Living in California has its advantages, not the least being fresh produce year-round: plump berries, juicy citrus, blushing stone fruit and hearty root vegetables are reason enough to sample seasonal bounty.  Since the advent of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in the mid 1980s, choices abound for local and organically grown farm-to-table harvest at your doorstep.  Eat fresh – save time, money and gas!

Membership in a CSA program is as easy as peeling a banana, and takes about as much time.  Sign up online, and you become a shareholder in the collective of local farms that supply your produce.  Ripe fruit and veggies are handpicked just in time to fill the boxes, which will delight the whole family.  Easy-peasy pick ups, as area schools serve as distribution spots, and subscribers can opt for the frequency (generally weekly or every other week) that best suits their family’s needs.

The kiddies don’t fancy figs?  Kale got their tongues?  The vibrant flavors of the CSA offerings will tickle their taste buds.  CSA websites proffer tantalizing recipes for aspiring gourmets of any age.  Many programs have added options of kiddie faves, like preservative-free raisins and juice oranges.  Your family will not only feel good about what they’re eating, but have a real connection to the food source.

Abundant Harvest Organics
Abundant Harvest is a cooperative, servicing a large area of LA and beyond through a network of ‘Community Hosts’ who receive a small share of the profits.  The hosts find and establish central pick up locations and coordinate the weekly subscriber pick ups.  Subscribers can log onto the Abundant Harvest website to view the weekly harvest and farm sources; since only the freshest crops are included, add ons vary by season.  The contents of the boxes are chosen by the farmers:  you get what you get.

Coverage:  From Agoura Hills and Westlake Village to Malibu and Santa Monica, Glendale to West Hollywood

Prices:   Begins at $21.80 for a small box, $36.80 for large; surcharges apply in some areas, depending upon distance.

Farm Box LA
While technically not a CSA, Farm Box functions in a similar capacity, bringing the best of local area crops directly to consumers; among their farmers are Weiser and Underwood Family Farms.  Farm Box delivers right to your home, and will tailor each box to fit your family’s specific tastes.  As added perks, they can take any unused produce off your hands, redistributing it to a local food bank or back to a supplier farm for composting.  If fresh fruit jam or pickled veggies are your preference, they’ll transform your leftovers for $10 bucks a jar!  Last-minute cancellation? Farm Box can deliver to another address in LA for a friend to try it out, or to a local food bank and provide a donation receipt.

Coverage: Everywhere in LA.

Prices:  Range from $50 for a small basket to $100 deluxe size.  Add-ons include nuts, organic honey, freshly squeezed OJ, and extra bags of favorites.

Farm Fresh to You
A single organic farm in operation since the mid-1970s, Farm Fresh to You bends like a string bean to provide flexibility, allowing subscribers to customize selections and frequency to particular needs.  Don’t like squash?  Not included.  Want to try weekly?  No problem?  Monthly better?  That’s ok too.  Home or office delivery service, change at anytime.  Services range from ‘snack packs’ to ‘Easy to Prepare’ fruits and veggies.

Coverage: San Fernando Valley to San Bernadino, Malibu to Manhattan Beach

Prices:  $25 for small fruit & veggie bag to $110 for large snack packs.

Good Life Organics
The name says it all – the best of the season, pure and simple, delivered. Customize your box with extra avocados, wheatgrass or heirloom tomatoes – once or recurring. For subscribers associated with a designated non-profit school site, Good Life Organics donates a portion of the money to the school.

Coverage:  Pre-arranged delivery locations from Santa Clarita to SF Valley to West LA.  Good Life will deliver for free to a site with 25 or more weekly supporters.

Prices:  Start at $15 for a snack box of fruit to $5 for fruit & vegetable family-size share.

SavRaw
Formerly CSA California, a portion of the proceeds from SavRaw benefits local elementary schools, including educational gardens and ‘seed to table’ initiatives.  Multiple organic arms deliver to homes and offices from the San Fernando Valley to the South Bay.  Ready to work for food?  Crew members exchange time distributing boxes, for produce for themselves.  Enhance the experience with an add-on of seasonal herbs or Harry’s Honey from local bees.

Coverage:  Calabasas to Tarzana and Burbank to Glendale and Downtown to Westchester.

Prices:  Subscribers who pick up save $5 per bag; costs range from $15 for pick up of a fruit-only bag to home delivery of the large ‘Juicer’s Delight’ at $85.

South Central Farmers Cooperative
A grassroots project of a nonprofit health  & education fund, So. Central Farmers Coop works on getting organic produce into marginalized neighborhoods.  Harvested from a single farm in Bakersfield, boxes are offered on a sliding scale to help support community members in need.  Subscribers able to purchase at higher levels receive a tax deduction, with subscriptions available by the week, month or season.

Coverage:  Drop-off locations throughout LA, including Hollywood, Burbank and Culver City.  Establishment of a new pick up location requires 15 subscribers.

Prices:  One size box fits all, sliding scale from $20 -25, with $40 encouraged for those who can afford it, supplementing less advantaged communities.

Silver Lake Farms
About five local farms contribute to produce you can select from to tailor your own box or bag (bring your own). Silver Lake Farms grows and provides the micro-greens and gorgeous cut-flowers themselves (they are still the only pesticide-free, locally grown, totally natural flowers in town). Bring your kitchen scraps to contribute to the compost pile.

Coverage: Pickups in Silverlake and Pasadena at Market on Holly

Prices: Full share: $300 (10 weeks). Bi-weekly share: $150 (5 weeks). Sign up by emailing: CSA@silverlakefarms.com

Tanaka Farms
This 3rd generation family-operated farm in Irvine boasts a farmstead to buy organic produce and tours for families to come play, learn, and taste. Their Pumpkin Patch Tours start Sept 28, 2012 through October and offer a corn maze, wagon rides, pick-your-own vegetables, and pumpkins galore.

Coverage: Irvine, Redondo Beach, Tustin, Torrance, El Segundo and more. They’ve also added a bevy of new locations for pickups so check their website for the most up to date info.

Prices: $30 for the large box and $20 for the small box plus a delivery fee of $3 per box unless if you pick up at the farm.

Underwood Family Farms
We especially adore Underwood Family Farms for more than just their fantastic CSA program. Stop by their idyllic locale for you-pick crops via red wagons or wheelbarrows, visit the play area and animals, take pony and tractor rides, and mine for gold. Their charming Fall Harvest Festival and pumpkin patch runs throughout October, and is absolutely worth the trek from the city.

Coverage: Los Angeles, Westlake, Thousand Oaks and more. Click here for a full coverage list. 

Prices: A minimum of one month is required to sign up for Underwood’s CSA. The cost of each box is $19 for Small and $23 for Large, plus any applicable shipping/delivery charges.

What are your tips for getting your kids to eat healthy and organic? Do you sign up for a CSA? Share with other parents your experiences with local CSA’s in the comment section below. 

— Kim Orchen Cooper with Kameron DeWulf

A special thanks to Abundant Harvest’s Facebook page for the photos