Tuesdays are my CSA day! We’ve had the One Straw Farm CSA for three seasons, and have always been happy to sign up each season. When we first moved to Baltimore, we moved away from our neighbor’s overflowing gardens, and so decided to look into a CSA. After some initial research, we realized that most CSAs were already full for the season (we were looking in early May) and many would require us to drive out to a farm or Northern Baltimore pickup location. While that trip didn’t sound bad in theory, it would have been difficult to leave our downtown home for the surrounding neighborhoods or counties each week, especially in the afternoon as traffic began to build.
Enter One Straw Farm, the perfect solution for our inner city produce dreams. One Straw Farm is a larger, family owned organic farm in Baltimore County, and they have CSA pick up sites all over the city. At farmers’ markets they attend, including the Tuesday Kenilworth Market, Thursday-Sunday Mill Valley General Store, Saturday 32nd Street Market, and Saturday Fells Point Market (all in Baltimore), you can even pick out which produce items you’d like to take home from their market stand.
We’ve chosen a pick-up restaurant site that is a half-block away from our house! While we give up some of the choice of picking up at market or romance of visiting a farm, we get eight organic vegetable items, once a week, delivered 30 seconds from our door. Besides, we love getting creative with veggies, so we’d prefer whatever is in season and we’ll get cooking!
I mention all of this because a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture share, is an essential component of supporting a strong local agriculture economy and buying local. Typically, a customer pays a farm in late winter for a set amount of produce per week. As a customer, you can plan on receiving the season’s best veggies and fruits from a farm you love while giving a farmer up front funds they need to jump start a successful season. Everybody wins.
Most CSAs are open for sign ups in Winter and may fill up by Spring. Often CSAs distribute produce in the main growing season – mid Spring through mid Fall. There are a few creative “shares” around that offer local and produce deliveries year round, but many small farmers stick to about 24 weeks when the sun is high and the weather is warm.
This week, in our CSA, we received carrots, corn, Swiss chard, kale, chioggia beets, jalapenos, eggplant, fresh red onions, and zucchini. Couple that with some of our garden herbs, and we’ll eat like kings for the week! I’m already dreaming up what we can do with our veggies…ratatouille, pickled jalapenos, carrot cake, caramelized onion and greens tart, and a kale and roasted beet salad are but some of the possibilities!
If you don’t have a CSA, consider it now! Many farmers also offer half shares if you think 7-8 items, a fairly standard full share, will be too much for you to eat each week. Ask your favorite farmers if they offer CSAs–most do! Find out what the details are, what crops are typically in a CSA, and when you can expect to sign up. They would love for you to support them each week, and then you can rest assured you’re buying local all summer without even trying.
In the meantime, there are a few cool options for ordering local produce year round. Chesapeake Farm to Table (CF2T) is a farmer managed cooperative of sustainable farms near Baltimore–set up a free account and you can browse what vegetables, cheese, meats, eggs, and fruits are available from the cooperative’s farmers each week, year-round! No long term commitment is required. Place your order by Wednesday night, and your order will be available for pickup or delivery (these are priced differently) at several locations! The CF2T farmers have tons of experience selling as a cooperative to restaurants in the Baltimore area, and a lot of our wedding reception produce was sourced from the cooperative’s farms. It’s really delicious fruit and veg!
Mill Valley General Store, open Thursday-Sunday, is a market that sources much of its produce and other products locally year-round. Likewise, MOM’s Organic Market makes an effort to source produce and prepared foods locally when possible for their supply chain, and does you a solid by labeling local foods. Hungry Harvest, a food recovery/produce delivery service, also incorporates local produce when possible into its food recovery to consumer model (read more about these guys – they do great work!)
While there are many CSAs in the counties around Baltimore and beyond, here’s a list of other CSAs from farms in Baltimore or with pickups in Baltimore – this is not exhaustive, but I’ve had produce from all of these awesome farms and I’ve heard through the grapevine that they do a great job with their seasonal shares.
- Real Food Farm is a “large” farm by urban standards in Clifton Park and offers a seasonal CSA, including fruits.
- Whitelock Community Farm in Reservoir Hill grows very cool varieties and herbs, and has monthly potlucks, volunteer days, and a weekend farm stand.
- Moon Valley Farm in Cockeysville, MD has several Baltimore pick up sites, including some at awesome artisanal markets, and offers a variety of share options including an “Ugly Share” of b-produce on the cheap!
- Boone Street Farm in Barclay offers a yearly CSA and delivery to their surrounding neighborhood.
- Hidden Harvest in Mount Vernon offers a yearly CSA with options to purchase eggs.
- Butterbee Farm in Pikesville offers a flower bouquet CSA – how cool!
You can find produce from these farms and other Baltimore Urban farms using the Baltimore Urban Farm Map, produced by the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Liveable Future. This map also notes where you can buy their produce, whether at a market, farm stand, or a restaurant that sources locally!