Detroit has dozens of urban farms, and several of these participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. If you want to join a CSA, this is the time of year to do it. Here’s a bit of info on some of the area’s best CSAs:
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
In a CSA, community members buy a share of the program and in return the organizers split up the available harvest amongst the CSA’s members over the course of a pre-determined season. Detroit CSA pickups are usually weekly, although some programs offer half shares where members can get produce every other week instead. The CSAs are usually organized by small neighborhood farms or collectives, and they run from 18-20 weeks during mid- to late summer and throughout the fall.
What does a CSA cost?
Each CSA sets its own price; this year, prices seem to be averaging around $400. Some are a little higher, and some are a little lower. Half shares are usually around half price, although they may be a little higher to help cover costs.
What will I get?
That depends on the program, and on the weather. Some CSAs offer nothing but vegetables, while others include eggs, herbs, flowers, baked goods, and more.
What are the benefits and risks?
Aside from getting a great variety of produce throughout the summer and fall, you’ll also be supporting local urban farmers. Having full participation in their CSAs allows small farmers to give back to the local economy by hiring staff and fieldhands. They can also pay for essential equipment at the start of their growing season, which means a greater likelihood of good crops.
The primary risk is that the growing season will be too cold, or too wet, or too hot, or too something for all of the crops to do well. Detroit urban farmers are great at planting a wide variety of crops, though…so while a really cold growing season might stunt all of the corn, it’ll produce some amazing spinach.
Where can I get a share?
Programs in Detroit are listed below in alphabetical order. I’ I’ve forgotten someone – if that’s the case, please drop me a line and I’ll add them in a later blog post.
CITY COMMONS CSA: This is a collective of several Detroit farms. $237 1/2 share, $450 full share; flower-only shares and other programs are also available. Pickups are on Tuesdays and Saturdays; they start during the week of June 13th.
FAITH FARM CSA: This year, Faith Farm is partnering with another Detroit farm to provide a full 18 weeks of produce, flowers, and other farm-grown goodies (including eggs!) to each member. The shares are $400; discounted shares ($350) are available for seniors and young families. Pickups are on Thursdays and Fridays, and they start during the week of June 13th.
GROWN IN DETROIT SPRING CSA: Grown in Detroit is another collective. They break their program up by seasons, which can be a cost-effective way to test out a CSA before taking the plunge on a more extensive program. The upcoming CSA is $180; it runs from 5/4 – 6/29.
Here at the Craphome, we participate in the Faith Farm CSA every year we can afford it. We’ve always been happy with the results, even during that one year when we got beets every single week. Before that year, I had never had a beet in my fridge…they just weren’t for me, thanks. Now I can pickle beets like a pro.
That’s the best part of a CSA: you’re almost certain to get produce you’ve never used before, or to get it in astonishing quantities. Even experienced chefs will discover culinary creativity they didn’t realize they possessed.
For example: after the Summer of Beets came the Kale Year. We ate so much kale as part of that year’s CSA that for a couple of weeks there I seriously considered not picking up my share (it would’ve been donated to a food pantry or divided up between other members instead in that case). Instead of giving up, I learned how to incorporate kale into a wide array of soups, pasta salads, rice, and poultry dishes. I even learned how to freeze it for later in such a way that it didn’t get that weird texture a lot of leafy vegetables get when you thaw ’em. I’d never have tried to make any of those dishes prior to the Kale Year; now, they’re a regular part of our diet.
You still have time to sign up for a CSA near you…don’t delay! They fill up quickly.