It might seem premature to start thinking about fresh, summer produce, but Minnesota’s farmers started prepping for the season long ago. They’re attending conferences with other producers and researchers, figuring out how to best extend their growing season in Minnesota’s challenging climate, selecting the best varieties for their soil and climate, managing their livestock (if they have any), and figuring out the best growing methods for boosting profits while being environmental stewards and community-builders. They have been very busy, indeed. And now it’s our turn to get busy selecting our CSAs for next year. It can be a bit daunting, but never fear—this annual ABCs of CSAs will help you navigate.
The Basics on CSAs
A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation is a partnership between local producers and their subscribers. Before the growing season commences, a CSA farming operation sells subscriptions to members of the public who pay upfront and then become stakeholders in the farm. The public stakeholders then receive regular deliveries from the producer during the growing season in return for their subscription.
When you subscribe, you enjoy the benefit of having a relationship and understanding with the people growing your food. In a very direct way, you experience both the challenges and the bounties that the producer experiences.
Membership arrangements, delivery locations, frequency, products, opportunities for involvement, and costs vary with each CSA operation, so research is the key to finding one that suits you. To make it easier for you to select which opportunity works best for you, Land Stewardship Project releases an annual CSA Farm Directory which provides details on more than 60 Twin Cities area producers and their wide variety of CSA subscription plans.
What if I Can’t Handle a Whole Share?
An almost full bushel of produce every week might be too much for some. For those, consider these options:
- Many Twin Cities CSA operations offer half shares. Some of the farms that offer these smaller shares include Axdahl’s Garden Farm & Greenhous, Blackberry Community Farm, Celestial Harvest, Eener’s Farm, Fox & Fawn Farm, Herbal Turtle Farms, Long Siding Farm, Marshwatch Farms, Piney Hill Farm, Prairie Sun Farm, Sweet Beet Farm, Winding Road Farm, Kindred Spirit Farm, Living Land Farm, Northern Light Farm, and Prairie Drifter Farm.
- Split a share with a family member or neighbor. One of you picks up the share, and you split the box each week, or you alternate weeks, so each ends up with a full share every two weeks.
- Many CSA subscribers save their seasonal bounty for later use through preservations techniques such as canning, freezing, pickling, and drying. I just made some tomato soup this week using tomatoes that I canned from my CSA share last summer. The University of Minnesota Extension website has all the information you need if you’re interested in getting started.
I Want to Make my Choice Based On Pick-Up Location
Perhaps you’d like to pick up your share at your community co-op or the market that is closest to your workplace. A few Minneapolis markets have listed the 2013 CSA farms that will be delivering to their markets on their websites.
CSAs can provide more than just produce—eggs, flowers, cheese, meat, and more are also available through CSAs in Minnesota. Here are some CSAs that go beyond produce.
Not listed in the Land Stewardship Project’s CSA Directory.
- Shepherd’s Way Farms’ artisan cheese CSA: shepherdswayfarms.com
- Trumpeter Swan Farm’s free-range egg CSA: trumpeterswanfarm.com
- Braucher’s Sunshine Harvest Farm meat CSA: sunshineharvestfarm.com
- Grass Fed Cattle Company beef CSA : grassfedcattleco.com
- Hilltop Pastures Family Farm grass-finished beef, pastured pork, and free-range egg CSA: hilltoppasturesfamilyfarm.com
- Prairie Hollow Farm bread shares, cheese shares, eggs shares, beef shares (sold out), and vegetable shares: prairiehollow.com
Listed in the Land Stewardship Project’s CSA Directory.
- True Cost Farm: offers grass-fed, dry-aged beef and lamb as well as pastured non-GMO and chemical-free fed pork, chicken, duck, turkey, and eggs.
- Northern Light Farm: in addition to produce, beef, honey, eggs, and chicken can be purchased as additions.
- Lida Farm: In addition to produce, members can reserve chicken and lamb.
- Hungry Turtle: In addition to produce, members receive lamb, pork, beef ,and chicken, along with chicken and duck eggs.
- Herbal Turtle Farms: in addition to produce, members can add on shitake mushrooms, eggs, and herbs.
- Common Ground Garden: In addition to produce, members can add subscriptions to their partners, including an egg farmer, an artisan baker, and a grass-fed beef and pork farmer.
- Chengwatana Farms: members can negotiate any combination of lamb, chicken, eggs, fruit, vegetables, compost, firewood, wool and yarn, seedlings, and potentially even lumber.
- Bossy Acres: in addition to produce, additional options to members include eggs, fresh baked bread (including gluten-free), local raw honey, coffee, and locally cultivated mushrooms.
- Community Homestead: in addition to produce, items can be purchased online and added to a weekly standard vegetable box including: fruits, jams, pickles, beef, pork, bread, cookies, and crafts.
- Waxwing Farms: in addition to produce, they offer an egg share, a winter share, and pastured pork and chicken.
- Crazy Boy Farms: in addition to produce, they offer eggs.
- Treasured Haven Farm: in addition to produce, they offer harvest boxes, pumpkins, chickens, turkey, beef, eggs, and fruit shares.
- Thorn Crest Farms: in addition to produce, they offer limited chicken, turkey, and egg shares.
- Fazenda Boa Terra: in addition to produce, they offer fresh cut flowers and eggs.
- Foxtail Farms: in addition to a summer produce share, they offer a winter share which includes bread, pickles, wheat, soup, granola, sauerkraut, and tomato sauce.
- Harmony Valley: in addition to a summer produce share, they offer a fruit share, a grass-fed Angus beef and pork share, organic fair trade coffee, and an organic cheese share.
- La Finca CSA: in addition to produce, they offer a soup share, grass-fed beef, fish, and prepared foods.
- Lacey “J” Ranch: In addition to produce, they offer eggs.
- My Minnesota Farmers: in addition to produce, they offer chicken, eggs, turkey, and beef.
- Little Flower Farm: in addition to produce shares, they offer fall lamb shares and annual goat and cow cheese shares.