The corrugated cardboard boxes, heavily coated in wax and a dusting of dirt, look a bit tired and well used. Yet to the crowd gathering behind the Farmers’ Market stall, their highly anticipated appearance in late May or early June is the true indicator that spring has arrived. Inside each is a selection of delicate salad greens, asparagus, and other early-season vegetables; soon these weekly boxes will contain a generous array of the area’s best organic produce.
For people passionate about food—not just how it tastes, but where and how it’s grown—”community-supported agriculture” can be a perfect fit. By bringing members and farmers together directly, CSA organizations have developed new models for producing high-quality, reasonably priced organic food in an environmentally friendly manner. Buying local has other benefits too: according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, if every Michigan household spent just $10 a week on locally grown produce, an additional $37 million a week would be kept circulating in the state’s economy.
The Ann Arbor area has a variety of CSA programs. Members buy shares in a farm’s produce and also may enjoy workshops, special events, and other opportunities to connect with the land. Community Farm of Ann Arbor, now in Chelsea, has been operating since 1988. Most of the others are much newer, and a couple offer flowers or meat. Subscriptions are seasonal, usually running from late May to early October.
Joining a CSA does carry some risk: both quantity and quality may suffer in a bad harvest. But those outcomes are rare; midseason boxes are typically stuffed with fresh-picked vegetables and offer substantial savings over conventional store prices. Since a full share may be more than a small household can easily use, some CSAs sell half shares as well.
As of the summer of 2008, the CSA programs listed below had openings for 2009. Full or “family” shares are usually based on a bushel of produce. Memberships fill fast, so contact farms early for details.
Beautiful Earth Family Farm. Chelsea, since 2008. Organic methods. Twenty-six-week full share $520. Pickup Wednesday 7 a.m.–noon, Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market. email@example.com
Community Farm of Ann Arbor. Chelsea, since 1988. Biodynamic method. Twenty-week full share $675–$1,550 (sliding scale). Fifteen-hour-a-year participation required, workshops, U-pick, events. Pickup Wednesday noon–7 p.m. or Saturday noon–4 p.m., 1525 South Fletcher Road. www.communityfarmofaa.org
Fusilier Family Farm. Manchester, since 2004. Organic methods. Twenty-week fruit and vegetable half shares at price to be determined. Newsletter. Pickup Saturday 7 a.m.–noon, Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market. firstname.lastname@example.org
Needle-Lane Farms. Tipton, since 2005. Organic methods. Twelve- or twenty-week full or half produce share or sixteen-week cut-flower share $200–$700. Newsletter, volunteering, events. Pickup Tuesday noon–9 p.m., Morgan & York, 1928 Packard. www.needlelanefarms.com
Old Pine Farm. Manchester, since 2000. Organic beef, pork, chicken, emu. November 2008–October 2009: $75 annual fee, shares $300–$750. Monthly pickup at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, 2501 Jackson (Westgate shopping center), or Community High School, 401 North Division. www.oldpinefarm.biz
Our Family Farm. Manchester, since 2004. Organic methods. Twenty-week full ($475) and half ($260) shares. Includes occasional flowers, honey, and free-range eggs. Pickup Wednesday and Saturday 7 a.m.–noon, Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market. 428–9100.
Tantré Farm. Chelsea, since 2001. Certified organic. Twenty-week full share $550, Thanksgiving share $80. Newsletter, workshops, U-pick, events. Pickup Wednesday and Saturday 7 a.m.–noon, Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market. www.tantrefarm.com
Two Creeks Organics. Manchester, since 2007. Organic methods. Twenty-week full and half shares, price to be determined. Includes occasional eggs, plants, and flowers. Newsletter, workshops, U-pick. Pickup Thursday 3–7 p.m., Zingerman’s Roadhouse, 2501 Jackson (Westgate shopping center). www.twocreeksorganics.com
Valley Family Farm. Milan, since 2005. Organic methods. Twenty-week full ($475), double ($610), & half ($260) shares. Includes occasional flowers & honey. Pickup Thursday 3–7 p.m., Zingerman’s Roadhouse, 2501 Jackson (Westgate shopping center). www.valleyfamilyfarm.com