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CSAs: Food at Your Door

Hidden Hive Flowers is one of nearly a dozen CSAs serving McHenry County.

CSA subscribers support local farmers, get great food in return.

The season for fresh, locally grown vegetables is almost here. Certainly our weekly farmers markets are great places to buy local and sustainably grown food, but there’s a different way to get farm-fresh food: through a CSA subscription.

CSA stands for community-supported agriculture and the concept is pretty simple: A local farm offers people the chance to pre-purchase a share of the farm’s harvest for the season. You sign up and once a week (or so) you get a share of the harvest in the form of a box of fresh, flavorful vegetables.

What’s in the Box?

McHenry County is lucky to have 11 area farms that offer CSA drop-off spots throughout the area (see list below). The box contents and size vary by the farm and the season, but you can expect things like lettuce, radishes and peas in the spring; carrots, tomatoes and broccoli in the summer; and root vegetables, winter squash and potatoes in the fall.  Some farms provide boxes that are big enough to feed a large family with extra to spare, while others focus on smaller boxes for individuals or smaller families. Your CSA farm might also offer add-ons to your box of vegetables like eggs and sometimes fruit or even meat.

CSA boxes are typically picked up at a predetermined time and location. For example, the farm you choose might have a drop off at a member’s home in Crystal Lake on Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., or it may be a business, or you might pick up your produce at the farm. There are a few farms on the list like Angelic Organics and Ready Jams Farm that offer home delivery if you live within a certain radius of the farm.

History of CSAs

The CSA model first got its start in the United States in the late 1980s. As more and more of our country’s food production was being centralized in California, smaller farms wanted to find a way to keep the food they were growing in the community, and to form a relationship between the farmer and the people who consumed their product. The CSA model creates a mutual support system: The farmer makes a commitment to grow food for their members and their members makes a commitment to buy the farmer’s food.

The CSA model ensures that local farmers get supported and people in the community get to eat fresh food and that didn’t travel thousands of miles to get to them. There are now estimated to be more than 12,500 farms in the United States that use the CSA model for distributing everything from vegetables to meat to yarn to flowers to tens of thousands of members.

Who Should Sign Up?

CSA share works great for families that love vegetables and love to cook and want to support a local farmer. The vegetables in the box are fresh – sometimes even harvested the same day as the pick up – and everyone knows that super-fresh vegetables can make a huge difference in how they taste. Plus, it’s nice to know that you’ll get a box of carefully selected vegetables every week, rain or shine, without worrying about showing up at the farmers market early enough to get the good selection.

CSA boxes will often contain unusual vegetables that will help members expand their cooking repertoire – who knew that Japanese turnips could be so sweet or that a tomato could be so ugly, yet so delicious? CSA members usually get a newsletter to help explain what’s in the box.

Below you’ll find a list of farms, the type of CSA they offer and the towns where the offer a local drop off site. Take some time to explore their websites, get familiar with their offerings and then sign up!

Farms with CSA drop-offs in McHenry County

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