"Community supported agriculture" is basically farms that pre-sell a season of vegetables. It's for people who want to something more than food. They want local food or organic food or just the adventure of a "surprise me" box of food each week.
In Howard County, you have a huge variety of local options. You sign up. You pick up through the season. You get what ripened that week. The beauty of CSAs is that the food is constantly different.
The challenge of CSAs is that all CSAs are different as well. Some are expensive. Some are veggie-only. Some add breads and even meats. Some have great food. Some don't. Last year, we split a share with RDAdoc that didn't really work out. This year, we're going to try Gorman Farms in Laurel. We're hoping for a more-exotic mix and a little adventure.
Do you wonder if you'd like a CSA? Read some blogs and see if you're excited. People post about their pick-ups, often with recipes. If the posts excite you, then you're a CSA candidate. Locally, check out the Sarah Says blog's CSA posts. She used One Straw Farm.. Or look through the Our Share of the Harvest blog -- including the "pick up day" posts and the chart of the produce that she got last year. She used Maryland Sunrise Farm. Or read the comments on my September 2010 post or the Ilchester Road CSA blog.
Do you want to pick a CSA? Ask around. Lisa loves Breezy Williow Farm -- a real Howard County option in West Friendship that buys from other local farms. So much that she wrote me about why she is a fan:
1. They offer an abundance of veggie AND fruit (most CSA's tend to be heavy on the veggies) that are always fresh and tasty.
2. They care about the health of the Earth and practice organic pest management. Although they will receive their certified organic status soon (this month I believe), they have been using organic pest management solutions for many, many years - way before it was cool to do so.
3. They support HoCo agriculture by linking with other HoCo farms and businesses to produce a varied selection of goods for their CSA. For example, they grow seedlings at Sharps Farm, and they partner with Great Harvest Bread Co. to produce a few breads using their eggs, honey and herbs. They offer a "value-added" CSA - which means they offer more than just veggies and fruit. The weekly share also includes bread, eggs, and specialty items such as their homegrown herbs, honey, jams or soap. They also make available locally raised or produced meats and cheeses.
4. They are a 2nd generation family-owned and-operated HoCo farm that is committed to HoCo - they are proud to service, live and school their children (now grown and married working in the business) in HoCo. Their pride shows in how they make their members feel like family and are constantly striving to please their customers.
5. There are a HoCo small business. Paying taxes enables our county to support the award winning school system, library system, community college, parks and recreation facilities that make this one of the country's most desirable places to live. HoCo farms keep our open spaces clear from development. In addition, HoCo homegrown food helps us to reduce our carbon footprint.If you love your CSA, post a comment below. If you're still searching, check out the options below or click on the University of Maryland site. Consider splitting a share -- either 50/50 each week or alternating weeks. It's not the cheapest way to buy vegetables -- but it's a way that gives you product that never saw a refrigerated warehouse. Here are some local options:
- Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel. They're full, but taking names on a waiting list.
- One Straw Farm delivers to the Mom's Organic Market in Jessup and to a house in EllicottCity
- Breezy Willow Farm in West Friendship. They're still taking applications.
- South Mountain Veggies created a new option in 2009 because they deliver boxes of vegetables to your home. This family brought you South Mountain Creamery, which delivers dairy products and sells at the Saturday farmers market in Cooksville. The Allura.net blog just started writing about their deliveries.
- Shaw Farm in Columbia was still taking applications this week.
For more information about nearby CSA, check out the Explore Howard article from this week.