It’s that time of year!! Maybe you’re already signed up for this season, or maybe you’ve never heard about them. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share is a local farm offering a certain number of farm “shares” of his/her crop to the public. These vary, and typically consist of veggies, but often times include fruit, eggs, cheeses, and even meat. Consumers purchase a share from their selected farmer and receive a predetermined quantity of the farmer’s crop regularly throughout the growing season. Even in Western PA, where we experience a relatively harsh winter, there are plenty of programs and shares to choose from 12 months throughout the year.
Why should you sign up for one?
Our eating and shopping habits are not just important for our health, but for our local economies, the environment, and the future of our food system. We cast a vote each and every time we buy. How and where we choose to spend our money is more important, and every dollar we spend creates a much greater impact than we realize. Nearly half (45%) of money spent within local markets will remain there. Compare this with a meager 13% of money spent in chain retailers, and it becomes evident that even the most modest change in spending habits can produce considerable economic impact. Eating seasonally can be hard off season, especially in these cold winter months in Western PA. It takes a little bit of creativity, flexibility, and a willingness to try new things. Bonus? Foods eaten in season are more flavorful and packed with more nutrients.
Outlined below, please find some of my family’s favorite summer shares in the Pittsburgh area. Not from Western PA? Check out Local Harvest to find a CSA in your area!
-Cost break down: Lots of options, ranging from Market Share Cards (like a gift card for the market), or $35-$42.50 per week depending on what your needs/interests are!
-Extras: Winter shares, garden shares, market memberships, pork. This year, they are also inviting CSA members to the farm house weekly to chop, roast, blanch, freeze and taste their harvest with farmers & others members! They also host weddings and events at the farm!
-Pick up locations: On farm (Natrona Heights), Oakland (Phipps)
-Perks: Aside from being one of the only certified organic local farms in the area, Jen, Greg, Evelyn and Olivia provide the most personal experience, hands down. They are present for all CSA pick ups, and you get to know them well. They understand the importance of farm immunity and gut health, which is why they encouarge people to come out and spend time on the farm. They grow the best heirloom tomato you will ever taste, beautiful greens and garlic. These guys also team up with Four Frozen Farmers in December to sell Christmas trees at Construction Junction—a great way to support all facets of local agriculture!
-Cost break down: A few options, ranging from $20/$25/week, depending on what your needs/interests are!
-Extras: Cheese, mushrooms, chicken, beef, coffee, winter shares
-Pick up locations: All over the city!! Kretchmann utilizes residential porch pick up locations, so the chances of a pick up location that is convenient for you is very good.
-Perks: Don and Becky grow tree fruit, which is hard to find grown organically in this area!
-Cost break down: small or large shares, ranging from $22-$32/week.
-Pick up locations: All over the Western side of PA, ranging from Erie to Oakmont, and everywhere in between!
-Extras: Beef, pork, chicken, holiday extras, winter shares, meat shares
-Perks: Because they are a cooperative, you will see a lot of variety in these shares. These guys offer a lot of dry goods as well as canned goods with. Be prepared to find things like puffed spelt, spicy pickled green beans, and jars of stewed tomatoes in addition to fresh veggies and fruits.
-Cost break down: Lots of options, ranging from $120 for as little as 4 pick ups-$830 for the full 32 weeks, and everywhere in between. ($18-270/week)
-Extras: Fresh cut flowers, eggs, cheese, pork, beef, lamb, gift baskets, winter shares.
-Pick up locations: All over the city—definitely somewhere near you!
-Perks: Because they are a cooperative, you will also find a huge variety with this share. Penn’s corner works with more than 30 organic and sustainable farms around the state, providing a wide array of farm fresh goodies.
-Cost break down: small, large and biweekly shares, ranging from $16-$25/week.
-Extras: Eggs, Amish breads and cookies, extra quantities of vegetables and fruit, flower bouquets, pastured brown eggs, honey, cheese, jams, relishes, and frozen organic chickens.
-Pick up locations: We actually host a pick up for Dillner, so if you sign up, you could see us each week ;) They also utilizes residential porch pick up locations, so the chances of a pick up location that is convenient for you is very good.
-Perks: These guys also have a farm stand located just off of Route 8 in Gibsonia. It is a one stop shop for seasonal veggies, fruits, seedlings/plants, eggs, bread, honey and locally canned goods. I made a biweekly trip here last fall for fall fruits, and purchased the most stunning wildflower seedlings in the spring for my garden!
I have experience working with all of these farms, and am happy to answer any additional questions you may have!! Please also share your knowledge in the comments below! If you are unsure, and want to test the waters before making a huge commitment, opt for a small share (typically half of what is offered in a regular share, or offered biweekly). If you don't mind getting your hands dirty, many also offer work share/volunteer opportunities for a share discount, giving you the opportunity to be part of the magic.
Our family counts down the days until the start of growing season—being part of a CSA takes the guesswork out of what you should buy to eat; Mother Nature chooses for you! All of the farms listed above are accepting shareholders for the 2018 growing season. So, what are you waiting for?!
**The photos above are all snapped from my camera. Some from my own garden, others are all shots of local food from the area.**
Let's connect! Contact me HERE anytime.