Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) Coming to DC

DSCN9762, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

When I got the email saying:

“This weekend I will hit the streets dressed as a tree…”

I wasn’t sure if this was the ramblings of an insane person or a legit cause. Turns out it is a super cool legit cause. Pictured above is Bert Fitzgerald, 27, in Adams Morgan.

He worked on the Holly Tree Farm around Charlottesville VA last summer, and is now organizing this project delivering CSA shares from local Virginia family farms to DC, and partnering with farms that do pastured eggs, grass fed meats, raw milk cow shares, artisan breads and cheeses,local trout, and more.

He says:

“With a CSA (community supported agriculture) the idea is that you put money up front to support the costs of the farm’s growing season, and you get a share of its produce (dozens of different things throughout a season) every week. What we do different is that we deliver to your door, at the time you want it, on Thursday (as opposed to doing drop off points). And we allow people to add a very diverse group of local foods to their orders. If people want to join us we have lots of shares to offer, and they start up this Thursday (going through oct 1), so now’s the time to sign up!”

More detailed info after the jump.

Arganica Farm Club

Local Family Farms ? Weekly Fresh Food ? Your Doorstep

This Summer we are partnering DC residents with small, local, organic farms: You choose the farm and purchase a share in its growing season,

We deliver your fresh produce and favorite a la carte items every Thursday, to you, at your chosen time… (9 pm at your door? Sure!)

You Get 18 weeks of local produce (6/4 – 10/1) from your chosen farm (and the ability to add a la carte items of your choice, like artisan breads and cheeses, hand-picked berries, grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, you name it!)

Family/Couple Shares $595 (Best of What’s Around or Radical Roots Community Farm)

Single Shares $335(Cherry Ridge Farm or Season’s Bounty)

With the upfront payment You Give your farm the capital for its growing season

Step 1: Choose your farm share…

Best of What’s Around Farm (family/couple share)

Best of What’s Around was founded in 2002 by singer-songwriter Dave Matthews, and has established itself as a sustainable community farm committed to providing the best certified organic produce around. The operation uses ingenuity and incredible crop variation (over 100 varieties) instead of chemicals to protect its harvest and fulfill its stated goal of providing an alternative diet for the local Virginia piedmont community.

Sample shares:

June: a half-dozen eggs, fava beans, peas, red cabbage, cilantro, swiss chard, greens mix, lettuce mix, arugula, collards, garlic, garlic flowers, kale.

August: a half-dozen eggs, okra, tomatoes, potatoes, tomatilloes, cucumbers, squash, basil, leeks…

Radical Roots Community Farm

Family/Couple Share to your door: 595$

“Radical” isn’t always hyperbole: The Sturgis’ grow 500 shrubs and trees on their five acres to create a forest-like ecosystem among their crops, lending new meaning to sustainability. In fact, growing and living sustainably with the land, and educating the community about it through farm tours and work-shares is half of their mission. The other half is providing you the healthiest, freshest, Certified Naturally Grown vegetables and mellons available!

Radical Roots typical shares: (RR boxes include a salad and a cooking green all season!)

July: A head of lettuce, bunch of chard, bunch of basil, bunch of carrots, summer squash, cucumber, box of potatoes, fresh onions, peppers, tomatoes

August: A bag of salad mix, watermelon, bunch of basil, 7 tomatoes, bunch of beets, summer squash, cucumber, hot pepper, peppers, eggplant, leeks, cherry tomatoes, beans

For more information please email… and request another document on Radical Roots

Season’s Bounty Farm

Singles’ Share to your door: 335$

Season’s Bounty typifies the Mennonite farms of the central Shenandoah Valley: small acreage, rare heirloom crop varieties, and total independence from the machinations of corporate agriculture. But even here the level of owner Radell Schrock’s commitment to sustainable, natural growing is unusual. He uses no chemicals and totally untreated seeds, surpassing organic standards, and shows a heartfelt connection to the soil whose health he is committed to protecting. Graciously, Radell has made available to us a very moderate sized share, allowing DC’s singles to finally get in on the CSA phenomenon too!

Season’s Bounty typical shares: (Notice the quantity of hearty items in this small share!)

July: 3/4 lbs beans, onion, some zucchini or yellow squash, small bunch of carrots, 1-2 bell peppers, cucumber, couple beets, half eggplant, 1.5 lbs potatoes, tomato, half a cabbage.

September: A small mix of peppers, half head of lettuce, couple beets, half watermelon, half eggplant, green beans, small bunch of radishes, pound of potatoes, onion, some ornamental corn

For more information please email… and request another document on Season’s Bounty Farm

Cherry Ridge Farm

Singles’ Share to your door: 335$

Cherry Ridge owner David Beebe keeps a step ahead. He has been farming organically since 1968 using the Rhodale Method, and was the second farmer in New Mexico to be certified by the state. Now that the USDA codified the practices, David is “beyond organic”, to use his term for farmers who value sustainability and local trust over national certification. But most recently, his previously wildly successful CSA share program was put at the mercy of the downtrodden western VA economy, and now DC is the beneficiary in the form of a new offering of small, hard-to-organize shares for the single lover of fresh food!

Cherry Ridge typical shares: (Why not taste 90 varieties of veggies and melons this season?)

July: 7 oz. baby squash, 2 carrots, 2 small cucumbers, 2 green onions, ½ bell pepper, 1.5 oz. basil, 1.5 oz. parsley

August: ½ lb mixed squash, 4 oz. edamame, 9 oz. tomatoes, 4 oz. swiss chard, 2 ears sugar buns corn, ¼ lb yellow watermelon, bunch of chives and rosemary

For more information please email… and request another document on Cherry Hill Farm

A la carte add-ons:

Eggs, meats, fish, cheeses, breads, wild foods and handmade small batch gourmet items added to your standing order. The following is just a sampling of our farm partners. Specifics about what exactly will be offered from each provider, at what price will be provided before order time.

Eggs (from Shenandoah Valley Family Farms)

Dozen eggs share: $66

Half-dozen share: $35


Order eggs any week for $3.90/dozen

Sidney Beery of Shenandoah Valley Family Farms’s provides noticeably darker and tastier egg yolks that don’t just come with the “organic, free-range” sticker. “Free range” often means thousands of hens in a laying enclosure with “access” to a tiny plot of picked-over grass (“cage free” is worse). Beery rotation-pastures his hens on chemical-free grasses, and supplements them on organic grains from only neighboring farms. “Cage-free” labeled cartons may appeal to our conscience, but an egg with integrity makes its appeal through the taste buds.

Meats (from Polyface Farm)

Polyface Farm arguably represents America’s premier non-industrial food production oasis. Believing that Nature’s design is still the best pattern for the biological world, the Salatin family invites like-minded folks to join in the farm’s mission: to develop emotionally, economically, environmentally enhancing agricultural enterprises and to facilitate their duplication throughout the world.

Initially the items available from Polyface will include fresh, grass-fed beef (steaks and ground), whole chicken broilers, and sausage products

Into the Wild

Black Bear Wild Foods forages on about 1000 acres in and around our Holly Tree Farm in Charlottesville, VA, in order to bring you the magic of the forest. We gather and refine wild delectables such as maple syrup, wild persimmons, various wild berries, and morel mushrooms. With Nature’s resources at our fingertips, we are able to bring you a host of small batch items such as single cauldron maple syrup, hickory bark syrup, wild cherry syrup, persimmon/bourbon cakes, wild persimmon ice cream, hickory ice cream, wild raspberry sorbet and more. We harvest our own hickory to smoke a range of farm produce for items such as our now-famous smoked pepper and tomato soup. We work in partnership with chef Erica from the “From Scratch Bakery” to produce these gourmet foods when they are available at her commercial bakery.

Cheeses (From Oak Spring Dairy)

What is distinct about raw-milk cheese? The Flavor: Scientific studies and experience show the same cheeses made from raw milk develop richer and more complex flavors.

The Oak Spring Dairy has been the in-house dairy of the sprawling Mellon family farm since the 1930s, providing them with their own supply of milk and fresh, raw-milk cheese. Four years ago, Rachel Mellon (who has owned the farm since its inception), decided to share their cheeses with the residents of Fauquier County, less than an hour from DC. Oak Spring cheeses have already attracted the attention of elite DC chefs and wine connoisseurs who hunt down the best local foods, and now through Arganica, they are available to you. These cheeses are crafted in small batches from the milk of Brown Jersey cows, pastured on chemical-free fields, and come with a quickly established reputation among cheese buffs as an extraordinary value.

We will offer an array of fresh cheddars, goudas, and derby cheeses from Oak Spring

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What if I go on vacation this summer?

A: Tell us which neighbor/friend you wish to benefit from your share that week, and we’ll get it to them!

Q: I’m confused about what Arganica is, and what my relationship to the farm is.

A: In addition to being a producer at the Holly Tree Farm in Charlottesville, Arganica works with other local Virginia farms to offer a share size, duration, and delivery method that is unique. You really do have a share in your farm, but your farm is often unable to offer shares directly to DC residents. Arganica functions as a network to bring the food from the farm to your table!

Contact Arganica:

Arganica Farm Club LLC

8287-A #110 Seminole Trail

Ruckersville Va. 22968

[email protected] / (574) 850-9822

26 Comment

  • I’ve been interested in doing a CSA for a while…there are several in this area. Its just so expensive, I dont think the budget can handle it.

  • Somebody should warn this guy that he’s just asking for a beatdown dressed like that. I’m sure the kids at Kalorama & Champlain (not far from site of this picture) would love to administer it.

  • The people I’ve known that have bought shares have had wildly different experiences – so I would say you definitely need to practice “buyer beware” in this arena – unless you fancy getting 15 pounds of brussel sprouts and no tomatoes.

    Depending on the agreement, the shareholder will likely have zero control over what they get from the farm or what the farm might decide to grow. While this is fine if your farmer has a history of producing staples like tomatoes, lettuce, and spinach – just be aware that this is a business and if it makes better economic sense to turn the whole back forty over to collards then you’d better have the ham hocks at the ready.

    While supporting small farms that grow organic food is a swell idea, I think a lot people who buy shares weren’t aware of what they’d actually get for their sometimes pricy share, and were then bitterly disappointed when their delivery consisted of 5 pounds of lima beans and 30 turnips.

    So, might I suggest, as an alternative, that you grow something in your back yard or on your patio? Really, it’s not rocket science. I do it (with lots of help from Lil’ Gal).

    The hardest thing to do is remember to regularly water – and you can’t hardly overwater in this climate. You do also have to watch out for the organized squirrel mafia, worms, and beetles – but otherwise it’s not as hard as you might think to grow so much produce that you have to give it away to your neighbors.

    For beginners (although it is a little late in the season to start) you can hardly go wrong with strawberries, tomatoes, and a little herb garden.

  • we just set out a few tomato plants, some squash and cucumbers, assortement of peppers, and watermellon… wish us luck!

  • He reminds me of the dude who used to sit at New York Avenue and the Brentwood Road overpass in Northeast and “bless” passing traffic with a treebranch. Whatever happened to that guy?

  • Chris: We’re trying watermelons for the first time this year too. We’ll see what happens. The squashes and cukes do grow like weeds in the full sun. In fact, our problem last year was finding room for the squash to grow because it takes off like mad.

    This is the second year for our strawberry plants (they over-winter in raised beds) and they have gone mad too. We’re getting at least a pint a day already. There not as big as the genetically modified frankenberries you get at Giant, but they sure taste good and they are (almost, very nearly) free.

  • I’d’ve signed up for a CSA share years ago, but for one thing: I loathe things like kale and chard, and I hear from everyone that they get pounds and pounds of those wretched weeds with every box, all season long. I don’t know how the farms get away with it. One of them posted here actually brags about including “cooking greens” with every box. *shudder*

  • @monkey WOW. Crazy blast from the past. I hadn’t thought of that guy in years!

  • FYI– it’s a federal crime to introduce raw milk for human consumption into interstate commerce (such as transporting it from VA to DC), and “cow shares” won’t save you. stick to the vegetables and meats.

  • I would kill for a convenient source of raw milk. It’s amazing how different (and wonderful) it tastes. Of course, it also used to suck bringing it back from the farm in Hungary in the summer, where by the time you got it home, it would be bad.

  • I received a handout from a CSA on my doorstep when I woke up Sunday morning. Did this guy leave it Saturday night after 8pm or Sunday morning before 9am. Either way someone was on my property, likely dressed as a tree, overnight.

    I belonged to a CSA last year and felt it was just barely worth it.

    #1. it’s expensive. I do not normally spend $600 on farmers market produce each summer. I believe I spend roughly $22 per week on Farmers Market produce for those 18 weeks, meaning that I expect to spend about $400 during that 18 week period. Last year my share was about $450 or $25 per week. This year the costs are universally around $600.

    #2. The selection is weird. Last year the greens got wiped out by terrible spring storms meaning that the first 4 weeks netted us almost nothing but apples and root vegetables and some field greens. That’s OK, but it was not worth $25 per week.

    #3. The great bags of tomatoes never came in. When I asked about why we were limited to, you know, 8 tomatoes during early august I got a song and dance about what someone should get in a given week and how much the guy’s truck would hold. I was told about mammoth shares of food during harvest season, but the guy’s truck couldn’t hold it all. I have to wonder if he looked at the bounty of tomatoes and really wanted to get HIS harvest bonus by shuttling produce to a farmstand or farmer’s market.

    #4. The food was not cleaned prior to it going on the truck, adding a serious amount of work to every day life.

    #5. It was really lame to pick up a watermelon excitedly only to find it was rotten inside. Could I return it like I would to a store? No.

    So I switched from that CSA to a different one. I hope the new one works great. If it doesn’t I may try one last CSA and then that’s it, I’m not doing it again.

  • Hey, this is Bert the walking tree, I appreciate what people are saying. While the farms we are working with are known for the happiness of their customers, it is true that boxes will have greens that not everyone appreciates. Would people be interested in us putting together a box from a couple different small organic farms that only had the more popular produce? Hey, we might offer such a box in the next couple weeks if it is what people want, our own farm could provide some of this, and would just have to be supplemented.
    For more info: [email protected] or just call me at 574-850-9822 if you have more suggestiosn for how CSA model can be improved.

  • As per raw milk:

    (This is bert again)We will offer raw milk cow shares, delivered, and it does not violate interstate commerce laws because we are legally not selling the milk. You would just own a cow (share), how its understood, in a different state, and people are free to drink the milk from their cow in Virginia even if they live in DC. Of course I will be re-checking this, but i have spoken to the VA dept of Ag about this and farmers experienced in this.

  • This is a good idea in theory but a good bit of this is stuff me and my husband I don’t eat: kale, chard, beets, radishes, eggplant, squash (and trust me, I grew up down South eating fresh produce out of a huge garden so I know for sure I don’t like this stuff, not even with cheese on top). I’ll stick to the regular farmers market. Good luck!

  • I’m totally in love with those pants Bert is wearing in the photo.

  • you would think CSAs would listen to their customers and not plant stuff people don’t want. I’ve heard this argument against CSAs over and over – it’s mystifying.

  • I’d love to join a CSA! Any recommendations on a good one?

  • Bert-

    if the parties are all in Virginia, and the milk stays in Virginia, that may be fine, but Virginia can’t pre-empt federal law, as “cow-sharing” dairymen in several places have discovered. you might google “Dee Creek Farms” to see how well that cow-share theory held up in federal court. the Public Health Services Act provisions on preventing communicable disease, and the regulations promulgated thereto, criminalize the delivery into interstate commerce of raw milk for human consumption, regardless of the source. the doesn’t prohibit the sale of milk, it prohibits taking raw milk across state lines for human consumption.

  • I signed up for a CSA this year for the first time with a friend — we figured that between the two of us we can alternate taking different things home and that this will force us to find recipes to cook some veggies that we are not accustomed to cooking! I read prior to signing up that CSAs are not necessarily cheaper than shopping at the farmers market (and that you take on the risk of crops going bad, etc) — I think it’s a great idea as long as you go in knowing what to expect!

  • I’ve been trying to get into a CSA that delivers to dc for 2 years, so I am very happy to see this. I am particularly interested in Cherry Glen (I think that is the name) because of the Rodale reference. That is the only sustainable ag system I know of that is definitely and empirically better than “normal” industrial ag in terms of yield and quality.

    Bert, I’d be interested in joining any CSA willing to deliver here, but particularly the raw milk CSA. Do you have a line on raw goat milk?

  • @Truxton K, I believe you mean Cherry Ridge, but I will take the opportunity to rave about Cherry Glen up in Boyds, MD. They make 100% farmstead goat cheese. It’s not raw milk, but it is delicious. The Monocacy Ash is one of the most heavenly things I’ve ever tasted. I first learned about it at Restaurant Eve, and I spent way too many nights at the bar there with that and a few glasses of sauvignon blanc. Thankfully, it’s now available around town (I’ve found it at Whole Foods and Grape & Bean in Old Town, but I know it’s available at a few other shops and some of the farmer’s markets.)

  • Eric: I don’t think it’s a matter of them not listening as much as it is a matter of what they can reasonably grow in quantity for economic purposes. These are businesses after all and selling organic vegetables off a small farm isn’t likely to produce any millionaires. If it’s cheaper and easier to grow and harvest fast-growing greens like chard (which can be harvested multiple times per season), then chard is what comes in the box.

    I don’t mean to be down on shares, I think it’s smart marketing by the farmers if nothing else, but people joining need to operate under the assumption that the payment is a altruistic endeavor that might result in some decent produce but will never make economic sense for the household or supply all the types produce you’ll need.

    The problem I see is that some people promoting shares (no offense, Bert) develop unrealistic expectations in people who, for the most part, are used to cheap produce prices at the supermarket or at a local farmer’s market. Even growing your own produce is not cheaper – not by a long shot. So when people end up spending a pretty good amount of money and get a box half-full of salad greens (which they have never eaten before) the resulting dissatisfaction is not surprising. While the expectations of some buying shares is unrealistic, looking at some of the promotion, there is more than a little “salesmanship” going on when you read terms like “typical share”.

    BTW, I am offering a “typical share” in the “Odentex-Lil’Gal Petworth Yellow Pear Tomato Farm”. For a beer (cold) passed over the fence I will provide a commensurate handful of yellow pear tomatoes (when they come in)[*].

    [*] Offer subject to the following conditions: Yellow Pear Tomatoes may be substituted at the discretion of the Farm with another variety of tomatoes, a handful of swiss chard, a carrot, a turnip, three broad leaves of collard greens, two palm-fulls of strawberries, a marigold, two palm-fulls of sunflower seeds, or a clump of compost.

  • To those haters of chard and greens – some of us love that stuff. Maybe you’re just in the minority among share owners.

    That said, my boyfriend and I had a CSA last year and it was a mixed experience. The veggie quality was good… but my boyfriend didn’t like some of the veggies we got, the pick-up location was more of a pain than I expected, and our pick-up day was the day before I had a weekly class. We often didn’t get to the veggies until at least two days after pick-up, by which time some had gone bad. The farm also had some growing and labor problems that lead to small shares and the season ending early. I would try it again, but with a different farm, and would pay more attention to the logistics than I did. Having the box delivered sounds awesome!

    Odentex – I’d love to grow my own herbs and veggies, and I think it would be great if more people in the city did. But I live in a basement apartment with no outdoor space and barely enough natural light to keep my houseplants alive. So farmers’ markets and CSAs are the only option for me.

  • jumping into this late but a few thoughts:

    1a) in this imperfect world filled with imperfect systems, there are bound to be imperfect connections: the dissatisfied folks who will loudly voice their displeasure at the fact that certain systems don’t suit them. Anyone who has ever failed at gardening might try pausing and being appreciative of the farmers whose livelihood depends on getting it right all year all the time. Multiply that garden-failure-disappointment by acres and you can imagine how it feels when a farmer’s crops are blighted and all he or she can offer you are 15lbs of turnips. True it is a business but one that has many odds stacked against it, such that small farms are dying all over the country or being bought by monsanto-affiliated giant corporations and please don’t get me started about how unfair this has become.

    What I am trying to say is that it is not just an altruistic endeavor: it is an investment (and depending on your income level, it may be a big one) in the change of our food systems and how our food is grown and delivered. It means choosing over the system that has been able to give us inferior food on the cheap to one that will hopefully comprise of smaller diligent farms that will do their best to give us nutritious seasonal produce that nourish not only our bodies but also our environment. Farms who don’t need to spend the money to apply for a meaningless “organic” label, because they need only prove to us, their consumers, that they have farmed in ways beyond organic.

    Being in a CSA is a vote of confidence for the farm/s involved, it is a message telling them: we believe that way you do is valuable for the community, for our health and that of the environment and here is some help, in the form of money and manual labor. I suggest that folks who sign up for CSA’s not just sit back with your potatoes but also take a trip down to the farm, even if its just once in the season, to see how your food is grown, and get down and dirty and help out a little. Most farmers appreciate the help (no matter how clueless, ie: yours truly).

    If you would rather hedge your bet in a different way, supporting your local farmers’ market is just as effective, and allows for choice (especially if you don’t have an adventurous palette, or if you are allergic to certain foods). But if you are able to front the money, if you are able to be patient with your farmer, and like experimenting with veggies you’ve never had before (meaning if you have done your homework and are prepared for real risk) then do try to sign up with a CSA, and really get in with the “community” aspect of it. You may need to change around farms, to see what fits in terms of drop off points and types of produce, but the better the relationship you build the more fruitful (!) your CSA experience.

    1b) All that said in defense, I do want to add that it is really not cool when farmers skimp on CSA subscribers so that they hoard their best and prettiest produce for the farmers markets, and tell subscribers that they are say “out of (insert your fav summer veggie)”. It certainly a betrayal of trust.

    2) raw milk seekers should try to cultivate relationships with dairy farmers, instead of getting tangled up with the law. It is a shame because raw-milk drinkers in europe never had to jump thru all these weird hoops but because of the way we are industrializing dairy farmer here in the US (to get cheap, low-quality milk), we have to deal with the disease factor and legislation passed to deal with this “problem” that never need occur had we been treating milking cows/goats/animals with integrity to begin with.

    3) I think Arganica is trying to supply us with a really terrific service. Look around other food-centric communities (in CA, MA and now a growing number of mid-west cities) and you can see how easy it is for them to eat local. We in DC have that same opportunity from being so close to VA, PA, MD and other agricultural centers, but how many of us grab the chance to steer away from Whole Foods and see just how many sources of great local goodies we have? I’m psyched to be able to get locally-milled flour and humanely raised meats in Arganica’s a la carte menu and hope they will expand so that one is able to really savor the many foods unique to this region! And my other half is pleased because this means we can eat as we go, and not have to buy a freezer to store that half of a grass-finished steer.

    4) as for folks with no backyards or access to community gardens, check out:

    ***off the soapbox***

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