This was what I was looking at when my vegetable love alarm went off.  A San Francisco hotel room during BlogHer 2010.  Unfortunately, it’s going to happen.  We forgot to pick up our CSA.  Donna had flown to New York first thing Saturday morning after a last minute invite for some city fun (bloodies at Balthazar, Aquagrill for cherry stones and oysters, Eataly for pizza and pastas, the rooftop terrace at the Grammercy Park Hotel for drinks and then Peasant for a late dinner of razor clams, octopus, tripe, cuttlefish and veal bolognese over a thick eggy pasta—oy, I went to the wrong coast!)—so asking a friend to pick up our share had not been on my pre-flight to do list, and Donna, in her haste, didn’t think of it. When I remembered, it was 8 am Saturday, west coast time—the exact deadline and thus too late to reach a friend to rush to get it.

So add this to the con side of the “Is CSA a good choice?” page.  Not the fault of the farmers or the CSA, just a fact of busy lives. Our share went to a food bank, so I’m trusting it wasn’t wasted, but it does bum me out to have missed it.

Maybe now is time to talk about CSA negatives.

I only have one other.  Too many green peppers—or, more seriously, a lack of diversity of produce.

But, if the price is right for you, so far, the pros are outweighing the cons.

Anyone else have this problem of forgetting, or am I the only loser?


57 Wonderful responses to “CSA Week 19”

  • trippingchrissy

    We just moved to CLE and didn’t have time to sign up for a CSA here, but we did one last year in Chicago, and were lucky enough to find one that dropped the delivery on our front porch. However, we still felt like jerks a couple of weeks when we were out of town and forgot to put the empty bags on the porch with the check for that week’s delivery.

    Our other con was WAY too much zucchini and kohlrabi – after the third week of surplus, none of our family and friends wanted any, either. However, being able to support local farmers and the awesome convenience of having two giant bags of fresh produce delivered straight to our doorstep far outweighed the annoyance at my lack of creativity in preparing a few vegetables.

  • Jason Sandeman

    In all, the produce we got wasn’t too bad for our neck of the woods here. The main bumper crop we got was corn, and lots of it! It got to the point where we just did not know what to do with it, even if we were ONLY eating corn for supper! I ended up taking some to work and using it there.

    Bonuses were in the freshest apples you could get, nice golden watermelons, and a small basket of Lac St Jean blueberries.

    In all, well worth the investment!

  • Robyn M.

    Man, I actually *work* at the farm that produces my CSA (it’s a ecological catholic ministry–I’m the associate director) and even *I* forgot to pick it up one day! Now, in fairness to me, the “pick it up” days are pretty much identical to the “not pick it up” days, so maybe I can be forgiven. Still, how pathetic can you get?

    Our other con was too many turnips. OMG, the turnips. My director (a nun, mind you) actually yelled out her door “If I get one more god-damned turnip, so help me!!!” New gardener this year, though–certainly fewer turnips (but probably an ocean of kale–which is fine with me!).

  • JB in San Diego

    Are you a pessimist by nature Michael? Seeing those peppers as a scourge instead of little green opportunities for cajun food and cider-vinegar-pickled peppers is a lifestyle choice. The two “negatives” you mention are equally solvable problems. The whole point of a CSA is to support local agriculture by sharing the farmers’ risks with their customers. It’s a win-win situation, never more so than when you miss a week and your box goes to the food bank and the farmer still gets paid. Frankly I don’t know what happens to our box when we forget to pick it up, I hope something similar, and I intend to find out now. As for diversity, I think the solution is to not count on your CSA to supply all your family’s needs, and supplement your groceries from the store or the farmer’s market, which I’m sure is exactly what most people do. So you get to support your local farms AND buy some stuff you really want as well. In the end we agree – well worth the investment!

    • ruhlman

      i am a terrible pessimist by nature.

      thanks for the philosophical response.

  • Carri

    Lucky for me, my bakery is one of the pick up spots for our CSA, so even if I’m away, they will share it with the rest of the crew. We do get to see how many people forget every week, there is usually one or two. Living in a smal town has it’s advantages, though, in that we usually recognize the name and can give them a call. Our biggest drawback is that sometimes the more delicate stuff suffers during the delivery process, but then ours is coming a long way. The apples are so good right now, it reminds me of the cooler full I brought back from my trip to Cleveland last fall, which did not last long in this house! Does your CSA go year round?

      • Elke

        Marin Sun Farms here in CA has a meat CSA. We’ve been splitting it with two other familes for a few months now. We’ve had more goat than I ever imagined but the flavor is good (and lean) and the beef is grass-fed — none of that heavy steak feeling from traditional beef. You can order as little as 5 lbs. per month, it’s very customized.

      • Carri

        Right?! We do, too. We are finally getting Alaskan raised pork and beef at our local butcher, though and that has been so great. I’m curing bacon as we speak.

      • Dee

        Fresh Fork ( is offering a winter csa that will contain meat. The spring summer csa had periodic deliveries of meat/eggs/milk/cheese. Trevor is projecting that he will be able to feature meat more in the winter csa.

      • Lisa

        Pepperage farm sausalitos and minute maid….and you are worried about missing your CSA?. You covered all the food groups while away from home. We could really use a meat CSA as well…good idea for our city to consider but it has taken years for our summer farmer’s market to get support. We just have to keep fighting the good fight.

      • Brian

        I guess the problem with a meat csa is the lack of USDA approved meat processors. Along the gulf coast there is a dearth of USDA processors and local producers have to haul their product at great expense some distance for processing.

        Edible New Orleans had a great article about this problem.

      • JeffB

        I totally agree with the meat CSA idea, or at least a seafood CSA. Living in San Diego we do not have a local USDA approved meat processing plant (LA is the closest), so it looks like it will just be an idea for now.

        When I get a bunch of one thing I branch out and try new recipes and processes. If it were not for the CSA and the over abundance of dill, I would not have learned how to cure my own salmon.

        As far as forgetting to pick up, did it once in the last year and luckily they saved my box until the next morning!

  • Jaynie

    One of the farmers in our area went to a new format this year for his CSA. You get credits depending on whether you purchased a whole or half share. Then you use the credits at the farmers market, which is Sat. morning or Wed. evening. Since you get to pick out what you want this eliminates the green pepper type dilemmas. Also the credits roll, so if you can’t make it that week you can use your credits later or if you’re into preserving you can save up credits to get a bunch of tomatoes for canning. This was the first year so I hope the test worked for the farmer and he will be offering it again next year.

  • Maria D

    This is our third year with a CSA. We do have our weekly pickup as a repeating event on our calendars, and we’ve been good about lining up friends to pick up our shares when we’re out of town.

    The bumper crops vary from year to year and also from farm to farm. It’s helpful if the farmer can tell you early on if a particular vegetable did really well, so you know you need to give away/freeze/be creative with that particular vegetable. Our farmer always reminds us that one person’s favorite vegetable is another one’s least favorite, so it’s hard to balance that. Our church also has a table in their lobby where people can leave extras from the CSAs for others to pick up (all those not taken then are donated to a food bank).

    We belong to a very small CSA, less than 100 members total: one farmer and at most six farm employees. We are adamant CSA supporters because we know how hard our farmer works and how quickly things can turn, for example, how 500 heads of lettuce can be devoured by rabbits in just a few nights. The investment in the winter for next year’s harvest is worth it for us, even with the sometimes unwanted bumper crops.

  • Susan

    I like to pick out my own vegetables. I can’t bear the thought that someone might choose a perfectly ripe apple, thinking they chose well, only to have me disappointed because I like them slightly underripe. I am equally as quirky about corn, tomatoes, peppers, peaches, and have too many things I just don’t like, so I shouldn’t put anyone on the spot to choose them for me. So..I just shop the farmers mkt.

  • Kathy

    I split a share of an organic CSA with a friend and still had enough produce for home and the cooking school. The farm has a few overzealous interns who water all the cut produce to death, trying to get rid of crawling things. Too much chard, too little garlic, but the best lettuce, purple peppers (NO green), herbs, golden squash, heirloom tomatoes..there was a separate CSA for blueberries…We have an exchange table at our pickup area where you can swap stuff you don’t want for stuff you like, and anything left, including forgotten shares, goes to the food bank. We are almost at the end of our growing cycle, and I do not think I will get a share at this farm again.

    Hoping for the wine CSA..

  • CD

    I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and very much have enjoyed my first CSA experience this season. We get credit at our farm’s booth at the local farmer’s market if we let them know we’ll miss a pick up. But if you just plain forget the day of, then you lose your share for the week and it’s donated to local needy people. Two weeks ago I just forgot about our pick up….and I was way bummed out. Actually I felt like crap! Hard to describe why…but I missed apples and peaches! Sob…

  • cybercita

    I was sooo lucky… my neighbor, who works at the site, realized I hadn’t picked mine up at the end of her shift, and took mine home with her. She got a nectarine tart for her thoughtfulness, so a good time was had by all.

  • Carolyn Zichterman

    There are meat CSAs here in northern California. It’s a once a month delivery to a certain drop-off house, like with the veggie box. You can create a custom package or get a set package. For example, is one.

    We are really lucky in that the veggie box is year-round. But if we see any more tomatillos, I am out of ideas. I’m not a green salsa person.


    • Laura

      Roast ’em in the oven perhaps with other veggies and aromatics and freeze them or add them to a soup or make some Latin style braises (pork or chicken chile verde) or pickle them or…..

  • Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen)

    We forgot to pick up our fruit csa once this season. It’s every other week and totally slipped my mind. Oh well.

    There are a few farms in my area (Columbus OH) that do have meat CSAs. One is even offering a CSA for individual animal types so you can choose all lamb or all pork.

  • picklejuice

    I’d like a little more variety in my CSA box as well but I know that in supporting a very small farm I don’t get much choice. Consecutive weeks of many beets and carrots, both of which i love, but c’mon! I’m in Northern California so I do feel lucky that I’ll have great veggies year-round. I’m totally with you on the green peppers too, Micheal!

  • Tags

    Why not try this experiment? Since the ripening power of the gases emitted from apples is notorious, try putting an apple next to your green peppers. If they turn red, great, and if they start to turn for the worse, just treat them as the shameless trash you already regard them as.

    • ruhlman

      actually, just found one in the apple bowl. It was pinkening. And shriveling. clearly not feeling a part of this world.

  • Rachelino

    Since joining our CSA in June, my husband and I surprisingly haven’t forgotten to pick it up yet, but our CSA ( here in Northern California has the nice option of a vacation hold (for a small fee they don’t deliver a box that week as long as you notify them via their website) which we have used a couple times.

    My only issue with the box is what everyone probably has – an abundance of something in season for which our appetite cannot possibly keep up with supply. Everyone is bound to run into that at some point during the year’s seasons. Michael, I agree with you that too much zucchini is grown is this country. This summer we have been at a loss to use up basil and melon. I can’t eat pesto that much. All in all, the CSA is awesome: a tiny adventure each week when we lift the lid.

    I know marinsunfarms, the meat CSA Carolyn mentioned above. We were recently gifted around 70 lbs of their meat as a surprise (all different types…mutton chops, lamb sausage, ground chuck, steak, etc.) and everything has been awesome.

  • sarakata

    Lucky me, our CSA actually delivers! Right to my office door, at around 430p, as the day is winding down.

    Living in Hawaii, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Our first CSA last week was pretty diverse, though. Cherry tomatoes, kabocha, maui onions, baby kale, tatstoi, starfruit and some lettuce. 🙂

  • Lara

    GACK, sorry I missed seeing you. I was working a booth at the DMA. At least we had great weather for you.

  • Gwyn

    I have not subscribed to a CSA because my work schedule/location is too unpredictable and I don’t have a CSA nearby who will deliver. Alas!

    If I ever make the leap into a CSA subscription, I think I will also invest in a small, supplemental freezer so that I can freeze the excess. Green peppers, cored, sliced in half and frozen, would make nice stuffed peppers come January. And my mother-in-law has a terrific recipe for zucchini soup, which freezes well, too.

    Come to think of it, I didn’t get any zucchini handouts this summer. Of course, here in the Pacific NW, we didn’t get any summer either.

  • riceandwheat

    Oh I have definitely been on the verge of forgetting but somehow, I can always call up my sister or friends nearby to enjoy the bounty. 🙂 I really do love my CSA …. except for the lack of fruit (but we knew that going in, so it’s really not their fault) and the continuous flood of carrots! Being not the biggest carrot fan, that’s absolutely my biggest challenge.

  • Karen Downie Makley

    I do not personally participate in a CSA program, but I have customers who do (I am a private cook/personal chef) and family members who do, so I prepare the produce from these programs regularly. All of the CSA participants I know have been frustrated by forgotten or “impossible-to-get-to-during-a-crazy-week” pick-ups or deliveries. That is definitely a con.
    Other cons are…it’s often too much volume of food and things that cannot be shared/given away go to waste. I do feel like it’s a horrible waste of product and the farmer’s labor to pitch food. CSA’s also involve a lot of prep work in the kitchen. I cook for a living. I love cooking. I love vegetables. I’m efficient and comfortable with a variety of techniques, but even I am often overwhelmed by the challenges of bumper crops. I’m sure there must be lots of CSA participants who just don’t know what to do and give away or throw away most of their shares. It’s a shame.
    I love supporting local farmers, but based on my CSA experiences, I personally will probably continue to cherry-pick my own produce, in the volume I need for a smaller household, at a farmer’s market or a local venue that buys from the little guys rather than participate in a CSA that I will struggle to keep up with.

  • Mo

    Me again, I’m a Farmer.
    We have three different CSA pick up sites (our farm stand, a church, and a community center) on different days.. At all three sites we have a place where we store coolers for ‘left shares’. We bag the shares and leave them in the coolers for 24 hours for missed pick up shares.
    We call the people at night, after they missed pick up, to remind them of thier shares and if they are unclaimed after 24 hours the shares are donated to a food bank.

    We try to always offer choices (and a swap bin) so no one feels overwhelmed with any food they don’t like.

    I would add too, that we acknowlege that we might not be for everyone. We encourage our members to ask other farms how they do things, what they offer, and for examples of that was offered in past years at thier CSA.

    We love and appriciate our members and appriciate the support.
    Thanks for covering this subject.

  • Sarah Caron

    Ha! Even you can forget! I nearly forgot once or twice this season — and my cousins run the farm where I have my CSA share. Really, it can slip anyone’s mind.

    The interesting thing, I thought, was something my cousin recently told me: it’s a common thing among farmers to have several forgotten pick-ups at the end of the season. Apparently, some people forget and others just give up. It’s somewhat sad, really.

    As for your too-many-green-peppers problem, I think every CSA has something like that. But it’s a different bumper crop represented wherever you go. For us, this year, it was cabbage. Three or more heads per week for a month was just too much.

  • Jessica

    I make chili relleno casserole with all my CSA peppers…even bell peppers…then I get to eat it for breakfast the day after!

  • Candace

    You should take a look at Essex Farm in Essex, N.Y., a “whole-diet” CSA where you take as much as you need for a week of meat, milk and vegetables.

  • Randy

    This is precisely why I don’t sign up anymore-not enough thought put into proper planning so that you don’t get weeks of peas and spinach…
    CSA’s must do whatever they can do to start diversifying some.

  • Voltaire Santos Miran

    Thanks for the post–you just inspired me to re-up my CSA. I had stopped awhile back because I was sick of chard chard chard all the time. Since then our CSA has gotten better about varying the contents of the box each week. Even more importantly, they now let us know a few days in advance of delivery what will be in the box I can plan the next week’s worth of meals (and decide what else I need to pick up at the co-op) in advance.

  • Russ

    and what do we see on your desk in the picture….some juice…two coffees and some cookies…..Michael, is that any sort of proper nutrition? Your CSA may not accept you if you keep eating like that.

  • Mari

    Our meat CSA has been wonderful so far (we just picked up our third month’s worth last Saturday–two quartered half-chickens (if that makes sense), a beef roast, 4 thick, bone-in pork chops, and a pound of ground beef). The only drawback is that pickup is on Saturday, a day we typically don’t drive into town, so it requires a special trip which amounts to a 35 minute drive each way.

    We’ve been lucky that the weather’s been cool so we can leave our package (in insulated freezer bags) in the car while we run some other errands, but I can imagine it would be different if we were still getting 100-degree temps. And, of course, the benefit with meat is that there’s no pressure to use it up before it goes bad, because it’s frozen. And you can jump in at any time, year-round.

    Our CSA farm just began offering a chicken-only CSA, too, the same weight of meat but half the price since you’re not getting beef or pork.

    @Sarah, I just tried a recipe for fresh saurkraut the other day. It’ll be posted on my blog sometime in the next week or so 🙂

  • Natalie Sztern

    Of all the people I can think of, I am shocked that you tend to have a lot of negativity with regards to your CSA. Community Sponsored Agriculture, at least here, is supposed to be a basket full of what that farmer grows and cultivates. I agree that there has to be a give and take but isn’t it really all about sponsoring the farmer more than what is in the basket? In the end, if we don’t help them then it might be more than heirloom tomatoes that Southeby’s will be auctioning off in the years to come.

  • pam

    Our problem is that our CSA pickup is Mondays at 5:00 downtown, right by where my husband works. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Think …Memorial Day, Labor Day, and all the other holidays that fall on Mondays, or that fact that Mondays are usually the day you want to take off for a long weekend.

  • susanne

    What tha! Sausalito cookies in SF? What’s next Rice-A-Roni and sourdough bread? Blech 😉 At least our SF is giving you the some unpredictable heat.

    The CSA doesn’t make much sense with all of our great neighborhood farmer’s markets where I can pick and choose what I want.

  • faustianbargain

    i dont understand why you cant slap together a couple of pieces of lumber and grow your own food. really…

  • Dawn (KitchenTravels)

    Donna is a lucky girl. Dinner at Peasant was one of the highlights of our trip to NY a few months ago, and we loved brunch at Balthazar, as well. (You know about Peasant’s “other” restaurant, don’t you?)

    CSA… we all forget sometimes. Still worth it. As for the peppers, just mix up a quick batch of green pepper jam, and you’re good to go.

    Pleasure to meet you at BHF10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and bacon!

  • Trudy G

    I started a small CSA this year where I deliver the produce to the members’ doorsteps. It works great for me as I am not a strict time schedule just have to make the delivery on a certain day. I also send out an email two days in advance outlining what people can expect in their box that week. It serves two functions – 1) they can plan their meals/shopping trips for the weekend and 2) it gives them a chance to tell me if they will be out of town, etc so other arrangements for their box can be made if necessary. I love doing this and plan to grow my CSA into a full-time job.

  • Wendy from La Jolla, CA

    Oh maaaan. I, too, was in San Francisco on Monday, October 11th, celebrating my birthday. Too bad I didn’t get a chance to meet you. We ate dinner at Tyler’s new place — Wayfare Tavern — delish! I am sure you know about it, but the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building is always such a treat to visit. Every time I go, I end up taking a bunch of stuff home on the plane. We stay at Hotel Vitale, right across from the Ferry Building, so that we can be there right when it opens. Love San Francisco . . . and your blogs. Thanks!

  • Allan Suddaby

    If anyone’s curious to read about a CSA in Alberta Canada, there’s some info (including a cost comparison to grocery stores and farmers’ markets) here.

    Basically the same pros and cons, although growing is a lot different here (we need greenhouses to grow peppers and tomatoes, and our growing season ended a few weeks ago…)

  • Heather

    How ironic…Donna’s stops in the city are almost identical to my choices. Balthazar, Eataly, Peasant. Though she missed Esca.

  • Amy

    We belong to a great Chicago-area CSA for vegetables, and we do argue with our box-sharers over who will throw away the anise hyssop. But the farm is great about polling members to see what we’d like more or less of. The boxes show they’re listening. Our meat CSA, however, is another story. I’m finding it difficult to plan meals around items I’ve only seen frozen and wrapped in paper. Once defrosted, the cut might not be what I’d pictured or there’s less than I expected once I’ve trimmed away bones and waste. At least with the veg I know exactly what I have. I’ve also learned through the meat CSA that farmers operating on a shoestring don’t necessarily have time, resources or the mindset for the the administrative end of things. I try to understand, but it can be frustrating to wait weeks for answers.

  • Andrea

    We couldn’t afford a couple’s share this year, but our CSA also has a farm-stand section. I found that I bought items from them almost every week – enough for our little household. We got almost all of our eggs from them, and some great produce that I’ve been stuffing into our chest freezer or food dehydrator for the winter months. The farm stand/a la carte option really helped us participate in a CSA without the financial strain.