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 that is 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 to 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. Check out what the Westfield CSA delivered each week last season.
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, and in other years, because of hurricanes, excessive rain, etc., the farm does less well. 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, or most CSAs will donate it on your behalf to a local non-profit.
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 also wants a half instead of a full share.
3. Know what your share contains. Some CSAs are all vegetables, some are vegetable and fruit mixes, 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:
A food coop that 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 and cost approx. $50–56. Shares are a selection of mixed produce that are sourced from a wide-variety of organic and ecologically-sound farmers.
A share is $650 for the season and pick-up is 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.
Founded in 1988, this CSA program is available year-round, or in summer (May through November) and winter (December through April) shares. Prices range from a bi-weekly half-year share ($689) to a weekly year-round share ($1,884). Pick-up is either at the farm in Blairstown, or at one of the satellite locations, which includes Montclair, Maplewood/South Orange, and Glen Rock. Depending on location, pick-up days are Tuesdays or Fridays.
All food for this share is grown on certified organic fields in Pennington and Chesterfield, New Jersey. You can pick-up either at one of the farm locations, or you can 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.
With its first season in 2010, this CSA program is fairly new but already serving approximately 50 families. Members pick-up their share at 24 School Street in Metuchen on Thursdays between 5 and 8 pm. Every share is required to contribute four hours a season, either at the distribution site or at the farm.
A share for the season is $600 ($25 discount if paid in full before March 1), and there is a $10 site fee payable in cash at the first pick-up. Pick-up takes place from 3 to 7 pm in Westfield, location TBD. Five hours of volunteer work (either at the distribution site or at a work day at the farm) is required.
Ort Farms in Long Valley, NJ has members come to the farm and pick their own produce off the shelf Tuesday between 2 and 6 pm Thursdays between 3 and 7 pm. The 21-week program runs from May 29 to October 16, with one week of vacation worked in. A full share is $39.95 per week, a half share is $24.95 per week and a personal share is $16.95 per week, all when paid in advance. Each share comes with a variety of different produce options per season.
Beginning on May 20, the season runs for 28 weeks, with bi-weekly pick-up days on Tuesdays and Fridays in Cranford. Each week, choose between "Just the Basics," the smallest box which contains 7–10 fruits and vegetables for $621; "Healthy Family," which contains 11–14 fruits and vegetables for $810; "Market Box," for $1,053 and "Strictly Locavore," the largest box for $1,215. Families are welcome to pay in three-payment intervals.
Silver Forge Farm in Manalapan offers one dozen eggs per week May through October during their CSA season (you may get double the eggs during high points of the season). During spring planting and harvesting seasons, you'll have a variety of choices including radishes, turnips, baby kale, swiss chard, argular, broccoli rabe, spinach and more. They also offer U-Pick CSA, which will be starting in early June. Summer planting and harvesting, as well as end of season harvesting are also available. One bi-weekly CSA Share is $350-400 and one full CSA Share is $600-650.