You can’t control the shifting seasons but if the thought of missing your weekly farmers’ market shopping trip sends you into the doldrums, we have a solution for you. Try a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership!

Photo: Lancaster Fresh Farm

How it works
In the CSA model, community members pay a local farm or farm co-op for a share at the start of the growing season. This payment guarantees the shareholder a portion of the season’s bounty through weekly or bi-weekly produce shares. Members can also buy into other products such as grass-fed beef, free range poultry, cheese, dairy, and even flowers.  

It’s a win-win situation
Members receive fresh, local–often organic–produce at reasonable prices (delivered to a chosen location), while local area farms produce better quality food securely with upfront financial support.
Here in the D.C. area, we are lucky to have an abundance of CSA options, many offering flexible payment plans, pantry items, prepared foods, and delivery options (if your school-year is just too crazy to squeeze in pick-ups). 

Sign me up!
Choosing the CSA that is right for you can be daunting. For an idea of what’s out there, check out these six unique fall CSA’s. Fall is a wonderful season to try CSA out. The season is short and offers the best of both worlds—a mix of summer produce and cooler-weather items. For even more options, visit Local Harvest to search by area and view CSA details and pick up locations with maps.

Farm to Family (Richmond, Va)
Choose from: fruit, meat, eggs, soy products, pasta, bread, and pantry items
Season: year-round, divided into spring/summer and fall/winter shares
Pick-up: various locations in D.C. and Richmond, Va.
What’s unique: This 501©3 nonprofit is a CSA, indoor market, and education center all rolled into one.

From the Farmer (Washington, D.C.)
Choose from: six different plans offering fruits and vegetables, with optional add-ons like bread and pantry items
Season: year-round
Pick-up: home delivery to all of D.C. and much of Maryland and Virginia
What’s unique: You can remove or add items from your CSA box via their website.

Lancaster Fresh Farm Cooperative (Lancaster, Pa)
Choose from: vegetable boxes in three different sizes, with option to add fruit, cheese, eggs, meats, fresh flowers, or herbal medicine
Season: year-round, divided into spring, summer, fall, and winter shares
Pick-up: various locations in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia
What’s unique: Over 100 family farmers own and invest in the co-op, guaranteeing it’s efficiently run and provides a wide variety of products.

Groundworks Farm (Pittsville, Md)
Choose from: produce, egg, meat, chicken, and cheese shares in two sizes
Season: winter/spring, summer/fall
Pick-up: various locations in Virginia and Maryland
What’s unique: Offers whole farm shares, a combination of all shares (above).

Little Farm Stand (Virginia)
Choose from: fruits and vegetables, with the option to add on eggs, grass-fed beef, preserves, pies, honey, and maple syrup
Season: Spring, summer and fall
Pick-up: Home or office delivery to Washington, D.C. and Rosslyn, Va
What’s unique: Very flexible—you pick exactly what items to include in your weekly box.

Think ahead: Great Country Farms (Bluemont, Va)
This CSA
offers a farm share only from April to October but this is a fantastic option for families. Every membership includes fruit in each share, free farm visits, free weekly U-pick options and free or discounted admission to all the farm festivals and events. For busy families, the various pick-up and delivery options–public or private community sites, or delivered to your door–are a perk.

Does your family have a favorite CSA? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

-Pat Tanumihardja

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