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2020 CSAs: Produce Amidst Pestilence

2020 CSAs: Produce Amidst Pestilence
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  • 2020 CSAs: Produce Amidst Pestilence

    Post #1 - April 19th, 2020, 11:53 am
    Post #1 - April 19th, 2020, 11:53 am Post #1 - April 19th, 2020, 11:53 am
    First, a disclaimer: I have not enjoyed CSAs in the past. However, I see some compelling reasons to join one this year.

    This will be the tl;dr version of this post. Much more long-winded musing to follow.

    Anyone have recent experience (positive or negative) with these farm's CSAs?

    1. Tomato Mountain.
    2. Henry's Farm
    3. Growing Home
    4. Iron Mountain
    Last edited by gastro gnome on April 19th, 2020, 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - April 19th, 2020, 11:54 am
    Post #2 - April 19th, 2020, 11:54 am Post #2 - April 19th, 2020, 11:54 am
    More and longer thoughts (i.e. the full version):

    I love shopping at farmer's markets. It's a summertime ritual. I'll often go to one on both Saturday and Sunday in season. I like picking out just what I want. I can grow some things on my deck but it won't cover all my needs. Plus, I am hearing that seeds may be harder to procure this year.

    CSAs give you access to the produce, but without choice, or the farmer's market experience. That sums up why I haven't done one for years. But there is no guarantee that farmer's markets will operate normally this year. They are essential businesses but will they be limiting shoppers at a stall and interaction between patron and farmer? If there are lines and enforced distancing policies (not that I am objecting to these if they make sense), will the shopping seem more like an anxiety-laden grocery store run than an enjoyable outdoor activity? Will I want to go to more than one market? Will it initially be COVID-impacted and less so over time?

    In short, there is a lot of uncertainty. And I imagine this is also weighing heavily on farmers who may be able to manage their fields much better than the changing market conditions.

    All of this makes joining a CSA something I am seriously considering this year - even if only for this year. Guarantee access to some produce in a time and manner of my choosing and help out a farmer in the process. If markets come back and are normal, then maybe I can sign of for a share that will still allow me room to shop.

    All of which is to say that I am evaluating a few options that might make sense for me. Here are some that I've been looking through with some of my thoughts. If others have experience with them, I'd love to hear about it.

    1. Tomato Mountain: This is an interesting option because they offer a small plan and deliver overnight mid-week. Pros - I value the delivery these days and receiving a box during the week would allow me to plan accordingly for any supplement shopping over the weekend if markets are functioning normally. The Spring share has already started, but it sounds like I could buy in at a pro-rated rate. The corollary is that I can also only sign up for the summer season if that's my choice. Cons - However, they do not bring a lot of produce to my local market (Logan's Square) so I haven't really been able to evaluate the range of their options aside from the sungold and paste tomatoes they often do have (in-season). Neither of those are my favorite so I do not wind up buying a lot of produce from them and don't have a baseline.
    2. Henry's Farm: I tend to go to Evanston so picking up there would not be an issue. The way this CSA works is that you get an emailed list of what is on the list that week, you show up and check your name off, and then you go around to produce that is out and pick up the things that are on your list. Pros - This allows for some degree of personal preference/choice. There is also the ability to swap between some similar items. Cons - However, if the idea is to limit time or contact at the market this year (something I have to consider), then the choose-at-the-market-idea might not be the best option. There is only one-sized share so it doesn't allow me to get a "small" one.
    3. Growing Home: Pros - Offers a half share. I often buy produce from them and have enjoyed it. I like their mission.
    4. Iron Mountain: These guys are kind of a funny candidate. I think their produce is good but is often priced well over similar offerings from other vendors and also some of their crops are extremely large (cabbage, cauliflower) which could make storage and usage a bit of a challenge. They do offer a small size box, though so maybe those wouldn't include giant veggies.
  • Post #3 - April 19th, 2020, 5:04 pm
    Post #3 - April 19th, 2020, 5:04 pm Post #3 - April 19th, 2020, 5:04 pm
    Hi- I have never done a CSA because I like picking out my own produce, and plus I have a community garden and none of the CSA's contain much fruit other than melons. If the Evanston market was not going to open, I would have been tempted to sign up for Henry's CSA. though. It only runs $18 a week, and in general I love his produce. He does not have much corn though, and that is one thing I would miss. He also does not have asparagus either. It sounds like Henry is going to have a separate line for his CSA at the market, and you are going to give him your bag, and then he is going to ask you what you want, and then fill it up for you. I am sure the city would prefer that he ask before hand what you want, and then you send him an email with your order, but that means that he has to provide his own bags, which he would prefer not to.

    Judging by the email his Sister Teresa sent about her plants and how the city has requested that she have people order them in advance, it sounds like the city is trying to limit contact at the farmer's market. They don't want people looking at the plants and asking Teresa what plants she would recommend. She also said that people will not be able to pick out their own produce. A customer will say he wants 6 ears of corn, and somebody will put 6 ears of corn in a bag for you and hand it to you. It sounds like everybody will have a table set up in the front of their tent, and then several tables in the back of the tent where they keep the produce. You ask for a quart of peaches, and then they go back there and get one and bag it up for you and hand it to you. They are also not going to be able to hand out samples of stuff. According to Teresa they are going to have one single entrance to the market, and a different exit when you are leaving the market, and the vendors are going to be required to wear masks and gloves.
  • Post #4 - April 20th, 2020, 8:51 am
    Post #4 - April 20th, 2020, 8:51 am Post #4 - April 20th, 2020, 8:51 am
    Following with interest. I'm considering a CSA this year for many of the reasons you articulated. We're getting a taste of it through Urban Canopy right now. Nichols Farm is another I have looked at.

    http://www.theurbancanopy.org/csa
    https://www.nicholsfarm.com/csa
    -Mary
  • Post #5 - April 20th, 2020, 10:36 am
    Post #5 - April 20th, 2020, 10:36 am Post #5 - April 20th, 2020, 10:36 am
    The GP wrote:Following with interest. I'm considering a CSA this year for many of the reasons you articulated. We're getting a taste of it through Urban Canopy right now. Nichols Farm is another I have looked at.

    http://www.theurbancanopy.org/csa
    https://www.nicholsfarm.com/csa


    Is there an informational page about The Urban Canopy CSA? It's a bit confusing because the basic CSA has a bread, egg, beverage, and mushroom opt-out, but I don't know what quantity/frequency of these things is actually included.

    Obviously I can email them for more info, but wasn't sure if you knew of a better source of info as a current customer. Other CSAs seem to have more extensive documentation. It's especially puzzling because they seem to partner with many other entities than their farm so it would be hard to know exactly what you are getting from where based on the description provided.
  • Post #6 - April 20th, 2020, 11:15 am
    Post #6 - April 20th, 2020, 11:15 am Post #6 - April 20th, 2020, 11:15 am
    gastro gnome - I don't know much more about the Urban Canopy CSA. We compost through them but have not done the CSA. Due to the pandemic, they started offering weekly produce boxes on a first come/first served request basis. We got one two weeks ago and will be getting another this week. This is outside of their CSA so not entirely representative. We thought the lettuce in the box was some of the best we've have. It was provided by Backyard Fresh Farms.
    -Mary
  • Post #7 - April 20th, 2020, 11:20 am
    Post #7 - April 20th, 2020, 11:20 am Post #7 - April 20th, 2020, 11:20 am
    How about Angelica Organics? They have tons of drop off locations. It looks like you get 3/4 of a bushel either weekly or biweekly for $40. I don't know anybody that has used them, but they have been in business since 1990.
  • Post #8 - April 20th, 2020, 11:30 am
    Post #8 - April 20th, 2020, 11:30 am Post #8 - April 20th, 2020, 11:30 am
    NFriday wrote:How about Angelica Organics? They have tons of drop off locations. It looks like you get 3/4 of a bushel either weekly or biweekly for $40. I don't know anybody that has used them, but they have been in business since 1990.

    We've used them in the past and really like them as a company. However, I found their produce needed a lot of clean-up before we could comfortably put it away. Compared to other CSA's, the produce was quite dirty, and consistently so. It became a drag having to spend 30+ minutes cleaning stuff up each time we got our delivery. Our friends, who also had a CSA share with them, playfully referred to them as Dirty Farms. :(

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #9 - April 20th, 2020, 8:28 pm
    Post #9 - April 20th, 2020, 8:28 pm Post #9 - April 20th, 2020, 8:28 pm
    gastro gnome wrote:[*]Henry's Farm: I tend to go to Evanston so picking up there would not be an issue. The way this CSA works is that you get an emailed list of what is on the list that week, you show up and check your name off, and then you go around to produce that is out and pick up the things that are on your list. Pros - This allows for some degree of personal preference/choice. There is also the ability to swap between some similar items. Cons - However, if the idea is to limit time or contact at the market this year (something I have to consider), then the choose-at-the-market-idea might not be the best option. There is only one-sized share so it doesn't allow me to get a "small" one.


    So, after contacting Henry, he pointed me to a description of how the CSA will be different this year.

    In short, the pick and swap at the market is unlikely to happen. You will bring a bag/box/vessel, they will fill it and hand it back to you. There may be limited choices pre-described in an email (dill or cilantro) that you can communicate on site. There may also be an exchange box, but I'm not sure how that would work.

    In any case, it seems to me like it will be "you get what you get" and they are trying to set things up to minimize time spent and contact.

    So that's at least one question answered.
  • Post #10 - April 20th, 2020, 8:48 pm
    Post #10 - April 20th, 2020, 8:48 pm Post #10 - April 20th, 2020, 8:48 pm
    Since it's looking more likely that the Evanston Farmers' Market actually will open — in a new format — May 2, we signed up for the Henry's Farm csa. We'll see how it goes.
  • Post #11 - April 21st, 2020, 1:49 am
    Post #11 - April 21st, 2020, 1:49 am Post #11 - April 21st, 2020, 1:49 am
    Henry's CSA is the cheapest. He only charges $435 for the whole season which works out to $17 a week, and if you are a JR. citizen in their 20's or have a child younger than 29 months you get it for 20% off. The only thing I don't like about Henry is that he does not grow asparagus, and does not grow a lot of corn. Last year he did not have any corn because of all the rain he had last Spring. He also does not grow strawberries. Nichols grow asparagus, corn and strawberries, but they also charge $660 for their smallest box.

    BTW- On Henry's Facebook page, Henry mentioned that he is going to have some subsidized shares this summer for local people who otherwise could not afford it. He is looking for people that are going to be conscientious about picking their share every week, and would be likely to use all of the share. He does not want somebody who says I don't know what to do with my kale this week, and so I will just throw it out. He is going to ask other people in his CSA to help fund this. The person getting the share will have to come up with $35 for it, and he is willing to forgo $200, and he is hoping some other people in his CSA will come up with an additional $200 to fund the share. He is hoping he can get multiple people to do this so he can offer multiple subsidized shares. Hope this helps, Nancy
  • Post #12 - April 22nd, 2020, 12:50 pm
    Post #12 - April 22nd, 2020, 12:50 pm Post #12 - April 22nd, 2020, 12:50 pm
    For folks in Chicago & Northern suburbs, The Talking Farm in Skokie (full disclosure: I'm on the board) has a Garden Membership program that offers you a weekly box of produce throughout the summer.

    We also offer a Pick Your Own Basket virtual farmstand where you can buy veggies and pick them up. All pick up is contactless at our open-air farm in Skokie. The produce is harvested on Tuesday, washed, and is in your hands by Wednesday or Thursday.

    For more information:
    https://www.thetalkingfarm.org/how-to-help/buy-produce/
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #13 - April 22nd, 2020, 1:02 pm
    Post #13 - April 22nd, 2020, 1:02 pm Post #13 - April 22nd, 2020, 1:02 pm
    boudreaulicious wrote:For folks in Chicago & Northern suburbs, The Talking Farm in Skokie (full disclosure: I'm on the board) has a Garden Membership program that offers you a weekly box of produce throughout the summer.

    We also offer a Pick Your Own Basket virtual farmstand where you can buy veggies and pick them up. All pick up is contactless at our open-air farm in Skokie. The produce is harvested on Tuesday, washed, and is in your hands by Wednesday or Thursday.

    For more information:
    https://www.thetalkingfarm.org/how-to-help/buy-produce/


    I will mention that I've been pleased as punch with all my dealings with Talking Farm. I bought seedlings last year which worked out great (and they sent me home with pots pre-mixed soil as well since they were trying to get rid of them). I bought their produce when they did show up to the Evanston farmer's market (about 1/month) and found the quality good. I also think that the value was as good or better than anyone else in the market for apples-to-apples organic produce.

    I told my friends in Evanston about the Garden Membership program and strongly recommended it. If I lived closer, I'd probably be doing it. It's just hard to justify the mid-week trip from Logan Square when there are a number of other options that will deliver to or drop off in my neighborhood. But if I were further north, I would be considering Talking Farm for sure.
  • Post #14 - April 22nd, 2020, 1:36 pm
    Post #14 - April 22nd, 2020, 1:36 pm Post #14 - April 22nd, 2020, 1:36 pm
    I just bought some seedlings from Talking Farm and am looking forward to buying some of their produce.

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #15 - April 22nd, 2020, 10:57 pm
    Post #15 - April 22nd, 2020, 10:57 pm Post #15 - April 22nd, 2020, 10:57 pm
    Have you looked into Nichols Farm? We have been a happy CSA customer of theirs and they deliver mid-week to our location, have home delivery and also provide a discount to the farmer's markets that they serve.
  • Post #16 - April 23rd, 2020, 7:34 am
    Post #16 - April 23rd, 2020, 7:34 am Post #16 - April 23rd, 2020, 7:34 am
    I signed up for the nichols csa last week. I ordered the chef's box, which is more expensive but hopefully worth it. Susan, which do you get? They also have an online store, which is mostly limited to potatoes, and root vegetables for now, some greenhouse things, as well as some canned items. The potatoes and parsnips are in great shape. The beets a bit soft, but should be fine. The micro greens I ordered are very fresh. There is a $12 charge for home delivery, but otherwise the prices seem reasonable.

    -Will
  • Post #17 - April 23rd, 2020, 8:18 am
    Post #17 - April 23rd, 2020, 8:18 am Post #17 - April 23rd, 2020, 8:18 am
    We get the full share from Nichols and we have been happy with it. What is nice, is that it is both fruit and vegetables. They usually send out an e-mail earlier in the week of what will be in the box which helps with planning.
  • Post #18 - April 23rd, 2020, 8:54 am
    Post #18 - April 23rd, 2020, 8:54 am Post #18 - April 23rd, 2020, 8:54 am
    I also signed up for a Nichols Chefs Premium share last month. Since our previous CSA ceased operations, I was kind of looking forward to taking a year off but if the current situation isn't ideal for CSA participation, I don't know what is.

    I've always liked Nichols' at the various markets where they have stalls. I hope their CSA shares are of equal or near-equal quality to what they typically offer at the markets. Either way, we're supporting a farm we really like - one that needs our support -- and we'll have a shipment of produce each week. Win-win-win.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #19 - April 26th, 2020, 7:19 am
    Post #19 - April 26th, 2020, 7:19 am Post #19 - April 26th, 2020, 7:19 am
    Henry's Farm is no longer accepting new CSA participants for Evanston based on his website.

    In an emailed response to me he said: "I reached the maximum number that I think I can manage. Once I see how the market/CSA balance pans out, I may find that I can take more members and we will send out a notice asking for more members if that happens."
  • Post #20 - April 29th, 2020, 2:03 pm
    Post #20 - April 29th, 2020, 2:03 pm Post #20 - April 29th, 2020, 2:03 pm
    Urban Canopy is wait list only now. Besides Nichols and Tomato Mountain, I'm also looking at Mick Klug Farms CSA. I want a mix of vegetables and fruit. Klug looks fruit heavy. Has anyone done their CSA?
    -Mary
  • Post #21 - April 29th, 2020, 2:58 pm
    Post #21 - April 29th, 2020, 2:58 pm Post #21 - April 29th, 2020, 2:58 pm
    I signed up for Green Acres May Sampler and I can report back as to how it is. I am considering them for the rest of the season as well (weighing against Tomato Mountain and maybe one or two others).
  • Post #22 - April 29th, 2020, 4:23 pm
    Post #22 - April 29th, 2020, 4:23 pm Post #22 - April 29th, 2020, 4:23 pm
    Hi- I know Klugs used to sell a lot to restaurants, and right now that has dried up. It sounds like they are going to do a lot more CSA. I noticed that one of their drop off spots is in Evanston. It looks like it is $30 a week for a small size box. My problem is that it would probably be too much for just me, and plus I have a garden in one of the community gardens in Evanston.

    I have heard good things about them, but I don't know how many veggies they raise in the summertime. They are heavy on the fruit. It looks like they are going to have 10 drop off locations this summer.
  • Post #23 - April 30th, 2020, 3:53 pm
    Post #23 - April 30th, 2020, 3:53 pm Post #23 - April 30th, 2020, 3:53 pm
    I have been buying from Mick Klug Farm at the Lincoln Square farmers' market for as long as the market has existed. They are heavy in fruit as is clear from their what we grow and when page. Vegetables are basically asparagus, shelled peas, zucchini, green beans, sweet corn and tomatoes. They have been one of the few growers using se type sweet corn, which tends to have more intense corn flavor than sh aka supersweet. Buried in their website is reference to an arrangement with another farm for some specialty vegetables.
  • Post #24 - May 1st, 2020, 1:34 pm
    Post #24 - May 1st, 2020, 1:34 pm Post #24 - May 1st, 2020, 1:34 pm
    I took the plunge and signed up for small share from Tomato Mountain. In the meantime, I'm going to reread this great piece by Anthony Todd: So You Panic Bought a CSA: Now What The Hell Do You Do?
    -Mary
  • Post #25 - May 1st, 2020, 1:48 pm
    Post #25 - May 1st, 2020, 1:48 pm Post #25 - May 1st, 2020, 1:48 pm
    I plan to attend the Waukesha Farmers Market starting tomorrow. The rules are a bit stifling but that is today. Rule 15 is all I need, but............

    The Waukesha Farmers’ Market has decided to adopt these new guidelines in order to facilitate a safe opening of our market after consultation with the Waukesha County Health Department.
    1. At this time, produce and product vendors will be permitted in the market as allowed by the State Order.
    2. People will travel in a clockwise direction throughout the market.
    3. No sampling of products will be allowed.
    4. Vendor set-up will be modified to allow more space between selling areas.
    5. Booth spaces will be modified to increase the space between vendors and customers.
    6. Social distancing will be practiced throughout the market.
    7. All prepared foods will be pre-packaged for takeout consumption.
    8. Vendors will handle products until given to the customer.
    9. All vendors will have hand sanitizer at their booths.
    10. Customers are encouraged to bring their own individual hand sanitizer as well.
    11. Dogs are not allowed at this time.
    12. Parents are advised to closely supervise children while in the market. Children should always be kept within an arm’s length of their parents .
    13. No musicians, activities, or special events will occur at this time.
    14. If you are running a fever, coughing, or generally not feeling well, please stay home.
    15. We are encouraging everyone to use common sense and act responsibly when attending the market.
    16. 2 Porta-Potties are available. One toilet will be designated for vendors & handicapped customers only at this time. This will provide greater safety by separating vendor use from that of the general public. Please share and for information our walk areas are between 15' and 20' so social distancing is able to be managed.
  • Post #26 - May 1st, 2020, 2:43 pm
    Post #26 - May 1st, 2020, 2:43 pm Post #26 - May 1st, 2020, 2:43 pm
    The Waukesha market sounds a lot like the Evanston market, but we will limit the number of shoppers purchasing stuff at any time. Only three customers are allowed at each one of the vendor stalls at any one time. We will also be requiring people to wear masks, and we will be asking people to either use a cashless system when paying, or if paying with cash only pay with exact cash. If you buy something that is $2 and you lay a $5 bill on the table, you will not get any money back. We are also encouraging people to come to the market solo. Do not bring your whole family, and do not socialize while you are there. Get in and out as soon as possible.

    On a Facebook group that I belong to, several people told me that this did not sound safe. I said it was safer than going to Jewel to buy groceries. One of them said that we should implement a drive through market like they are doing in Kankakee. Kankakee only has 12 vendors, and plus this was tried in some larger markets in California, and the lines got too long. Her 81 year old mother lives in Evanston, and she is trying to talk her out of attending the Evanston market because it is not safe. I wonder where her mother does her grocery shopping though otherwise?
  • Post #27 - May 1st, 2020, 2:59 pm
    Post #27 - May 1st, 2020, 2:59 pm Post #27 - May 1st, 2020, 2:59 pm
    Puckjam wrote:I plan to attend the Waukesha Farmers Market starting tomorrow. The rules are a bit stifling but that is today. Rule 15 is all I need, but............

    Unfortunately, not everyone is as enlightened as you. Rules like these are sensible and reasonable, and they help protect the vast majority of us from the morons. I'm happy to see that the organizers have actually given this some thought. I hope others will follow suit.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #28 - May 1st, 2020, 3:41 pm
    Post #28 - May 1st, 2020, 3:41 pm Post #28 - May 1st, 2020, 3:41 pm
    Puckjam wrote:Rule 15 is all I need, but............

    ronnie_suburban wrote:Rules like these are sensible and reasonable

    I'm thinking Ronnie is more of a Rule #9 guy :)
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #29 - May 1st, 2020, 4:37 pm
    Post #29 - May 1st, 2020, 4:37 pm Post #29 - May 1st, 2020, 4:37 pm
    G Wiv wrote:I'm thinking Ronnie is more of a Rule #9 guy :)

    LOL, indeed (especially where there's food involved)! :lol: 8)

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #30 - May 4th, 2020, 3:41 pm
    Post #30 - May 4th, 2020, 3:41 pm Post #30 - May 4th, 2020, 3:41 pm
    Chicago chef Bruce Sherman helps launch CSA featuring small-scale women farmers

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavi ... story.html
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard

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