What CSA Are You?
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a program in which individuals advance a farm some of the costs it will incur during the growing season by buying a share of the projected crop in the beginning of the season. The upfront share paid by the individual often covers the cost of seeds, equipment and labor. In return, shareholders receive a portion of the farm’s bounty later in the season. Usually, the shareholders receive a weekly box of vegetables and fruit; the amount they receive depends upon how much they paid upfront. In other words, the risks are shared, and so are the rewards.
In Chicago, we are fortunate that there are many CSAs available to us. What you might not know is that – beyond the vegetables – CSAs are as diverse as we are. Which CSA suits you best? Let us help. Are you a/an:
Iron Chef Aficionado? Simply Wisconsin delivers to Vie in Western Springs, the restaurant of Iron Chef contender and locavore, Paul Virant. Pick up your share and you might run into Chef Virant. Who knows? Maybe he’ll have recipe suggestions.
Homebody? Wellhausen Farm makes home deliveries if you live along their delivery route. Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks also offers home delivery for a fee.
Community Activist? Growing Home is a Chicago-based CSA that sources its vegetables and herbs from urban farms. Proceeds from its CSA support a transitional job program for homeless and low income individuals. Triple A Farms, owned by second-generation farmers in the DeGroot family, will give you a free share if you establish a sustainability program at your work. They will even deliver to your work if at least 10 people signup for shares.
Knitter? Videnovich Farms and Bumblebee Acres Farm both offer fiber (wool, fleece, etc.), made from sheep’s wool sourced from their farms.
Yogi/Yogini? Jai Kellum of King’s Hill Farm offers intensive, multi-day workshops and single yoga classes at the farm, which provides a “natural and holistic setting.”
Florist in the making? Scotch Hill Farm, Dea Dia Organics, Fat Blossom Farm, and Freedom Organix offer shares of flower CSAs. If you sign up for a CSA flower share, in most cases, you will receive a bouquet every week.
History Buff? Walkup Heritage Farm & Gardens, located in Crystal Lake, Illinois, dates back to 1856. The Walkups were some of the first settlers of McHenry county, and the farm continues to be operated by family member Michael Walkup. As Walkup only offers CSAs that are picked up at the farm, you are treated to a bit of history every time you pick up your share.
Small eater? Eat out a lot? If you don’t cook or eat much, a biweekly share may be just the thing for you. By purchasing a biweekly share, you have two weeks, instead of the usual one, to consume the contents of your farm box before another arrives. If so, Broad Branch Farm, Dea Dia Organics, Gibbs Family Garden, Green Earth Institute, King’s Hill Farm, Simply Wisconsin, Tempel Farms Organics and Wellhausen Farm are good options for you.
Hard-core vegetarian? Genesis Growers offers the longest CSA program of the bunch – 9 months. Angelic Organics, a longtime CSA, offers ¾ bushel boxes bursting with vegetables (and the occasional melon or two) on a weekly basis. With all of these vegetables to consume, you will have plenty to eat for the duration of the CSA (and longer if you cold-store and preserve your vegetables).
Commitment-phobe? Erehwon Farm offers a two-week trial. Fat Blossom Farm offers “flex shares,” which may be bought on a weekly basis instead of for the whole growing season. Growing Power permits you to place orders weekly.
Carnivore? Cedar Valley Farm, Grass Is Greener Gardens, and Liberty Family Farm are CSAs that specialize in sustainably-raised meat.
Omnivore? Broad Branch Farm, Bumblebee Acres Farm, and Harvest Moon Organics offer both vegetable and meat CSAs.
Certifiably crazy about organic foods? Crème de la Crop, Green Earth Institute, Growing Home, Harvest Moon Organics, New Era Farm, Sandhill Organics, Radical Root Farm, and Sweet Earth Organic Farm are all certified organic.
Farmer-in-training? King’s Hill Farm in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, offers a trade membership for those who will perform four hours of work per farm box. At Peasant’s Plot, in Manteno, Illinois, eight hours of labor per month during the growing season will net you a weekly bag of organic vegetables. If you’re willing to put in eight hours per week in the field or at the market for twenty weeks during the growing season, Dea Dia Organics, in Grayslake, Illinois, will pay you with a weekly farm box.
Horse Lover? Tempel Farms Organics breeds and trains Lipizzan horses, which were featured in the Presidential Inaugural Parade last year.
Dog Lover? Green Earth Farm, in Richmond, Illinois, offers pet boarding facilities. The owners of Bumblebee Acres, in Harvard, Illinois, breed AKC Shetland Sheep and Havanese dogs, as well as kittens, rabbits and guinea pigs.
Epicurean? Crème de la Crop, Earth and Skye Farm, and Walkup Heritage Farm all specialize in heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables.
Artisan Soap Shopper? M’s Organic Farm, in Woodstock, Illinois, produces their own “farm-crafted” artisan soaps and herbal care products, made from ingredients grown on the farm.
So, if you’re flexible or have the choice of more than one CSA in your area, you might want to consider selecting a CSA that offers additional benefits – or reflects your lifestyle — and you may find yourself even more rewarded throughout the growing season.
Details on all the CSAs mentioned can be found in our 2010 CSA Guide.