CSAs: Bringing the farm to the neighborhood

April 5, 2013 Heather Chin
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Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA): it’s like having your own personal shopper at the farmer’s market deliver a box of fresh food from local farms to your neighborhood every week or two.

Rooted in the locavore and organic philosophies, the concept of a CSA is to build community among neighbors and food producers (i.e. farmers, dairies, butchers) while supporting local and regional businesses. It revolves around knowing – and often meeting – the people who literally put food on their table.

“Joining a CSA is one of the best ways to support local, small scale farms,” said Amy Blankstein, grants and communications manager at Just Food, a non-profit that supports CSAs, community-run farmers’ markets, and farm-to-food pantry programs. “Farmers get payment at the beginning of the season, when they need an influx of cash to buy seed and supplies, make repairs and hire labor. . . They don’t have to get a loan.”

Farmer John Shmid from Muddy River Farm. (Photo courtesy of Just Food.)

For farmer Gudelio Garcia, that community support was vital to his being able to launch his Staten Island-based El Poblano Farm in 2010, which is starting up as the El Poblano Farm CSA this June through October, providing produce to the Red Hook/Columbia Street neighborhoods.

Garcia first received a microloan from service Accion, then received training through GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Program, and finally ended up the beneficiary of $8,000 from a Kickstarter campaign launched by fan/microlender Erica Dorn, who praised Gudelio’s engagement with the community.

“He produces specialty Mexican herbs and vegetables and shows people how to use them,” Dorn explained. Gudelio said he is grateful to be able to do what he loves. “I’ve always loved farmers markets. I enjoy selling and now I get to see what I grow,” he said.

CSA members/eaters also reap the benefits; in addition to local, organic, and seasonal produce, Blankstein notes that membership is “also about getting to know your neighbors, learning about cooking seasonal food” you might have no idea about, like kohlrabi, celery root or some brussel sprouts – on the stem. There is risk if there is bad weather, that usually just means you have more time to work through the extra pounds of produce from previous weeks.

Brooklyn entrepreneur Ilya Nikhamin and his wife, Kasia, joined the Flatbush Farm Share because it was just a short walk from their home. “It was a great selection of produce [and] we liked the community and getting vegetables we wouldn’t get in the supermarket or anywhere else,” said Ilya, who is a self-proclaimed “opposite of vegetarian,” but enjoyed watching Kasia have fun with the goods.

A communal feast prepared with CSA produce from the Farm at Miller's Crossing. (BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Heather J. Chin)

“It was fun to cook them because everything was covered in dirt [but] make sure you like vegetables,” he joked. “Honestly, as much as I don’t like to eat the things we were getting, they were worth it because you’re supporting something good in general while getting really high quality food on your table, which is rare today.”

There are around 115 CSAs in New York City, up from one lone CSA back in 1995. Nearly every neighborhood in Brooklyn has one, and are not limited to only vegetables from upstate New York. Nearly 80 farmers from the tri-state area provide the greens, plus meat, dairy, fruit, flowers, pies, coffee beans, and prepared items like cheeses and pies.

There are half shares (1-2 people), full shares (3-4 people), and shares that let you pick and choose items from a grocery list of available items that month. Food pick-up locations include local restaurants, churches, workplace cafeterias, your front door. Prices can depend on share size and neighborhood, ranging from $156 to over $600 for a 22-week vegetable share.

 

CSA Resource Guide

NORTH BROOKLYN

  • Greenpoint-Williamsburg CSA
    Wednesdays, 5:30 to 8 p.m. – Lutheran Church of the Messiah at 129 Russell Street
    Saturdays, 9 a.m. to Noon – McCarren Park at 232 North 12th Street
    [email protected]
  • East Williamsburg CSA – Red Shed Community Garden, 266 Skillman Avenue
    Saturdays, 10 a.m. to Noon; [email protected]
  • Lineage Farm CSA – Greenpoint Reformed Church at 136 Milton Street
    Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; www.lineagefarmcsa.com
  • Partners Trace Farm CSA – Huckleberry Bar at 588 Grand Street
    5-8 p.m.; www.partnerstrace.com
  • Nextdoorganics – www.nextdoorganics.com
    Wednesdays, 6-7 p.m. – Egg at 135 North 5th Street
    Tuesdays, 5-7 p.m. – Roberta’s at 261 Moore Street

CARROLL GARDENS /COBBLE HILL/RED HOOK

  • Carroll Gardens CSA – 192 2nd Place, near Smith Street
    Saturdays, 10 a.m. to Noon; [email protected]
  • El Poblano Farm CSA – 106 Union Street
    Wednesdays, 5-7 p.m.; [email protected]
  • Cobble Hill CSA – Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity at 157 Montague Street
    Tuesday, 4-8 p.m.; 718-856-1882 or www.cobblehillcsa.org

DUMBO/DOWNTOWN

  • DUMBO/Vinegar Hill CSA – Phoenix House at 50 Jay Street
    Tuesdays, 4:30-7:30 p.m.; [email protected]
  • Brooklyn Beet CSA – YWCA of Brooklyn at 30 Third Avenue
    Tuesdays, 4:30-7:30 p.m.; [email protected]
  • Brooklyn Bridge CSA – Congregation Mt. Sinai at 250 Cadman Plaza West
    Wednesdays, 5-8 p.m.; www.brooklynbridgecsa.org
  • Sweet Pea CSA – First Unitarian Universalist Church at 50 Monroe Place
    Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m.; [email protected]

PARK SLOPE

  • Park Slope CSA – Garden of Union at 172 Fifth Avenue
    Tuesdays, 3-6:30 p.m.
    Thursdays, 7-7:30 p.m.; www.parkslopecsa.org
  • Fishkill Farms CSA – Old Stone House at 226 Third Street
    Saturdays, 9 a.m. to Noon; www.fishkillfarms.com


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