time. But I'm glad I did it once for the experience and to diversify my tastes!

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I have mixed feelings about my experience. 

I subscribed to the same CSA as you and have the same feelings. Did it last year - was fun for awhile, but didn't get as much as we expected nor as much variety as we expected. Will be happy to spend the money at a farmer's market instead this year! (Also, the pickup location was fairly inconvenient for us, so we often ended up just skipping going to pick up what we knew was going to be not a great assortment.)

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Has anyone done the CSA at Red Wiggler in Germantown? I'm trying to adjust to the idea that it won't be a hop skip and a jump to go to Dupont on Sunday mornings or Arlington on Saturday's once we move...

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He was a nice guy but I wonder about his farming skills :) . Seemed like something was always going wrong or a crop was getting eaten by deer/geese/turtles :lol:

Growing up we had about 50 acres or so of land, about 20-25 of which we planted corn on (primarily to grind and feed to the pigs which we also raised every year), sort of something for my parents to do when they weren't at work I guess. Even after we sold our land and moved we still had ties to the area and the handful of people that farmed in the area and I would always here the stories of what was going wrong that year. I can tell you that something always going wrong is about right from my memory. Either it didn't rain enough or it rained too much (which is also horrible as it doesn't allow for good root structure), or the japanese beetles are eating the leaves, or the deer are eating the whole thing, or gophers are tearing up the roots, or something. Where I was growing up the gophers and the deer were the worst. Deer you can shoot (or *ahem* shoot at but miss of course if it's not deer season) but just what do you do to keep gophers away?

To this day my parents still plant a little garden that's probably no more than 20-30 rows of about 100 feet each. It's easier to keep something like that going as you can take more individual care with what you've planted, but there are still some years where something they planted just doesn't come up or it comes up only sparsely. Of course there are other years where whatever they planted comes up so well they have to practically beg people to take stuff from them as they can't can/freeze/eat it fast enough.

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Hi everyone -

Does anyone know of a farm that has a CSA program and (preferably) delivers? There used to be a great organic farm in Virginia that delivered to the Arlington UU, but it's since folded.

I'm relying on Washington's Green Grocer now, which is not bad, but I miss my local, fresh-off-the-farm stuff. WGG is mostly/all organic, and it has dairy, too, but a lot of the produce isn't local - but they deliver.(http://www.washingtonsgreengrocer.com - in case you don't know about this nifty service)

thanks!

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Hi everyone -

Does anyone know of a farm that has a CSA program and (preferably) delivers? There used to be a great organic farm in Virginia that delivered to the Arlington UU, but it's since folded.

I'm relying on Washington's Green Grocer now, which is not bad, but I miss my local, fresh-off-the-farm stuff. WGG is mostly/all organic, and it has dairy, too, but a lot of the produce isn't local - but they deliver.(http://www.washingtonsgreengrocer.com - in case you don't know about this nifty service)

thanks!

I used Great Country Farms this year and was quite satisfied. I picked up because they deliver but not to where I am. I'm not sure if they come to your area or not. (It was a loony idea on my part to drive out there every week, but my schedule was pretty open this summer and I'm glad I did it.)

http://www.greatcountryfarms.com/

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Just signed up for a half-share from Karl's farm. They deliver to your door for an extra $60. Looking forward to seeing how this thing goes, and whether I'll be able to find the time to cook everything that shows up on my doorstep.

ETA link, since google has a hard time finding them.

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We're doing the Jug Bay CSA. We've never done one before, but we're hoping this will cause us to eat more ... what do they call those things ... vejetubbles? We're getting the full-on treatment: weekly eggs and fresh flowers too.

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Just signed up for a half-share from Karl's farm. They deliver to your door for an extra $60. Looking forward to seeing how this thing goes, and whether I'll be able to find the time to cook everything that shows up on my doorstep.

ETA link, since google has a hard time finding them.

What's their delivery area? I had a CSA last year but ended up driving to the farm because of the delivery range. I really enjoyed doing it, but that drive was insane :blink: . I don't know what I was thinking.

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Just signed up for a half-share from Karl's farm. They deliver to your door for an extra $60. Looking forward to seeing how this thing goes, and whether I'll be able to find the time to cook everything that shows up on my doorstep.

ETA link, since google has a hard time finding them.

Any idea what their delivery area is?

ETA....I'd appreciate if someone can show me how to delete my "me too!" post... :blink:

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for the second year in a row, we're going with bull run farm. i believe there are still shares available.

politburo and i did a 2-person share and yes, at the end of each week we had a lot of extra vegetables and greens that we couldn't finish. but it forces us to eat healthier and try out new recipes that we wouldn't normally have tried if we didn't have the abundance of the veggies.

there is a pick up (i believe) every day of the week at a different location in the metro area. last year it was a few blocks from dupont circle, which was pretty convenient.

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Any idea what their delivery area is?

Karl's delivers to: College Park, Saint Leonard, Takoma Park, or Washington, DC.

It was the delivery option that put this into the realm of possibility for me. Quite looking forward to it, even if I end up with random vegetables leftover at the end of the week.

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We signed up with Great Country Farms.

http://www.greatcountryfarms.com/

The big driver for us is that they will deliver to our door in Arlington. This is our first year so we are cautiously hopeful that our emphasis on convenience will prove wise. :blink:

That was the farm I had a CSA with last year, that I drove to because I was outside the delivery area. They're nice folks, and the produce was generally pretty good. Their peach crop wasn't so great, and they had some problems with deer eating green beans. Eventually, they turned out a nice green bean crop. I've still got some left in the freezer.

I had so many tomatoes, it was hard to use them all. Squash. Collards. Kale. It was a good variety of produce.

I did my full share of pick your own since I was out there and really enjoyed it: blackberries, strawberries, potatoes, corn. They also have herbs and flowers for cutting.

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That was the farm I had a CSA with last year, that I drove to because I was outside the delivery area. They're nice folks, and the produce was generally pretty good. Their peach crop wasn't so great, and they had some problems with deer eating green beans. Eventually, they turned out a nice green bean crop. I've still got some left in the freezer.

I had so many tomatoes, it was hard to use them all. Squash. Collards. Kale. It was a good variety of produce.

I did my full share of pick your own since I was out there and really enjoyed it: blackberries, strawberries, potatoes, corn. They also have herbs and flowers for cutting.

Thanks! Now I'm getting excited. :blink:

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for the second year in a row, we're going with bull run farm. i believe there are still shares available.

politburo and i did a 2-person share and yes, at the end of each week we had a lot of extra vegetables and greens that we couldn't finish. but it forces us to eat healthier and try out new recipes that we wouldn't normally have tried if we didn't have the abundance of the veggies.

there is a pick up (i believe) every day of the week at a different location in the metro area. last year it was a few blocks from dupont circle, which was pretty convenient.

I was going to suggest this one; it's about 3-4 miles NNE of where I grew up, and when I get homesick I read this farmer's blog....he's had some trouble with deer and bear(!) over the years, the solutions to which make good reading (we didn't have much luck gardening in that neck of the woods for similar reasons though never saw a bear!)

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As summer winds down and fall approaches, I'm eager to know how everyone feels about their CSA experience this year? Was it as convenient as you thought it would be?

Were your culinary horizons expanded, or did you get bored?

Did you just get through your share in a week, or did you have leftovers? Did you preserve things for later in the year?

Was there enough variety? Too much?

Will you subscribe again next year? To the same CSA or a different one?

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This was the first year that I participated in a CSA. Was it convenient? Yes. Would I do it again? Probably. With the same CSA? Probably not.

At the beginning of the season, I was overwhelmed by the quantity of some of the vegetables… especially the Bok Choy cousins. We got epazote for, I guess, five weeks running. How many pots of beans will one make, especially during the summer. I found very little use for it. The squash was enough to carry me through the week. The potatoes were a bit overwhelming. At one point, I had 10 potatoes sitting in my kitchen.

I’ve loving the sage and, to some extent, the basil. As I’ve mentioned previously, my new favorite dish is pasta with browned butter sage sauce. And, I just made a whole mess of pesto yesterday, which is now in the freezer. For the last few weeks, I’ve been doing almost daily snacks of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. The garlic has been plentiful… that is, until I used most of it for my pesto.

I have been quite disappointed by the variety. I signed on to the Bull Run CSA because of the price and the (proposed) variety and the pick-up location. Some of the items listed have yet to/won’t appear: corn (which I understand was wiped out because of the drought); okra (which I was having a great deal of anticipatory anxiety about); lima beans; Swiss chard; cherry tomatoes. The quantity and quality of others… cauliflower; broccoli; leeks… have left a lot to be desired.

I’ve tried several ethnic recipes, especially Indian, in an attempt to use several items all at once and extend the CSA basket a bit. It seems to me that quite a few ethnic cuisines are much heavier on the use of vegetables than US cooking. I’ve cooked a lot of vegetarian dishes but often found it a challenge to include protein.

Members of my CSA get different veggies (size and variety) depending on their pick-up day. For example, a Bull Run CSAer mentioned a sweet potato that fed two; my potato was 2/3 the size of a store-bought. Although it was just the right size, I would have liked a larger potato with the expectation of leftovers.

And, it seems that other CSA have received a greater variety and, at times, much larger basket at a comparable price.

Although I would like to try another CSA next year, the trade-off would be location. My current location is very convenient: four blocks from the Metro or two blocks from my bus line. I can’t remember the last time I went to the store for vegetables. I have gone to a couple of farmer’s markets and have been impressed by the selection and quality of the veggies and fruits. In fact, if I don’t do a CSA next year, I might just “bank” the money at the beginning of the season and commit to buying at farmer’s markets during the season.

I know: rather long ramblings about my CSA experience. But you asked! :angry:

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Thanks for the comprehensive report! It gives us a lot to think about, especially those considering a similar move.

The fun part of the unpredictability is that it stretches your imagination and tests how resourceful you are with whatever surprises end up in your kitchen. Less fun, but equally important, is an appreciation for what farmers face when an early spell of warmth followed by cold wipes out entire orchards or drought settles in for years. Your participation matters. Next Step Produce (Heinz Thomet) visits one market only and is not a big restaurant supplier; otherwise he depends on CSA members and those who drive to his farm.

I'd be reluctant to do it only because I prefer to take advantage of a larger number of vendors at the market(s) where I shop. I like to control how much or little I have, sometimes taking home just a little of a wide variety of things--or vice versa.

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