Your hungry little sidekick is known to belt out Old MacDonald during dinner. Hey, in terms of bringing farm to table, it’s a start. Take things a big step further by signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Benefits of a CSA
Not all of us have the green space, or the thumb, to grow our own healthy harvest. That’s where these food delivery services come in. CSAs connect their members straight to farmers, who offer a prime array of local, organic ingredients that are often plucked from the field just hours before you lay hands (and teeth) on them. Shares (which come in the form of boxed veggies, fruits and eggs) can be delivered to your door or picked up at a nearby location.
New to CSAs?
Dip your toe into the CSA pond by trying a half share, which arrive every other week or contain a smaller amount of goods, depending on the farm. As a guideline, a full share typically feeds two people on a vegetarian diet or four people on a mixed diet.
The Chicago area has plenty of CSA options. As of press time these favorites still had openings, but all CSAs tend to fill up faster than you can say “E-I-E-I-O.”
One of the largest CSAs in the U.S. was one of Chicago’s first when it began in 1991. Two years later this farming community adopted a biodynamic philosophy — a holistic mindset that emphasizes the interrelationships of soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system. Founder Farmer John is the subject of the award-winning film, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, which follows his personal journey through the farm debt crisis of the 1980s, which temporarily shut down operations, to the creation of Angelic Organics. Farmer John was inspired to create a CSA program because he believed it brought farming back to its roots, when farmers had a direct relationship with the people that ate the food.
Summer and fall vegetables and fruit
20-week full share, delivered once a week mid-June through late-October is $740. Half share, delivered every other week during the 20-week period, is $400. 10-delivery fruit share is $500.
Farmer John created Angelic Organics Learning Center as a way to help educate and mentor others with dreams of farming and provide fun learning experiences for the public. It offers day camps for kids where they help care for baby goats, tend to farm animals by brushing the horses or gathering eggs and learn about farming through fun games. Check the schedule for fun family days.
1547 Rockton Rd., Caledonia, IL
Growing Home, Inc.
This is Chicago’s first and only USDA-certified organic, high-production urban farm. Farmers are motivated by their belief that organic agriculture can serve as a vehicle for job training, employment and community development, especially for those motivated to re-enter the workforce and rebuild their lives after incarceration, homelessness or substance dependence. Through these farms, they provide transitional employment, skills training and interpersonal development to their participants are an invaluable resource to the local families they serve.
Spring, summer and fall vegetables
Green City Market, 1790 N. Clark St., Saturdays, 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
Logan Square, Logan Square Blvd between Milwaukee and Whipple, Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Wood Street Urban Farm, 5814 S. Wood St., Thursdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
16 weekly boxes of organic Chicago-grown veggies is $545, June-October. Each box contains between 7 and 11 seasonal items.
Alex and Alison are first-generation farmers running a small-scale certified organic vegetable farm in Grayslake. They see farming as more of a mission than a job. Motivated by the belief that if we take care of Earth it will take care of us, they provide healthy, nutrient-rich foods in a way that protects the land. Their use of hand tools minimizes the need for fossil fuels and reduces their overall carbon footprint. They believe in the interconnectivity of the water, soil, plants and wildlife and see humans as an important component to that web.
Veggies, fruits and eggs. Egg and fruit shares, available only to veggie CSA customers.
Radical Root Farmstand, 31330 N. IL Rte. 21, Libertyville, Thursdays, 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
Veggie shares: 18-week summer full share starting in June is $615; 9-week summer half share starting in June is $360; 6-week fall veggie share starting in October is $205.
Egg shares: run in conjunction with share schedule and cost $39 for a 6-week share. Each week you’ll receive one dozen eggs from pastured chickens that are fed produce, whole grains and forage.
Fruit shares: In partnership with Klug Orchards in St. Joseph Michigan, 18 weeks starting in June is $340; bi-weekly for 9 weeks starting in June is $180. The fall share is $100 and runs in conjunction with the fall veggie share.
You can get a taste of Radical Roots produce by visiting them at Logan Square Farmers Market (3107 W. Logan Blvd.) on Sundays, May through December, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Radical Root Farm
32400 Harris Rd., Grayslake
Chicago Honey Coop
The Chicago Honey Co-Op is an agricultural cooperative, 19 members strong. Along with keeping bees and harvesting honey to sell at farmer’s markets, they practice and advocate for sustainable agriculture and awareness of the natural environment.
Why, honey, of course
Green City Market, 1790 N. Clark St., Saturdays, 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
Logan Square Farmers Market, 3107 W. Logan Blvd, Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Purchase a $75 share and members can spend like cash throughout the summer and fall at the markets. As members pick out honey and products, their selections are subtracted from their credit balance.
Members have access to products like mead and comb honey, which are not sold to non-CSA members.
Aviaries are located at Schultze & Burch Biscuit Company in Bridgeport, the rooftop of Christy Webber Landscaping, in Back of the Yards near 51st and Racine and at Patchwork Farms on West Chicago Ave.
New this year, Avium is teaming up with Sandbox Organics to grow flowers on their Hebron, IL farm. They are offering loosely arranged weekly bouquets of sustainably grown fresh stems, cut for you the morning of your CSA pick-up.
Pickup locations in Logan Square, Bucktown, Wicker Park, Andersonville, Northcenter, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Edgewater/Rogers Park
8-weeks for $255 or the full 16 weeks for $485
Do you subscribe to a CSA? Tell us about it in the comments below!