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Hacking SF: How to Pick Your CSA Soul Mate
Caleb Pershan | Photo: Courtesy of Eatwell Farm | July 24, 2013
Assessing the best boxes for your buck.
Dispensing with the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s middleman, a CSA—or community-supported agriculture program—is a way of life in these parts. But with over 20 CSAs to choose from, how do you know which one is the best fit for you? Better decide quick, Goldilocks: tomato and peach season in is in full swing. Here’s a hand-picked guide to getting the biggest organic bang for your buck.
Farm Fresh To You: Around since 1976 and located in Capay Valley, Farm Fresh To You is one of the largest CSA programs in the Bay Area. Most, but not all, of the food is from their one farm—the rest is also local and organic, just from nearby farms. If you’re looking to sample the wares, head over to their retail store in the Ferry Building.
Price Point: Minimum $25 per delivery (Small Box, Mixed Fruit and Veggies), max $55 (Monster Mixed). Eggs are an add-on at $6 for organic cage-free, which means henhouses, and $7 for pasture-raised, which means full-time outdoor hen parties but they sleep in henhouses.
Customization: You can easily change the size of your order and exclude fruits and veggies you don’t want. Plus, you can see what you're going to get online the day before delivery, so you can plan your meals ahead of time.
Delivery: Choose a frequency of every week, every other week, or every 3rd or 4th week. Then choose between daytime office delivery or overnight home. Your delivery day is assigned, not chosen.
Yelp Says: 3 stars in 212 reviews, with a few critics citing delivery problems but most folks touting the service.
Eatwell Farm: Want to try a CSA without committing? With Eatwell you can order a trial subscription for 4 deliveries of fresh fruits and veggies; otherwise you’ll automatically renew. Each box has 10-13 items but you can’t pick and choose. It’s all organic, and 85 percent is from a single farm.
Price Point: There’s just one size, and a 4 delivery minimum for $116, amounting to $29 a box. If you opt to pay for 12 deliveries at once you get one free. Pasture raised eggs are an add-on for $4 a half dozen. Other add-ons include chicken stock and lavender.
Delivery: Once or twice a week, to an undisclosed location near you— but not to your doorstep, unfortunately.
Customization: None, but they post what you’ll receive on their blog with juicy descriptions (for example, Strawberries with the explanation that the season has been longer than expected, and basil, which “needs no introduction”).
Yelp Says: 4.5 Stars in 23 reviews. Everyone sounds happy, especially with the eggs, but there are a few complaints that the produce doesn’t always look as good as it tastes.
Marin Sun Farms: Here’s the meat of it! This is your go-to CSA for when you don’t want just the green stuff. Almost everything here is grass-fed and pasture raised, and they were in the Chronicle today!
Price Point: Monthly packages start with the “Rare” package at $54 dollars for 6 lbs of assorted meat and scale up to the “Well Done” package at $163 for 17 lbs of meat. The poultry package is $99 for 16 lbs of pasture-raised chickens.
Delivery: They stop at 4 locations in SF (the Waterfront, the Inner Richmond , 24th and Mission, and Duboce Park). Since meat spoils fast, packages not picked up will be forfeited.
Customization: Make sure to turn off auto-renew if you’re just trying out the service, and note that you can place everything on vacation hold if you’re out of town. There are also plenty of add-ons (like goat meat or pet foods).
Yelp Says: 3 stars in 39 reviews, with nods to the delicious pork and general bellyaching about price.
Eating with the Seasons: If you’re a control freak who’s uncomfortable with a mystery box of produce, this is the CSA for you. They’re based in Hollister and are the most customizable of the CSA gang.
Price Point: $18 per order for an extra small share, $48 large, with either weekly, 5-times monthly, or biweekly deliveries. Eggs are add-ons for $4.50 a week, and there are plenty of other add-on goodies like meats, canned goods, and extra strawberries.
Delivery: Over 20 pickup sites in SF, including at Yelp and Zynga for you crunchy techies.
Customization: Each week during the designated window you can order a la carte whatever you’d like (that's in season and available). Autonomy never tasted so good.
Yelp Says: 4.5 stars out of 91 reviews. EWTS, as people affectionately refer to it, gains points for its customization options and high marks from those who say they’ve been members of other CSAs.