There's something fun about wandering around a farmers' market on a Saturday morning, perusing the produce and deciding what to make later that evening to best showcase your fresh finds. But there's also a thrill in picking up a pre-packed box from a local farm, taking it home and discovering what's inside. Every week or month it's a surprise, but it's always local and always as fresh as can be.
That's the concept behind CSA boxes, popular in California and (surprisingly) the Midwest, but just catching on here in Houston. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and the idea is simple: A farmer sells "shares" of the farm (often in the form of these boxes full of treats) to community members. The arrangement benefits the farmers, who get paid up front and have a chance to market directly to their customers, as well as the people who own shares in the farm and get a piece of its bounty on a regular basis.
In Houston and the surrounding area, a number of farms participate in Community Supported Agriculture, providing boxes of produce that can be picked up at various spots around town.
All We Need Farm is committed to growing produce without the use of pesticides and delivering the fruits and vegetables on the same day they were plucked from the tree or field. There aren't currently any vegetable shares available for purchase, but you can go online and get a pork or egg share.
For year-round fresh produce, check out Blackwood Bounty out of Hempstead. Harvests are always contingent on growing conditions and weather, but if they've got it, they'll provide it, no matter the season. The summer season has already begun, but you can still call or email the farm to sign up for fall season. You must sign up for eight weeks minimum, and a CSA box costs $32.50 per week. Contact the farm to learn more about what's offered during the season and where to pick up boxes in town.
The largest CSA in Houston is HOME sweet FARM, a family farm outside of Brenham that makes regular deliveries to Houston. Members pay for each season up front for $34 per week, and HOME sweet FARM provides produce approximately 30 weeks out of the year. Sign up now for the October through December season, featuring ten weeks of peppers, leafy greens and squash, or you can start picking up boxes in the middle of a season for a prorated cost. Visit the website to learn more and start picking up boxes of produce at drop sites around town as soon as next week.
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Johnson's Backyard Garden is located near Austin, but the farm delivers to locations across Houston on Thursdays so CSA members to pick up boxes of goodies. You can customize the size of your CSA box to feed one person per week or up to seven, and unlike other farms, Johnson's delivers year-round and allows you to start receiving boxes any time of year. Every week, the farm announces the contents of the box on the blog, so you can see what you'll be getting and plan accordingly a few days in advance.
About 48 miles due north of Houston is Wood Duck Farm, which offers boxes containing at least five different types of vegetables, fruits and herbs per week during the CSA growing seasons. CSA members must subscribe and pay in advance--$330 for a full share and $240 for a partial share delivered weekly during the ten-week season. You can pick up your boxes full of seasonal produce at locations around town or, if you live in the Woodlands area, Wood Duck Farm can deliver. To sign up, visit the website.
Farmhouse Delivery is a little different than your average CSA box. The company gathers produce, dairy, honey and meat from farmers across Texas, then consolidates the food into boxes that they deliver right to your door and product packages that they sell online. The CSA boxes are all produce, and you don't have to sign up for a seasonal share. You can order on a week-to-week basis and choose from either a medium bushel for $27 or a large bushel for $39. All Houston deliveries are on Saturdays. Farmhouse Delivery also offers recipes online tailored to the specific produce in your box.
Like Farmhouse Delivery, Greenling curates boxes from other local farms and allows you to order weekly without committing to an entire season. The company delivers to Houston on Mondays and Thursdays for $35.99. Each box contains a variety of fruits and vegetables like the assortment in the photo on the right (the contents of this week's box). Check out the website for more details.