If you’ve ever wanted to join a CSA (community supported agriculture), now is the time to get your applications in. The movement to get your food locally, to know the farmers who produced it and that no pesticides were used, and to be involved with a like-minded community is growing in popularity every year since Michael Pollan’s book,The Omnivore’s Dilemma came out in 2006 .
Local Harvest provides a service where you can type in a zip code and find out all the local farmers’ markets, food coops, CSAs, restaurants that serve seasonal cuisine and even farms you never knew were just around the corner where you can buy backyard-raised duck eggs. Farm to City is another website that provides links to the Philadelphia area CSAs and buying clubs.
In a CSA, a farmer offers shares to the public, paid for in advance, in return for a weekly selection of vegetables or fruits (northstarorchard.com is one) for the growing season, 20-25 weeks from May through November. There are also some CSAs that offer winter memberships.
A member of a buying club has the opportunity to place orders online and pays for that portion without purchasing a season’s worth of food. In either case, the food is picked up at designated drop-off locations throughout the city. You can split a share with another family depending on the size of the share and how many vegetables you think you can eat in a week.
We belong to Pennypack Farm’s CSA. It was the closest one we found where we could go to the farm itself to see the food being grown. We split the large share of 10 generous bunches of vegetables with another family and go to the farm the same day every week within a 5-hour time frame to pick it up. The large share costs $675 total and the small share of 6 units costs $450, with prices to be determined for next year.
They also grow their own broiler chickens, turkeys for Thanksgiving, and have laying hens whose eggs, along with other local products from buffalo burgers (yes local!) to hummus, are sold at their store. With every kind of vegetable imaginable and an A to Z farm stand cookbook for sale, we’ve tried kohlrabi and okra, tomatillos and garlic scapes. Pennypack also has weekly children’s programs and adult environmental education, including a meet-the-farmer series.
A newsletter is sent out weekly and there are invitations to potlucks, campfires, sleepovers and an annual harvest festival. One requirement is that each family contribute 4 hours of “share duty” per season, which can be anything from watering the herbs to weeding or planting seedlings. Present members are given first choice to sign on for next season and then it is opened to a waiting list. Just like with preschools, apply early!
–written by Marie