Yesterday we talked about planting; today let's talk about having someone else plant for you. I've been getting a few requests for CSA suggestions, and I thought it would be good to discuss choosing a CSA. It might be too late to sign up for some of these, I have not contacted them to see if they are full or not, and some of this information might be out of date; the best thing to do is contact them for yourself.
So, what is a CSA? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you pay a farmer at the beginning of the season, and they grow a variety of foods for you, called a "share." You will be picking up your share weekly, sometimes at a Farmer's Market or a local Co-op. Pictured above is one of my boxes from Elizabeth Telling Farm, taken in mid August last year. If memory serves, I also had tomatoes which came in a separate bag.
What should I expect from my share? Different farmers provide different things. You should discuss this with potential farmers. If the farmer sells at a farmer's market, you can also get a good idea of what they will offer in the CSA by seeing what they sell at the market. Keep in mind, however, that many farmers keep their best products for their CSA subscribers, and may frequently grow things just for their subscribers. This is true of my CSA; you can only get eggs from the farm as a CSA subscriber.
How many will the share feed? This is another thing to discuss with your farmer, and it is very important to consider before paying in to the farm; you don't want things to go to waste. I have found from my experiences and those of my friends that there is rarely too little. There is almost always some amount of waste or sharing with friends. I found halfway through that I had a coworker who would take any of my uneaten salad greens. I like my CSA because it is perfectly geared towards my living situation: adventurous eating small families. There is about the perfect amount of veggies for 2 people who don't cook at home every day. The boxes feature small amounts of various items; some CSAs have loads and loads of things like green beans and kale; suitable for bigger families, or for really dutiful canner/freezer/cook once a monthers. You might want to consider going in with a friend on a share, especially if this is your first year or you are single or have a small family.
Be aware that your share might start out small. If you are unfamiliar with the growing season in Central Ohio, you might be disappointed to find your first few shares; expect a lot of leafy greens and radishes. Once the growing season is well under way, however, there will probably be no shortage of tomatoes, sweet corn, and other veggies.
It's nice to plan ahead. This Central Ohio growing calender is a good tool to use when planning menus, whether based upon your CSA share or the Farmer's Market - or both. You will probably be surprised to find that things like leafy greens last a lot longer when purchased from a farm than the ones you buy at the supermarket, which traveled here from California. Last year I had bags of lettuce which lasted 2 weeks with only the slightest sign of browning.
Here are a few CSAs I am aware of, and any details I could find:
Elizabeth Telling CSA - of which I am a subscriber, designed for smaller families, Sandy knows a lot about vegetables and is particularly fond of greens. She plants continuously and picks greens when very small. Superb eggs, 1/2 dozen every week. Also makes lots of fun things like woodland wreaths and onion garlands, occasionally sells goat's milk soap made by her neighbor and helper. Shares are $350 and go from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving, roughly, and are picked up at the North Market Farmer's Market Saturday mornings. Call 740.484.0243
Green Edge Organic Gardens - organic, relatively new, these shares are picked up at the Bexley Natural Foods Co-op on Tuesdays (508 n. Cassidy Ave) Shares are $475 for 20 weeks or $250 for 10 weeks (every other week) Call Becky Ronde 740.448.4021
Kame Farm - Shares can be picked up at farm or at Worthington Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Shares are $450 for full or $250 half. Call Karen Johnson 419.566.4268.
Paiges' Produce - CSA subscription includes plants and flowers as well as produce. $275 half share or $475 full share. Call Brian Helser 740.477.7291. Shares can be picked up at numerous local farmer's markets - Athens, Clintonville, Lancaster and the Pearl Alley markets.
Sippel Family Farm - Shares are $545, and pick up is either Clintonville Farmer's Market or Worthington Methodist Church. Call Ben or Lisa Sippel 419.946.1394.
For more information about eating locally in Ohio, please visit the Local Harvest website, which contains a wealth of information. If you know of any other CSAs in the Central Ohio area, please e-mail me and I will add it to the list.