Nothing says summertime like freshly-picked fruits and vegetables. We all know that tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and all manner of other produce taste 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. 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.
The first year that we participated in a CSA, my family purchased a “small” share. We had plenty of food, and what we couldn’t use in a timely manner we froze or shared with family and friends. Last year we split a full share with another family. 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 choose 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!
Bountiful Harvest Farm
Bountiful Harvest is located outside Solon and operates using organic practices. They offer spring, summer ,and fall CSA shares, as well as having various add-on options available for members. Along with fresh and yummy veggies, Bountiful Harvest Farm also partners with area orchards and fruit growers to offer items such as blueberries, cherries, peaches, and apples during the season. Pick-up locations are available at Wilson’s Orchard, at the Iowa City Farmers’ Market, and in North Liberty.
Summer share cost: $495
Season length: 17 weeks, June-September (Egg, bread, milk, cheese, and poultry shares available, as well as pre-paid punch cards for use at area farmers markets.)
To sign up: Fill out an online form here and then mail check for payment to 3788 Oak Ln NE North Liberty, IA 52317.
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 Farmers’ Market and NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.
Summer share cost: Large bounty $695 , Small bounty $395
Season length: 20 weeks, May-September (spring, fall, and winter shares also available)
To sign up: Google Form to sign up, then mail payment in full or in 2 installments to 879 Echo Ave. Mechanicsville, IA 52306.
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 multiple drop-off locations around the state, including Altoona, Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Des Moines, Grinnell, Iowa City, Kalona, & West Des Moines.
Summer share cost: $595 ($950 for an “I Love Veggies” Share, which runs from May all the way to December!)
Season length: 20 weeks, June-October (Spring, winter, and fall shares also available.)
To sign up: Choose your share option, sign-up, and pay here.
Kroul Farms is located on Hwy 1 between Solon and Mt. Vernon. 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, at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City, at Dan and Debbie’s Creamery in Ely, or at Performance Health and Fitness in Coralville!
Summer share cost: $525
Season length: 17 weeks, beginning in June
To sign up: Fill out a sign-up form here and complete payment using PayPal.
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 at the farm, and at locations in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, North Liberty, Ely, 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: Fill out an online form here and then mail payment to the farm, or download a form here to fill out and mail to the farm at 5025 120th St Solon IA 52333. A deposit of at least $50 is required to hold your spot; however, full payment is appreciated and helps to purchase equipment and seeds at the beginning of the season.
Garden Oasis Farm, LLC
Garden Oasis Farm was started 2013. They now have 10 acres of vegetables, eggs, and pasture raised broilers. They operate free of pesticides and herbicides utilize sustainable practices in their farming. Both weekly and bi-weekly pick-up options are available, and they have pick-up locations in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Center Point, Coggon, Independence, and at the farm. They are also beginning a “Farmers Market Style” CSA, which will allow members to have more flexibility to customize their offerings.
Summer share cost: $490 (weekly share) or $310 (bi-weekly share)
Season length: 16 weeks, June-September (Fall and winter shares and egg and poultry add-on shares are available.)
For more information: Website | Facebook Newsletter for information on the “Farmers Market Style CSA”
To sign up: Fill out a form here. The farm will send you an email with further information and to finalize payment.
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 pick-up locations in Coralville, Iowa City, Solon, and out at the farm. Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, Pearson, and ACT also are hosting pick-up locations for their employees. 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: Fill out the sign up form here and then mail payment to 3167 Rapid Creek Trail, Iowa City, Iowa 52240.
We are so lucky to have so many options in our area! Along with these wonderful options, many area farms that may not offer a CSA do sell their produce at area markets and through stores at their own farms. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach maintains a directory of local food programs. You can visit it here for more information!
Supporting these local growers is a way that we can all improve our environment and our own local economy while eating tasty food at the same time. Happy eating everyone!
Did we miss a farm, either your own or your favorite grower? Share the information in the comments!