Monday, February 24, 2014

West Philly Spotlight: CSA Options

With Spring starting to peek through after such a furiously cold winter, my mind is on warmer weather. There's so much to look forward to with the coming months - More time outdoors, green leaves sprouting, open windows, and lots of fresh local produce on the table.  Between the farmers' market at Clark Park, Milk and Honey Market, and Mariposa Co-op it's not hard for West Philly residents to purchase local fruits and veggies. 

Still, perhaps the best way to support local farmers and get the freshest produce is by participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  These programs are a way for consumers to buy directly from the farmers through a weekly subscription program.  Farms create shares - a segment of the season's crops that usually works out to a box of veggies and/or fruit per week throughout the season - and customers purchase a season's worth of produce up front to enjoy all summer (and sometimes spring, fall and even winter) long.  There is shared investment and shared risk with benefits for both farmers and consumers.  My favorite perk of CSAs is that occasionally we end up with some produce we haven't tried before and that we might not have picked on our own, but we give it a try because it turns up in our weekly box.  That's how swiss chard became a favorite in our home!

West Philadelphia neighbors are no strangers to CSAs as is evidenced by several options and drop off locations around the neighborhood.  So which one to choose?  You can start by comparing price, pick up location, and what each farm is able to offer.  Luckily there is something for everyone here in West Philly - perhaps one of these options is right for your family:

Kneehigh Farm

Cost: $575-$700 sliding scale (23 weeks)
Pickup Location: Mariposa Co-op
Included: 7-12 varieties of seasonal produce

Kneehigh Farm is owned and operated by Emma Cunniff who has West Philly roots. This farm located in the Lehigh Valley doesn't use any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. The CSA runs from early June through early November and is designed to feed a small family or a couple.

Teens 4 Good

Cost: $400/$300 work share (26 weeks)
Pickup Location: 50th and Baltimore
Included: typical share consists of 6- 7 vegetables, 1 fruit, and 1 bunch of herbs, bouquet of flowers or specialty item.

The farm located at 8th and Poplar streets is a project of Teens4Good, an organization that partners teens with farmers to teach young people about social entrepreneurship, stewardship of their environment, and where their food comes from.  The CSA runs from early May to late October and the work-share option requires that you work a total of 8 hours on the farm throughout the season which can entail helping out with weeding, planting or harvesting. I consider this a perk since part of why we have a CSA is to teach our kids where our food comes from.  A trip to the farm - or better yet, participating - only enriches that lesson.  

Wilmer Organics

Cost: $558 (18 weeks)
Pickup Location: 47th and Baltimore Ave.
Included: Seasonal vegetables

Wilmer offers both full or bi-weekly shares and the occasional fruit offering and the possibility of adding on eggs or yogurt. The produce is certified organic and comes from two farms in Lancaster county.  Every other week share available.

Lancaster Farm Fresh

Cost: $750 (25 weeks)
Pickup Location: 50th and Osage (Powelton Village and HUP locations, too)
Included: 7-12 varieties seasonal veggies

This CSA is a cooperative of 75 organic farms in Lancaster County which means there's always variety of produce. The pick up location has a swap box - allowing you to trade out if there's something your family doesn't prefer. Add on options include meat, chicken, herbs, cheese, fruit, eggs, flowers and community supported medicine.  Half share available.

Landisdale Farm

Cost: $430 (21 weeks)
Pickup Location: 49th and Larchwood or Clark Park Farmer's Market
Included: 6-8 varieties of seasonal produce

Landisdale Farm is a family owned and operated certified organic farm located in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. They also raise grassfed beef and sell year round at the Clark Park Farmers' Market.  Delivery  every other week available.

Red Earth Farm

Cost:  $615 (22 weeks)
Pickup Location: 44th and Baltimore (Near Clark Park)
Included: 10+ varieties of seasonal veggies

One unique perk for this CSA that operates from June to November, is that you are able to choose (to an extent) what comes in your box.  A list of options goes up early in the week and you have several days to make choices from what is available.  Other available shares to order include: Cheese, egg, flower, fruit and yogurt/kefir.  Partial share available.

West Philly Foods
Cost: $610 
Pickup Location: Walnut Hill Community Farm (46th and Market), CHOP Hospital (Abramson Research Center), Renewal Church (47th and Cedar Ave.), or Heritage Farms (Belmont and Monument Rd)
Included: 10-12 lbs. of seasonal produce

The Enterprise Center CDC is supporting this unique CSA model that incorporates their kitchen incubator. Fruit and Veggie shares paired with optional add-on products such as jams, bread, bacon, nut butter, cheese, coffee and local beer. You can support our community by donating shares to families in West Philadelphia.  Half share available.

Philly Cow Share

Cost: $350 and up

You can order a 1/8 share up to a whole cow share.  Organize a group to divide a whole share and save even more.  You'll need freezer space to store the meat, but you will have plenty of grassfed, hormone and antibiotic free meat that is frozen in individual vacuum packed packages on hand for six months.


Not ready to invest in a seasonal share of a farm but want to teach your kids about how a farm works?  Or want something to expand on your Community Supported Agriculture participation?  If you want an experience that goes beyond the "pick your own" farm visit you should check out:

Flint Hill Farm Stay

Cost: $95-$180/night

Stay overnight in one of the cozy rooms in the family farmhouse or one of the on site campers.  During your stay you are invited to pitch in with the farm chores.  You might have a chance to feed the horses, collect eggs for breakfast or milk cows/goats. This 6 acre property is run by Kathy Fields along with a group of volunteers. The "farm stay" program helps sustain this wonderful old farm dating back to the 1850s. Enjoy a breakfast of eggs, cheese and milk directly from the farm and try your hand at being a farmer for a day.

So what are you waiting for?  Go!  Support our community's agriculture!  And nourish yourself and your family in the process.

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