The Best CSA Boxes

Ah, summer … it’s that magic time when orchards and gardens are full-to-bursting with ripe fruits and vegetables, soon to be found in the bounteous displays at your local farmer’s market or roadside farm stand. Both offer great ways to show your support for independent farmers, ranchers and dairies.

But have you ever considered a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share box? Farmers make a set number of “shares” available to the buying public and in return, the consumer is guaranteed a box of delicious vegetables, fruits and other farm products at regular intervals during the growing season. The boxes are seasonal and filled with all sorts of produce that you might not purchase on your own. It’s the original subscription box!

CSAs also guarantee an early source of income for the farm because they are purchased at the start of the growing season; this helps the farmers purchase supplies and equipment. It’s a win-win for all. As a bonus, CSA members often receive newsletters and invitations for farm visits and events, especially popular for younger family members.

If it’s important to you to know and support your growers, CSA boxes are absolutely worth looking into. Drop-off and delivery options vary, as do price and share size. Here are some great choices.

Angelic Organics

CSA Boxes: Angelic Organics

Farmer John (Photo courtesy of Angelic Organics.)

An organic, bio-dynamic farm located in Caledonia, Illinois, Angelic Organics has been serving Chicago-area CSA customers for the past 25 years. Their delivery season starts in early June and runs through late October; they also offer an extended season share, which runs to mid-November. Both fruit and vegetable shares are available. They offer over 40 pickup locations throughout Chicagoland.

Pricing: Full Vegetable Share (20 weeks) is $740; Half Vegetable Share (10 weeks, every other week) is $400; Fruit Share (10 weeks, every other week) is $480.

Grassroots Farm

Owned and run by a mother-daughter team, Grassroots Farm is certified organic and located southwest of Madison, Wisconsin. As a diversified farm, they offer many add-on options, such as cut flowers, dairy, tomato and pantry items. Local pickup is available at the Andersonville Farmers’ Market (Foster and Clark) or Lincoln Square (Western and Foster). Delivery for 2016 will be June 22–October 5.

Pricing: Summer Vegetable Share (16 weeks) is $424; the Specialty Fresh Upgrade (16 weeks) is an additional $192; check website for other add-on options.

Kings Hill Farm

You’ll find this certified organic vegetable farm in the gorgeous rolling hills just south of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. It’s an area untouched by the glaciers, and the land is rich and fertile. June through mid-October pickups are available at many Chicago-area locations on Thursdays, including the AON Building, Oak Park and Glencoe.

Pricing: Large Share (20 weeks) is $600; Small Share (20 weeks) is $400; refer to the website for quantities.

Nichols Farm & Orchard

CSA Boxes: Nichols Farm & Orchard

Photo courtesy of Nichols Farm & Orchard.

The Nichols family has been operating their certified organic sustainable family farm in Marengo, Illinois, for nearly 40 years. You’ll find them at many area farmer’s markets, including Evanston and the Green City Market. As a Nichols CSA member, you’ll also get a 20 percent discount at all of their market stands during the growing season. They will also pro-rate your share if you join after the start of the season. Pickups (June–October) are available at numerous sites throughout Chicagoland, including Evanston, Highland Park, Barrington and Lake Bluff as well as the city.

Pricing: Summer Fruit & Vegetable Share (22 weeks) is $880; Summer Fruit & Vegetable Share (11 weeks, every other week) is $440. Fall Share also available; refer to website for quantities.

Slagel Farm

If you are looking for interesting and varied restaurant-quality meat, this is the CSA for you. Raising livestock for many generations, the Slagels have made a name for themselves with their wholesome, USDA-inspected, naturally processed meats, including chicken, goat, beef, pork and lamb. Pickup for their monthly baskets is on the second Wednesday of the month at either Doves Luncheonette in Bucktown or Blue Frog Local 22 in River North. You’ll get five or six different items valued at $60, plus a $5 fee to the pickup location. This CSA is available year-round.

Pricing: $65 per month.

Three Sisters Garden

CSA Boxes: Three Sisters Garden

Photo courtesy of Three Sisters Garden.

Tracey Vowell and Kathe Roybal offer a dry-goods CSA, with boxes of assorted dry goods that are produced and milled at their farm. All products are certified naturally grown, non-genetically modified and gluten-free. The box includes a pound each of their freshly rolled oats, ground cornmeal, different dry bean varietals, popcorn, whole pecans (or 1/2-pound shelled) and a 1/4-pound bag of baby greens. Available for pickup the first and third Tuesdays of each month in Evanston, or at the Saturday Green City Market, starting the week of May 3.

Pricing: $35 per box (contact them at threesistersgarden@earthlink.net to order).

Tomato Mountain Farm

CSA Boxes: Tomato Mountain Farm

Photo courtesy of Tomato Mountain Farm.

Direct to you from Brooklyn … Wisconsin, owner Chris Covelli produces quality, certified organic produce with a focus on tomatoes. They make and bottle their own fresh salsas, preserves, Bloody Mary mix, pasta sauce and soups. Shares are available on a sustaining or season-to-season basis; the delivery season is 42 weeks. Fresh farm egg add-on available; home delivery.

Pricing: Shares priced weekly; Solo Share ($22); Small Share ($28); Medium Share ($39) and Large Share ($55); check website for greater detail.

 

A different idea: While not a CSA, this is another option that would make a thoughtful gift for an out-of-town family member or friend who lacks easy access to fresh produce, and doesn’t have the option of a local CSA share.

Farmbox Direct

Farmbox Direct

Photo by Elizabeth TenWolde.

Farmbox Direct is a national door-to-door service that sources whatever is seasonal and fresh from organic farms around the country. It’s available year-round, and can be ordered one box at a time. Choose between three different seasonal box sizes, which can be customized. Ships via FedEx PeriShip with biodegradable insulation and ice packs. Prices range from $38 for the All-Natural Small Box to $64 for the Only Organic Large Box. Juicing Boxes available for $51.


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