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Choosing a CSA in NYC – Share your picks and tips!


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It’s early spring in New York, and the community-suppored agriculture (CSA) season is starting to bloom. While many conscientious fresh food lovers have already renewed membership with their own beloved CSAs, some of us are confronted by a familiar dilemma. We’re interested in joining a CSA -- have been for years -- but have no clue how to become one of them: the clever, rosy-cheeked farm-box-carriers bound for home to prepare lush meals using just-picked vegetables from a regional farmer, and probably earn eternal salvation in the process.

And what is community-supported agriculture? It's a service that funnels fresh produce from a relatively nearby farm to the city. Members receive a weekly box of veggies, fruits, and perhaps other foods such as eggs or herbs. They pay for the whole season in advance -- which gives the farmers a much-needed guarantee that they'll sell their crops at a fair price.

For years I’ve admired CSA from afar. I’m inspired by the idea, but I’ve never actually researched a convenient pick-up location, written my check, and signed up for my own weekly box of earthy delights. But this year I want to take the plunge. I want the challenges, the disasters, the triumphs. I want a CSA box of my own!

As with hotels, accountants, and nail salons, personal recommendations can make or break a person’s decision to choose one CSA over another. One friend told me she loves the idea of belonging to her Brooklyn CSA, but in practice she is sometimes left cold by an overabundance of things she doesn’t like or can’t use, like excesses of parsley or something called salsify. Although I’ll eat practically any vegetable, do I cross that one off the list?

On the other hand, another friend loves participating in her CSA so much that one year she kept a blog recording the contents of her weekly box and the delicious dishes she made from it. (This could be a whole blog subgenre, call it “CSA Love,” from what I’ve since learned. Even some CSA farms keep a blog.)

But do I want to travel out of my way each week to pick up my box? Am I not just as well off going to the farmer’s market instead?

What I need are recommendations. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

So calling all you bright-eyed New York CSA supporters: Which CSA do you love? Is there one you don’t recommend, and if so, why? Or are you a CSA dissenter who prefers the co-op/local natty food store/Whole Foods?

Write in a comment and share your story or favorite links!

Help those of us up on the fence get down with the CSA. (And if you do become a first-time CSA member this year, send me an email about it. I’d love to follow up on this in posting later in the season…)

Here are some links to get the ball rolling:

A recent Chowhound posting asked for CSA recommendations in Brooklyn. Only got two responses. C’mon, aren’t Brooklynites supposed to be opinionated??

Just Food’s comprehensive list of CSAs in NYC

Post from the blog A Brooklyn Life about a new CSA in that borough

Did you know CSA was runner-up for the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year (it lost out to Carbon Neutral…), and in 2007 NYC will have 50 pick-up locations, up from 41 in 2006?

Image: Farm box picture, aranandjennie/flickr

Comments

I've yet to join a CSA in Brooklyn, myself -- mostly because in my past experience, I end up with way too much food for even two people (especially when one likes a relative few veggies).

I'd love a CSA that could make small-household quantities available at a competitive price.

Last year I got deliveries for a while from Urban Organic -- which is more analogous to a buying club than a CSA. I was very happy that they delivered, and with the quality and selection. But overabundance did me in again; and the smallest boxes are kind of pricey for what they contain. I hate to think of all the veggie matter that ended up in a landfill because I couldn't eat it all! (Composting not feasible in my living situation.)

The best might be to find a neighbor or two who would want to SPLIT a CSA share with me...hmm...

Posted by: Emily Gertz on April 6, 2007 8:25 AM

My boyfriend and I joined the West Village/McBurney YMCA CSA for the first time last year, and I cannot say enough good things about our experience. There was so much lovely food, and one of the greatest parts was not necessarily knowing what you were going to get from week to week. It was really exciting to try vegetables I'd barely even heard of before (kohlrabi?) and to learn about new ways to prepare others (I think I tried about a dozen different eggplant recipes over the course of the summer!) And eating seasonally and locally is so rewarding, too. The CSA provides a handout each week with information about the produce and recipes using the ingredients. The absolute best part is knowing that you're helping to support a local, organic farm, and thus enabling the farmers to keep growing things the way they want to--ie, organically and sustainably. It's true that it's a lot of food for even two people, but even though some weeks a few things went to waste, and even though we had to miss our pick-up from time to time, it's still worth every penny, in my opinion, as an investment in this type of farming.

Posted by: Megan on April 8, 2007 11:54 PM