Thursday, April 26, 2012

CSAs Part 2: Meat, Produce and More

So as promised, here is part 2. Beyond the world of produce CSAs, things get a little trickier. When you start looking into buying meats, seafood, and other local goods, it's sometimes hard to know where to begin.

I'm going to look at what I know to be some of the larger CSAs in the area and do some comparison shopping. Bonus for you if you're shopping around.

The first one I'll start with is Carolina Grown. They're a pretty familiar group, in fact, a few of my friends are members. They deliver right to your door, which I have to admit is mighty convenient. Price range is $25 to $50, with 3 different boxes sizes to choose from. They offer produce from a variety of NC farms, so you can customize your box, which is also a bonus. In addition to the produce, you can order meat, a variety of baked goods, seafood, and a couple other things. If you hate to go to the grocery store (ME!) this is close to a one-stop-shop. The downside for me is their meat selection. They have a nice selection, however, I am looking for quality, and one of the farms that they deal a LOT with is not exactly one I'd like to support. There are a lot of great offerings through Carolina Grown, however, I don't think it is important for them to only offer the cleanest and highest quality products available. They leave it up to you to separate, which is fine if you want to try to sift through all that. It should be noted, however, that the seafood they offer is top notch!

The second one is Papa Spuds. With this one, pricing is pretty similar, with the smallest box starting around $18 and ending with the higher priced $45 box. They also offer doorstep deliveryThey have a wider offering, including bananas and avocados. While I love both of these, it seems odd to be in a CSA box in NC, though they certainly list the sources for them. They source their products largely from the same people that Carolina Grown does, including their meats. So, I fall back into the same issue, at least as far as the meat goes. They also get their seafood from the same local company, which is superior to anything you will get at a grocery store.

And the last is Farm to Fork Meat. Most of you will quickly realize that is the CSA that I bake for and work with every week. But still, I wanted to compare this one to the two that are more widely known. Here the things I like about this CSA: everything is a la carte. The weekly required spending is $10, which is not hard to do. You don't spend a certain amount of money for a set number of points, which you then have to configure in some random way to make sure you spend them. You spend $10 or $100 dollars and get exactly what you want. Delivery is not doorstep, which is a bit inconvenient, though there are pickup locations in downtown Raleigh, north Raleigh and Cary. There is a delivery service for a small fee. However, what far outweighs anything else, in my opinion, is the screening process that happens before any product is offered to the membership. The quality that the owner strives for is as close to perfection as possible, and if you read the story of why the CSA came to be, it makes sense. If it's not something she would feed her family, it doesn't make it into the CSA. Because of the stringent quality expectations, sometimes there are shortages of meats, specifically beef. Not because it can't be found, but slow grown, grass-fed beef takes time, so sometimes we wait. And last, there's a cap on this CSA. Slow growing, sustainable farms can only service so many people, so you have to draw a line somewhere.

In the end, all of these CSAs offer meat, produce, baked goods, dairy products and a variety of other things. Some deliver to your door, some do not. They are all priced within the same range, but to me, the better value is the better quality. Whatever you choose, I think it's important that we support our local farmers. Why go to a grocery store to buy something that's grown 30 minutes down the road? The odds are that if you buy it at a grocery store, it has already traveled a lot of food miles.

Interested in a CSA? Find out more info at Local Harvest. Read what others are saying and decide for yourself. Just support your local farms!!

1 comment:

aseafish said...

Love your blog, and again, I am so jealous.