1 - 2007

Deal of the Week: Join a CSA

All over the green blogosphere is the same advice: Join a CSA.

I think they’re right. A CSA (community-supported agriculture) program provides the best of all worlds to the most people. Consumers pay an annual fee to a farm. A small, local, usually organic farmer receives predictable annual income from the subscription and a guaranteed market for his/her produce. The consumers receive a weekly shipment of in-season, local produce — some in the summer, some year-round — as well as the joy of supporting local agriculture.

But it’s easier said than done.

When we lived in Brooklyn, we subscribed to a service called Urban Organic that brought us a box of delicious organic produce every other week, right to our door. It expanded our culinary range by forcing us to cook things we never knew about — like my very first butternut squash! But it wasn’t related to a specific, local farm.
Still, a couple of years ago, we were thrilled to find a similar service had launched in Denver. We used Door to Door Organics for a little while. In fact, now my daughter’s school has arranged a co-op with them, which would be oh-so-convenient. But their produce often wasn’t so fresh, and they were really mean to me and, separately, to a friend, when we complained about service problems. It’s a fantastic idea, and I notice that their contact people have changed, so maybe Door to Door has cleaned up its act … but I was burned on them.

So I returned to the idea of finding a CSA. At various times, we’ve even been interested in a work share, in which you get a discount on your produce in exchange for some labor on the farm. Most CSAs charge around $600 a year or $400 per summer season for enough veggies to feed two adults or a family of four all year. $50 a month doesn’t seem bad for local, organic produce — and in these parts, preserving open farmland is an added boon.

This past fall, I contacted Denver Urban Gardens about their CSA and received vague, nonprofit-y assurances that we would be contacted when enrollment starts. Their comments came with assurances that their CSA “isn’t like other CSAs” and that we would have to work for our veggies. I didn’t go into details that we do have some experience with dirt and compost, but my hopes are modest.

But other area CSAs look to be booked up. I am placing calls to try to find one that has an eensy, weensy spot for us to fit in. If you are interested in a CSA, click at Local Harvest to find CSAs near you. Note that if you’re on the East Coast, your odds are exponentially greater.

The good news is that in Web surfing, I also found some good sources for locally raised, organic or natural, humanely treated meat. We don’t eat much meat around here, but I’ve noticed that we’re happier when we eat some. But our daughter pushed away chicken the other night because it wasn’t treated well, and we’re hoping to permanently make the switch to clean meat. And prices are excellent on humane meat — a side of beef (half a cow/steer) runs $2.05 a pound plus processing, far below the standard for natural meat at the grocery store.

Wish us luck – and please update us on what you’ve found in terms of local food.

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