Local Food Made Easy – 8 CSA Options for Vancouverites
Working for a farm, I don’t have to think about where my food is coming from very often. I have access to amazing meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables and very rarely do I even need to go to the grocery store. Obviously, I know this isn’t everyone’s situation, so here’s some insight into one of the best ways to access locally raised produce and meat when the grocery store just isn’t cutting it.
Sure the farmers’ market is great, but sometimes you don’t have the time to meander through everyone to find what you are looking for. Enter the CSA (or Community Supported Agriculture). It’s pretty much the ideal system for connecting you to the freshest and best product available locally. In the CSA model, a consumer buys in at the beginning of the growing season, providing the farmer an influx of cash to get the crops growing. In return, you, the customer gets a weekly supply of product, typically fruit and vegetables often accompanied by a newsletter and recipes to leave you feeling inspired to get into the kitchen. As a long time supporter of this model, I can attest to its benefits. The farmer gets a guaranteed source of income, which allows me to feel like I am contributing to a sustainable local food system, and I get fresh fruits and vegetables, often in varieties, colours and shapes that I’d never seen or thought to try before. It’s a win-win situation.
The CSA model is thriving in Metro Vancouver with several options available from a number of farms. Here’s a brief list of some of my favourite tried, tested and true local options from produce to meat, and seafood to grains.
Cedar Isle Farm – Grains
Who says produce is the only thing a CSA is good for? Cedar Isle Farm offers consumers the chance to access locally grown grains, a rarity in the BC context. Buy in at the beginning of the season and you’ll receive a share of the harvest in the fall, with 2 share sizes available. Cost: $55-$95
City Beet Farms – Produce
A good food pun always works for me, and they have great produce on top of their clever name. City Beet is an example of local farmers taking backyards in the city and turning them into productive spaces. They offer several different share options and sizes, the add-on option of fresh cut flowers, and even local delivery for a minimal cost. Cost: $150-$625
Fresh Roots – Salad Greens and Root Vegetables
Because everyone should be eating more greens, look to Fresh Roots for great greens, herbs and root vegetables grown in school yard gardens in East and South Vancouver. Fresh Roots cultivates schoolyard market gardens where youth learn and connect around food. From planting a seed to cooking a meal, their farms catalyses learning that students carry forward to make healthy food choices, become strong community leaders, and advocate for a more just and sustainable food system. Participants of the Fresh Roots Salad Box Program receive a weekly supply of salad fixings. Every box includes $15 worth of leafy greens, root vegetables, and herbs. Their Schoolyard Grown veggies are also perfect for cooked meals and smoothies. They offer convenient pickup locations in East Vancouver or organize with 12 of your colleagues to have a pickup point at your school or office. Three different program length options to keep you eating your vegetables throughout the harvest season. Cost: $175-$380
Inner City Farms – Produce
Hyper-local vegetables, grown in backyards throughout Vancouver. Each Sunday morning vegetables are harvested from around their various gardens and are made available for pick up that afternoon at Marche St. George. Harvested and delivered the same day, how’s that for fresh? Cost: $500
Klippers Organics – Produce
An organic family farm in the sunny Similkameen Valley providing organic fruit, vegetables and herbs each week with certified organic eggs available to add on. One of the few farms locally to also offer a winter CSA program allowing you to eat local year round. Pick up at available around Vancouver at their Vancouver Farmers Market locations. Cost: $525-$840
The first CSF in Canada and one of the first in the world, this program creates a direct connection between fisherman and consumers. Buy in at the beginning of the season to have access to high quality, local, wild, sustainably caught seafood throughout the year. If you haven’t checked out Skipper Otto’s before, I urge you to, I can personally attest to how awesome this program is. Cost: $100-$1500
SoleFood Farms – Produce
This is a really great CSA that provides a more than just a good feeling from knowing your contributing to a sustainable local food system. SoleFood operates on vacant urban lots around Vancouver and employs individuals with limited resources. Good food for a good cause. Cost: $300-$575
Urban Digs Farm – Meat, Eggs and Produce
While I might seem biased because I work for the farm, this program does stand out for a number of reasons. There is no upfront cost; instead you pay for the CSA share week to week. You are not committed to getting a box every week; you can choose the frequency at which you get the box and put it on hold if you plan on going away. You can choose from different size boxes, add on things like eggs, preserves and honey. There are also several meat CSA options, like the Beasty Box, filled with ethical and sustainably raised meats. There are a number of pick up locations to choose from around Metro Vancouver, or opt for free home delivery! How’s that for convenience? Cost: $35-$175
Thinking of signing up for a CSA? Consider which option works best for you and give it a go! But don’t delay, space is usually limited in these program and many farms offer early bird discounts that are not to be missed. This is only a sample of all the CSA options available to choose from, for a more comprehensive list see FarmFolk CityFolk or eatlocal.org
Ryan Shannon, Growing Chefs! Program Assistant Farmers Market Manager, Director of Fun & Games, Urban Digs Farm