Choosing a CSA

Since their birth in 1986 in the United States, CSAs have expanded so much that the question is no longer “Where can I get one?” but instead an overwhelming “Which one do I choose?” According to surveying done by PACSAC (Portland Area CSA Coalition), there are at least 60 farms that bring food into the Portland metro area. Such an abundance of options can leave one flabbergasted and immobilized. I spoke with Caylor Roling, PACSAC Project Coordinator, to get her perspective on current CSA offerings in the Portland metro region. The first thing Caylor said was, ‘When choosing a CSA, you need to ask yourself, “What are my priorities? Am I concerned with share size, convenient pick-up locations, farm experience, having fresh veggies year round?”’ Caylor helped me realize that the increasing demand for CSAs has enabled farmers to occupy niche territory, differentiating themselves by offering models like individual shares, winter CSAs, and CSA models for distributing meat or flowers or plant starts. If rolling out of bed and being able to pick up your CSA a few blocks down from your house is your priority, this City of Portland map of pick-up sites will be your golden ticket. The veritable explosion of CSAs offered in the Portland metro area ensures that if you want it, some farmer out there has got it.  Below is a list of helpful categories featuring local CSAs ~ read on to spring into summer.

CSAs that take SNAP benefits The problem with writing a piece about choosing a CSA is that many Portland residents don’t have the money to make that choice. CSAs are fairly expensive, and historically, share members have had to pay the full cost of the CSA before the beginning of the season so the farmers (who aren’t being subsidized by the govt. or other large corporations) have the start-up money necessary to buy their seeds and fertilizers. This up-front monetary investment is the fulcrum of the CSA business model: it allows farmers to directly market, plan, and finance operations before the start of the growing season while ensuring a consistent demand for the food produced. However, paying $600+ all in one sum can be a large financial burden and is a barrier to the benefits of a CSA for low-income people. In an effort to make CSAs more accessible, a few farms have begun to address this problem by accepting SNAP/EBT payments and enabling SNAP members to pay monthly or weekly, instead of with a lump sum. Zenger Farm, an educational working urban farm in East Portland, has created a website that lists all of the farms in Oregon that accept SNAP benefits. I have highlighted a few below.

Zenger Farm is a pioneering force in making CSAs more affordable to lower-income residents. For SNAP members, they offer a $27 a week CSA share and a subsidized SNAP share at $20 a week.

When: June – November, 23 weeks

What is included: Vegetables, herbs, & a package of beans or grains from Bob’s Red Mill!

Price: Regular shares: $650 made in one, two, or three payments

SNAP shares: $27 weekly payments or $124.20 monthly payments

Scholarship SNAP shares: $20 weekly payments or $92 monthly payments

Pick-Up: Zenger’s Farm or Lent’s International Farmers Market

Winter Green Farm

When: June – October, 19 weeks, with the option of a Late Season Share

What is included: Seasonal vegetables farmed using biodynamic methods.

Price: $555 with different payment plans, including monthly payments.

Pick-Up: SE, NE, and SW Portland.

Farm Experience

47th Ave Farm

In exchange for 12 hours of work during the season, working shareholders at 47th Ave Farm will receive a $30 price reduction. Three work parties and potluck celebrations occur during the summer for shareholders.

When: May 19th – October 27th

What is included: Bountiful veggies!

Price: Half share ($550) and full share ($990)

Pick-Up: SE Portland (Woodstock) and Lake Oswego

Supporting Great Non-Profits There are quite a few CSAs available in Portland that come from non-profit farms. Supporting these farms through subscribing to a share serves a double purpose: getting you fresh veggies and furthering the mission of these non-profits. Check out a few below!

FoodWorks – I have to give a special shout-out to FoodWorks. I interned there a few summers ago, and the work they do is groundbreaking and important. FoodWorks is a youth employment program based on a small farm on Sauvie Island: they provide paying jobs on the farm to youth from the St. Johns neighborhood, teaching them invaluable job skills and giving them a chance to grow into leadership positions like CSA intern or Farmers Market Intern. When you buy a share in their CSA, part of your payment goes towards subsidizing a CSA share for a low-income family. Please think about supporting this amazing organization!

When: mid-June to the end of October, 21 weeks

What is included: 7-12 different vegetables and the Food Works newsletter which details farm happenings, what’s in season, favorite recipes, youth writings and Food Works program updates.

Price: Regular Share: $600, $450 is the base rate and $150 (tax deductible) will be used to offer the same CSA share to a family who might not be able to afford the full price.

SNAP Share: $15 weekly payments, total of $315 for the season.

Pick-Up: Portland State Farmers Market, St. Johns Farmers Market, Village Market, and the Janus Youth Programs Office

Schoolyard Farms is a Milwaukie-based non-profit whose mission is to educate youth and health and nutrition through hands-on experience in the garden. Their work is made possible by the financial support of CSA members.

When: June – October, weekly

What is included: five small bunches of different seasonal vegetables, weekly

Price: $275 for an individual share

Pick-Up: SE and NE Portland, Milwaukie

 Individual Shares Having too many vegetables is a ridiculously abundant problem, but the average share size of CSAs is meant for families or those who are sharing food. In the past, a CSA has not been practical for someone living alone. The market has evolved to offer smaller, individual sized shares so that if you don’t want to share, you don’t have to.

Our Table Cooperative

When: They offer CSAs for each of the four seasons.

What is included: An assortment of vegetables.

Price: Prices vary by season, but Summer 2015 is $121.52 – $124 for an individual-sized share.

Pick-Up: Various Locations around Portland.

Full Cellar Farm

When: June – October, 22 weeks

What is included: Small share of vegetables that you get to choose! Each week, an email is sent out with a list of the available crops, and you get to choose six to eight items that you want.

Price: $350

Pick-Up: SE and NE Portland, Gresham

 CSAs that Extend Beyond Summer and Fall We are extremely lucky that we live in a climate where vegetables can grow all year round! I have been receiving winter vegetables from Full Plate Farm out of Ridgefield, WA since November. They are sweet and nourishing and large after growing slowly during the winter months ~ I even received a bold purple beet that was as large and round as my face. Check out the farms below that have diversified their businesses by growing vegetables year round.

Pumpkin Ridge Gardens

When: All Year Round – 52 weeks!

What is included: Seasonal Veggies all year round.

Price: $1560 for the full year, $30 per week

Pick-Up: Various Locations in the Portland metro area.

Full Plate Farm

When: November – March, 24 weeks

What is included: Gorgeous winter vegetables.

Price: $725.

Pick-Up: Various locations around Portland.

Diversification of CSAs (Alternative, Non-Veggie CSA Models) The CSA model has extended to several different markets as part of what local non-profit Ecotrust calls The Future Economy. Akin to the vegetable CSA model, you can receive a weekly supply of flowers, meat, seedlings, fish, and many other goods directly from the farmer (or fisherman) that grows or harvests them. 

Kamama Flowers

When: May – September, weekly

What is included: Flowers sourced from their farm and partner farms made into beautiful bouquets and delivered right to your home.

Price: $400, $20 a week for 20 weeks

Pick-Up: No pick-up ~ It’s home delivery!

Winslow Food Forest

Winslow Food Forest offers both a Harvest share, which includes a half dozen eggs, veggies, greens, herbs, and fruits, but more uniquely offers a Seedling Subscription, in which you select a variety of seedlings and they deliver the plants right to your door timed for outdoor planting.

When: April – June

What is included: 12 plants a month with the full share and 6 plants a month for the half share.

Price: Full Share ($125), Half Share ($75)

Pick-Up: Delivered to you!

Moomaw Family Farm

When: Year-Round

What is included: Conveniently portioned cuts of grass fed, pasture-raised meat ~ you choose what’s in your box.

Price: Half-Size (60 lbs of meat a year): $588, Full-Size (120 lbs): $1,152

Pick-Up: No pick-up ~ delivered to your home once a month.

Iliamna Fish Company

When: Share distributed during August and September

What is included: 21 pounds of wild sockeye salmon harvested from their Alaska fishery

Price: Approximately $10.85/ lb

Pick-Up: Inner Southeast Portland

Mama Tee’s Farmstead

When: June – November, 22 weeks

What is included: This is where it gets good. Mama Tee’s has a traditional veggie CSA, but also collaborates with several other farms to offer egg shares, bread shares, and meat shares. Who needs to go to the grocery store anymore?

Price: Prices vary depending on share choice.

Pick-Up: Missionary Chocolates in NE Portland

I hope that this article has served as a matchmaker, helping you to find a CSA that compliments your needs. To learn about even more choices, you can visit Portland Area CSA Coalition’s website, where they have provided us with a comprehensive list of CSAs in the area. Happy CSAing!