Mary Smull loves to cook, especially with locally grown, fresh produce. An avid fan of community supported agriculture (CSA) for at least 10 years, she especially looks forward to her packages of goodies in the winter.
"There are so many choices for produce during the summer with pop-up farmers' markets everywhere, but in the winter that stuff just ends," said Smull, 44, of Fishtown.
CSAs were originally developed as a tool for farmers to guarantee sales throughout the year and have their money up front, said Ryan Kuck, executive director of Greensgrow Farms in Kensington and West Philadelphia. "It's a membership program, with the idea that people commit to the success and challenges of the farm," he said.
There are an increasing number of local CSAs that now offer fresh, local, seasonal food throughout the year. It may come directly from one farm or through a go-between who buys produce from many local farms, packages it, and delivers it to the customer.
In winter, root vegetables, greens, carrots, apples, and squashes are plentiful, but other products – frozen fruit, homemade jams and pickles, dairy and bread products, and even health-care goods are also included. There are vegan shares, plus specific options just for meat, cheese, dairy, and bread. Some CSAs deliver to customers' homes, though most have several pick-up locations.
"Local produce is so much more flavorful and interesting," said Smull. "I might not have picked kohlrabi, but I'm going to use it this week. It forces us to be creative."
For $495 for the seasonal share — $45 a week — Smull receives 11 biweekly packages from Greensgrow Farms, each including eight to 11 produce or pantry items — like locally made pasta or jam or canned tomatoes, and the choice of a dairy or protein – like eggs, tofu, or yogurt. She's allowed one swap if there's an item she doesn't want.
"In my fantasy life, I have the kind of time where I can actually can tomatoes from the summer when there's a bounty, but in my real life as a working mom, I can't do that," she said. "It's nice to know they're doing it."
Milly Swords, 4, loves the fresh broccoli her mom, Rachel, gets from Philly Foodwork's CSA. Rachel discovered CSAs about three years ago for the fresh produce and as a way to support her community and local farmers.
"I like getting food that may not be readily available at the store, like beautiful daikon radishes and kalette, a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts," said Swords, 44, of South Philadelphia.
She appreciates that they outsource citrus fruits during winter months and that she can always add or subtract from the suggested packages at their online market.
The local CSAs below will prorate if you join after the program has started.
Green Aisle Grocery
Winter offerings: Eggs, yogurt, seasonal fruit and vegetables, assorted products like cheese, meat, bread, coffee, homemade pasta sauce or nut butters, specialty products like Indian eggplant caponata.
Pick-up locations: Green Aisle Grocery sits in South Philly and Graduate Hospital.
How often: Six shares – two each in January, February, and March.
Cost: $300 ($50 per share).
Interesting tidbit: They are flexible regarding dietary restrictions.
Winter offerings: Full share includes a meat, mix of five to six fruits and vegetables, a specialty product like local honey or applesauce, and your choice of protein, like eggs, tofu, seitan, or butter.
How often: Biweekly over 22 weeks for 11 pick-ups between Dec. 1 and April 27.
Pick-up locations: Greensgrow Farms in Kensington, Greensgrow West in West Philadelphia,
and BeerLove in Queen Village.
Cost: $550 ($50 per share).
Other shares: Large vegetarian/vegan, $495; small vegetarian/vegan, $390; cheese, $150; coffee, $175; bread, $77.
Interesting tidbit: Farm stand style pick-ups, where members choose their own fruits and vegetables from the week's offerings.
Winter offerings: Chef's subscription includes six vegetables, one to two varieties of fruit, and one pantry/prepared food item, like soup broth, pizza crust, or honey.
Pick-up locations: 60 local spots (see website), or home delivery for $5 to $7.50, depending on location; free with a $75 to $125 purchase, also depending on location.
How often: You choose – weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
Cost: $42 to $45 per share.
Other shares: Small farmers, $32 to $35; large farmers, $42 to $45; local, $35 to $38; bacon, $13; beef, $30; cheese, $19; coffee, $13; eggs, $4.50; fruit boost, $10-12; mushrooms, $10-12; poultry, $24; seafood. $30; soup, $13; yogurt, $5.99; healers, $25.
Interesting tidbit: They also include nonlocal organic produce, like avocados, bananas, and citrus, as well as health-care items, like soap, deodorant. and natural oils.
Red Earth Farm
Winter offerings: Six vegetable items, like Brussels sprouts, kale, root vegetables, and greens.
Pick-up locations: About two dozen throughout the Philadelphia suburbs and Center City, plus Allentown and Red Earth Farm in Kempton.
How often: Weekly for six weeks between Nov. 6 and Dec. 13..
Cost: $153 ($25.50 per share).
Other shares: Apple. $66; bread, $49; cheese, $34.50; eggs, $27; mini-jars of jams, $30.
Interesting tidbit: Members can select their choice of items each week.
Winter offerings: Five vegetable items, like root vegetables, cooking greens, winter squash, and potatoes, plus a specialty item, like tomato puree, salsa, or microgreens.
Pick-up locations: Eleven locations in Berks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Counties and Center City.
How often: Weekly over 12 weeks between Nov. 15 and early February.
Cost: $300 ($25 per share).
Other shares: Apple, $124; mushroom, $85, cheese and butter, $108-$188; bread, $72; eggs, $66.
Interesting tidbit: Taproot Farm has been certified organic since the spring.
Wild Fox Farm
Winter offerings: Vegetables, like winter radishes, carrots, beets, and potatoes. Customer determines amounts for farm pick-up; drop-off boxes include six to eight items.
Pick-up locations: Wild Fox Farm in Barto; preboxed share locations in Allentown, Bethlehem, Barto, Emmaus, and Breiningsville.
How often: Weekly over 12 weeks between Nov. 14 and Feb. 1.
Cost: Regular, $360 ($30 per share), small, $240 ($20 per share).
Other items: Meat, grass-fed dairy, and organic bread products are also available weekly.
Interesting tidbit: They will accommodate additional pick-up locations of five or more shares at your gym, church, school, or home.