I posted about CSAs in 2009, then couldn't get a slot with South Mountain Veggies because there was so much demand. (Not from HowChow. Other demand.) This month, I saw a comment by Jessie X -- the mentor of Howard County blogging and mastermind of Hoco Blogs-- about her friend who grew up in Columbia, ran a co-op, managed a catering business and was now going to run a CSA with drop-off at Jessie's home.
Jessie X emailed me that her friend was "making a go of it with her sweetheart to create a lifestyle and business on the value of locally-sourced food." Remember that Jessie is in marketing. She hooked me. I signed the check. And, then, I read the Buckland Farm blog and learned that Jessie had meant to say that Dan and Carrie have never done this before. They just got the farm in January. They still haven't put seeds in the ground. Jessie sells a good story, but let's summarize the lesson: Blogs are your source for truth.
All joking aside, I'm sold on Buckland Farm's CSA. CSAs are about giving up control. Farmers pick what to plant. Weather dictate what thrives. RDAdoc and I will just grab our bags from Jessie's porch and go home to find new recipes. I love being part of Buckland's first year, particularly because they're focusing on unusual varieties. (Plus, they have cool chickens, see on Jessie's blog.) If you want to join, you can check out the Buckland Farm CSA Web page.
If you want other options, you can check out other CSAs near Columbia or Ellicott City. With some variations, the basic idea is that farms or groups sell "shares" that entitle you to a piece of the harvest. You get the produce when it comes ripe. Most CSAs are organic (or at least don't use pesticides even if they aren't certified yet). All are aimed to support local farms. So it's not the cheapest way to buy vegetables -- but it's a way that gives you product that never saw a refrigerated warehouse and is probably a few days (or hours) out of the field.
- Gorman Farm in Laurel runs a CSA. Last week, they were full and taking names for a waiting list. You pick up your box on Thursdays or Fridays. They also sell from a roadside stand, although they haven't decided on 2010 hours yet.
- One Straw Farm runs a large CSA and one of its drop-offs is the My Organic Market in Jessup. Their season runs from June to November.
- Breezy Willow Farm appears to run a CSA with pick ups at the farm in West Friendship. They also have pickups at the Miller and Elkridge libraries, Fulton Elementary, and Sinai Hospital.
- South Mountain Veggies created a new option for 2009 because they deliver boxes of vegetables to your home. This family brought you South Mountain Creamery, which delivers dairy products and sold its milk, cream and cheese at the Saturday farmers market in Cooksville. They're buying produce from local farms and then delivering to customers. Last year, they had limited slots. I can't tell from the Web site, but it seems like they have expanded.
- Shaw Farm in Columbia also sold out its 2010 CSA. You can be added to their mailing list.
All these options are aimed at people who want to cook vegetables. This isn't the potatoes, tomatoes and green beans that you buy 52-weeks-a-year in a supermarket. This will be whatever is ripe now, and there are tons of blogs where people talk about their CSAs, share recipes for unfamiliar produce, and chat about whether it was worth the investment -- like this and this and Nina's local Yet Another Food Blog. If you try one, buy a copy of How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman or Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. Those are my bibles when I have a vegetable and need a recipe to cook right away.
If you commute south, you might want to look at the Sandy Spring CSA, which has a pickup place in Sandy Spring on Wednesday.
Please post below if you have any experience with local CSAs or know of some that I missed. I'm thinking about a series seeking updates about people's 2010 CSA experiences. If you're new to HowChow, check out my post about Vegetable Shopping in Howard County or my posts about the local farmers markets.