Looking to join a CSA near you? (Or wondering, what, exactly, a CSA is?) CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture groups, are mutually-beneficial organizations that help connect consumers and local farmers. Joining a CSA is a great way to get fresh (often organically-grown) food, dairy products and meat at a competitive price and support area growers. And now is the perfect time, for a few reasons! Below, some of our favorite CSAs in NYC, as well as a primer on the basics of joining one.
NYC CSA Basics
People in the city want fresh, high-quality food, local farmers have it, and want to sell it to those people! CSAs bring those two groups together, with the members of a CSA partnering with, and supporting, area farms by guaranteeing them customers, and therefore income.
Members sign up (and pay for) a "share" of a farm's output over a growing season in advance, and in return receive a weekly (or in some cases, bi-weekly) box of fresh food from the CSA. Common membership periods are spring/summer, fall, and winter.
CSA offerings typically include a lot of vegetables and fruit, but most CSAs also offer dairy products, eggs, meat and even fresh flowers. Because farming is subject to the whims of nature and other factors, you don't know exactly what you'll get each week—sometimes the bok choy crop is booming, other seasons, it's a bust—but CSAs will give you a sense of generally what has been available in the past. And, if you don't know what to do with all that Romanesco broccoli, CSAs often feature recipes on how to use the latest and greatest bounty.
In addition to the cost per share, most CSAs require that members put in some volunteer time, typically about two to three hours per term. (They are cooperative efforts, after all.) However some have temporarily suspended volunteer hours during covid.
Most CSAs have weekly pickup at the same site (often a Tuesday or a Wednesday), and some are currently offering special pickup hours for members with health issues, or curbside delivery.
Why should you consider joining a CSA now? For one, this is when your local farmers need your support—you are helping to finance the coming spring and summer crops. Some CSAs offer winter shares, which can be a good way to try out the CSA thing, as these tend to be shorter in duration. Finally, reaping the end-of-growing season crops will introduce you to a wide variety of produce that's likely not available at your supermarket—and if it is, it probably doesn't taste as good.
Washington Square CSA
This East Village CSA works with certified-organic farm Norwich Meadows Farm, run by Zaid Kurdieh. Registration for shares occurs in advance of the four growing seasons, which gives new members a bit more opportunity to hop on the CSA train if they want.
The CSA shares provide fresh produce for 1-3 individuals depending upon diet, goals and cooking style. During peak season a share weighs approximately 20 pounds and fills two regular large tote bags. Winter Shares are somewhat smaller, but offset with additional items, and you can choose a Meat Share, a Dairy-heavy Share and a Vegan Share; all shares include vegetables. Depending on season and availability, you can add fruit, eggs, meat, and various pantry items like maple syrup or honey for an additional fee. If you're interested in trying our some of the CSAs goods, check out its Fall Market Day on November 24, when offerings will be available to the public.
Registration for Winter/Spring opens in November. Winter/Spring includes five to seven pickups once a month between January and May. Distribution is located at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery, 131 East 10th Street.
All members must sign up for volunteer shifts to help with distribution, etc.
Pricing varies by season. For fall/winter, a small share is about $500/10 weeks, and a large share is about $750/10 weeks.
Cream of the Crop
A longtime favorite on the Upper West Side, Cream of the Crop CSA works with a few farms in upstate New York, with much of its produce coming from certified organic Hepworth Farm in Milton. The CSA offers a 24-week summer/fall share, or a shortened 15-week share if you're not in town late summer. A large selection of add-ons includes pastured eggs, raw cow or goat milks, yogurts, pastured pork or poultry, 100% grass-fed beef or lamb, cow and goat cheeses, mushrooms, as well as kosher poultry and diary items. The winter share is lots of hearty veggies, with add-ons if you like. The CSA has enlisted precautions and services during covid, including delivery for an additional fee, pickup times for vulnerable members, curbside pickup and more.
Pickup: Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, 263 W. 86th Street at West End Avenue
Pricing: Varies by season/share.
Forest Hills Tuv Ha’Aretz
Forest Hills Tuv Ha’Aretz is associated with Hazon, a Jewish environmental organization passionate about building healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond, as well as Just Food, a NYC-based organization that connects communities with local farms. Its agricultural partners are Garden of Eve Organic Farm on Long Island's North Fork, and Purcell Mountain Farms. There is a small administrative fee for non-synagogue members, but the CSA warmly welcomes both Jewish and non-Jewish members.
Summer/Fall shares are 24 weeks, and you can elect for a full or half share. Forest Hills Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA offers a "build your box" option, through which you can swap out an item you don't want, for more of what you do, and you can also put your share on hold if you go away for a week. (Get double when you return.) Volunteer hours are required, and if you don't do your part, you can't join the next season.
For covid safety, pickup is currently at a member's home outside; traditionally, it is at Forest Hills Jewish Center, 106-06 Queens Boulevard.
Park Slope CSA
The Park Slope CSA has been on the community agriculture scene for more than two decades! This CSA partners with Windflower Farm in Valley Falls, New York, near the Vermont border. You can sign up for a full share, or every-other-week share (EOW), as well as shares for fruit, eggs, flowers and more. Members must also pay a $25 membership fee and commit to volunteer hours, although volunteering is currently on hold.
Pickup is at Garden of Union located on Union Street between 4th and 5th Avenues.
Pricing: A full veggie share costs $522 for 22 week; it's $261 for 11 weeks.
West Harlem CSA
The West Harlem CSA is a mixed income organization, committed to providing affordable and fresh, organically- and sustainably-grown food to area residents. The CSA also partners with organic farm Windflower Farm, in Valley Falls, New York.
You can sign up for a full or half share, and shares are priced on a sliding scale with four tiers, with discounted rates for those who receive SNAP assistance. Members must contribute three hours of volunteer time.
They are offering a winter share this season, priced at $190 for four boxes, delivered monthly November through February. (Low-income shares are $100.) Winter crops include lots of leafy greens, winter veggies, storage veggies like onions, garlic and many kinds of potatoes, apples and/or pears and a treat in each box like honey, apple cider, jam or maple syrup. Add-ons include coffee and eggs, and Thanksgiving turkeys are available in November.
Pickup is on Tuesday evenings at Broadway Community Inc. at the Broadway Presbyterian Church
on 601 West 114th Street (corner of Broadway).
Another NYC CSA that's been going strong for more than 20 years, the Chelsea CSA partners with Stoneledge Farms in Cairo, New York, and provides access to local, organic food for a wide range of Chelsea residents at various income levels. A mixed income CSA, it offers discounted shares and season-long payment plans for eligible households. In addition to a regular share, the CSA offers fruit, mushroom, coffee and dry bean shares. All CSA members must complete 2-hour mandatory work shifts at distribution.
Pickup: Hudson Guild in the Elliot Center facility, 441 West 26 Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.
Pricing: Rates vary according to the type and "level" of your share. A standard share is $575; a sponsor share is $675 and a discount share is $455. Members that can commit to working tow hours weekly of the early shift on distribution day.
A Bronx CSA, the Norwood CSA Food Coop was founded in 2004 and it also works with Norwich Meadows Farms. A winter share will be available this year, with vegan, vegetarian and meat shares, with varying amounts of veggies and other items depending on which you choose. All members have to volunteer hours; for winter share members that is four hours over the season. Summer share, running from mid-June to mid-November in 2021 will also be available with pricing to be determined.
Pickup is at Serviam Gardens apartment building located on 198th street near Bainbridge Avenue.
Pricing: The cost of a winter share is $550. Click here to register.
Founder Wen-Jay Ying describes Local Roots as a "subscription-based online farmer's market", or, a modernized CSA. For the past nine years, Local Roots has partnered with farms throughout the Northeast to source sustainably-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, cheeses, eggs, honey and more. The major difference between Local Roots and a more traditional CSA is flexibility. You can sign on for as short a period as three months, you can join any time in the growing season (the cost is pro-rated), and you can also put your membership on hold if you like. Local Roots offers lots of different plans, so you can go veggie-heavy, add on a meat or bread bundle, or even reduce food waste with a "misfit" bunch of produce. Local Roots delivers, and also has a robust network of spots in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens where you can pick up your order.
Pricing: Bundles range from about $50 - $95 a week.
Feature image: Ella Olsson via Pexels