If you want the freshest locally grown vegetables for your family, there’s no easier solution than joining a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture programs give small family farms a crucial economic boost and allow consumers to develop relationships with the people who grow their food.
Here’s how it generally works: Customers buy shares of what the farmers plant in exchange for portions of each week’s harvest. The farmer bundles it up and delivers to drop-off points, sometimes to your home for a fee. It’s a win-win. The farmer gets seed money. The buyer gets the best of what grows, picked at the peak of its flavor and nutrition and conveniently provided.
Yes, there’s a risk that bad weather and other calamities will damage a normally-good harvest. But a bumper crop means a little more in that week’s share. Many CSAs also provide recipes, newsletters, or access to special Facebook groups. Look for add-ons like eggs, meat, baked goods, or preserved foods. Here are a few CSAs to check out around Alabama.
David Snow and Margaret Ann Toohey Snow started their family farm in 2004. They usually include up to eight items in their CSA, depending on the basket size (regular or small) and how many crops are ready for harvest. Drop-offs are Tuesday in Tuscaloosa (five locations). Birmingham drop-offs (four locations) are Thursdays. The CSA season starts in mid-April, depending on the weather. Full-year shares run through November. Spring shares run through June, and fall shares start in mid-September. Cut flowers are available as an add-on.
What: Strawberries, lettuces, cooking greens, root vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, herbs, sweet potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, potatoes, eggplant, okra, peppers
Order: Full year (34 weeks) is $25.55 per week for the regular size, $19.42 per week for small. Spring share (12 weeks) is $28.61 weekly for regular, $21.46 weekly for small.
Hawkins Homestead Farm organically raises free-range chickens for eggs and meat, as well as Certified Naturally Grown produce and flowers. A full CSA share generally feeds a family of four. Optional add-ons include a half-dozen eggs weekly. Each season is eight weeks, with the spring session starting April 3rd. Home delivery is free in Dothan, and a mileage fee is charged outside the city.
What: Onions, pears, greens, cabbage, broccoli, herbs, pumpkins, hot peppers, potatoes, peas, turnips, carrots, cauliflower
Order: Contact the farm for prices or to sign up for full or half CSA shares.
The spring season for these boutique CSA baskets has just begun (March 28) and runs through June 6. Offerings are diverse – each week may include bread from Hinkel’s Bakery, eggs, and preserved foods that Stone Hollow makes from the organic produce that it grows. Cut flower subscriptions also are available. CSA boxes feed up to four, depending on appetites. Pick-up is Tuesday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Stone Hollow FarmStand store in the Pepper Place complex in Birmingham. Only 75 shares are available.
What: Spring vegetables, salad greens, fruit, Stone Hollow’s signature rainbow eggs, preserved and prepared foods
Order: Spring CSA shares are $99 per week. Cut flower shares are $68 per week.
Liz and Brian Simpson are in their ninth year growing organic vegetables and fruits on 17 acres on Lookout Mountain. The CSA starts in mid-April – depending on when the first strawberries come in, they say – and runs through November. Pick-up spots in Alabama are in Huntsville, Fort Payne, Birmingham, Guntersville, Trussville, Gadsden, and on the farm. Each week features about a half-dozen items (check the website for photos of each week’s basket in 2022). A full season runs 30 weeks. Half-season shares are delivered every other week.
What: Lettuces, strawberries, squashes, carrots, potatoes, other root vegetables, corn, peppers, melons, cherry tomatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower
Order: Full season is $694.80 ($23.16/week) by credit card and $672.91 ($22.43/week) by check. Half season is $347.40 by credit card and $336.46 by check.
The farm raises Certified Naturally Grown produce using soil-building sustainable practices, without GMO seeds, pesticides, insecticides, or other chemicals. This subscription works a little differently. Order online as desired and pay as you go. Sign-up is required on the order site. No-contact home deliveries are Wednesdays in Montgomery, and Thursdays in Tallassee. Farm pick-up can be arranged, usually Sundays or Mondays.
What: Broccoli, cauliflower, Asian greens, arugula, lettuces, carrots, cabbage, kale, spinach, radishes, green beans, snap peas, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, herbs
Order: Via Harvie subscription service. Small boxes are $20, medium $30, and large $40, plus delivery fee.
The family-owned farm follows organic practices, growing both hydroponically and in fields. There is no CSA “season.” Join whenever. Home delivery is available near the farm. Drop-offs are available Wednesdays east of Mobile Bay and Thursdays in the Mobile area, Daphne, Spanish Fort, and into Mississippi. Friday pick-ups are available on the farm.
What: Fruits, vegetables, butter, cheeses, eggs, honey, fresh baked bread, fresh cut flowers, canned foods. Optional add-ons include organic meats and fish
Order: Online only. Monthly billing includes delivery fees. The one-time sign-up fee is $30. Baskets are $25, $37.50, and $49 per week, depending on size. Add-ons, when available, must be ordered by Sunday at 8 p.m.
(This story originally appeared on SoulGrown, an affiliate of Yellowhammer Multimedia)