Consider it payoff for our notoriously gloomy winters: Western Washington's farms turn out some truly spectacular produce during the warmer months. Farm shares are a convenient and economical option for partaking in this bounty: Paying a flat rate at the beginning of the season entitles customers to a regularly recurring portion of a farm's produce.
Sure, you share in the risk if the growing season is a dud. But most of the time, this investmant yields an abundance of colorful produce, including unsung and heirloom species that you might pass right by at the farmers market.
Here, an updated list of CSA options around Seattle. (You don't even have to like veggies this time around.)
The Bargain Hunter’s CSA
One Leaf Farm, Snohomish
Pick up on Tuesdays in the Central District and either Ballard or Fremont; exact locations TBD
$600 weekly or $300 biweekly for the season, from June through November
Four-year-old up-and-comer One Leaf Farm, which recently moved from Carnation to Chinook Farms in Snohomish Valley, regularly sells to the likes of Thierry Rautureau, Dustin Ronspies, and John Sundstrom. So it may come as a surprise that the CSA costs an affordable $25 a week, about 10 percent cheaper than market prices. The farm also offers a two-installment payment plan to keep the up-front cost easy on the wallet. This CSA also runs later than most, with celery root, shallots, and Delicata squash among the late autumn haul.
The Carnivore’s CSA
R Heritage Farm, Gold Bar
Pick up at the Lynnwood, Des Moines, Edmonds, and Lake Forest Park farmers markets
$500/full share, $250/half share, $125/quarter share
Price per week varies
This pork and poultry farm’s CSA functions much like a gift certificate, if a typical gift certificate was redeemable for freshly slaughtered animals that used to have names. You buy a share ahead of time, then all your purchases from the farm’s website are deducted from your share balance. Take your pick of the farm’s wares—the credit never expires. Fair warning to the faint of heart: R Heritage’s website features many a photo of the happy baby pigs that will soon fill your freezer, but one bite of their andouille and you might just forget all about those cute little faces.
The Bon Vivant’s CSA
The London Plane, Seattle
Home delivery or pick up at the London Plane
$2,500 for the season, from April through October
The agricultural corner of the Matt Dillon universe offers the most expensive—and most luxurious—farm share of the bunch. Every week, customers will not only receive an assortment of fresh produce and foraged goods, they’ll also get a springy loaf of country-style sourdough from The London Plane and a bottle of wine hand-picked by the folks at Bar Ferd'nand. The rest of the share will vary from week to week: maybe farm-fresh eggs and recipes, a cookbook, linens, or one of Dillon's superlative cultured dairy products. Subscribers will also be treated to lunch for two once a month and access to community events. Early subscribers will also receive two free classes from the London Plane's lineup.
The Workhorse's CSA
Oxbow Farm, Carnation
Pick up locations throughout the region, days vary
$630/full share, $420/half share, free with work share, from June through October
Smaller-size shares of Oxbow Farm's weekly produce boxes are available for free, as long as you're willing to get your hands dirty. Each member of the work share staff works four hours a week weeding, mulching, bagging, and performing other assorted farm tasks in exchange for produce. Tasks are less bucolic than one might imagine, so proceed with caution. Request a spot on the waiting list.
The Control Freak's CSA
Dog Mountain Farm, Carnation
Home delivery for $100 extra, or pick up at Portage Bay Grange on Fridays
Price varies depending on selections, from June through October
The unpredictability of a CSA box's contents can be a deterrent (who has that many zucchini recipes?), so nearly everything in Dog Mountain Farm's CSA can be customized to your liking. Subscribers can choose to receive produce, flowers, eggs (chicken or duck, naturally), baked goods, preserves, holiday add-ons, or a combination thereof. You can also opt for home delivery or pickup, and even request to establish a new pickup spot if you gather enough subscribers. Attention latecomers and summer vacationers: Subscribe to the CSA anytime and Dog Mountain will prorate your fee.
The Fruit Lover's CSA
Tonnemaker Family Orchard, Royal City
Pick up on Tuesdays at locations throughout Seattle
$216/small share, $288/large share, from June through September; prices vary for 10-pound shares
Vegetable haters, rejoice: Tonnemaker's CSA boxes contain cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, and other fruit straight from its Royal City orchard—and zero vegetables to ruin things. Garden-variety fruit enthusiasts can opt for their standard CSA, which contain a few pounds of fruit. Subscribers who make jam, dehydrate fruit, or just really freaking love Rainier cherries can join the 10lb Club and get 10 pounds of single varieties of fresh fruit delivered weekly.
The Purist's CSA
Jubilee Biodynamic Farm, Carnation
Home delivery for $96 extra, or pick up at the farm on Tuesdays, Fridays, or Saturdays
$700/couple share, $900/family share, from June through October
The organic produce at this Snoqualmie Valley farm is grown biodynamically without herbicides, pesticides, preservatives, or synthetic fertilizers. Farmers also take pains to get produce from the field to customers as quickly as possible to retain its nutritional integrity; the three-day pickup schedule ensures wares will never be more than a day old when you receive them. These pristine fruits and vegetables have gained a significant following: This is the second longest-running CSA in the state. Like Oxbow, Jubilee also offers work shares, both on the farm and at the market.
The CSA-phobe's CSAs
Okay, they're not farm shares per se. But a handful of organic produce delivery programs, which offer seasonal fruits and vegetables sourced from local and sorta-local farms, are a great alternative for those who aren't quite ready to take the CSA plunge. Full Circle's produce boxes are available in "seed" and "harvest" sizes, with artisan grocery supplements available for an additional fee. New Roots Organic offers customizable produce boxes as well as chicken and duck eggs, granola, and other pantry products. Pacific Coast Harvest delivers fruit, vegetables, local coffee, honey, and fresh pasta to Seattle-area subscribers.