Regardless of whether you believe the groundhog’s prediction of an early spring, your local farmers are gearing up for spring plantings. And you can help by signing up for a farm share, or “CSA.” (CSA = community supported agriculture.) If you’ve incorporated a weekly (or more) farmers market trip into your routine, joining a CSA lets you take your relationship with your local farmers to the next level — signing up up front to share in the farm’s produce for the season.
Of course, CSA membership is not for everyone — if you like to have total control over your weekly menu and don’t deal well with surprises, or just can’t bear the thought of getting kale or chard seemingly every single week, you may not be the best candidate for a CSA membership. (Personally, I split the difference — a half share to replenish the produce crisper midweek, but still shop the markets on most weekends.)
If you live in the DC/Northern Virginia area, here are a few well-regarded CSAs you may wish to check out:
- Potomac Vegetable Farms — Our CSA, they grow “eco-ganic” produce on the last remaining working farm in Fairfax County, just minutes from Tysons Corner, as well as on a larger farm in Loudoun County. They also have an arrangement with Next Step Produce and another local farm to supplement their offerings during the season. (Registration for new members opens Feb. 15, and fills up quickly so act fast!)
- Food Matters CSA — If you’ve eaten at Food Matters in Alexandria’s West End, you’ve already sampled the producers who supply the restaurant’s CSA. This CSA is technically a buying group, as the restaurant sources the products from a variety of well-vetted local sources. This means more variety for you, including local honey and cheeses. They do not deliver; you’ll need to pick up your share at the restaurant each Saturday.
- Bull Run Mountain Vegetable Farm — a chemical/pesticide-free farm in The Plains, delivers to Alexandria, Falls Church and DC.
- Great Country Farms — Great Country offers u-pick and many weekend festivals throughout the year, and a number of options for CSA pickup/delivery (including a monthly payment plan).
Most of these CSAs require sign-up by the end of February, so if you’re thinking about taking the plunge this year, please act quickly! And if you’re outside the area, check out Local Harvest to find a CSA farm near you.
Any CSA veterans out there? What did you love, or not, about your experience?