One of the lovely benefits of Southern California living is the abundant choices in organic and sustainable food. From the beach to the Valley, farmers markets make healthy living an obtainable goal. But as a busy Angeleno with a young family, I found it hard to make this a regular part of my routine. Chain grocery stores got my business more than I liked, until I found a solution: weekly deliveries from a local CSA.
Designed in Europe, Community Supported Agriculture began cropping up across the States in the 1980s, and has exploded in popularity in the last decade. The CSA model invites participants to purchase a subscription, for which they typically receive a regular supply of locally farmed, seasonal produce. The model has been so successful that it’s encouraged farmers to offer variations. It is not unusual these days for some CSA boxes to include eggs, herbs, flowers, and—in accordance with some customers’ preferences—even locally raised meat.
Here are some helpful things to know before you sign up: while you are assured fresh, seasonal, organic produce delivered to your home, I have learned not to expect my CSA service to provide all the produce my family needs. Depending on the season, I may open my box to find more fruit than vegetables, or vice versa. Many CSAs allow their customers to customize their selection, but options still depend on the season. Do not expect strawberries in January! You may also end up with vegetables you’ve never seen before: hello, kohlrabi. This has turned out to be a great opportunity to explore new recipes and introduce new foods to my family.
There are many CSA options in SoCal; research the differences and choose based on your needs and priorities. Not all CSAs are USDA-certified organic, and some are more local than others. Some deliver, while others require you to meet them at a pickup location. Many services have designed programs that support local elementary schools; to be more connected in your community, see if there is one in your area. The following are some great options for any Angeleno:
L.O.V.E. (Los Angeles Organic Vegetable Express): Founded in 1999, L.O.V.E. boasts 100% organic produce delivered on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to most of the LA area. Love beets? Can’t stand peas? They also offer the option to customize what arrives in the box (within reason).
South Central Farmers: 100% organic produce is available to order on a weekly, monthly, or “seasonal” basis. They have a limited delivery area and days, but many pick-up locations in Los Angeles. They also offer a low-cost CSA box option for students and those who qualify for some form of income assistance, including food stamps.
Silver Lake Farms: This local Los Angeles CSA provides boxes for pickup in Silver Lake and Pasadena. The produce is 100% organic and local, and can be ordered weekly or bi-weekly.
Farm Fresh to You: The largest CSA in California, their 100% organic produce comes from the Capay Valley and also sources from farms as far north as the Pacific Northwest to assure the best variety. A wide variety of box sizes (including small ones for singles or couples) are available for delivery on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Image of kohlrabi courtesy of thebittenword.com. Image of summer CSA produce courtesy of little blue hen.