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Fresh From the Fields CSAs promote healthy eating and support family-owned farms

A sampling of root vegetables makes up a CSA share from Oak Spring Farm in Freeland, Maryland. | Photo courtesy Oak Spring Farm

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have existed for decades. Agriculturists and farmers have witnessed rising interest in these programs from members of the public as consumers become more aware of the benefits of healthy eating.

When you participate in a CSA program, you receive a weekly or biweekly package of seasonal produce that you can pick up or, in some cases, get delivered to your home. With a CSA program, you get to see where your food comes from, meet the farmers who grow the fruits and vegetables you enjoy and support local agriculture in your community.

Discover several farms in the greater Baltimore region that offer CSA memberships.*

Civic Works Real Food Farm

Civic Works is an award-winning nonprofit that has strengthened the Baltimore community for more than 20 years through programs in job training, skills development and community service. In 2009, the owners decided to create a resource for fresh, nutritious food and opened Real Food Farm in Clifton Park.

The farm now occupies 6 acres of park land and features four fields, eight hoophouses (a greenhouse constructed from a hoop-shaped steel frame and covered in plastic), a sensory garden, more than 100 fruit trees and a gas-heated greenhouse and solar-powered refrigerator that other farms in the Farm Alliance of Baltimore can use.

Civic Works partnered with the Civic Works Community Lot Team and opened a second site in 2014 on Perlman Place. This new location has enabled the farm to expand production, start its own community garden and plant an orchard in partnership with Civic Works Baltimore Orchard Project.

To further support the community, the farm partners with other farmers and businesses that contribute to its CSA, including Strength To Love II Farm, Black Yield Institute’s Cherry Hill Urban Garden, The Plantation, A Friendly Bread, Thread Coffee and Hydes Hill Herbs.

Real Food Farm states on its website that it chooses partners who “use sustainable practices, are family-owned or grow food with a mission. These entrepreneurs have a vision of making tasty, local food accessible for all.”

Real Food Farm offers weekly (28) and biweekly (14) share sizes as well as an option to donate a share.
Standard share (three to four items): $16
Large share (five to seven items): $26.50
Contact: 410-366-8533
realfoodfarm.civicworks.com

Lisa Duff displays cherry tomatoes from Oak Spring Farm. | Photo courtesy Oak Spring Farm

Oak Spring Farm

Oak Spring Farm is a woman-owned, Certified Organic farm in Freeland. This farm provides produce to markets and restaurants in the Baltimore area.

Owner Lisa Duff began growing food for her family when she realized that out-of-area produce requires almost a week of shipping time from places such as California before it arrives in the supermarkets. In 2012, she graduated from the Beginner Farmer Training Program through Future Harvest CASA and became a full-time farmer a few years later.

Duff added a flock of chickens to her farm and began selling her food through a group of moms she connected with through her children. A passion for sharing food became the basis for starting her CSA.

“I love the idea of not only growing food but building community,” Duff says. “A CSA is a beautiful way to meld nutritious, sustainably grown food
with community.”

Oak Spring Farm’s CSA members can request enhanced additions to the items that they receive from their CSA share, including fruit, Animal Welfare Approved non-GMO eggs, bread from A Friendly Bread, 100% raw milk cheeses from Daily Crisis Farm or a bouquet of flowers from Floriculture for an extra cost. Oak Spring drops off shares to members in a logo cooler bag that customers can keep and reuse for their weekly shares.

As an added bonus, Oak Spring Farm has teamed up with Harvie, an online platform that connects customers to local farmers, to customize CSA shares based on
customer preferences.

“We have a lot of flexibility because of the Harvie program. People can rate the crops they like or don’t like, and if they have an allergy or aversion to a particular vegetable, then they won’t get it.

Everyone gets what they like and there’s less food waste,” Duff explains.

Oak Spring Farm offers three CSA shares:
Super Early Spring Share (April 4 to May 1): $25
Whole-Season Vegetable Share
(May 2 to Nov. 27): $24-$42
Summer Season Vegetable Share
(May 30 to Oct. 30): $24-$42
Contact: [email protected]
oakspring-farm.com

One Straw Farm

When Drew and Joan Norman started their White Hall-based farm in 1983, they were determined to work with nature rather than apply potentially harmful chemicals to their produce. This effort took place long before words such as organic and farm-to-table dining became mainstream. Despite the lack of knowledge in organic farming, One Straw Farm grew to become one of the first Certified Organic Farms in Maryland in 1986 and is now GAP (good agricultural practices) certified.

The couple originally sold only wholesale produce along the East Coast. While this arrangement was helpful for business, it didn’t allow the farm to share its produce with neighbors and community. The Normans decided to launch a CSA in 1999 and found that it made planting easier—they knew exactly how much they needed to grow.

The Normans also appreciated the fact that they could give customers food the day after it was picked, guaranteeing a longer shelf life than store-bought produce.

The original eight CSA members have since grown to more than 1,500 people. For every 10 shares bought at a drop-off site, One Straw Farm donates a free share for the
site to use as it desires.

“CSAs can be overwhelming in the beginning, but you can start small and bump up if you need to,” Joan says. “It forces members to eat healthier because they’ve already paid for the shares. They have to pick it up and use it.”

One Straw Farm’s CSA runs from June 7 to Nov. 20. Members can either pay in full or in installments throughout the season.

One Straw Farm’s CSA prices listed below are per-season costs.
Jumbo (12 to 14 items per week): $960
Large (eight to nine items per week): $720
Small (four to five items per week): $408
Contact: [email protected]
onestrawfarm.com

Full Circle Farm

When Danny Fleischmann was laid off in 2017, he decided it was time to follow his dream of starting a farm. He had seven years of farming experience from working at Zahradka Farm in Essex, but he had never thought the risk of starting his own farm was worth it until now.

“The worst thing that could happen is it fails and I have to get a job,” Fleischmann writes on the farm’s website. “I already had a business plan so all I needed was land and funding.”

By May 2017, he had leased 2 acres of land and received approval for a business loan. He joined four farmers markets and contacted local restaurants. Starting a CSA saved the farm that year.

“By the end of the year, I had to get a part-time job and pretty much broke even. Everyone loved the CSA, and I realized this is what I should focus on. It was the consistent income the farm had, and it was a great way for me to connect to people,” Fleischmann says.

Instead of having a drop-off location, Fleischmann delivers his CSA shares to members’ doors on the same day each week. He encourages customers to call his cell phone so that they can immediately get in contact with him if a problem arises.

The farm offers a few leafy greens in its shares and focuses on other vegetables and fruits such as carrots, beans, strawberries, onions, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, corn, watermelon and potatoes. At the beginning of each week, members receive an email from the farm about what produce to expect and a variety of recipes tailored to that week’s share.

Full Circle Farm also offers a Wellness in the Workplace program that allows companies to partner with them and receive discounted vegetable boxes for their employees.

Full Circle Farm offers spring, summer, fall and winter CSA seasons.
Full Share (nine to 10 items): $38
Half Share (five to six items): $28
Contact: 443-912-0794
fullcirclefarmllc.com 

*Note: Except where noted, all prices listed throughout this article are per-week costs. CSA spots fill up quickly; contact the CSAs directly to inquire about availability.

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