Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program in NJ
Jersey Fresh at its best.
Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com // valentinrussanov
Have you ever thought about joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or Farm Share program in New Jersey, but weren't exactly sure what that meant or where to begin? Here are the basics in an (organic) nutshell: you join a CSA and pay a membership fee—your seasonal "share" of the farm—at the beginning of the growing season (to help the farm at the time it most needs money, for example, to buy and plant crops), and in exchange, you get a "share" of everything grown on the farm that season.
In addition to supporting local farmers, CSAs also often have community events and opportunities to learn about farming and visit the farm. And as a member, you'll receive a changing share of fresh local vegetables, fruits, and sometimes even flowers, herbs and honey depending on what your farm grows. Each week, your family can expect to receive a variety of veggies.
At most farms, your weekly share is truly a share—that means if one week a particular crop is plentiful, you might get 5 pounds of cucumbers, but if the next week a crop doesn't do as well, you could find yourself with two carrots instead of two bunches. Some years, the entire season is great. Other years, hurricanes, excessive rain, etc. hurt crop production. Deliveries typically begin at the end of May and run through Thanksgiving.
A few more CSA tips:
1. Remember that your share is your share every week, most CSA programs do not provide discounts if you miss a week. If you are going to be away and unable to use your share on a given week, have a plan about what you'll do with that week's delivery, though some CSAs will donate it on your behalf to a local nonprofit.
2. Make sure you know how large a share is. Many find a half share split with another family is adequate, and some programs offer bi-weekly pick-up plans, or will help pair you with someone else who wants a half instead of a full share.
3. Know what your share contains. Some CSAs are all vegetables, some are vegetables and fruits and some have options for additional products like eggs or cheese.
If a farm share sounds like something you and your family would like to participate in this season, sign-up now! Most shares sell out.
Here is a list of various CSAs in New Jersey:
The season runs for 28 weeks with bi-weekly pick-up days on Tuesdays and Fridays in Cranford. Each week, choose between the BAM Box (2-3 veggies and a surprise goodie), Small (classic veggies), Medium (adventurous and classic veggies) and Market/Meal (meat, dairy and/or grains to complete a meal and side) boxes. Families are welcome to pay in three-payment intervals.
$650/season ($25/week for 26 weeks)
Pick up your goodies at the farm store in Chesterfield on either Saturdays or Tuesdays. Also available as part of your share are a variety of pick-your-own crops including peas, cherry tomatoes and strawberries.
$980/bi-weekly share for a year
$500/bi-weekly share for half a year
Founded in 1988, this CSA program is available year-round, or in summer (May through November) and winter (December through April) shares. Pick-up is either at the farm in Blairstown, or at one of the satellite locations including Hackettstown, Montclair and Sparta. Depending on location, pick-up days are Tuesdays or Fridays.
Call for pricing
All food for this share is grown on certified organic fields in Pennington and Chesterfield. You can pick up either at one of the farms, or get a boxed share at multiple locations that include Basking Ridge, Princeton, Trenton and Somerville. Pick-up days vary by location and are Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Ort Farms in Long Valley has members come to the farm and pick their own produce off the shelf Tuesday between 2 and 6 pm, and Thursdays between 3 and 7 pm. Other pick-up locations include Jersey City and Bayonne. The 21-week program runs from May 29 to October 16 with one week of vacation worked in.
$50-56, no membership fees
A food co-op started in 1987, Purple Dragon has pick-up points all over New Jersey, including Cranford, Fair Lawn, Madison and Scotch Plains. Deliveries to a central pick-up location in each town are every other week. Shares are a selection of mixed produce sourced from a wide variety of organic and ecologically-sound farmers.
This Manalapan spot offers one dozen eggs per week May through October during their CSA season. During spring planting and harvesting seasons, you'll have a variety of choices including radishes, turnips, baby kale, swiss chard, broccoli rabe, and more. They also offer U-Pick CSA, which starts in early June. Summer planting and harvesting, as well as end-of-season harvesting, are also available.