CSA season is on our doorstep and it's time to choose the right share plan. Don't know where to turn for help? Not sure what farm might be a good fit for your needs? Don't even know what CSA stands for? Then keep on reading -- you might learn a thing or two!
What counts as local in local foods?
CSA stands for community-supported agriculture, and it is a relatively new trend in farming that popped up in Switzerland and Japan in the 1960s (see a USDA article about it here) and came to the U.S. in the mid-1980s. It's only truly been part of the common parlance here in the Twin Cities for about five years.
Per the Land Stewardship website, "At their most fundamental level, CSA farms provide a weekly delivery of sustainably grown produce to consumers during the growing season. Those consumers, in turn, pay a subscription fee." That subscription fee or share, binds the farmer and buyer together in the possible bounty and risk of that growing/harvest season. The grower can then invest that money in their business in the spring, instead of waiting for an influx of capital to come at harvest time.
CSA shares generally contain vegetables but can include anything from eggs to honey to meat and cheese, in addition to a selection of produce that may or may not be certified organic. As well, the options for bushel sizes, number of weeks, and delivery/pickup locations are seemingly endless. Lastly, farms offer a variety of levels of community engagement -- some have events (opera!) and site visits throughout the summer while others simply bring you tasty vittles once you've handed over your cash.
Here's a sampling of some of our favorite CSAs that have drop off points in the Twin Cities:
The Classic: Buttermilk Falls CSA, Osceola, Wisconsin This farm has been CSA-ing for 25 years and knows how to do it right. It's 10-15 lbs of veggies, berries, herbs, and flowers for 18 weeks starting in mid-June, with a "no fly" option if there's a veg your family just won't eat and two vacation weeks where you can choose to pass on the regular delivery. They'll simply tack two more boxes of goodies on in the fall. full share - $585, half share - $345
The Old Friend: Tangletown Gardens CSA , Plato, Minnesota Signing up with Tangletown Gardens means embarking on a relationship with people you likely already know and trust, as they run the popular garden center and the adjacent Wise Acre Eatery on Nicollet Ave. Their boxes are full of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, and "the occasional surprise" for 18 weeks. But hurry! They are selling what they call their "afterthought shares" now. full share - $640, half share - $440
Organic and Just: Big River Farms CSA, Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota Operated by the non-profit Minnesota Food Association, that provides training, land, and resources to farmers from disadvantaged backgrounds, this CSA supports a highly diverse pool of growers with its summer veggies, every other week veggies, summer fruits, and fall harvest options and multitude of drop sites. full shares (veggies) - $555 pickup, $590 drop site, half share (veggies) - $310 pickup, $330 drop site Support the North: McKinley Community CSA, Minneapolis, MN Here's a truly urban farm that is run by the non-profit McKinley Neighborhood organization and strives to turn vacant lots into farming plots. The main shares are 17 weeks of veggies, but you can customize your order with fresh flowers, eggs, honey, and mushrooms. full share - $450, half share - $325 (veggies only without the box deposit)
Meat and Greet and More: Stone's Throw Agricultural Coop CSA, Various locations The combo of urban and rural farms in this collective means a huge variety of items are available for the consumer who wants veggies, chicken, turkey, lamb, wild rice, and more. They also love to meet with their adoring public and plan to organize several community events this summer. full share - $550-$700, half share - $350-$450 (sliding scale with separate pricing for non-veg items)
None of these seem to fit your need? Then go to the Minnesota Grown website, which has an exhaustive list of CSAs that serve the Twin Cities. And for more general CSA facts, the Land Stewardship Project has tons of great info.