Gardens, CSA’s, & Farmer’s Markets…Do You Use Them?

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Some of you might remember last May when we bought a CSA share from Plan B organic farms. It was our first time ever buying a CSA share and we were excited for local and organic food each week.

Well to clarify, it was mostly ME who was excited…but excitement is contagious and I think Eric secretly enjoyed it too.

…I think it was all the cooking I did!

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We quickly learned that there were things we loved about the CSA share and things that we didn’t love.

CSA PROS:

1) Value for dollar

At just $20 something dollars a week, we were given a huge box of organic produce. It would have cost much more had we purchased this at the grocery store. Even so, we wouldn’t have been able to find everything organic at the grocery store and I can bet it wouldn’t have been local either.

2) Support local organic farmers

3) Fresh & Crisp produce, better quality than what we find at grocery store

4) Our veggie consumption went way up and we felt amazing.

5) We tried so many new vegetables. Even scary ones!

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CSA CONS:

1) Lots of Repetition

By August/September we were getting tons and tons of potatoes and squash (among other things) and we got so sick of the repetition. I’m sure if we lived in a tropical climate, there would be a better selection of produce each week, but around here I think we are more limited.

2) No choice in what produce you get

We often found ourselves longing for some items that were in season and they never came                 (e.g., tomatoes).

3) Picking up the box each week

We opted not to get a delivery to save money. We found out only after we purchased the share that the pick-up location was a 25 minute drive from our house and it wasn’t overly convenient for us. Plan B does not disclose the pick-up location until your make the purchase. Obviously, this was a con for our particular circumstance, but pick-up location is still something to consider before buying.

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Our 2011 Produce Plan

This year, we decided that we are going to change things up and do things a bit differently!

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Our plan for the 2011 season is to:

1) Possibly plant a garden this Spring, time willing! 

2) Buy produce from the Milton Farmer’s Market. We aren’t working at the Oakville market this summer so we hope to attend the Milton Market (as customers!) as much as possible this year. It opens May 14th.

3) Buy produce from local organic farm. I recently discovered that there is an organic farm not too far from us. This organic farm lets you buy produce on Wednesday evenings and they will also be selling at the Milton Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

(If we plant a garden, we won’t need to rely on the farm/market as much…but we’ll have to see!)

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If we manage to build a garden, I plan on showing the process on the blog. I really have NO CLUE how to build a veggie garden (and I don’t know a thing about vegetable gardening!), but my RMT has been teaching me a lot about it because she is a pro. :) I’m sure I can find some tutorials online too.

I hope our new plan will work out well this season. I will keep you updated on our progress!

Do you have a plan of how you will be buying your produce this Spring and Summer? Do you ever use a CSA, Farmer’s Market, local farm, or plant your own veggies? If you plant your own garden, how did you start it up?

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{ 206 comments… read them below or add one }

Liza April 12, 2011

The city I live in has one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the country, so I go there often. In fact, I’m going today! The fiance and I also are planting a garden this year. We’ve done it before, but haven’t had the space again until this year, so he’s been researching elevated gardening (which is supposed to make it easier if you’re just starting) and we’re planning to plant tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, plus some squash for the fall. I love having a garden out back!

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Jennie April 12, 2011

I am starting a garden this year, too! We also love to go to the farmer’s market in town. I look forward to reading about your garden. I am clueless as well!

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Jes April 12, 2011

It’s great to see so many people using CSA’s, farmer’s markets, and even growing their own! I haven’t gone the CSA route quite yet, but I go to the farmer’s market almost every weekend in the spring and summer after it opens and have started growing some of my own veggies this year. It’s been fun so far!

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Victoria April 12, 2011

I feel so lucky to have so many awesome farmers markets around me, which we take full advantage of. Also, our city as a whole seems very focused on organic and locally-sourced ingredients, which is so awesome.

We were members of a CSA 2 years ago, and while I saw the benefit, I personally enjoy picking out my produce, wandering around, deciding what to make, and I lost that with the CSA.

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Carly April 12, 2011

There is a year round farmers market that we use as much as possible, and we get the out of season things I declare necessities (tomatoes) at the grocery store right down the road.

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Ashley April 12, 2011

Love your thoughts on this!! We haven’t done the produce box ever, and I feel somewhat the same about it. It would be SO convenient and exciting each week, but I fear we would be loaded with squash, [which I already cooked too much of one summer + Chris doesn't like, hehe] and things like eggplant, and BEETS [yak!] etc. I know some of them allow you to give a list of a few things you don’t like. I would LOVE to start a garden + a compost bin. I feel like I should take a class or something though. My mom got me a great organic gardening book, but I have had ZERO time to even think about putting a garden together. Plus, it can get pretty pricey the first year you make it. I don’t trust the soil around here and would want to make planter boxes. To do that, you have to get completely untreated wood, which is $$. I’m hoping to at least plant a few things maybe in a month or so and then peruse the markets, which are in walking/biking distance!! I love love actually going to the markets.

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Alyssa April 12, 2011

I am so glad that you addressed CSAs. I was looking into them this year but was a little reluctant do to some of the same things that you listed as cons. I would love, love, love to have my own garden. We are still working on it (meaning I am still working on my husbands help;). This will be my first year exploring more local, organic options, so I can’t wait to see what I find!

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Moni'sMeals April 12, 2011

that is great about starting your own garden. I would love that too but I am pretty certain that my dogs would tear it apart. :)

I am so blessed here in LA. Our produce is amazing and all-year. There is a Farmers Market everyday somewhere and it is so easy. I am super grateful for it too.

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Carlee April 12, 2011

I have joined a CSA this year as well as planning to plant a very small garden to share with my family if I have too much produce. I can’t wait to really focus on organic and local produce. I am even hoping to freeze and can a bunch of stuff so I can enjoy it through the winter months as well.

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Courtney @ The Granola Chronicles April 12, 2011

My husband and I belong to a CSA program. We live in California, so we see a lot of variety each week. Sure we have the staples a lot like potatoes, kale and apples – but overall, we usually see something new each week. I also love supporting my local economy.

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman April 12, 2011

I don’t have a backyard, so growing basil on my balcony is about as far as I go. (It’s the only herb that can take the shade and still sprout into a bush.) We’re trying out a farm delivery service. Unlike a CSA, the service collects from a bunch of farms in the area. Plus, we get to pick our produce each week.

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Elle April 12, 2011

Good breakdown of the pros and cons of CSAs. We have not gotten involved for exactly the reasons you list as cons. Many of our friends have joined and they feel obligated to stay with it, even though they don’t really want to.
We are on our boat all summer so don’t have garden space. But I do usually have a tomato plant on board. Love fresh tomatoes the best.
Have fun with your garden… it is so much easier than you think it will be. And very satisfying, too.

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Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing April 12, 2011

What a great post! We did a CSA last year, and loved it, but had some of the same frustrations as you. It wasn’t a dealbreaker or anything, but the repetition was a little wearing (though I suppose that’s what old-school farm life was like, eh? ;) ) I never want to see another mustard green in my life…lol! We have the opportunity to garden this year, so we plan to invest ourselves in that and supplement with markets and local farms that sell produce outside of CSAs. Here’s hoping it works out! :)

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Therese April 12, 2011

We did an organics delivery for a few weeks last year and although I LOVED having a guy hand me a HUGE box of organic food, we stopped it. Mostly because a lot of it wasn’t local and that bothered me and the other was there was, like you said, too much repetition.

This year we plan to do something very similar to you, we plan to finally take advantage of the TWO farmers markets that are fairly close to our house and I plan to plant a few veggies that we use most often. I especially intend to plant some herbs!

I’m really looking forward to supporting the local community and I know my boyfriend is also eager to do it!

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Amy April 12, 2011

We have a raised planter bed garden. We start everything from seed in peat pots, it is cheaper than buying the plants. Our little seedlings are coming along great this year. I do get a weekly CSA box, it gets delivered for free if I spend $35.00. The veggie box is $25.00 and the fruit box is $10.00 so it works out perfectly. I do get bored with the produce and some it I just don’t like (kale!) I can’t wait for our garden to be in full force so I can stop the CSA this summer. There is nothing better than picking your own veggies, rinsing them off and eating them within minutes. It is alot of work – but it is so worth it. I really recommend the raised planters. We grow tomatos, corn, squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, edamame, green beans, snow peas. This year we are trying pinto and black beans. We add more every year.

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Stephanie @ Laugh and Cook April 12, 2011

My father and I just built our first raised box garden for our vegetables. We, too, have never grown vegetables or anything in our backyard. I started off following Sunset Magazine’s gardening page on their website and have been following their guidelines as best as I could. Most vegetables had to seeded indoors for the first 5-7 weeks or longer until the night frost disappears. We are planting them this week and we’re SOOOO scared to plant these babies! We have a dog and two cats who love the outdoors, so who knows if they’ll be good around garden. hahaha!

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Katie April 12, 2011

I have the same gripes about CSAs. I also think that the quality can be really sketchy depending on which farm you join. I choose to garden myself, and I HIGHLY recoomend you do too! Just start small….I didn’t and it was kind of overwhelming. Plant greens and herbs, both of which are super easy, and maybe peppers or tomatoes or a couple things you eat a lot of. You can still get the scary new veggies at the Farmers Market to try new things.

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Valerie April 12, 2011

Can you please share the name of the local organic farm you refer to? I live on the Milton/Mississauga border and would love to know!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 12, 2011

Emailing you now :)

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Stacey April 12, 2011

Can you email me too? I live in Milton and would love the option of doing mid-week shopping if time does not permit for the Saturday farmer’s market.
Thanks so much! And I love your site. Have been visiting for a very long time and find much inspiration. I’m soda pop free for 4 days now! :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 12, 2011

done and done

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Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty April 12, 2011

We garden every year! It’s a bit of work, but OH so worth it!! Kale is amazing, it’s continued to grow through out the whole winter too!! I start planting seeds in min april… and then plant after the frost is gone!! In my climate (west coast Canada) squash (zuchinni) grows awesome, and kale of course, and herbs are insane… Tomatoes grow good, if they are in a super hot spot!!

Good luck, it’s SO fun to have a garden!

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CathyK April 12, 2011

i loved reading your pros and cons of the CSA, angela – thanks for the recap.
i am looking forward to trips to the st jacobs market this summer – hopefully i can tag along some thursday mornings with my dad when he goes – always a fun father/daughter outing. also, uptown waterloo hosts a thurs eve outdoor market during the summer – it’s pretty small, but i’d love to pick up produce and support some local farms.
enjoy our sunshine today!

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Halley (Blunder Construction) April 12, 2011

Reading your blog last summer actually inspired me to sign up for Boston Organics. I had boxes delivered throughout the summer and fall. I stopped in the winter because I felt bad for the poor, frozen veggies on my doorstep. I’m still teetering on renewing this year, because I agree that some of the produce was repetitive, and I’m not sure there was much of a savings. But, it definitely is fun and exciting every once in awhile!

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Gail April 12, 2011

I have a natural food store only a mile from my house, and all they sell is organic, so I do most of my shopping there. The farmer’s market is just across the street, and won’t start until May. I want to look for a local organic farm that sells their produce – that would be great. I’d also like to start my own garden so if you do start one, I look forward to your blogs about it. I have absolutely no clue how to garden!

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Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes April 12, 2011

I would love to build my own garden. It’s such a great idea. I think I would want to start off small though.

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Shanna, Like Banana April 12, 2011

I’d really like to do a CSA and think I need to put it on my list. I also love Farmer’s Markets, but often the prices are so steep and the produce doesn’t last very long.

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Abby April 12, 2011

I plan to get my produce from the Farmer’s Market in town. When I go back home to visit I will get loads of veggies from my dad’s garden. He always has an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, and squash. I need to inherit his green thumb but my apartment living doesn’t really allow for much of a garden right now!

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Kate (Bread & Chocolate) April 12, 2011

I like to use a CSA and Farmer’s Markets – the produce is tastes so fresh when it’s local and organic. I literally put my first carrot seeds in the ground yesterday and will be planting my first real garden this weekend. I’m using a raised bed – which I saw in both Organic Gardening magazine and Martha Stewart LIVING. After some modest success with herbs this winter, I decided it was time to go BIG at HOME. Good luck with yours!

http://bread-n-chocolate.blogspot.com/2011/04/talking-bout-revolution.html

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Lexie April 12, 2011

The timing of this article is perfect because this morning i recieved my first email from the CSA I purchased this summer. Like you, we are giving it a shot and I’m super excited about it – mostly because included in our veggies is a bouquet of flowers every week. Score!

The pick up location was disclosed during our purchase, and it’s only a 5 minute drive from our house. Yay!

Like you, I am a bit concerned about the potato/squash overload. Apprantly we get a different potato variety every week.

http://www.eaglecreekfarms.ca/

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Emily April 12, 2011

We planeted our own veg last summer and, although we couldn’t rely on all of our crops actually providing us with edible food, it was great as a top up to our regular shopping :) We currently get a veg box from a local organic famers and we can’t quite work out whether to stick with it or not… seasonal eating is TOUGH! We’ve had potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celariac, swede and onions every week for 4 months :| Occasionally we get a treat like brocolli or cauliflower or maybe, if we’ve been really good, a squash. Generally though it’s just a long hard slog of root veg :(

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Kelsey April 12, 2011

I’ve thought about joining a CSA, but I’m a little hesitant because of the reasons you named. I fear I’ll waste good veggies if I can’t keep up with the cooking! There is one CSA (in Brooklyn) that is every other week. I am considering that to start!

Awesome your starting a garden!! :)

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Kate @ NaturaStride April 12, 2011

Great post – I have an adorable farmer’s market every Saturday morning in the summer a block away from my apartment – love it, and its so convenient!
(PS – I just made your Itty Bitty Carrot Cake Cookies last night – they are so yummy! My husband is a huge fan, too. Thanks!)

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Michelle | GOLD-HEARTED GIRL April 12, 2011

I have a box delivered to my doorstep on Thursdays. It’s so easy!

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Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food April 12, 2011

I have recently just heard about CSA programs, so I have never been a part of one, but I do buy a lot of my produce at local farmer’s markets that we have in our area. We also have an Amish farm not too far from us, so I buy some stuff there such as flowers, produce, and pumpkins in the fall. :-)

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Mama Pea April 12, 2011

I’d love to join a CSA, but I am such a control freak, I have a problem with other people picking out what I’m cooking with this week ;)

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Brittany April 12, 2011

The Square Foot Gardening book by Mel Bartholomew is a great book for starting your first garden. It keeps things simple and is a great resource.
http://www.amazon.com/All-New-Square-Foot-Gardening/dp/1591862027

Growing your own vegetables is so nice – you can plant whatever you want and you can’t beat things that go from the “farm” to table in less than an hour!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 12, 2011

thanks! Im so excited!

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RachelSD April 12, 2011

My husband and I signed up with a CSA a month ago and we got the green light to get our first box last week. We get to go again tonight and we are so excited! We have eaten SO many vegetables this last week! I made stir fry for the first time in my life because we received two heads of bok choy plus cabbage.

I heard about CSAs from a couple of friends at a brunch awhile ago and I did a LOT of internet research before making the final selection. As you mention, there are definitely pros and cons, including selection of produce and location of pickup. Luckily, we live in San Diego, Calif., and the selection is pretty varied. Here’s what is on the agenda for this week: Asparagus, Avocado, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Chard, Lettuce, Limes or Lemons,
Onions, Oranges, Strawberries, Zucchini. I love that our CSA’s website lists what is to be expected each week so you can plan around it– of course a girl still needs her bananas and that is never going to come in a CSA box!

Good luck planting your garden Angela!

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey April 12, 2011

We are in the process of building a garden right now! Luckily my husband is a landscaper, so he knows how to do things like that!

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Jenny April 12, 2011

We go to the farmer”s market every Saturday. I look forward to it all week. I also grew a garden last year and plan to do it again. We live in Oregon and last year Summer didn’t really start until mid July. Seriously. So a lot of my stuff didn’t grow as well as it could have. I still grew tomatoes and strawberries and radishes, spinach, kale, lettuce, herbs, green beans and peas and zucchini. We had a section of the yard along side the sunny side of the house that we fenced off so the dogs wouldn’t ruin everything, and then I mixed some compost into the ground and then just planted seeds in rows (the beans/peas against the fence.) I started almost everything from seed except the tomatoes and strawberries. I bought those plants at the farmer’s market. My suggestion would be to try a variety and think of it as an experiment. Radishes were ridiculously fast and easy, and so was the lettuce and beans and peas. oh fyi- we had issues with slugs and I found some slug bait that wouldn’t kill a cat or dog that got into it…I’ll be using that first thing this year, they really loved eating all my veges.

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Brenna April 12, 2011

We are planning on planting herbs in pots this year, and my boyfriend’s parents have a HUGE garden in their backyard (they filled in their entire pool to make more room for garden!), so we always have lots from them. We also have a local farmers market that goes from May until November. We go every Saturday morning and choose what we need for the week. It is such a relaxing way to start a Saturday!

By the way, I made your Pumpkin Pie Banana Chunk Oatmeal cookies the other day and they were AMAZING! I used raisins instead of cocoa nibs, and they are delicious! What a great mid afternoon snack!

Brenna

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Laura @FoodSnobSTL April 12, 2011

We are lucky to be in a CSA that lets us say what we want, like, etc. if I’m making a recipe, i can email them to see what they can include in our box. We are spoiled.

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Lizz @ Leading the Good Life April 12, 2011

We just planted our garden this weekend! We always do tomatoes and basil, but this year we bulked it up with more herbs, zucchini, beans, and peppers. Yay!

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