Hey guys I was wondering if you could talk about CSA’s & co-ops? I’m looking for input on local ones and want suggestions. Right now I’m torn between Azure Standard which is not local, they are from Oregon. Or this website I found called communityhelpingscoop.com which is some kinda csa that delegates by municipalities but doesn’t list who the producers are-very weird. I found Local Harvest csa listing site but it wasn’t very clear who would was the product supplier either. I know about Fair Shares and am not interested in them. They are overpriced and not broad enough. Like I said, I want to support a local csa/co-op but haven’t found anything as good as Azure, other than going to the farmer’s market. But even that seems to be not all local as well, which I find to be a contradiction in terms. Let me know your thoughts on this!
Monica, if everyone asked these questions and followed through, we could do some real change. I don’t think you can go wrong with the options you’ve researched. Becca was a member of Fair Shares in their first year and it was ok. They are a multi-farm CSA with some decent options and multiple pick up sites, but it is a bit pricey. We split it with our neighbor, which worked out because he took the meat that was offered. It was a great opportunity to learn how to cook with new ingredients. In our opinion the pluses of a CSA are getting high quality produce, supporting local organic farms and being introduced to new varieties of vegetables. The negatives are forking over large sums of cash at once and having a limited choice in the share.
We’ve had little experience with co-ops, but we do know that they can be a better option than shopping at most grocery stores. Getting involved in a local group reduces shipping costs and allows you to buy in bulk at a reduced rate. I don’t think the co-op we participated in offered 100% local fare, but it seems like there are some that do.
As far as stores go, Sappington Market and Local Harvest are consistently stocked with local and organic products. We prefer to buy whatever produce we don’t grow ourselves at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, where most of the vendors are local, seasonal, organic farmers. Schlafly Bottleworks also has a market on Wednesdays in season, and the Downtown market, an off-shoot of the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, just started last year. The Soulard Farmers’ Market is cheaper, but, as you pointed out, most of it is shipped in from California and Mexico; however, we’ve found a couple local, organic vendors.
I like the idea of picking up a CSA share at the farm to meet the farmer and see the land, maybe even harvest a portion of the share myself. Yellow Tree Farm and Earth Dance Farms are both providing CSAs in St. Louis this year. We have both websites linked on our blog.
We would love to provide a small CSA in the St. Louis area for friends and family someday. We have a ways to go, but we learn sooo much every year. We’ve recently increased our garden space 6x what it was last year. Hopefully this year’s harvest is more than we can eat, so we can share our excess with you!