Good Morning, Community Supported Agriculture!

Thanks to testimonies from friends and from several local blogs (but especially Yum Yum), I have decided to quit sitting the fence and subscribe to a CSA.


Community supported agriculture, or CSA, has its roots in early 1960s Switzerland, Germany and Japan, when local consumers became concerned about the potential fiscal and health related problems that imported agriculture posed to their communities. For a set number of weeks, consumers purchase a subscription to a local farm entitling them to a weekly share of the crops. There is inherent shared risk and reward in the system, meaning that consumers get whatever the farm grows seasonally (and their share reflects the season’s yield). While contemporary versions of the system have expanded to include specific item ala carte ordering, mostly it works the same way: you subscribe and receive a share, usually vegetables and fruit, sometimes dairy and meat and occasionally even sundry items (apple butter, preserves, cider).

The main drawback of the system is the risk the consumer takes – a thin harvest means little to distribute as shares – but the benefits of the system are immense. Firstly, community supported agriculture does exactly that: supports agriculture in the community. By buying shares of the harvest, consumers are allowing farms to continue to exist, to thrive, to grow. Local farms can continue to feed and educate their communities. Everybody benefits.


In addition, CSA subscribers are given an increased intimacy with the food they eat. Knowing not only where the food has come from but how it was grown and when can lead to a powerful bond between grower, buyer, and the food between them. As a CSA participant, you are getting from a local source, which cuts down on the amount of travel, therefore, short of growing it yourself, you’re getting some of the freshest possible produce.

Western Pennsylvania boasts many local farms, which means a lot of choices when it comes to CSAs. That’s where I need some help. Anyone who has a subscription, which program/farm do you subscribe to? One of my friends, Kait, had a summer box with Isidore Foods, a company that pulls from several farms in Lawrence, Butler, and other counties to offer year-round CSA subscriptions. Because they have drop-off points right down the road from me in Mt. Lebanon, it makes sense to go with Isidore, but what are some other good options?

For reference:

From the Fork and the Road

Slow Food Pittsburgh has a good, concise guide to choosing a CSA.
– A good discussion thread on Chowhound regarding local CSA options.
– Nice overview on CSAs at Local Harvest.
– Comprehensive list of local farms from Grow Pittsburgh
– Isidore sponsored Eat Local Pittsburgh

3 responses to “Good Morning, Community Supported Agriculture!

  1. Yay for CSA!

    This was our first year belonging to a CSA. Holy veggie overload!

    We even split a share, but still between bi-weekly veggie deliveries and our own garden we had way more vegetables than we knew what to do with. Definitely got our money’s worth.

    It exposed us to lots of things we never would have tried on our own and encouraged more creative cooking. And everything was so FRESH! I was amazed at how much longer it lasted than store bought veggies.

    I highly recommend joining a CSA.

    Thanks for sharing this with Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays!

    ♥ Rebecca Jean
    Midnight Maniac

  2. Our CSA is Penns Corner. We picked them because they have the most locations and one that is on the way home from work for Greg. I take the photos before we halve everything since we split a share with Greg’s dad. We still have more than enough for us. Penns Corner substitutes with cheese/bread/fresh pasta, etc., when the harvest is slim (and a lot in spring because there’s so many greens so throwing in other stuff ups the variety). Penns Corner just sent us an email survey because they are thinking of doing a ‘winter CSA’ with things like apples/potatoes, jarred goodies, pickled goodies, beans, popcorn, etc. Before we moved to Robinson, Greg shared a CSA with 2 friends and they subscribed to Kretschman’s, which he really liked. But he says he doesn’t like one more than the other (Penns C/Kretschmans), it was just a matter of pick up location for us.

  3. We’ve subscribed to a number of CSAs over the years. Penn’s Corner was our favorite by far because of the variety of items you receive and the quality of everything.

    We dropped out of the CSA world, though, because in season we prefer to shop at farmer’s markets. Every day of the week, save Sunday, there’s a market open no more than 10 minutes from our house. Shopping markets gives you flexibility that you don’t have with a CSA subscription.

    That said, getting your CSA box is like having Christmas morning every week.

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