There is more variety among CSAs than ever before, and they are more accessible than ever. Here’s how you get started.
Fulfilling your daily recommended vegetable intake with local, farm-fresh produce has gotten a lot easier. Community supported agriculture (CSA) has not only become way more widespread—at last count, there were more than 12,600 such farms nationwide, but that was back in 2012, so the number’s likely far higher than that—they’ve also become more amenable to your lifestyle. In the early days, you collected your pile of cucumbers week after week and you liked it. Today, there’s a lot more flexibility with the sizes of the shares and even what comprises them—because there are only so many cucumbers one person can eat in a summer. In turn, there’s more variety among CSAs than ever before, which means more to ponder as you prepare to register. In an effort to ease that process a bit, we’re distinguishing a few of our favorite local farms.
Roots to River Farm | New Hope
Roots to River is fast becoming the face of the new generation of small farms cropping up across Southeastern Pennsylvania and Central Jersey—a twentysomething female owner who employs minimally-invasive practices that yield over 250 varieties of certified-organic veggies. Even more attractive: it’s innovative market share. Pick and choose what you want from week to week at the Roots to River farmstand at the Doylestown Farmers’ Market or the Roots to River Market at Gravity Hill, in Titusville, New Jersey, and the cost will be deducted from your Roots to River debit account. It can also be used at the pick-your-own fields at Gravity Hill. Add money to it at any point during the season. And if there’s more than $75 left come November, the amount will carry over to next year. Cost $250-$970
Honey Brook Organic Farm | Hopewell, N.J.
Honey Brook’s actually comprised of four separate farms, two in Hopewell Township and another two in Chesterfield Township, in Burlington County, N.J. Together, they supply the longest-running CSA in New Jersey, and one of the widest reaching in the region, with 350 varieties of certified-organic veggies. Pick-ups are available in Hopewell and Chesterfield. (Crops are shared among them. Different conditions mean certain crops grow better and longer at one than at the other.) There’s also a box share program, where already-packaged shares of various sizes, including a “personal” option, are delivered weekly to tens of central locations (and growing by month) around Pennsylvania and New Jersey. If you’ve been overwhelmed by the size of your share in summers past, the box share is the way to go. Cost $317-$855
Sandbrook Meadow Farm | Sergeantsville, N.J.
Enthusiastic as you may be about your farm-fresh produce—and we’re imagining you’re pretty enthusiastic if you’re reading this—that’s bound to wane a little come the dog days of summer, when you’re staring into another box full of cucumbers, peppers and snap peas. The unspoken truth about a CSA membership is that it can get monotonous. Sandbrook’s come up with a savvy way around that. Membership fees are converted into credits, which you can then use as liberally or frugally as you like throughout the season.
Indulge at the first sight of the heirloom tomatoes and then skip the next couple weeks as you slowly realize your eyes were bigger than your stomach. Sandbrook also sells its own pasture-raised, certified-organic pork—tenderloin, bacon, chorizo, and more—on the down-low to all comers, member or not, during the weekly CSA pick-up windows. Cost $450-$950
Myerov Family Farm | Perkasie
If you’re after a more immersive experience than simply dropping by a farm once a week for a few minutes at a time, there are a handful of CSAs around that still include a work requirement among its cost of membership. Though, now they’re described more softly as “volunteer opportunities.” At Myerov, half and full shares are available with and without work requirements (16 hours over the course of the season for full shares, 8 for half). You’ll end up saving about 15 percent by pitching in. And that time doesn’t necessarily need to be spent pruning the fields under a soul-scorching sun. Host a pick-up location or a potluck dinner, or write the farm’s blog. In modern farming, marketing’s every bit as important as harvesting. Cost $360-$720
Rolling Hills Farm | Lambertville, N.J.
Most CSAs around here offer some fruit during the course of the season, but none to the extent of Rolling Hills, a young, 15-acre farm that sits a couple miles north of downtown Lambertville. It’s pooling its harvests with a handful of other area farms to be able to offer a share comprised entirely of fruit—strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and Asian pears, among others, throughout the summer and then grapes, melons and apples come the fall, all of it grown sustainably, most of it certified-organic. Considering a pint of blueberries runs about five bucks at Whole Foods in June anymore, $15 a week for a haul like this is a downright bargain. Cost $165-$700