Nothing says summertime like freshly-picked fruits and vegetables. We all know that tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and all manner of other produce tastes best when they are in season and picked as close as possible to when they are eaten. In fact I think the tastiest tomato is one that I pick out of the garden right before dinner for my evening salad! But what about if you don’t have time, or space, or interest in gardening? How then can you easily enjoy that fresh “farm to table” taste?
Enter the farm share! Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a system of food distribution that is based on relationships between local farmers and consumers (source). The basic idea of most CSA farms is that you, as a consumer, buy a “share” in the farm at the beginning of the season, and in exchange you receive a delivery each week of fresh, local, in-season vegetables, herbs, fruits, or other products. Many farms operate using organic and sustainable agricultural practices and welcome visitors who are interested in learning more about where their food comes from. When you participate in a CSA, you are supporting local agriculture and the local economy. It can also be a great way to be introduced to new produce items you wouldn’t normally buy, and most CSA’s support their members with recipes and newsletters to help you use all your great food!
There are many factors to consider when choosing a CSA to join. Price and pick-up times and locations are important considerations, as well as potential add-on options. The amount of food included in each delivery is another important thing to think about, as you don’t want to receive more than your family can eat or store at a given time. Some farms will offer a “half” or “small” share for couples or smaller families, or several families may chose to split a full share. Last summer my family purchased a “small” share and had plenty of food for the three of us, and what we couldn’t use in a timely manner, we froze or shared with family and friends. Other considerations may include additional member benefits, the growing philosophy of the farmers, and whether members are allowed to visit and tour the farm. We are fortunate in the Iowa City area to have a number of active farms offering CSA shares to chose from. Below are some of them, but certainly not all. Feel free to give a shout out to your favorite farms in the comments section!
Bass Family Farms
Bass Family Farms is located outside of Mount Vernon and serves Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and the surrounding areas. They have been in business for over 25 years and grow their produce without using pesticides or herbicides. Membership includes many additional perks such as ten pounds of canning tomatoes and pumpkins at the end of the season. Along with their CSA, they provide educational agricultural tours, operate a specialty food store, and operate a pumpkin patch and apple orchard. They have several pick-up locations to chose from in Mount Vernon, Fairfax, and Cedar Rapids, including at Rockwell Recreation Center.
Summer share cost: $425 (half share) $675 (full share)
Season length: 16-18 weeks, approximately May-September (corporate shares, herbs, and eggs also available)
To sign up: http://bassfarms.org/csa/
Bountiful Harvest Farm
Bountiful Harvest is located outside Solon and operates using organic practices. They offer summer and fall CSA shares, as well as having various add-on options available for members. This summer they will also be partnering with Wilson’s Orchard to include various fruit items within their CSA shares! Pick-up locations are available at Wilson’s Orchard, at the Iowa City Farmers’ Market, and in North Liberty.
Summer share cost: $475
Season length: 17 weeks, June-September (egg, bread, and poultry shares available, as well as pre-paid punch cards for use at area farmers markets)
For more information: Facebook
To sign up: Printable flyer to mail in with payment
Echollective Farm is a 14 acre farm located near Iowa City. In addition to their vegetable, herb, and flower crop they care for 35 forested acres. The farm has been operating for over 10 years and uses organic, sustainable practices. Pick-up locations are at the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids Farmers’ Markets, as well as other locations based on the needs and preferences of participants.
Summer share cost: $630 (family share) or $395 (couple’s share)
Season length: 20 weeks, May-September (spring, fall, and winter shares also available)
To sign up: Printable Brochure to mail in with payment
Grinnell Heritage Farm
Grinnell Heritage farm is an 80 acre vegetable farm located near Grinnell, Iowa. The farm has been in the same family for 153 years and grows a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. They sell their produce at several area farmers’ markets, as well as delivering CSA shares to 12 drop-off locations in Altoona, Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Des Moines, Grinnell, Iowa City, Kalona, Norway, & West Des Moines.
Summer share cost: $595
Season length: 20 weeks, June-October (spring, winter, and fall shares also available)
Kroul Farms is located between Solon and Mt. Vernon, on Hwy 1. Kroul Farms uses crop rotation, advanced mulching techniques, and homegrown compost to avoid the use of chemicals. They encourage shareholders to visit the farm during business hours to see exactly where their food comes from and how it’s grown! They offer pick-up at the farm, the Mt. Vernon Farmer’s Market, or at Performance Health and Fitness in Coralville!
Summer share cost: $525
Season length: 17 weeks, beginning in June
To sign up: http://kroulfarms.com/csa.html
Local Harvest CSA/ Solon Sundog Farm
Local Harvest CSA is a collaboration of several small farmers in Iowa, and Solon Sundog Farm is their primary vegetable grower. The farm is located between Solon and Mount Vernon and has been in operation for over 20 years. The farm welcomes volunteers and offers work-sharing arrangements to those who are interested in participating in the agricultural process. Pick-up locations are available in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, North Liberty, and Solon.
Summer share cost: $450
Season length: 16 weeks, May-September (spring and fall/winter shares also available, as well as bread and egg shares)
To sign up: http://solonsundogfarm.com/sign-up/
Oak Hill Acres
Oak Hill Acres is a certified organic farm located in Atalissa. It is a family operation and has been in business for over 20 years. In addition to their CSA offerings, they sell their produce, cut flowers, herbs, eggs, honey, and vegetable plants at local markets and the New Pioneer Co-op. They have pick-up locations in Iowa City, Muscatine, West Liberty, and Davenport, and may have others available depending on the locations of members.
Summer share cost: $600 (full share) or $330 (half share)
Season length: 22 weeks, May-October (pre-paid punch cards also available, for use at area farmers’ markets where they offer their good for sale, $225 for $250 worth of punches, or $400 for $450 worth of punches)
To sign up: Printable contract to mail in with payment Contract
TD n’ Guy Summer CSA
TD n’ Guy Farm was founded in 2013 by two U of I graduates and friends who desired to offer a source of local, sustainably raised food. They operate free of harmful pesticides and herbicides and grow their poultry and eggs in a cruelty-free manner. They offer both weekly and bi-weekly pick-up options and have pick-up locations in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Center Point, Coggon, Independence, and Manchester.
Summer share cost: $475 (weekly share) or $300 (bi-weekly share)
Season length: 16 weeks, June-September (fall and winter shares and egg and poultry add on shares available)
Wild Woods Farm
Wild Woods Farm is located 2 miles north of Iowa City, and serves Iowa City and Solon. Share holders can chose from one of 6 pick-up locations in Iowa City, Solon, and out at the farm. The farm has been operating since 2010 and also provides a weekly newsletter to shareholders with recipes and ideas of how to use the week’s bounty. The owner welcomes people to visit the farm to learn about food production and even work a little in the dirt, if you desire!
Summer share cost: $450
Season length: 17 weeks, June-September (fall shares also available)
To sign up: http://wildwoodscsa.com/sign-up/
Local Foods Connection
Local Foods Connection is not its own CSA, but rather a group of community activists who are passionate about providing low income individuals and families access to fresh, healthy, local food. They partner with area agencies serving low income families and individuals to identify people who would benefit from access to local food. Once people are referred to Local Foods connection, they may be provided with credits to farmers markets or enrolled in a CSA. They also provide education and outreach activities. Local Foods Connection in funded primarily through donations and also has volunteer opportunities available.