Spring hasn’t exactly shown its sunny self yet, but the peak harvest season is just around the corner. March (generally) means no more snow and, more importantly, that it’s time to renew my CSA membership.
CSA stands for community-supported agriculture; you may have also heard CSAs referred to as a “farm share.” Here’s what it means: Before harvest season begins, local farms sell shares of their crops to members in the community—like you or me. In return, CSA members get a consistent flow of boxes filled with fresh fruits and vegetables all season long. Some farms also offer flowers, eggs, meat, artisanal cheese or other dairy as add-on options. You’ll pick up your weekly or biweekly box of fresh produce directly from the farm, or at various pickup locations (often at local farmers’ market). Some farms even offer home-delivery if enough people in your neighborhood sign up for a share.
There are many benefits of signing up for a CSA. For starters, you’ll be supporting local farmers and eating locally—and that’s good for everybody. You’ll also enjoy lower weekly-grocery bills. Beyond that, CSAs are a great vehicle for discovery. I’ve been a CSA customer for years and have come to really love the surprise of what ingredients I’ll be cooking with that week. It’s easy to get stuck in a recipe rut and repeat the same ones over and over again. CSAs help with that. Chances are, you and your family will be exposed to items you might not buy on a regular shopping trip to the grocery store. Before I received weekly CSA boxes, I had never prepared a dish with sorrel, daikon radishes, or kohlrabi. Now I can confidently use them in a handful of different recipes.
There’s no shortage of CSA programs available in the Garden State. To help narrow down the options, we’ve put together a partial list of them, along with the details you’ll need to know about each. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.
Alstede Farms, Chester
What to Expect: A typical harvest box in June will include a variety of salad greens, strawberries, herbs, turnips, radishes, asparagus, and rhubarb. A week’s harvest box in August may contain tomatoes, corn, assorted peppers, peaches, raspberries, summer squashes, herbs, and eggplants. The variety will continue through Thanksgiving.
Duration of Time: Late-April to November (31 weeks)
Pickup: Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at the Farm Store in Chester (1 Alstede Farms Lane).
Cost: Ultimate harvest box (full share) costs $1449; Family harvest box (half share) costs $869; Essential harvest box (personal share) costs $729.
Dreyer Farms, Cranford
What to Expect: Each harvest share comes with a variety of fresh and local produce grown at Dreyer Farms and other partner farms across New Jersey, as well as recipe suggestions.
Duration of Time: May-November (27 weeks)
Pickup: Tuesdays and Fridays at Dreyer Farms (831 Springfield Avenue, Cranford).
Cost: Small shares (2-4 people) cost $621, medium shares (4-5 people) cost $810 and large shares cost $1,215.
Genesis Farm, Blairstown
What to Expect: The community supported garden at Genesis Farm began in 1988, and today is one of the oldest CSAs in the country. Share size averages from 17 to 20 pounds, which is enough to feed a family of four. In addition to seasonal produce, shares usually include fresh herbs, flowers and extra pick-your-own seasonal bounties.
Duration of Time: Full year (May 2017-April 2018); Half year (May-November)
Pickup: Pick-up days are on Tuesdays and Fridays at the farm (41B Silver Lake Road, Blairstown). Self-organized satellite pickup groups exist in Caldwell/Verona/Montclair, Cresskill/Teaneck, Glen Rock, Madison, Maplewood/South Orange, Morristown and Scotch Plains.
Cost: Full year shares cost $980 for biweekly and $1884 for weekly; half year shares cost $698 for biweekly, $1301 for weekly; and $460 for a smaller bi-weekly personal share.
Let it Grow Farm, Chester
What to Expect: You’ll get produce grown with no synthetic chemicals—an average of 7-10 different items every week. Lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach or lettuce heads, as well as root vegetables and herbs are included in every share. You can also join the yearlong “Jar of the Month Club”, in which you’ll receive different jams, salsas, hot sauces, marinara, pestos and more.
Duration of Time: 18 weeks
Pickup: Tuesdays at the Turkey Farm Restaurant (2 West Main Street, Chester).
Cost: Full shares costs $750; half shares cost $500; one-year membership to Jar of the Month club costs $182.
Poplar Wood Farm, Port Murray
What to Expect: Organic produce grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides or GMO seed include: arugula, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, kale, lettuce, onions, peppers (hot & sweet), potatoes, radishes, scallions, sugar snap peas, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (red, heirloom and cherry), watermelon, winter squash, zucchini, and a variety of fresh herbs including basil, dill, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and chives.
Duration of Time: June-November (24 weeks)
Pickup: Poplar Wood Farm in Port Murray on Wednesdays, Garden Street Farmers’ Market in Hoboken on Saturdays, Hamilton Park Farmers’ Market in Jersey City on Wednesdays, or Historic Downtown Jersey City Farmers’ Market on Thursdays. Home delivery is available in Hoboken.
Cost: Personal shares costs $515, regular shares cost $605 and large shares cost $1,050. Egg shares are available for $155.
Stony Hill Farms, Chester
What to Expect: Boxes full of fresh-picked, assorted local produce that comes in various sizes. Depending on what is in season, members can expect to receive lettuce, carrots, peaches, kale, broccoli, radishes, leeks, summer squash, cucumbers, beets, celery, strawberries, blueberries, herbs, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, garlic, apples, scallions, peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, etc. Eggs are also available for an additional cost.
Duration of Time: June-November (19-24 weeks)
Pickup: Stony Hill Farm Market in Chester, South Orange Farmers’ Market, Riverdale Farmers’ Market, Paulus Hook Farmers’ Market and Riverview Farmers’ Market in Jersey City, or home delivery options available in Hoboken, Jersey City, Weehawken.
Cost: Depending on pick-up location, personal shares (1 person) cost between $400-480 for the entire season, half shares (2-3 people) cost between $500-600; full shares (4-6 people) cost between $760-912.
Mendies Farm, Roosevelt
What to Expect: CSA members get weekly boxes of a variety of produce and enjoy “U-Pick privileges”: Mendies Farm lays out baskets of the week’s vegetables. You are admitted to the area where vegetables are laid out, where you load your baskets or bags, subject to some limitations on quantity. (The Mendies Farm also offers a bi-weekly winter CSA.)
Pickup: Mendies Farm (65 N Rochdale Avenue, Roosevelt) on Fridays.
Cost: Full shares cost $600; individual shares cost $325.
Hand Picked Farm, Flemington
What to Expect: Started in 2013, Hand Picked Farm is dedicated to sustainability and responsible agriculture.
Duration of Time: May 18-November 25 (28 weeks)
Pickup: Thursdays and Saturdays in the red barn at the farm (9 Stacey Road, Flemington).
Cost: Full season share costs $700; choice share (pickup 22 of the 28 weeks) costs $400; half share (biweekly pickup) costs $375; quarter share (pickup 7 of the 28 weeks) costs $200.
Honey Brook Organic Farm, Pennington and Chesterfield
What to Expect: Members receive a variety of seasonal, fresh vegetables, small fruits, herbs and flowers once a week during the harvest season. Produce is grown on certified organic fields in Pennington and Chesterfield.
Duration of Time: June-November
Pickup: Various days and times at Pennington Farm (260 Wargo Road, Pennington) and Chesterfield Farm (258 Crosswicks – Ellisdale Road, Chesterfield).
Cost: For Chesterfield: family shares cost $799 and individual shares cost $427. For Pennington: family shares cost $855 and individual shares cost $459.
Dogwood Farms, Hillsborough
What to Expect: Veggie and meat shares are available. Fruits and vegetable shares include organic produce such as radishes, beets, spinach, lettuce, sugar snap peas, broccoli, scallions, garlic scapes, eggplants, onions, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, herbs and more. Meat shares include organic chicken and beef, as well as pasture-raised pork ad lamb,
Duration of Time: June-October (20 weeks)
Pickup: Dogwood Farms’ store Wednesday through Sunday (406 New Center Road, Hillsborough).
Cost: Veggie shares cost $495; regular meat shares cost $250 and double-sized meat shares cost $495.
A.T. Buzby Farms, Woodstown
What to Expect: You will get an assortment of fresh produce each week; some is grown organically and some is not. When you arrive at the farm, you will find the produce in bulk containers with a tag on each item indicating how much you get that week. Recipes will be provided through the farm blog.
Duration of Time: May-September (20 weeks)
Pickup: Monday, Tuesday and Friday afternoons at the farm ( 21 Black Road, Woodstown). Other locations include Mullica Hill Chiropractic on Tuesdays, as well as at the Collingswood Market on Saturdays and Sweet Freedom Bakery in Collingswood on Tuesdays.
Cost: Full shares cost $495 and half shares cost $275.
B&B Farms, Egg Harbor City
What to Expect: You’ll receive bountiful shares full of sustainable produce each week. Pick-your-own quantities are included in the cost of a share, and include peas, green beans, cherry tomatoes, flowers and herbs (when available).
Duration of Time: Mid June to late October (20 weeks)
Pickup: Weekly pickups on Wednesday and Saturday at B&B Farms, (250 S. Mannheim Avenue, Egg Harbor City).
Cost: The Harvester share (3-4 people) costs $580; The Basic share (1-2 people) costs $480. Pick-your-own included in the cost of a share.
Fernbrook Farm, Bordentown
What to Expect: A selection of produce that includes the old standbys like carrots, lettuce, melons, tomatoes and broccoli as well as some lesser-known foods like collard greens, buttercup squash, tatsoi and rutabaga.
Duration of Time: June-November (26 weeks)
Pickup: Fernbrook Farm (142 Bordentown-Georgetown Road, Bordentown) on Tuesdays 10am-7pm; Thursdays 2-7pm; Saturdays 8am-1:30pm
Cost: $650 for the season.
Summer Wind Farms, Newfield
What to Expect: Summer Wind Farms is a certified organic grower. For customers who want to pick up at the farm, Summer Wind Farms runs a “market style” CSA, in that each week’s harvest is laid out on display and members come to the farm on a particular day of the week and choose the produce they want within certain limits based on yields and the size of the share the member has purchased. At “off farm” pickup locations, the farm pre-fills a box with selected produce.
Duration of Time: 22 weeks, starting late May/early June and lasting into October
Pickup: Wednesdays a Summer Wind Farms (1745 Piney Hollow Road, Newfield). Off farm pickup locations are also available in Medford, Hammonton, Haddon Heights, Marlton, Vineland and Woodbury.
Cost: Half shares cost between $395-435; full shares cost $725-$765; summer fruit shares cost $295.