Have you considered participating in a CSA before? Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the easiest way to support your local farmers and eat local produce (or protein). CSA allows you to pay farmers in their off seasons, helping the farms stay afloat during leaner times, in exchange for several weeks of whatever they’re harvesting. Last Saturday, The Land Connection teamed up with Urbana’s Market in the Square to present this year’s CSA Fair — it was an easy way to meet local farmers and learn more about C-U’s CSA options.
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 late May through October) you receive a set amount of product weekly. Many of the CSAs discussed below offer small and large options. Generally the smaller options feed 1-2 people, where the larger ones feed 3-4. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian a smaller share likely won't be enough for a week's worth of food; 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. Worried about missing a week or two while away on vacation? No biggie — have a friend take your share for that week, or contact your farmer to make other arrangements.
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 produce options across categories. All of this is dependent upon the weather, of course, and sometimes crops fail. That is to say: Nothing is guaranteed, but all of these producers will do their best 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. You may have also seen or had Blue Moon produce at some local restaurants. Blue Moon also offers shares for pick up twice a month. This CSA also offers a bunch of add-ons (for additional cost) including extra veggies, flowers from Delight Flower Farm, cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm, meat and eggs from Bane Family Meats, and mushrooms from Flyway Farm.
- Season: 24 weeks; May 29-November 6
- Small Share: 4-6 pieces; $350| $14.50/week
- Large Share: 6-8 pieces; $480 | $20/week
- Pick up: Wednesdays between 5 and 6 p.m. at the Faith United Methodist Church on Prospect Avenue, Champaign and Lincoln Square Mall parking lot, Urbana.
Sign up here.
Bob Brackett’s CSA offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetable. His pick up system is unique: instead of picking up a box, you show up during the allotted 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. 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: 24 weeks; May 28-November 5
- Share: 5-12 pieces; $500 | $21.70/week
- Pick up: Tuesdays between 4 and 7 p.m., 611 W Union St, Champaign
Sign up information is here.
This is the first year for Hendrick House’s CSA. Though open to everyone, this CSA is targeting folks at Parkland and at Carle at the Fields — pick ups are available at those locations. It’s the perfect option if you work at or live near either of those locations. With your share you’ll include a recipe card for two of the veggies and an herb in the box.
- Season: 20 weeks, June to October
- Half Share: feeds 4; $300 | $15/week – pick up every other week
- Full Share: feeds 4; $500 | $25/week
- Small Half Share: feeds 2; $150 | $7.50/week – pick up every other week
- Small Full Share: feeds 2; $300 | $15/week
- Pick up: Day TBD; Betsy’s Bistro at Carle at the Fields; Betsy’s Bistro at Parkland; Hendrick House Farm (3004 N Rising Rd, Champaign); Hendrick House (904 W Green St, Urbana)
Sign up here.
Jubilee Farms is a new area CSA. The farm is located a few miles south of Clinton, and inspired by the biblical reference to the “year of the jubilee” — the farm is a church associated with the United Church of Christ, “an open and affirming congregation.” Last year they donated a third of what they grew. All produce is organic, and shares will likely include a little bit of fruit (peaches and strawberries). Also included in this share is a dozen eggs (one dozen per week with a full share, one dozen every other week with the half share), which is pretty awesome.
- Season: 16 weeks, June to September
- Half Share: feeds 1-2; $200 | $12.50/week
- Full Share: feeds 3-4; $400 | $25/week
- Pick up: Sunday mornings, Champaign, location TBD or Saturday afternoons on the farm
Red Crib Acres
Red Crib Acres is an apple orchard, and the CSA is for apples. There isn’t any fruit-exclusive CSA, so this one is a nice addition. A full share will get you 20.5 pecks of apples over 10 weeks, and a half share will get you 10.5 pecks of apples over 10 weeks. The CSA is based on a points system, so if you don’t want as many apples (or the available varieties), you can use them later in the season.
- More info is available here, or email John Williams at email@example.com.
- Season: 10 weeks, late August/early September through October
- Half Share: $125
- Full share: $200
- Pick up: Thursdays, 4 to 6 p.m. at Sola Gratia Farm, Urbana
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 year the farm will be growing 125 different varieties of over 50 different crops. There are partial and full shares, as well as add-ons like bread (Rick’s Bakery, $100), Flyway Farms mushrooms ($100, twice a month), and Delight Flower Farm flowers ($200/$300). You can also coordinate your Bane Family Meat CSA pick up to grab all your stuff in one stop.
- Season: 20 weeks, June to October
- Partial Share: feeds 1-2; $315 | $15.75/week
- Full Share: feeds 3-4, $550 | $27.50/week
- Pick up: The Land Connection Tuesday Farmers’ Market, 3 to 6 p.m.; Thursdays at farm (2200 S Philo Rd, Urbana), 4 to 6 p.m.
- Delivery: $125
Sign up information is here.
Bane Family Meats
Bane Family Meats offers a year-round monthly CSA — 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, lamb, and turkey. They will deliver to you, or you can 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: Delivery in C-U or pick up Thursdays at Sola Gratia farm
More info is available here.
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 Alaskan fishes can be delivered to your house once a month. Enrollment is on 3-, 7-, or 9-month intervals; enroll now for May deliveries.
For more information, and to sign up, visit their website.
Triple S Farms
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. They don’t offer a traditional CSA, but instead you can join their Buyer’s Club, which will allow you to buy items at a discount. Order pick up is monthly.
Request more info here.
Piato’s Organic Food Nanny
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. You pay as you go for this service (on a weekly basis). Think of it as an easier, locally sourced and made meal delivery service.
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 flower CSA:
Photos by Jessica Hammie