I love the idea of a CSA. That’s Community Supported Agriculture, when individuals buy shares in a farm’s upcoming harvest. The notion is that you support the farmer financially before the selling season starts, and because you’re taking a bit of a risk (farmers never know how that harvest is going to turn out until they’re actually, y’know, pulling things from the ground), you get more than your money’s worth of just-picked (or sometimes, just-slaughtered) foods.
You’ll notice I said that I love the idea of a CSA. That’s because when I tried the CSA closest to home, the one with pickup adjacent to the McCarren Park Greenmarket, I was really, really disappointed. The quality was shockingly bad, in some cases. One time I saw mold in a crate of eggplant, set out for us to help ourselves as if it was perfectly gorgeous produce. When I wrote to the farmer to complain, he explained that he saved his best stock to sell at retail in the farmers’ market, where people wouldn’t buy if it didn’t look good. Apparently because he already had my money, he didn’t feel compelled to give me the good stuff. Um…
This was halfway through the season. Because we’d already paid (a considerable amount; it wasn’t exactly cheap) I continued to go and pick up my produce. But I never felt good about it after that. I felt taken advantage of. We didn’t sign up for that CSA again, and to be honest I’ve been skittish about them ever since.
Local Roots removes many of the problems you’ll encounter with other CSAs: To begin with, they split the season in half, so you only commit for 12 weeks (instead of the usual 24). If, god forbid, I have as bad an experience as I had the last time, I won’t be out anywhere near as much money. And they offer much more than most CSAs in terms of variety, without forcing you to buy the vegetables in order to get the rest, as many do: In addition to the traditional vegetable and fruit packages, they also offer eggs, beef, duck, grains, beans, and flour, and even bread. The suppliers are impressive, too, including Cayuga Organics and Orwashers.
The other day I got an email from Wen-Jay Ying, the program director, telling me that they still had spaces available for the Williamsburg pickup, at DBA on N. 7th Street on Thursday nights. (Which, by the way, is another reason I like this CSA: I’ll have a mid-week replenishment of produce, and then the Greenmarket on Saturday to fill in any holes.) If you’re at all curious, do check it out. I’d love to see you at pickup!