I’ve heard there’s long waiting lists to become a member of many CSAs around the city. Park Slope’s is packed, Greenpoint-Williamsburg’s maxed out, and Crown Heights’s, new as of last year, filled up so early that another CSA sprouted up in South Crown Heights this year. So if you’re on one of those lists, here’s some good news. Many CSAs in New York City still need members this season, and I dare say, you need to get in on this before the door’s closed.
When naysayers argue that local, sustainable food is elite, they’re missing one crazy loophole: the average cost of a CSA share. Community Supported Agriculture is designed to benefit both you and the farm, profit-seeking middle men out of the equation. It’s simple, rustic, and fun in an Iron Chef sort of way: you pay up front for a whole season’s worth of produce, and receive weekly batches of food from a local farm. The cost of a full share in the New York City area, for a twenty-two week season, ranges around $500. It’s far more than enough food for one person, though, so if you split one share or get a half-share (which are now offered at most), it’s more like $12 a week, and it’s still a lot of food.
To search for the closest CSA in your neighborhood, see Just Food’s website. Be sure to check if one of the 20 new CSAs in NYC are in your area. Do you want meat, milk and raw cheese? There’s a new meat CSA served by High Points Farms, in the Finger Lakes. Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, free-range eggs and local cheese are coming to two pick-up locations in the city, in the East Village and Brooklyn Heights. Don’t miss out.
There’s much more besides food that you can enjoy from joining a CSA, though. In addition to becoming acquainted with all manner of radishes (like the Easter egg ones at top), I got to know many folks who live in my neighborhood from joining one last year. Visiting the farm that served my CSA, Sang Lee, and meeting the family that operated it was another wonderful bonus. I ate better, and for way less than eating “poorly,” for sure. And because my refrigerator was so full of good food most of the time, I had a lot of fun sharing it at picnics and parties. Clearly, I can’t say enough good things about joining a CSA, so I’ll stop and let someone else talk about it instead.
Maia Raposo is a CSA Development & Nutrition Education associate at the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (and makes a mean homemade barbecue sauce for grilled chicken, too). She has been organizing the Central Brooklyn CSA, one of the new ones in town this year, and took a moment to explain here how and why it was started up. The deadline to apply for this one is tomorrow, though! Check out how cheap the prices of this CSA’s shares are, and note how they’re scaled depending on how much income the member makes. I don’t know what’s a more democratic, un-elite way to get food than that.
What was it like getting a new CSA up and running this year? Where did you start?
MP: It’s extremely exciting to start a CSA from scratch. The best part about it is getting the community members excited about the project. We’re working within a church that is French-speaking, and made up of a large immigrant population, many of whom have never heard of CSA before. Getting them interested in the concept and recruiting community members has been the most rewarding part thus far.
Central Brooklyn CSA share prices are tiered by household income level. Why did you decide on this?
This CSA is part of the Farm Fresh Initiative, a project run by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. This breakdown in pricing is how all of our CSAs run (We also partner with Long Island City and West Harlem). Our main objective is to make CSAs affordable for people regardless of income level; low-income members are usually left out of purchasing CSA shares because of the up-front cost. NYCCAH’s program allows low-income members to pay using their food stamps and by paying weekly. This ensures that everyone who is interested in joining, can!
What farm is going to be serving this CSA, and what can we expect from them?
The farm that we are partnering with is MimoMex Farm in Goshen NY. This farm is run by Martin and Gaudencia Rodriguez; they are the first graduates of the New Farmer Development Program to own their own farm land. The NFDP trains immigrants with agricultural experience on farming in the Northeast. They specialize in Mexican produce, but we can also expect lots of standard NYS CSA crops like kale, broccoli, eggplant, and pumpkins!
Besides the food, what’s most rewarding about being part of a CSA to you?
Definitely becoming closer with your community. It’s been so wonderful to see the diverse group of people coming together and working so hard on this project. Every CSA I’ve been a part of has resulted in new friends and great memories. The season hasn’t even started yet, and I can already see that happening within our members. It’s so awesome!
[Full disclosure: readers of The Art of Eating In, same Maia here!]