Monday, April 23, 2012

Looking for a CSA? Part 1

Most of my customers know that I not only bake for a CSA, but I also buy from and work with this CSA. It's always exciting to think about fresh, local produce and meats. As a small business owner, it's also about supporting local, hard-working farmers. And I would lying if I didn't admit that it was mostly selfish; clean, local grass-fed beef and better than organic produce. Who wouldn't be excited about that?

I have a lot of people ask me about CSAs, which one is better or what information I have on a specific one. I suppose it all depends on what you are looking for. So I sat down and compared a few of the more well-known ones in the area. I suppose as someone who works with one maybe I have a bit more insider knowledge, but as a consumer, I still had to look at each one and compare prices but more importantly, quality. Wanna know what I found out?

 So I'll start with produce ONLY CSAs.

The first one I came across is Wild Onion Farms, located in Johnston County. While I personally have no experience with this farm, here are a few things I like: they operate year round, there's no work required (what can I say, I'm lazy! lol), and there's a pickup location in Raleigh. Another thing I like is that they operate using strict organic practices, which provides a superior product and preserves the environment. Two things that are very important to me. They can also be found at a couple of Farmer's Markets. Here's what I don't like: there's an upfront cost between $200-$500. I realize that most CSAs operate this way, it's the support part of CSA. But it can be a bit scary to see that kind of upfront request. However, if you're not buying produce every week or two, it all washes out and you'll have your money for the next go round.

The next one I found is Smith's Nursery Doorstep Market, which operates out of Benson. What I really like about this CSA is their locations. There are plenty in the triangle area, and even beyond. Ranging from Rocky Mount, Clayton and even as far as Wilson, they have definitely made it convenient for people to get fresh produce. There is a $10 yearly enrollment fee, which pays for boxes, processing, etc., otherwise the price ranges from $20-$55, depending on what size box you choose, any add-ons. On the down side, I thought the pictures they posted of their boxes looked pretty scarce.  They use conventional methods to prepare the fields, though they do not spray directly on their produce.

The next veggie CSA I came across is with Double T Farm, located in Garner. While they are not organically certified (this is a VERY cost-prohibitive process!) they practice organic methods. There are many pickup locations in the Raleigh area, making it very convenient if you live in Raleigh. You can also pick up from the farm or a location in Morrisville. Their share prices range from $350 during the winter to $$675 in the summer. The nice thing is you can pay in installments, so it's not quite so daunting. They also encourage visitors on their farm, which I really appreciate.

And last is The Produce Box.This is essentially an affordable, doorstep delivery service. Delivery is during the growing season, so the service is just restarting. Price ranges from $17-$28, depending on size and whether you choose to go organic or not. Members pay weekly, which is always helpful when trying to work on a budget. Here's the thing with TPB, since I deal directly with farmers, I have heard of some unethical business practices happening. I'm really trying to remain objective in comparing CSAs and not share my opinions, but a CSA is supposed to support farmers, not encourage unethical treatment of farmers. That is all I will say on that matter.

Part 2: CSAs that offer meat and produce.

**These are just a few of the ones I found. There are many more, you can find more info at Local Harvest.

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