Looking for fresher, tastier, healthier food this growing season? Many farms offer community-supported agriculture, or CSA, shares with local drop-off points.
Top chefs choose locally grown food because reducing the time from farm to table ensures that food flavors are at their peak, according to FamilyFarmed.org Why Buy Locally. Farm-fresh food also lasts longer, is more nutrient dense and reduces your carbon footprint.
“Being part of a CSA is a way to know where your food comes from. I’m a 'farmie;' we’re so connected to our food. We really want to know where it comes from,” said Lake Bluff resident Johanna Navari Welch, who has been a shareholder at various community-supported agriculture groups for the past seven years.
Welch’s interest in local food started with weekly visits to the Green City Market in Chicago, and she thought it would be nice to have fresh produce delivered to her door. She subscribed to an organic co-op with home deliveries, but the produce was not local.
“I wanted a more sustainable option. I wanted to lessen the miles the produce traveled,” she said.
She has tried various community-supported agriculture groups, and she is a shareholder with Kings Hill Farm in southwest Wisconsin. She also is providing marketing consulting for the farm. Welch likes that the certified organic farm does not use any pesticides, not even organic ones.
For Welch, one of the perks of community-supported agriculture membership is being introduced to uncommon produce.
“When you’re part of a CSA, you get what they are farming, which is exhilarating. You try new dishes. For some people, that’s a major drawback. I think it’s a unique way to experience the seasons we live in. It’s important to feed our bodies what is in season.”
Members of community-supported agriculture groups pay in advance, either the entire subscription cost or partial cost. This provides farmers with a dependable income.
“As an organic farm shareholder, you share the downfalls as well as the bounty,” Welch said. She said she only experienced one season as a member of a community-supported agriculture group, not Kings Hill, in which strong rains resulted in no vegetables for a couple of weeks.
Another aspect the Welch family enjoys is being part of the farm’s support community. Johanna, her husband John Welch, and their children, Zane and Renata, visited the farm recently to watch a prairie burn.
For those who really want to know where their food comes from, most farms welcome visitors for arranged visits or for special events on the farm.
Most farms also provide shareholders with newsletters that include recipes and cooking tips.
Here are some community-supported agriculture groups and the towns they deliver to:
- Sandhill Organics, in Prairie Crossing, Grayslake. Offers a wide range of certified organic vegetables. Egg shares and sustainably grown fruit shares are also available. The farm offers shares in spring, summer and fall. Pickup is available at the farm, as well as sites including Barrington and Lake Forest.
- Prairie Crossing Learning Farm in Grayslake offers an eight-week community-supported agriculture program. The Prairie Farm Corps Program is a paid job-training opportunity on a working organic farm for racially and economically diverse teens from central Lake County, according to the website.
- Kings Hill Farm, in Mineral Point, Wis., offers numerous Chicago-area pickup sites, including Lake Bluff and Palatine. This certified organic farm offers vegetables, fruit and herbs, and has eggs and honey available. The farm uses standards aimed to deliver the highest nutritional content. It offers full season shares and summer shares.
- Nichols Farm and Orchard in Marengo offers a wide range of fruit and vegetables, certified sustainable. The farm offers a fruit and vegetable share, a vegetable-only share and a family share for larger households. It offers pickup in Crystal Lake.
- Tempel Farm Organics, in Old Mill Creek, offers summer and fall vegetable shares as well as a fruit share. The farm is not certified organic, but it does practice sustainable agriculture. Pickup is available at the farm as well as in Lake Forest.
- Bumblebee Acres in Harvard grows food the old-fashioned way without pesticides or commercial fertilizers. The farm offers a 10-week fruit and vegetable share or a half-share. Pickup is available at the Woodstock Farm
- Freedom Organix in Harvard offers vegetables and eggs as well as pork, grass-fed beef and veal. The farm offers spring, summer and fall shares as well as full shares or half shares. The farm offers delivery to numerous sites including Barrington, Cary, Crystal Lake, Lake Forest, Libertyville and Lake Zurich. This year, the farm also is offering U-Pick at the Farm so families can experience farm life firsthand.
- M’s Organics in Woodstock is certified naturally grown and offers vegetable and herbs as well as egg shares. Offers pickup in Woodstock and has a special community-supported agriculture program for Del Webb Sun City residents in Huntley.
- Green Earth Farm in Richmond offers certified naturally grown vegetables and has free-range eggs, chickens and turkeys available. Pickup is available at the farm.
- Reichert/Phillips Farm is based in Indiana but offers pickup at the Palatine Farmers Market. Most of the farm is certified organic. The farm offers vegetable shares and members get discounts on eggs and poultry when available.
- Walkup Heritage Farm & Gardens in Crystal Lake offers an organic, free-range chicken community-supported agriculture group. Egg shares are also available. Pickup is at the farm in Crystal Lake. The gardens also offer heirloom seeds, vegetable plants and a farm stand with heirloom vegetables.
- Mike & Clare’s Farm in Harvard offers a 14-week organic vegetable share. Pickup is available on the farm.
- Wild Goose Farm in Prairie Crossing, Grayslake offers a 20-week certified organic vegetable share with pickup at the farm or at the Libertyville Farmers Market.
- Radical Root Farm is a small, certified organic vegetable farm in Prairie Crossing, Grayslake. The farm offers several community-supported agriculture options, including spring, summer, fall or all season’s shares. Half shares are also available. Pickup is available at the College of Lake County in Grayslake.
- Midnight Sun Farm at Prairie Crossing in Grayslake offers certified organic vegetables. The farm offers spring, summer and fall shares as well as half shares. Pickup is available at the farm or at Earthly Goods in Libertyville.
- Beaver Creek Gardens in Poplar Grove offers pickup in Crystal Lake. The farm offers a 20-week subscription of seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as an egg community-supported agriculture program.