More and more, people are concerned with what they eat. The words “organic,” “natural” and “local” have popped up everywhere — even McDonald’s is trying to get in on the health food trend. It makes one wonder if some of these products really are organic, natural or local. So rather than buying produce at the local supermarket, wouldn’t it be better to get it right from a farm?
By joining a CSA, you can.
A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is essentially a partnership between a community and a farm. At the beginning of the season — which usually starts around June and ends around November — members of the CSA purchase shares from the farm, which go to the cost of the upcoming season’s harvest and paying the farmer’s living wage.
During the season, the farmer delivers fresh, healthy produce to a distribution center, which is oftentimes a church or a school. Members can purchase full shares, with which they get food every week of the season, or half shares, which is every other week.
Typically, the farm offers vegetable shares, but in some cases, it offers fruit, flowers, eggs, milk or even meat. A CSA can also partner with more than one farm to offer its members different products. The produce members receive is usually enough to feed two to three people for a week.
Just Food is a non-profit based in Manhattan that “works to create a more sustainable food system in New York City and surrounding areas,” said Paula Lukatis, CSA in NYC program manager at Just Food. Her organization partners neighborhoods in all five boroughs with regional farms.
Manhattan has the most CSAs in the city, but “of the outer boroughs, Brooklyn certainly has the most,” said Lukatis. This year, there are 26 in the borough, seven of which are new, she explained.
Here is a list of some of them:
— The Prospect/Lefferts Gardens CSA (www.plgcsa.org) distributes from the Maple Street School on 21 Lincoln Road. In its third season, this CSA offers vegetable and fruit shares and has a membership of 70 households. Out of the 45 vegetable shares it offers, there are 20 full shares (which cost $575 each) and 25 half shares (which cost $325 each). Only full shares are available for fruit, which cost $200 each. The CSA is partnered with Windflower Fram, and founder Diana Liss says it’s unique because the distribution center is a preschool, so they are “able to work some of the healthy eating into the curriculum.”
— Also partnered with Windflower Farm is the Clinton Hill CSA (www.clintonhillcsa.org), which distributes from P.S. 56 at 170 Gates Ave.
— The Park Slope CSA (www.parkslopecsa.org), which is starting a new distribution day this summer, is partnered with Windflower Farm as well. It distributes from Garden of Union at Union east of 4th Ave. It offers shares of vegetables ($440 full, $220 half), fruit ($180 full, $100 half) and flowers ($110 full, $55 half).
— Another CSA partnered with Windflower Farm is the one in Prospect Heights (www.prospectheightscsa.org). It distributes from P.S.9 at Underhill between St. Mark’s and Bergen and share prices differ depending on household income. The CSA offers vegetable, fruit, organic flower and egg shares.
— The East New York CSA (www.eastnewyorkfarms.org/csa.html) has its distribution at the East New York Farmers’ Market on Schenck Avenue between New Lots and Livonia avenues. As of now, there are 18 members, and they are partnered with the Walter Rogowski Farm in Pine Island, N.Y. Started in 2002, it is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday from July to November. Farmer Mike Rogowski goes to every distribution, said farmers’ market manager Julie Sanon, who added that this CSA gives subsidies for people with food stamps.
— Anne Petersen is the treasurer, records keeper and membership coordinator of the Sweet Pea CSA in Brooklyn Heights, which is in its third season. The CSA is partnered with the Garden of Eve farm, and offers vegetable, fruit, egg and flower shares. Petersen said that in the future, the group hopes to partner with farms that distribute baked goods and meat. For new members, full shares cost $510 and half shares cost $265. Returning members get shares for lower prices, “as an incentive to keep coming back,” explained Petersen.
— Farmer Ben Shute of Hearty Roots Community Farm has partnered with the East Williamsburg CSA since 2005. Its distribution center is Red Shed Community Garden at 266 Skillman Ave. Some 150 people have shares and get food Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., from June through October. “Every season we’ve added more shares and every season there are fewer shares left over,” Shute said. This particular CSA is unique because it distributes at a community garden, he said, and farmers have the opportunity to give the gardeners advice.
— The Greenwood Heights CSA (www.greenwoodheightscsa.com) is also partnered with Hearty Roots Community Farm. Distribution is at the local playground Slope Park on Sixth Ave. between 18th and 19th Streets. President and Founder Miriam Weiner said, “I think we were the first — and possibly only — CSA to be in a city playground.” Now in its third season, this CSA has over a hundred members and distributes from June through October. “We now have 85 vegetable shares, 50 fruit shares and hopefully this summer we will also be providing eggs and milk,” Weiner said.
— Another CSA partnered with Hearty Roots Community Farm is the Bay Ridge CSA, which is in its second season. Last year, the 41 shares sold out and the waiting list grew to 77 people. “Without exaggeration, we can characterize our first season as an unqualified success,” said outreach coordinator Valerie Gates. “The vegetables were outstanding, the members were happy, and our growing waiting list convinced us that there is a real, unsatisfied demand in Bay Ridge for quality food.” This year, the CSA expects to offer 65 shares, which cost $495 each and are distributed on Saturdays from 8:30 - 10:30 a.m. at the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church on Fourth Ave. between 68th and Senator Streets.
— The CSA in Cobble Hill (www.cobblehillcsa.org), with 200 members, is not only one of Brooklyn’s largest CSAs, it’s also the oldest. It was started in 1996, the first year Just Food began establishing CSAs in the city. General coordinator Jackie Glasthal said that this season will begin on June 2 and last until Dec. 28. Partnered with Green Thumb Organic Farm, Glasthal said that a cattle farmer also attends the distributions to sell meat to members. She added that the CSA will be able to offer frozen produce (from farmers who aren’t prepared to offer winter shares) during the winter season through a partnership with Dines Farms.
— The Red Hook CSA distributes from Centre St. and Clinton St. and is partnered with Added Value Community Farm.
— Natasha Davis is the accounting coordinator for the Greenpoint-Williamsburg CSA (www.greenpoint-williamsburgcsa.org), and she explained that this group is unique because it’s not just one CSA, it’s actually two. There is one core group, but it has two different distribution days, one on Wednesdays and one on Saturdays. “We’re one big happy family,” she said. The CSA is partnered with Garden of Eve, and offers vegetable shares, fruit shares, flower shares and egg shares. Each share has its own price, but Davis explained that combinations are offered for a lower price. Members can get a combination of all four or sign up for the “vegan” combination, which includes everything but eggs. Davis also noted that her CSA offers an extended payment plan.
— Also partnered with Garden of Eve is the Kensington/Windsor Terrace CSA (kwtcsa.blogspot.com), which started in 2007. Last year, it had 114 members, with more than 50 on the waiting list. “The CSA is very popular, to say the least,” said volunteer core group member Catherine Barufaldi. “And for the past two years, we’ve had a partnership with City Harvest, who picks up any leftovers and distributes them to those in need.” The CSA’s distribution is from the community garden on E. 4th St between Caton Ave and Fort Hamilton Parkway, on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. A vegetable share must be purchased, but the CSA also offers fruit and eggs shares.
— The Carroll Gardens CSA is partnered with Garden of Eve as well, and distributes from The Transit Garden at Smith St. and Second Pl.
— The DUMBO/Vinegar Hill CSA (www.dumbocsa.org) is partnered with Sang Lee Farms and distributes from the courtyard of Phoenix House at 50 Jay St., every Tuesday during the season from 4:30-7:30 p.m. A full share costs $565 and consists of 8-10 different vegetables a week. Partial shares cost $350.
— In its second season is the Bushwick CSA (www.bushwickcsa.com), which was commissioned by Make the Road NY’s Bushwick office and set up by Jennifer Parker as her AmeriCorps Vista project. It accepts about 40 members each season, and last year there was a waiting list of about 20 or 30 people. It is partnered with Nolasco's Farm and part of its mission is to have an equal number of high income and low income members, providing multiple payment options.
— Also partnered with Nolasco's Farm is the Fort Greene CSA (www.fortgreenecsa.org), which started last year through a partnership between FUREE, the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP), and Just Food. “Our shares are available on a sliding scale,” said co-coordinator Cambra Moniz-Edwards. The 50 shares offered this season will be split evenly between middle- and upper-income households and lower-income households. The season runs from June 10 to November 4, and the pickups are every Wednesday from 4:30 to 8pm on the northwest corner of Fort Greene Park. “We are also planning to have youth volunteers come help with set-up and the first few hours of distribution each week,” said Moniz-Edwards. “A total of two teams of two students will work on alternating weeks throughout the season. We think that this is a great opportunity for local youth to become more involved in the community, learn about healthy food, and develop great skills for later in life.”
— The Bedford-Stuyvesant CSA (bedstuycsa.wetpaint.com) distributes from Magnolia Tree Earth Center at 677 Lafayette Ave. and is partnered with Conuco Farm. Members have the option to purchase additional fruit, egg and meat shares from other local farmers. Share cost for this CSA is based on household income.
— The Ditmas Park CSA distributes from Third Root Health Center on Marlborough between Cortelyou and Dorchester and is partnered with Amantai Farm, run by Jorge Carmona. "I met Jorge when I was the manager of the Cortelyou Road Farmer's Market 2 years ago," said Molly Holder. "Towards the end of the season, he asked me if I would like to help him start a CSA. I spoke with some neighborhood residents who were market regulars, and there seemed to be interest so we got the word out and had a wonderful season last year." There were about 80 members, made up of 40 full shares and 40 half shares of vegetables. Egg shares are also available. Full shares cost $500 each, and if you want a half share, there are two options: a full share every other week ($250) or a half share every week ($300).
— New to Brooklyn’s bevy of CSAs is the Boerum Hill CSA. Distribution will be at the YWCA at Atlantic and Third Avenues on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Shares are purchased from a farm in Goshen, Orange County NY.
Share prices vary between CSAs, and Lukatis said that Just Food tries to make it as affordable as possible. In some cases, share prices depend on family income and some CSAs take food stamps. She emphasized that CSAs should be “available to people regardless of their income level.”
Lukatis said that in the years after Just Food started, six or seven CSAs would be established. Last year there were 10 new ones citywide, and this year, there will be 20.
“I think it’s really exciting,” she said. “There’s a connection to food that I think a lot of people are looking for.”
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