How are you getting your greens this summer? If the answer is the frozen food aisle of C-Town, consider signing up with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group instead.
The produce-buying collectives, which offer a weekly delivery of farm-fresh produce at prices less than you’d pay at a grocery store or green market, are a booming business. There are 20 new CSAs in the city this year, seven of them in Brooklyn alone. Groups in Fort Greene, Bay Ridge, and East Williamsburg have been booked solid for months (next year, sign up in February), but we found seven CSAs around Brooklyn that are still taking new members.
They work like this: you pay up front for the season (roughly from May to November) to receive a box each week of locally grown vegetables—or in some cases, wine, eggs or fruit—that you have to pick up at a pre-arranged distribution spot.
For open CSAs, full-share price averages $500 for 22 weeks of produce. Half shares, averaging between $200 and $300, typically offer a pickup every two weeks, though the Crown Heights CSA simply shrinks the weekly portions for half-shares.
What’s in the box? Whatever the farmer just picked.
A sample June haul from Sang Lee Farms, supplier for the DUMBO/Vinegar Hill CSA and Crown Heights CSA includes: Red Boston lettuce, pea shoots, Bunched Red kale, Arrow head cabbage, 1 bunch mixed carrots, 1 bunch u-choy (like bok choy but different), Romanesco cauliflower, spaghetti squash, 2 lbs Kueka gold potatoes, and Bunched broccoli.
“You have to be adventurous in what you’ll eat; there may be things in your box that you haven’t eaten before and might never buy,” says Paula Lukats, a program manager for Just Food, New York’s umbrella group for all things CSA.
Members say the weekly pickup at a set time and location can be taxing, especially compared to the convenience of swinging by the market on the way home from work. Plus there are volunteer requirements with most CSAs, and even loyalists admit that grappling with a big box of vegetables each week, no matter how fresh, can feel like homework at times.
“You’re going to invest time washing, storing, cooking and freezing to make sure you don’t waste anything,” says Liz Pilecki-Doninger, a member of the Sunset Park CSA. “I had a half share, where I was picking up a delivery every other week, and it was still a lot of food for a family of three.”
But Pilecki-Doninger says the quality of the food “is so much better than what you buy at the grocery store” that it’s worth the extra effort. “Living in New York City, most people don’t get a chance to taste food that was in the ground a day or two beforehand.”
Interested? The following CSAs in Brooklyn are still open to new members:
Crown Heights CSA
2009 Season: June-November: 23 weeks
Full share: $565 ($24.50/week)
Partial share: $350 ($15/week)
Requirements: 2 distribution shifts (4 hours) during the season
Pick up location: Franklin Park Bar at 618 St. John’s Place
Brooklyn Beet CSA (Downtown Brooklyn)
2009 Season: June 30-November 10: 23 weeks
Full share: $470 ($20.50/week)
Half share: $235 ($20.50/every other week)
Requirements: 4 volunteer hours over the season
Pick-up location: YWCA of Brooklyn at 30 Third Avenue between State Street & Atlantic Avenue
East New York Farms! CSA
2009 Season: June-November: 23 weeks
Full share: $350 ($15.22/week)
($224/season, low income)
Half share: $185 ($8.04/week)
($122/season low income)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 718-649-7979 ext. 16
Flatbush Farm Share
2009 Season: June 17–October 28: 20 weeks
*Only fruit shares still available for 2009
Full share: $160 ($8/week)
Half share: $100 ($5/week).
Pick up location: Flatbush Reformed Church, 890 Flatbush Ave.
Contact: email@example.com. 212-741-8192 ex. 7
Park Slope Tuesday CSA
Park Slope’s CSA is currently full, but they’re making an expansion effort for a second distribution day on Tuesdays. They currently have 20 commitments, but need 80 members to sign up for weekly deliveries to make the additional service financially viable.
Vegetables (Fruit and flowers also available)
Full share: $440 ($20/week)Half Share $220 ($20/week)
Pick up location: Garden of Union on Union Street between 4th and 5th Avenues.Requirements: The distribution for Tuesday is from 3 to 6:30pm, so members must be able to help at 2 pm (until 4:30pm) for at least one shift during the season.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 718-707-1023
Red Hook CSA
Vegetables (fruit and eggs also available) :
Full share: $375 (full season)
Half share: $210 (full season)
Pickup location: 370 Van Brunt St.
Southside CSA (South Williamsburg)
2009 Season: June to November: 20 weeks
Vegetables (Fruit, wine and eggs also available)
Full share: $400 ($20/week)
Half share: $200 ($20/week, every other week)
Pick-up location: Bridget (20 Broadway, between Kent and Wythe)