We just signed up for the spring/summer CSA with Sandy Spring. They use the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative as the source for their shares. They offer vegetable, fruit, herb and flower shares as well as a buying club.
We used them last summer and fall. The summer pickup point was a new one, at the Conservancy where I volunteer. The fall pickup point was down in Columbia Maryland, a little less convenient for us, but the only local option for a fall CSA that fit in the gaps.
We are currently in The Zahradka Farm winter CSA, using a partial share and bi-weekly eggs, and weekly meat. They deliver right to our front porch in the winter, which is very convenient. Winter shares are more limited in items, but do keep me in local eggs and local meats.
We thought long and hard before joining a CSA, with the usual worries. Will we get weird vegetables that we won’t eat. Will we drown in corn or tomatoes or cucumbers. I grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, herbs and sometimes squash. The stink bugs are hurting us and this past year I knew I needed a source that wouldn’t be as susceptible to them.
The local CSAs in Maryland do offer much of the same things that Sandy Spring offers, but with the sheer size of the coop (somewhere between 70-80 farms across the Lancaster area), we took the chance and signed up last March. We were supposed to get 7-10 items every week. We never got less than 10, and some weeks there were fourteen items in the box. The variety was amazing. I did a spreadsheet that showed we had over 100 different items, and none of them more than 9 weeks of the 25 week season. The winners were broccoli and eggplant.
We tried new things, like salsify, and tatsoi, and fell in love with garlic scapes.
We know that many of our friends do not eat enough vegetables to buy a full share. Other local CSAs offer half shares, which are a better fit for someone who eats out often, or who isn’t a big veggie eater. We also see great CSAs that offer eggs, or breads, or specialty items. They work well for those who don’t want to see 12 different veggies every Monday. We get eggs from a friend in the summer, in exchange for tomatoes and other veggies from our garden, so don’t need eggs from the CSA. We buy our meats in the summer at the farmer’s markets locally. We also don’t eat enough bread to get it weekly. We passed on the bread option from our winter CSA.
Doing a little research into the typical items, and the location, date, time and method of pickup will help someone find an option that fits them. And, that supports those small farmers local to your area. We found we almost never went to the chain grocery stores all summer, and that we do minimal shopping there now in the winter.
Next year I intend to can, freeze, or dry whatever I can’t use immediately to minimize my reliance on processed foods.