Friday, February 25, 2011

CSAs In Howard County 2011: You Need To Love Your Community Supported Agriculture

You need to love your CSA because it's more than food -- it's a relationship.

"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 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.


Laura said...

We thoroughly enjoyed our CSA experience with Gorman Farm in Laurel last year and can't wait for it to start again this spring! I hope you are as pleased with them as we have been. I think a CSA is a different experience for everyone, according to their individual wants/needs and expectations, and Gorman just seemed to be a perfect fit for us. We're all going to need to be patient with that nasty stink bug infestation again--according to the Likers, there's nothing we can do but "PRAY!"...start praying! (check out their FB page) Maybe we'll run into you in May for strawberries...would love to meet the person/people behind favorite blog to follow!

Lindsey (Our Share of the Harvest) said...

Great post supporting CSAs and thanks for the shout out! I'm more committed than ever to promoting local eating and posts like this not only put the info out there but show the real side of it--not all CSAs are going to work out but there are starting to be more choices.

It was a big step for us to commit the money upfront for weeks of produce but we are so happy we did. The benefits to us (our taste buds, general nutrition and waistlines), the local economy and land use, global environment and the farmers/workers are immense. Plus, it has expanded our palettes and skills in the kitchen. And, as a bonus, having to prepare meals from a box of veggies gave my husband and I time to work together and connect to each other every evening in our own kitchen.

I'm counting the says until our first Pick Up Day in May!

kam said...

Do any of the HoCo CSAs have an option for a two-person household? I'd love to try one!


HowChow said...

@Kate -- Some of them had half shares. We're just splitting a share with friends.

Erin (from Sandy Spring CSA) said...

Another option for Howard County is Sandy Spring CSA. We opened 2 Howard County sites this year - one on Sunny Spring in Columbia, the other at Howard County Conservancy in Woodstock. We have been around since 2002 in Montgomery County and we're working with the best, most reliable farmers we've met in all those years. Visit us at the Howard County GreenFest on Saturday (April 2).

Trish said...

I loved my experience with Dragonfly Farms CSA last year. They always had a wide variety of vegetables, many I'd never seen or worked with before. They also had a lot of fruits which we all love. They are based out of Mt. Airy but have many drop locations in howard county. You can add a premium package which will include their specialty vinegar, honey, locally roasted coffee, meat, flowers, bread and more!