The idea behind Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is that a consumer pre-purchases a “share” of the harvest for the season—thus creating a relationship between local farmers and community members.
The good news is that you’ll get a nice variety of fresh veggies and fruits. Some farms offer the option to get eggs, dairy products, and herbs as well. Some places will deliver your share to a central pick-up location, some farms offer “you-pick” times in addition to the shares, and most farms welcome visitors/helpers.
The bad news is that farms won’t have exactly the vegetables you want exactly when you want them. Plus, being a smaller entity, they are more subject to the whims of Mother Nature than the supermarket down the road.
Bottom line: a CSA share is great for someone who is willing to try new foods and to adapt their recipes to suit the vegetables available that week. Just like people had been doing since the dawn of time, right?
However, the “surprise!” aspect of CSAs just doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you have a picky child–or spouse, for that matter–maybe you want to be sure to have certain foods on hand for them. Say, all things orange. Farmer’s markets offer much the same freshness as you’d get through a CSA delivery, but with a little more choice on your part–don’t like the kale or collard greens? On to the next stand! Many markets offer diary, eggs, meat, and poultry stands as well. Although some fall during the week (Rosslyn, Virginia’s is mid-days on Thursdays) most are on Saturday mornings, and if you can drag yourself out of bed to be there when they open, then you get the best pick of the available fruits and veggies. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’ll let you sample something unfamiliar!
- Here’s a list of Farmer’s Markets in Virginia. I’ve personally tried the Saturday morning markets in Falls Church (300 Park Avenue, Contact: Howard Herman, (703) 241-5027) and down in Fredericksburg (in the commuter parking lot on Route 3 West). The Falls Church market is a great location–the parking lot of the community center–and we’ve gotten some pretty food vegetables and fresh bread. Prices seem ever-so-slightly on the high side, but perhaps that’s just in comparison to the abundance of very reasonable priced veggies to be found at the Fredericksburg market. If you like to head out of the city on the weekends, I highly recommend taking a trip down to Fredericksburg to catch this market–great tomatoes all summer long, delicious varieties of peaches and other stone fruits towards the end of the summer, and fabulous sweet corn. There are also several stands with dairy, meat, poultry, and breads.
- In Virginia, check out Virginia’s Assocation for Biological Farming for a listing of CSA Farms.
- In DC, check out the Washington Post list of DC farmer’s markets
- Find markets all across Maryland, and search by county, here.
- If you’re looking specifically for organic, here’s a list of organic food sources (farms, farmer’s markets, stores) in the DC metro area.
- For a great list of farmer’s markets, family farms, CSAs, and other “sustainably grown food” vendors across the country, try the Local Harvest website.
Local Farms that offer you-pick or delivery:
- Great Country Farms & Foggy Bottom Vineyard in Bluemont, VA. 540-554-2073.
- Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
- Washington’s Green Grocer offers home delivery of a large or small box of either all-organic or mixed organic and conventional produce.
I hope you enjoy exploring all the options for healthy local eating! If you know of any other resources that should be included here, please let me know!