Join A CSA – If You Still Can


I am beyond mortified. I think I missed out on my chance to join a CSA this year.

For three years, I ran Hazon’s Jewish CSA program, Tuv Ha’Aretz. During that time, CSA-related thoughts (vegetables yes, but also spreadsheets and volunteer coordination, and organizing Shabbat potlucks, and donating leftover produce to soup kitchens, etc.) dominated vast swaths of my brain, crowding out other important information like friends’ birthdays and the need to wash my bath tub.

I would complain regularly – even daily at certain times of the year – about people who could not get their act together in time to register for a CSA. Outwardly I was compassionate, of course, but inside I had no sympathy for those people who would send me frantic emails the night before vegetable pick ups started asking, “Is it too late to sign up?” What did they think this was, Fresh Direct?

After all that experience, you’d think I’d be a pro at signing *myself* up for a CSA. The first gal to send in her check, right?


Since I went part time at Hazon, I no longer run Hazon’s CSA, but three days a week I sit right next to the person who does. Still, it took until sometime last week for me to wake up with the notion that it was probably time to register for this year’s season, which starts in June. Checkbook in hand, I went to my CSA’s website to find out where to send my form and money. I was shocked to see the following words flashing across the screen like an “F” on a term paper: “Shares sold out for the 2008 season.”

“How could that be?” I wondered out loud to my computer. But there it was, plain as day: SOLD OUT (sucker). I began to imagine a summer with my weekly influx of gorgeous, organic fruits and veggies – and that summer seemed very bleak, indeed. I also thought about those rising food prices that don’t seem to be going anywhere, and how buying local food from a CSA is a tangible way to avoid high prices at the supermarket. Mostly, I choked up a bit with shame at the realization that I, Ms. CSA Coordinator herself, had ironically turned into one of those flakey members that used to drive me crazy.

Then, looking at my calendar, I realized with a jolt that it was still April. April! Almost never, in my tenure had one of the CSAs I helped coordinate on the East Coast (where seasons start late-ish, in June) run out of shares that early! Most of the farmers I worked with were happy to fill up with members by the time the season started – and if they weren’t filled, would accept those last-minute folks with open arms. Sure, I still could (should) have sent my check in two months ago, but in my defense, I didn’t fully understand the true urgency of signing up early this year.

So why the early fill ups? Perhaps it has something to do with the massive amounts of media attention that local food has received for the last few years. Perhaps word-of-mouth about the “secret club” for getting freakishly delicious vegetables has caught on. Or maybe, like me, other people are seeking ways to avoid those high supermarket prices.

Whatever the case, the CSA cat is out of the bag and demand has surpassed supply, with long waiting lists forming at CSAs across the country. On the one hand, this is great news! As Rabbi Shmuel aptly commented:

“With fuel (trucking) and feed (read corn, read petroleum) and the doubling of food prices, suddenly local food which relies on neither is poised to be a (financially) viable player since the true allure of industrial-ag was the lo price.”

He’s right – if food prices continue to rise, CSA could become even more popular (though I’m still skeptical that it will reach the level of ubiquity that Michael Pollan suggested). But this can’t happen if there isn’t enough local, organic food to go around. For the CSA movement to flourish, we simply need more farmers (like these folks and this amazing girl) to supply all those hungry local-obsessed eaters!

In the meantime, after sending my own “frantic email” to the coordinators of my CSA – the kind I used to privately laugh at – I was told that they *might* be able to squeeze me in this year. I’m not asking for your sympathy – I know I don’t deserve it. But you better believe I’m sending in my check in January next year!

Am I alone out there, or did other readers get shut out of their CSA too?

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13 Responses to “Join A CSA – If You Still Can”

  1. Amy Buondonno Says:

    I’m in your boat, mostly because my husband is all about the bottom line and it wasn’t until recently that I had enough of an economic argument to convince him. Fortunately, there are two nearby farm markets that also have U-picks (which my boys just love!) so I can still get local produce. You better believe that I’ll be compiling my data for next year!

  2. debby Says:

    I have to admit, I re-upped in late 2007, when my farm share emailed about it… it feels like the equivalent of drooling over plant catalogs in the middle of winter.

  3. Alix Says:

    Our partner farm in Berkeley is sold out of shares as well. We were in the midst of signing people up for Tuv Ha’Aretz, when we got word that they were full. We had to stop at 19 members.

  4. Ketzirah Carly Says:

    Thankfully my husband does deliveries for our CSA, so I don’t think we can forget to renew! I guess you’ll have to hit the local farmers’ markets!

  5. Jessica Says:

    I got shut out too :(
    Most places were sold out, and some I just never heard back from. Sad me will have to just shlep to local farmers’ markets and hope for the best. Also, maybe it will give me that extra nudge to plant things.

  6. Leah Koenig Says:

    There’s certainly an economic advantage to joining Amy – and while U-picks and farmers markets are great, nothing beats the no-fuss method of having a box of produce waiting for you every week (in my opinion, anyway).

    I wish I’d followed your lead, Debby. :)

    I heard about your farmer selling out Alix – that didn’t happen so quickly last year, right?

    You’re lucky Ketzirah Carly! What does that mean your husband does deliveries…does your CSA deliver directly to members’ homes?

    Sorry to hear that Jessica – though I like your silver lining of planting more.

  7. Alix Says:

    Last year it didn’t happen at all! This is the first time ever our farm has sold out of shares. Our farm’s CSA goes year-round, so there is a waiting list for when people drop out.

  8. Rachel Says:

    Luckily I have been a member of mine for over a year now, and ours goes month-to-month (so we don’t have to pay it all up front). As of today, my CSA is not signing up new members for at least another month! This has happened every month since the season began…and I don’t remember it happening once last year.

  9. phyllis Says:

    i haven’t found a csa but i do get a weekly delivery from an organic farm-company in my area, it’s year round and let me tell you — it rocks my world to get that delivery each friday (how nice of them to move my day to right before shabbat!)…plus i get milk and bread and cottage cheese too!

  10. SqueakyChu Says:

    This is my first year with a CSA, and I’m very excited about it. Our group at first had a bit of trouble recruiting the minimum number of share members. True to form, however, there were those who waited until the last minute to sign up and were no longer able to join. Maybe next year…

  11. Alyssa Says:

    My roommate and I were so excited to join a CSA this season, and last week he emailed a few in the area, but NO!! ALL SOLD OUT! We too had glorious visions of trotting home, arms full of gorgeous colorful vegetables. Of making vegetarian dinners for friends and eating on the rooftop, loving our local fair veggies. But NO! Not this year it seems. Anyone know of a Brooklyn or East/West Village CSA that is not sold out??

  12. Lisa K Says:

    The Carroll Gardens CSA might have some shares left.

  13. Leah Koenig Says:

    UPDATE: Miraculously, (I’m not sure where they found an extra spot) I managed to squeeze my way into my CSA! I’m so happy and relieved that I’ll get to eat delicious veggies this summer afterall, and dedicated to being a diligent CSA member from now on.

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