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Thursday, February 2,2012

Searching for a CSA

By Blair Madole

If you are trying to avoid GMOs and the potential for strange growths or zombie-like qualities this summer, participating in a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, may be a good choice.


By signing up for a CSA with a particular farm, you pay a set price to receive a variety of produce each week from that farm’s harvest. Not only does this partnership enable you to receive fresh, local produce, it also grants you the opportunity to support local farms and help them afford the seeds, equipment and labor needed to provide another harvest next year.

Choosing a CSA means considering a lot of factors, including the variety of produce, pick-up times or locations, and that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you help others. Boulder has a large selection of farms that offer a CSA, but here are a handful of options that seem promising.

Beyond veggies

There is certainly something fantastic about fresh and local green beans or heirloom tomatoes in the summer, but when you are receiving baskets of veggies each week for several months it might be nice to toss in something new.

Boulder Family Farms, located on Cherryvale Road in East Boulder, offers both a pre-selected CSA and a choose-your-own-produce CSA. The pre-selected CSA is similar to most of those offered around town — the farmers hand you a basket of veggies they have chosen for you each week, you smile kindly and head home, then scratch your head over what you could possibly do with that many greens.

The choose-your-own-produce option, however, is pretty dang cool. This CSA is like a gift card to the farm stand — you can either pay $225 for $250 of credit or $450 for $500 of credit. You then head to the BFF farm stand, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and choose from a variety of veggies and fruit, as well as artwork and BFF clothing — which isn’t included in the regular CSA. Payment is on the honor system, and the only restriction is that you finish your balance by Oct. 5. “People love stopping by to choose their produce,” says Jade Sabatino, an owner of Boulder Family Farms. “They get a quick chat, see the chickens, then head on their way and look good to the family.”

Convenient customer care

Grant Family Farms, a large farm located in Wellington, has the ability to deliver more than half of your weekly grocery needs extremely close to your home and helps prepare you for what you will be receiving each week.

The farm delivers to several different locations throughout Boulder to help people get their shares easily. When signing up for a CSA, Grant Family Farms lets you choose which of their delivery points is most convenient for you.

Also, the CSA offers a larger variety of products because of the farm’s partnerships with local bread makers, cheese mongers and fruit growers. When signing up for your CSA, you can select a share of vegetables, fruit, artisan bread, local cheeses, eggs or Hazel Dell mushrooms. With these options, your weekly grocery trips could be reduced to milk and meat for the carnivores of the family. Grant Family Farms also sends weekly emails to let you know what produce you will be receiving each week, as well as recipes and cooking tips.

“Honestly, join any CSA,” says Jessica George, the CSA representative at Grant Family Farms. “It is about keeping food in Colorado, keeping our soil alive and treating the environment better. It is also better for your health. We are a good option because we won’t run out of shares. We have a huge variety since we have been farming since the ’70s, and our produce is certified organic.”

Heartfelt help

In conjunction with their Cultiva Youth Project, which teaches local high school kids farming and business skills, Growing Gardens has decided to offer a CSA for the first time this year.

“The cool thing about what we do is that we work with the youth,” says Connor Murphy, a grower at Growing Gardens. “People who join the CSA get to develop relationships with these kids. We’re also located in town, so people can ride or take the bus or walk to pick up their CSA.”

Participants in the Cultiva CSA can pick up their produce at the Cultiva Youth Garden in North Boulder on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. When you sign up for the 20-week CSA, either the partial share for one to two people for $320 or the full share for three to four people for $540, the money will be used to support the Cultiva program as well as plant for next season. So you wouldn’t just be eating healthier this summer, you would also be helping the kids.



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I run a CSA directory; here are all the CSAs that have pickups in Boulder:

I agree with Jessica George--there is a lot of variety out there, but if you want the vegetables and can handle the commitment, any CSA is better than none.


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I have belonged to an excellent CSA and expected no less from GFF. Unfortunately I have been sorely disappointed. They do not provide accurate pick up times and the vegetables have been mostly unusable when picked up in the evening as instructed. We arrived several hours earlier this week only to find the vegetables were still wilted and at over half was unusable. The ones that are ok are things like garlic scapes and dried beans (NOT a vegetable GFF!) which make up a ridiculous portion each week. I have PILES of dried beans from these people and they are still putting them in and it's mid-July! The bags of snap and snow peas are marked 8 ounces but have wildly varying amounts in them each week and many are inedible. We also had the cheese share. The cheese is wrapped in PVC plastic and one week made me very sick... not from the plastic (bad enough) but I imagine but from manufacturing or storage issues. The little ice pack they put in the cooler with the cheeses means that they are sweaty if you get to them at the assigned time. This is the WORST! When I approached GFF, they denied any resolution. Having been the recipient of produce from an excellent CSA and also from organic produce delivery services I am sad to report that I would never purchase from this farm again or recommend doing so as much as I love to support local farmers. I have noticed that they deliver to Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers and other retailers. I wonder if retailers would accept wilted produce like they expect their CSA share owners to do? I doubt it. Don't buy a share from this farm! I will remove this review if the farm offers resolution but if you see it posted please take it to heart. Are employees posting the other reviews or what? Not accurate!



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