Can't get enough of farm-fresh veggies? You might consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture program, or a CSA. Chattanooga-area residents are lucky to have a variety of options. Here's what to know before becoming a member.
How it works:
By joining a CSA, members are typically purchasing a share of the farm's harvest that year. In return, they receive a box of produce on a weekly or bimonthly basis throughout the growing season. These programs benefit farmers by reducing the cost and risk of growing food. However, it's important to note that members pay the same amount regardless of what the farm is able to produce -- enjoying extra produce if the harvest is plentiful but receiving less if crops fail.
What to know:
> Most CSAs require members to commit to the program for a growing season, typically from mid-April to mid-November. Memberships may only be canceled once the season is over, and refunds are rarely offered to those who wish to cancel mid-season. Some programs require payment in one lump sum, while others allow payment in installments.
> Farms often decide what produce its members will receive, though lists of shares from previous seasons are posted on some farm websites. All the produce is in-season and grown locally. It's also important to note that people with food allergies should check with the farm before joining to make sure their dietary restrictions can be accommodated.
> Need a week off? You'll likely still be charged for your share, though some CSAs, such as Mountain Sun Farm in Mentone, Alabama, allow members to receive credits for a missed week. Those credits can then be used to purchase produce from its online store.
Check out our guide below to find the right CSA for you.
ChiMarkets.Life, includes multiple farms
What's included: Unlike other CSAs, Chi does not sell shares, rather it offers various boxes for a flat fee. The Chi Basics Box includes a pound of grass-fed beef, a loaf of local sourdough, one half-gallon small-batch milk, a dozen local eggs, 5 quarts of various seasonal vegetables and one type of fruit.
Cost: The Chi Basics Box is $75, or $65 for monthly, bimonthly or weekly recurring orders. Boxes with a half-portion of veggies are $58. Home delivery anywhere in the Chattanooga Valley is $5, or customers can pick up their boxes at no charge.
Pickup location: Wednesday or Thursday evenings at 3915 Oakland Terrace in Red Bank. Home delivery also available.
Sign up: Call Bates Reed at 423-800-9043. Or, order your first box online at chimarkets.life.
Hoe Hop Valley Farm, Benton, Tennessee
Season: May through Thanksgiving
What's included: The farm offers a chicken CSA, in which customers purchase five whole chickens at a discounted rate.
Cost: Around $100 for season
Pickup location: Wednesdays at Main Street Farmers Market at the frequency of their choosing -- weekly, monthly or seasonally.
Sign up: Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Sun Farm, Mentone, Alabama
Season: 30 weeks, mid-April through mid-November
What's included: Shares vary by season, but always include around five to seven USDA-certified organic produce items. This CSA offers full- or half-share boxes, containing the same items. Full shares are picked up weekly while half shares are picked up every other week.
The farm also offers CSA add-ons through an online store each week for members to purchase separately, allowing larger families or veggie-lovers to get more of what they want.
Members receive an emailed newsletter each week with a list of the items in their bag, storage tips and recipes, as well as farm updates and photos. The farm also hosts CSA member events such as u-pick days and tours.
Cost: Full share is $694.80 for 30 weeks ($23.16/week) by credit card or $672.91 for 30 weeks ($22.43/week) by check. Half share (bimonthly) is $347.40 for 15 weeks ($23.16/week) by credit card or $336.46 for 15 weeks ($22.43/week) by check. Customers can pay in full or by installments of two, four or seven payments.
Pickup location: Tuesdays at four locations in Chattanooga -- Bread and Butter in Red Bank from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Green's Building Supply downtown from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Yoga Landing downtown from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Yoga Landing in Signal Mountain from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sign up: Mountainsunfarm.com. Deadline is start of CSA in mid-April.
Red Clay Farm, Cleveland, Tennessee
Season: 20 weeks starting May 14
What's included: This program offers seasonal produce from its certified organic farm. Full-share members receive a weekly box of five to eight produce items and half-share members receive a weekly box of four to five produce items. Members also have the option to add eggs to their box.
Cost: $600 for full share or $384 for half share
Pickup location: Sundays at Chattanooga Market from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesdays at Main Street Farmers Market from 4-6 p.m., Thursdays at Ooltewah Market from 3-6 p.m.
Sign up: Message the farm on Facebook.
Signal Mountain Farm, Signal Mountain, Tennessee
Season: 20 weeks, May through September
What's included: A variety of produce, with options comprising more than 60 different fruits and vegetables, grown at USDA-certified organic Signal Mountain Farm and other local organic farms are included in the shares.
Cost: The full share is $798 for 20 boxes picked up weekly, and the half-share cost is $398 for 10 boxes picked up every other week. Members can pay in full or can sign up for auto-pay installments of $42/week. The first installment is charged at the time of purchase and all other installments are charged the week of pickup.
Pickup location: Thursdays at The Wellness Tree in Red Bank from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Signal Mountain Athletic Club from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., various YMCA locations from noon to 8 p.m. and CrossFit Brigade in North Chattanooga from 3:30-7:45 p.m.