Sunday, March 30, 2008

Time to Sign

up for a CSA! If you haven't already, that is.

As I'm sure you all know, C.S.A. stands for community supported agriculture. It is talked about in "shares" in that you, the consumer, purchase a share of the harvest. You sign up with a farm in advance, and then over the course of the specified season, you pick up your weekly (or biweekly, or whatever) portion of the harvest. It can be produce, meat, dairy, flowers, etc., depending on with whom you sign up. You may pick up from a farm or some other location that the farmer has determined -- usually points around the greater Pittsburgh Metro area.

As I posted earlier (and I believe Art King quoted from my blog at the Farm to Table conference) joining a CSA is like having Christmas every week because you never know what you will get, but it is always a wonderful surprise. Also, Don Kretschmann mentioned at the conference that joining a CSA is a way to make your life less complicated because it is one good, solid decision that will provide you with weeks and weeks of healthy, delicious eating and support of your local farm community. That way, when you walk into your local GE, you are not tempted by those California fakes and all that processed stuff (in fact, you may never have to go there at all). And you don't have to worry if you can't make it to a farmer's market at a particular day and time. Make your decision now (today!) and you will be set for the season.

Ah, but which CSA. Last year we used Harvest Valley Farms for a CSA over the summer. We got a very manageable, varied amount of produce (8-9 items per week), and most of it was stuff with which I was already familiar and comfortable, with a few other less comforting, but equally good items, thrown in. We also occasionally got bread, eggs, cheese, honey, etc. They practice sustainable farming methods -- that is, use as little pesticide as necessary.

We also used Kretschmann Farm in the winter and a lot of people love the Kretschmanns' CSA also. Their food is organically grown and they tend to include a lot of it. They are one of the oldest and biggest CSAs in the country. For both of these farms, we picked up in Squirrel Hill, where we live, and they both have lots and lots of drop off sites.

Another CSA I discovered at the Farm to Table conference is the Penn's Corner Farm Alliance which sells the food of 15 area farms. It began by delivering primarily to restaurants, but now has a CSA with many drop-off points (ex. Point Breeze, Highland Park, Squirrel Hill, Morningside, Friendship, Lawrenceveille, North Side, Mt. Lebanon, Green Tree, Whitehall, Monroeville, Oakdale, etc.). The brochure mentions Pucker Brush Farm salad greens, Matthew's Farm and Kistaco apples, Goose Creek Gardens herbs, oyster and portabello mushrooms, and Nu-way Farms free range eggs. There are three shares available, Cabin Fever (which starts first week of April and runs 10 weeks) for $240, Harvest Share (20 weeks -- Late June through October) for $465, and Farmer's Friend Share which includes both time periods for $690. E-mail:, call: 412-363-1971 or check out their site I, personally, am very intrigued by this early April share (that's next week!) since I am very tired of frozen corn and zucchini. I bought some organic, potted lettuce and spinach from the head of the PCFA who runs Goose Creek Gardens. So, I guess there's another way to get some early produce.

And last, in case you missed today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette, there is a fairly complete looking list of CSAs there.

I hope anyone who has had experience with a particular CSA will feel free to submit a comment, good or bad. . . Farmer Troy? I noticed you on the list above. . .


Anonymous said...

It's been great reading through your journey at the Farm to Table Conferance. Do you take notes on all the details, or do you have that good of a memory? I too liked the article in the Post Gazette on CSA's. We raised our prices for the first time ever this year, but I was suprised to see that we were still the least expensive CSA in Pittsurgh!
Keep up the good work on this blog....I love it!

Art King
Harvest Valley Farms CSA

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is us, one of the farms featured in the recent PG CSA article . . . our CSA is almost full for the season already.

THANKS for the mention!!

For more info about our CSA, click on the link embedded in my name.

Anonymous said...

Cindy, I was a member of Penn's Corner last year and decided to do the whole year this year. I am such a fan that I even volunteered my house as a drop off point!

I like the variety of items in my basket. This week we are getting feta cheese, pasta, plus rhubarb, lettuce, 1/2 dz. eggs and other goodies.

Love your blog. Keep posting.