Let the Farm Come to You: How to Join a CSA

Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs bring farm-fresh fruits, veggies, and more right to your table. Here's a list of CSAs that are ripe for the pickin'.

By: Kate Nerenberg, Emily Leaman

We’ve exhausted our recipes for root-vegetable dishes and hot soups and polished off our fruit preserves from last season. And it seems like ages ago that we last bit into a summer peach or stained our fingers red eating a pint of fresh strawberries. But we know that spring asparagus, sweet corn, and juicy tomatoes are just weeks away (so what if a lot of the trees are still bare and it’s freezing at night?). How can you take full advantage of all of that soon-to-come produce? Sign up with a farm to be part of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.

At the beginning of each season, CSA members pay farmers a set fee for a regular share of their harvest, which translates into weekly or biweekly boxes of fresh produce. Shares typically feed a family of four for a week, and many farms offer half shares that can provide fruits and veggies for a couple or a hungry single person. Although each farm runs its CSA differently—some ask you to pick your box up at the farm, others have drop-off locations in and around DC—most programs run for 20 to 24 weeks beginning in May. Some farmers post the available fruit and vegetables on their Web sites each week and allow customers to custom-design their selection, while others pack the boxes themselves with whatever comes up that week—consider it like having a personal shopper.

The demand for CSA shares has grown considerably, so lots of farms sell out early—and have waiting lists for 2010. But we found some programs with remaining shares. If you’re interested, act quickly—most of these farms have only a few slots left.

Brad’s Produce
CSA members at this Churchville, Maryland, farm enjoy a range of fruits and vegetables, from heirloom tomatoes to pumpkins. In addition to its own produce, Brad’s has partnered with a farm in Pennsylvania to offer peaches and apples. Both full and half shares are available; they’re the same size in terms of quantity, but full-share members have weekly pickup, while half share members get baskets every other week. A spring box might include one bag of spinach, one bag of lettuce, two quarts of strawberries, a bunch of broccoli, one pound of asparagus, and six spring onions. A summer-season box might include 13 ears of corn, six tomatoes, three green peppers, a quart of green beans, a quart of squash and zucchini, six peaches, and a melon.
• Cost: Full share, $450; half share, $250.
• Length of time: 25 weeks from May 14 through October 29.
• Specialty items: Seedless watermelons; grape and cocktail tomatoes; and lima beans.
• Pickup location: At the farm (550 Asbury Rd., Churchville) Thursdays 10 to 7.
• To sign up: Call 410-734-4769 or e-mail bradsproduce@gmail.com.

Breezy Willow Farm
Longtime farmers Ken and R.J. Caulder have been offering CSA shares since 2004. In addition to weekly baskets, which include a combination of eight fruits and vegetables, CSA members can go to the farm to pick their own herbs. The Caulders call their CSA a “value-added program”—customers receive unusual goodies such as R.J.’s goat’s-milk soap, honey made from farm-raised bees, or homemade jams.
• Cost: $816 for a varied assortment that feeds an average family of four each week.
• Length of time: 24 weeks, starting the first week of June.
• Specialty items: Bread made from freshly milled flour and, every other week, eggs from heritage chickens.
• Pickup location: Wednesday and Thursday 3 to 7 at the farm (12690 Old Frederick Rd., West Friendship).
• To sign up: Call 410-442-1807 or e-mail rjcaulder@aol.com.

Everblossom Farm
In 2004, Elaine Lemmon and her family started this East Berlin, Pennsylvania, farm so they could eat the pesticide-free, sustainable food they had trouble finding in grocery stores. Customers of her CSA find a weekly list of available vegetables on the farm’s Web site and custom-pick their produce, which always comes with two recipes and some herbs. Although Everblossom grows mostly vegetables, Lemmon has a cooperative with other farmers to provide fruit and dairy products.
• Cost: $450 for a portion that Lemmon says “feeds two adults who are avid veggie eaters, and it often serves a family of four very well.” An average week’s box weighs eight pounds.
• Length of time: 25 weeks from mid-May to mid-November.
• Specialty items: Hot peppers, watermelon, and tatsoi. Starting this fall, customers can special-order beef.
• Pickup locations: The farm (for a $25 discount), Carlisle, Dillsburg, and Gettysburg.
• To sign up: E-mail elaine@everblossomfarm.com.

Food Matters
Last year, when this Old Town restaurant and wine bar started a CSA, it attracted only 14 members; this year, there are already more than 70 participants. CSA customers receive weekly e-mails listing the items they should expect in their deliveries along with recipes.
• Cost: $21 a week for about two-thirds of a milk crate filled with produce.
• Length of time: 40 weeks from February to November; delivery is weekly.
• Specialty items: Dried heirloom beans, fire-roasted cornmeal, goat cheese, honey. Chickens and eggs can be added to weekly deliveries with advance notice.
• Pickup locations: At the restaurant on Saturdays 11 to 11.
• To sign up: E-mail info@foodmattersva.com to receive membership information.

Fresh and Local
This farm offers veggie and flower CSA programs, but members can add eggs and fruit for an extra fee. The weekly vegetable delivery would fill about three-quarters of a paper grocery bag—enough for a week of salads and vegetables for a couple or a small family. The flower delivery is about 20 long-stems a week. A weekly e-mail newsletter accompanies the vegetable shares, explaining what the produce is and how to cook, serve, and store it.
• Cost: $600 for the vegetable share and $100 for flowers. Eggs (a dozen a week) are $80, and fruit (four to five pieces a week) is $70.
• Length of time: For vegetables, 18 weeks from June through mid-October; flowers are early July through late September.
• Specialty items: Fava beans and fava-bean greens; cardoons; bulk heirloom tomatoes, which are handy for canning.
• Pickup locations: Arlington, Bethesda, Silver Spring, American University, and 16th Street Heights.
• To sign up: Call Allan Balliett at 304-876-3382 or e-mail info@freshandlocalcsa.com.

Lancaster Farm Fresh
Amy Crystle of this farmers’ coop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, tells us that there are a few hundred shares left in her CSA program. The group offers separate fruit and veggie shares, but here’s a tip: Melons and berries are sometimes included in the vegetable share if there are surpluses. Full and half shares—delivered weekly and every other week, respectively—are available. Last May, a box consisted of a pound of spinach, a pint of strawberries, two bunches of red radishes, a head of romaine lettuce, a bunch of scallions, eight ounces of cremini mushrooms, six ounces of portobello mushrooms, and two heads of butterhead lettuce.
• Cost: Full vegetable share, $700; half vegetable share, $375; full fruit share, $120; half fruit share, $60.
• Length of time: 25 weeks from May through October. Deliveries in the Washington area are every other week, except for the Towson pickup site, where it’s weekly.
• Specialty items: 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes; Lancaster County sweet corn; five varieties of watermelons.
• Pickup locations: DC, Alexandria, Annapolis, Ashton, Cambridge, Dunn Loring, Easton, Falls Church, Gaithersburg, Leesburg, Reston, Silver Spring, Springfield, and Towson.
• To sign up: Visit Lancasterfarmfresh.com for CSA information, but e-mail csa@lancasterfarmfresh.com to receive the DC/Maryland/Virginia application, which is not available on the Web site.

Moutoux Orchard
Rob Moutoux and his family own and operate this farm in Loudoun County. The pesticide-free fruits and veggies are hand-picked. The farm grows more than two dozen varieties of peaches plus apples, peppers, squash, strawberries, garlic, and more.
• Cost: Vegetable full and half shares are $500 and $300, fruit (apples and peaches) is $150, eggs (one-dozen a week) are $85, and whole-wheat flour (five pounds a month) is $40. For the veggie program, both full and half share members get produce weekly; half-share members simply receive half as much.
• Length of time: 18 weeks beginning July 1.
• Pickup locations: Pick up at the farm (15290 Purcellville Rd., Purcellville) on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 7 or receive Wednesday delivery in Leesburg and Ashburn.
• To sign up: E-mail moutouxorchard@yahoo.com for information on how to join the CSA.

Norman’s Farm Market
In 2007, John, Jeff, and Eris Norman started this CSA, which includes produce from their own farm in addition to a small network of about 15 others. The Normans have three eight-week sessions as well as a weather-dependent program for the month of November. With so many farms taking part, says Eris, there’s “an endless supply of CSAs.” A sample spring full share includes a pint of strawberries, a bunch of asparagus, a bunch of scallions, a half pound of spinach, a head of oak-leaf lettuce, a bunch of radishes, a pound of European cucumbers, a pound of zucchini, and a bunch of tea mint.
• Cost: For each eight-week session: $200 for a full share, which can feed four to five people; $120 for a half share, which can feed two people. If you pay for all three sessions before May, there’s a $50 discount for full shares or a $30 discount for half shares.
• Length of time: Eight weeks. Spring, May 20 to July 8; summer, July 15 to September 2; fall, September 9 to October 28.
• Specialty items: European cucumber, tea mint, local honey.
• Pickup locations: Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase.
• To sign to: E-mail info@normansfarmmarket.com for information on how to join.

Olin-Fox Farms
To be included in this eight-farm cooperative, the producers had to meet Virginia’s organic- and natural-growing standards, and three of them also use sustainable farming practices. Unlike most CSAs, this one is available year-round, even in winter; customers buy shares seasonally. All members receive the Weekly Weeder, a newsletter with information about the farms, the season’s produce, and recipes.
• Cost: From $160 for farm pickup of a winter share to $1,066 for a Northern Virginia pickup of an all-season share. Summer program and all-season subscribers can pay $63 for a fruit share, which includes strawberries, blackberries, peaches, and raspberries.
• Length of time: Winter program, four weeks; spring, five weeks; summer, nine weeks; fall, eight weeks; all-season 26 weeks.
• Specialty items: Shiitake mushrooms, free-range eggs, figs, German stiffneck garlic.
• Pickup locations: Olin-Fox Farms in Reedville, Virginia’s Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, Stafford, Occoquan, Annandale/Springfield, and Alexandria.
• To sign up: Call 804-453-4125 or e-mail info@olinfoxfarms.com.

Query Mill Hill Farm
Mark Israel says that on his one-acre, all-natural Darnestown farm, he grows mostly American heirloom produce but also a few European and Asian varieties, including Russian tomatoes. At the Saturday Rockville farmers market (corner of Rte. 28 and Monroe St.), he’s known for his specialty melons and hard-to-find vegetables, such as Asian greens. There are both full and half shares available; they’re both weekly pickups, but the half share is smaller.
• Cost: $400 for a full share, $200 for a half share. Israel says a full share should fill a grocery bag and should feed two veggie-loving adults or a family of four who add meat to their diet.
• Length of time: 20 weeks, starting May 25.
• Specialty items: Heirloom melons, such as the Charentais, a French variety of canteloupe; a vast selection of heirloom tomatoes; Asian greens.
• Pickup locations: At the farm (junction of Query Mill Rd. and Esworthy Rd., Darnestown), Tuesday and Wednesday after 5.
• To sign up: Call 301-926-8602 or e-mail marksisrael@msn.com.

Shallow Brook Farm Fresh
Since 1998, farmers Eric and Susan Keene have been growing such produce as melons, eggplants, okra, cabbage, and lima beans on their 20 acres outside Boyce, Virginia. They also maintain two greenhouses where they produce Oriental lilies year-round and annuals in the spring. The Keenes offer full shares—a half-bushel box of produce—and half shares, or two pecks of produce.
• Cost: $600 for a full share, $400 for a half share.
• Length of time: 20 weeks starting the last week of May or the first week of June.
• Specialty items: For an extra fee, customers can request farm-raised beef, free-range brown eggs, and chicken. The Keenes also sell cut Oriental lilies, potted spring annuals, planters, and hanging baskets.
• Pickup locations: The Keenes will deliver to some customers but don’t set their pickup locations until all members are signed up.
• To sign up: Call 540-837-2381 or e-mail shallowbrookfarmfresh@gmail.com.

Spiral Path Farm
This 188-acre organic farm in Perry County, Pennsylvania, grows vegetables, herbs, and fruit. CSA members have exclusive (and free) access to Open Farm Days—there are seven each season—during which you can take advantage of harvest surpluses and pick your own herbs, flowers, strawberries, and more.
• Cost: A full share (eight to ten items per weekly delivery) is $702, and a medium share (six to nine items per delivery) is $460.
• Length of time: 28 weeks from May through November; pickup is weekly (Saturdays).
• Specialty items: Heirloom tomatoes and beets.
• Pickup locations: Spiral Path’s booth at the FreshFarm Market in Silver Spring (Ellsworth Dr. between Fenton St. and Georgia Ave.).
• To sign up: Call 717-789-4433 or e-mail fresh@spiralpathfarm.com.

Stoneybrook Farm
This is Stoneybrook Farm’s first year offering a CSA program. Shares will be mostly vegetables and herbs—lettuce, cilantro, eggplant, carrots, and more—with occasional fruit crops such as watermelon and cantaloupe. Luke Wiseman, who runs the 45-acre organic farm in Hillsboro, Virginia, claims that his half and full share quantities are comparable to other farms’ full and jumbo shares: Stoneybrook’s full share is 10 to 17 pounds of produce a week, and the half share is 5 to 12 pounds. In July, a half share might include one or two heads of lettuce, a bunch of spring onions, a bunch of beets, a head of cauliflower, two zucchini, a bunch of chard, a bunch of radishes, a cucumber, six ears of corn, and two pounds of potatoes; double that for a full share. Next year, he hopes to expand the program to include pickup locations closer to DC.
• Cost: Full share is $955, half share, $585. Pickup is weekly.
• Length of time: 20 weeks from June through October.
• Specialty items: Okra, hot peppers, radishes, winter squash, green beans, beets, and kale.
• Pickup location: At the farm (37091 Charlestown Pike, Hillsboro) weekly on Wednesdays.
• To sign up: Fill out this form or call 540-668-6031.

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