There are plenty ways to include local produce and protein in your diet. Taking advantage of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is arguably the easiest method. CSA allows consumers like us to pay farmers in their off seasons, thereby helping the farms stay afloat during leaner times, with the promise that when goodies are ready for harvesting, we get a bit. Common Ground Food Co-op, The Land Connection, and Urbana’s Market at the Square worked together to present this year’s CSA Fair. The fair brought together most of our local CSA producers, with options for fruits and veggies, meats, cheeses, ready-made meals, and flowers.
The CSA functions like this: You pay a set amount of money up front, before the season starts, and then over the course of the growing season (generally mid-May through October) you receive a set amount of product weekly or monthly. Most of the CSAs offer small and large options. Generally the smaller options feed 1-2 people, where the larger ones feed 3-4. Obviously, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian a smaller share isn’t going to be enough for one. You’ll have to consider your actual (and perhaps ideal) weekly produce consumption when signing up. And it’s important to remember, too, that “pieces” can refer to weight of produce, i.e., a half-pound of salad mix, or a pound of potatoes. If you’re not quite sure, reach out to the producer you’re interested in supporting; they are all happy to answer your questions. Of course, if you’re not actually around for most of the summer, you may not want to participate in CSA. If you’re on vacation for a week or two? No biggie — have a friend take your share for that week, or see about donating it to the Eastern Illinois Food Bank.
In addition to the amount of stuff you want, other factors to consider are price and pick up time/location. For the most part, you’ll get about the same types of options across categories. Finally, do remember that all of these things are dependent upon the weather, and a freak lighting storm could kill a bunch of animals, or a tornado could wipe out the squash patch. That is to say: Nothing is guaranteed, but all of these producers will do their damnedest to get you your shares.*
Blue Moon is an incredibly popular vendor at Urbana’s Market at the Square, and for good reason — the produce is organic and delicious. Blue Moon has been participating in the CU Farmers program for a couple of years, which allows you to pick and choose items you want, and pay per order. CU Farmers is a great option if you’re picky or not in town for most of the summer, or if you want to supplement your CSA. The CSA provides a pre-boxed share of veggies in a small or large size.
- Season: 26 weeks; May 30-November 21
- Small Share: 4-6 pieces; $315 check; $325 credit | $12.12-$12.50/week
- Large Share: 6-8 pieces; $470 check; $485 credit | $18.08-$18.65/week
- Can pay $100 deposit now and remainder upon first pick up
- Pick up: Wednesdays between 5 and 6 p.m., locations in Champaign and Urbana TBD.
Sign up here.
Bob Brackett has been offering his organic CSA for a long time, and he’s got a good system. Instead of picking up a box, you show up during the pick up time and you can bag/box your own stuff. He’ll often offer options — say, kale or pak choy — so you can choose what you prefer. What’s most appealing to me about the Brackett Farm CSA is the inclusion of fruit. Shopping for local fruit at the farmers’ markets can be tiresome — if you don’t arrive early enough, it’s often sold out. With the Brackett CSA, there’s a fruit included almost every week, and they are really tasty (and unique: gooseberries and currants, among others). I’ve signed up for Brackett’s CSA in the past, and was very pleased with the quality, quantity, and variety of selections.
- Season: 23 weeks; May 29-November 6
- Share: 5-12 pieces; $500 | $21.70/week (can pay in installments)
- Pick up: Tuesdays between 4 and 7 p.m., 611 W Union St, Champaign
Sign up information is here.
Sola Gratia was started by St. Matthew Lutheran Church and Faith in Place, and donates at least ten percent of its produce to Eastern Illinois Food Bank. This farm has their organic CSA program down to a science. There are partial and full shares, as well as add-ons like bread (Rick’s bakery, $80), fruit (15 weeks only, $100), and delivery ($100). You can also coordinate your Bane Family Meat CSA pick up to grab all your stuff in one stop. You can add on a late fall share (month of November, $80).
- Season: 20 weeks, June to November
- Partial Share: feeds 1-2; $315 | $15.75/week
- Full Share: feeds 3-4, $550 | $27.50/week
- Pick up: at farm (2200 S Philo Rd, Urbana), and Champaign’s Tuesday Farmers’ Market
- Delivery: $100
Sign up information is here.
MEAT + CHEESE
Bane Family Meats CSA is a monthly CSA offered year-round — you can sign up for 6 or 12 months. There are options at 5, 10, and 20 pounds per month. All of the meat is pasture-raised, and free of antibiotics, pesticides, and GMOs. For this sort of CSA you need to be committed to eating a variety of meat: shares include chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. You can also purchase meat from CU Farmers, or arrange for your monthly meat pick up to be at Sola Gratia.
- Season: 6- or 12-month shares, monthly
- 5 lbs share: 6 months $252 ($5.25/lb) | 12 months $504 ($5.25/lb)
- 10 lbs share: 6 months $454 ($7.57/lb) | 12 months $875 ($7.29/lb)
- 20 lbs share: 6 months $845 ($7.04/lb) | 12 months $1575 ($6.56/lb)
- Pick up: At farm, or delivery in C-U
More info is available here.
What more can be said about PFF? If you don’t already know, the cheese is amazing, and the gelato is to die for. The CSA is for cheese and/or gelato; there are options depending on how many pieces of cheese or pints of gelato you want. The season is 13 weeks, and pick up is every other week.
- Season: 13 weeks, every other week, mid-May through October
- Cheese: $8 per piece: $104/1; $208/2; $312/3; $416/4
- Gelato: $10 per pint: $130/1; $260/2
- Pick Up: At the farm (4410 N Lincoln Ave, Champaign) or Urbana’s Market at the Square on Saturday mornings
Sitka Salmon is obviously not a local producer, but it’s a company that has been embraced by the local C-U community. You can find Sitka at the farmers’ markets, but in joining their CSF (Community Supported Fishery) wild-caught Alskan fishes can be delivered to your house once a month. Enrollment is on 3-, 7-, or 9-month intervals; current enrollments are for April starts. Pricing depends on the species (salmon varieties, crab, cod, yelloweye, halibut, albacore, etc.) and quantity.
For more information, and to sign up, visit their website.
Triple S Farms might be one of the better known meat producers in the area; you can find their goods at Common Ground Food Co-op and Harvest Market. They don’t offer a traditional CSA, but instead you can join their Buyer’s Club, which gets you 15% off your purchase. To sign up for the Buyer’s Club, email email@example.com.
Additional information is available on their website.
The Organic Food Nanny program features heat and serve meals delivered to your home weekly. The ingredients are locally sourced and, as the name suggests, organic. For $30 plus tax per week, you’ll receive a lunch and a dinner; if you did this monthly you’d get four lunches and four dinners for $120 plus tax.
For more information, or to sign up, visit the Piato website.
This is a Food & Drink article, but it is worth noting that you can also join a non-edible flower CSA from Delight Flower Farm or Illinois Willows. Both offer really beautiful flowers that are sure to brighten your life. Visit their respective websites for information on signing up (linked above).
* Note: This information is accurate to our knowledge, but specifics for any of these programs could change. Be sure to check with each producer before signing up, or with any questions or concerns.
Sitka Salmon photo by Bobbie Bonebrake. All other photos by Jessica Hammie