Hello! Using a CSA versus shopping at the Union Square greenmarket: any opinions or experiences to share?

I used Urban Organics years ago and am thinking about trying a local (Manhattan) CSA. I've read virtual rhapsodies about the surprise aspect of the CSA, but I trust the food52 community, so I thought I'd see if anyone really really really loves the(ir) CSA. Thanks in advance to anyone who responds!

  • Posted by: fuhsi
  • May 7, 2011


fuhsi May 8, 2011
Thank you everyone, for giving your thoughtful replies! I'm going to stick with the greenmarket this summer, but it's good to know that CSA's vary so widely by region.

I'll keep your very kind suggestions in mind when we live further away from an urban center.
Helen's A. May 8, 2011
There are many different styles of CSAs. I have belonged to 2 different CSAs in northern MA. The first was a co-op of immigrant farmers who were in a program to learn farming in the US. This was a traditional boxed share, but had a wide variety of exotic vegetables. The downside was the quality and quantity were lacking. Great idea, but I'd rather get my produce from someone who knows how to grow it. The second CSA is Farmer Dave's in Dracut MA. He offers several sizes of shares as well as a fruit share, spring and late season shares. The fun thing he offers is pick up at his farm. You get to go and actually pick out what you get. There may be a table of summer squash and you get to pick 3 each, but pick from several different kinds. He does a great job. He also has a farm stand so I can pick up any extra or additional items I may need. My suggestion is to do some research and decide how much flexibility you will get from each CSA. Then decide if it's worth it for you. Either way you'll be supporting local farmers which is the most important thing. Have fun investigating!
prettyPeas May 8, 2011
I think it comes down to whether you think it would be fun to have a surprise box to deal with every week. I certainly did, but only for one season, especially since the alternative for me here in Berkeley is to just buy whatever vegetables I want, of equal quality at one of the three Farmer's Markets per week. I love drbabs suggestion to split the CSA to a degree where it will provide about half of your weekly vegetables, that way you can have the surprise but also the freedom to pick up the irresistible produce you see on your way home, or plan a specific dish for a special occasion.
Bevi May 8, 2011
In the past I have split a CSA share with a friend. This worked for me because I was not faced with an overabundance of produce, and I got the chance to use all sorts of great cheeses, grains and other items that I might not shop for otherwise. But I like to go to the weekly farmer's market to pick up special breads and items that the CSA may not have. My daughter shares a CSA with a friend in Brooklyn, and she loves it.
drbabs May 7, 2011
I have belonged to a CSA for many years--Golden Earthworm on Long Island. The quality of their produce is good, but I have mixed feelings about it. It's difficult to plan menus weekly without knowing what you're getting , and you get what they harvest--so you can have so much of one thing that you can't eat it and not enough of another. The good things are that it really puts you in touch with the growing season and what's available in your community. And it's fun--you get a present every week. Last year we split a share with another family and supplemented with the farmer's market and 2 local organic farms that are near us. That seemed to work out the best. Our farmer's market and CSA both start at the end of May--can't wait!
jeinde May 7, 2011
I am a CSA enthusiast after my first season last year. My farmer (in Oxford, PA, near Lancaster)used organic practicies and had beautiful and varied produce. What I liked was I got a large amount of produce at very reasonable prices (we did have good growing conditions last year). If I had purchased my basket individually it would have cost me at least twice as much, probably more. Because of all the bounty we ate a lot more vegetables than we might have, I really explored new ways to cook even familiar vegetables, and was delighted with trying some unusual vegetables (cardoons, salsify, purple okra, etc.). I think the key to being happy with a CSA is knowing what your farmer is growing throughout the season, how many vegetables you might receive (in terms of varieties and quantity), any fruits, herbs, etc. I would compare notes with friends who had CSA with other farmers, and I was getting a much better and larger selection. My farmer also raised chickens and pigs that were free range and I got a 20% discount on meat. The pork was fabulous: juicy, fatty enough and flavorful and the chicken the best I've had. My CSA share also included eggs and mushrooms each week. I pick up my share at a local farmer's market, so I can also see if there is anything else I might want for the week (which was always more fruit).
SKK May 7, 2011
I live in Seattle and we are blessed with farmer's markets. I share sdebrango's experience in that I much prefer to go to the farmer's market and purchase what I want rather than be boxed (pun intended) into what is sent to me. My experience is also there is less waste on my part when I choose at the market.
sdebrango May 7, 2011
I also used Urban Organics but became disappointed in the quality of the veggies and fruits that I got. I belonged to a Brooklyn CSA and a food coop but I cannot stay away from the farmers market. I don't know how the Manhattan CSA is set up but in Brooklyn there is a lack of variety that you find in farmers markets.The dairy is good and you can actually get raw milk, butter etc.. the eggs are also wonderful. But quite honestly I am happier going to the farmers market the selection is expansive I feel like I have more choices. This probably was no real help but in my opinion there is nothing like the farmers market for selection and quality. Not to say a CSA is without merit though. Don't want to discourage.
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