Headlines tout organics as the fastest-growing sector in agriculture, but with high-volume stores like Wal-Mart and Target getting in on the game, demand is outpacing supply. It's entirely likely that store shelves marked "organic" are filled with produce from industrial farms or China, Mexico, and other foreign sources, rather than the small-scale regional family farms the label conjures.
Along with farmers' markets, the best way to support the little guy remains community-supported agriculture, or CSAs, through which you can buy a "share" in local independent farms. In exchange you get weekly deliveries of seasonal fruits and veggies throughout the summer and into the fall; orders typically range from half to three-quarters of a bushel. Most farms encourage members to volunteer on the premises as well, which is a good way to learn how your food is grown and develop an appreciation for how it gets to your dinner table. Some CSAs listed below are USDA-certified organic (or currently wending their way through the three-year certification process), but most use undocumented organic growing methods described as "sustainable." Most don't deliver directly to your home, instead using neighborhood drop-off points that include farmers' markets, businesses, or private homes. (Neighborhoods are picked based on demand, so speak up if yours isn't listed and maybe it will be.) Some farms that follow may augment their harvest with food from other producers; we've also included a few providers, like Home Grown Wisconsin, that consolidate products from multiple local sources.
On Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, the local advocacy group Sustain is throwing its third annual FamilyFarmed.org expo at the Chicago Cultural Center. Friday's programming includes a trade show for industry professionals and a benefit reception. Saturday's food festival is geared to the general public and features more than 100 exhibits from local growers and groups involved with urban agriculture, food policy, public health, and other sustainability issues. There'll also be workshops on everything from "Eating Organic on a Dime" to "State and Federal Farm Policy," activities for kids, demos by local chefs, and a farmers' market. Call 312-951-8999 or see familyfarmed.org for more.
1547 Rockton | Caledonia, IL 61011 | 815-389-2746 | angelicorganics.com
Taggart Siegel's 2006 documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John has made Angelic Organics the most recognizable CSA in the Chicago region. John Peterson's biodynamic farm offers two basic CSA subscriptions and about a dozen drop-off locations for its 1,350 members. A 20-week vegetable share, running from mid-June through the end of October, is $580; a 12-week vegetable share, running from mid-August through the end of October, is $380. Fruit shares and a winter share--vegetable boxes delivered every two weeks in November and December--are also available. The Angelic Organics Learning Centers in Caledonia and south-side Woodlawn offer hands-on learning opportunities throughout the year.
Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm
1985 N. 3609th | Ottawa, IL 61350 | 815-431-9544 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Cedar Valley is a third-generation farm that also raises grass-fed livestock. A 24-week vegetable delivery costs $475. A three-month meat delivery costs $240 and includes enough pork, poultry, and beef for 12 to 15 meals. Drop-offs are at the Logan Square Sunday farmers' market, an Oak Park member's home, and two midweek downtown locations.
Vicki Westerhoff | 8373 E. 3000 South | Saint Anne, IL 60964 | 815-953-1512 | email@example.com
Farmer Vicki Westerhoff was diagnosed with a serious health problem more than 15 years ago and started growing her own food when traditional medicine didn't work. Now in her ninth year of farming and her fifth year with a CSA, she credits organic food with turning her life around and aims to produce a varied, well-rounded delivery designed for healthy eating. Her impressive schedule spans 38 weeks, with drop-offs in Chicago, Oak Park, Forest Park, Wheaton, Mokena, and Highland Park. A nine-week spring share, running from the first week of April through the end of May, is $220. The 22-week summer share is $760 and runs from June through the end of October; a smaller summer share costs $520. A nine-week fall share, starting in early November and running through Christmas, costs $170. She'll give you a discount on a combined three-season plan if you enroll by March 15.
Grass Is Greener Gardens
Rich Horbaczewski | W8473 Smock Valley | Monroe, WI 53566 | 608-966-1128 | grassisgreenergardens.com
Natural lamb and free-range chickens are what they grow at Grass Is Greener Gardens. Orders generally include two whole chickens and two pounds of lamb chops, plus a beef roast and two pounds of ground beef and steak from neighboring Marr's Valley View Farms. Meat is packed and frozen in USDA-inspected facilities and delivered in coolers (on which a $30 deposit is required) between 6 and 7:30 PM Mondays at 1456 W. Fletcher. Biweekly six-month shares are $1,320; half shares are $660. A biweekly poultry-only share is $660.
Green Earth Institute
10S404 Knoch Knolls | Naperville, IL 60565 | 630-664-5681 | greenearthinstitute.org
The Green Earth Institute is a nonprofit demonstration and learning center launched in 2002. The farm expects to be certified organic this year. There's no delivery, but pickup days are Tuesdays and Fridays; subscribers are encouraged to combine their orders. Twenty-week shares, running from mid-June through late October, are $575; biweekly shares are available for $310. Volunteering is encouraged.
1325 S. Wabash, Suite 205 | Chicago, IL 60605 | 312-435-8601 | growinghomeinc.org
Growing Home is a nonprofit that provides job training through organic farming. Vegetable shares are grown on a ten-acre certified-organic farm in downstate Marseilles as well as at two south-side Chicago locations. Pickup sites are near Beth Emet Synagogue, 1224 Dempster in Evanston; Saint Gertrude's Catholic Church, 1420 W. Granville; Wood Street Urban Farm, 5814 S. Wood; and Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington. Produce will also be available Saturdays at the Green City Market, 1750 N. Clark, and Thursdays at Harper Court, 52nd and Harper in Hyde Park. A 20-week share, running from June 11 through October 22, is $460. Four-week spring and fall season extenders are available for $80. A May 1 benefit at the Garfield Park Conservatory will include music, a raffle, an auction, and food prepared by local chefs.
Growing Power's Rainbow Farmers Cooperative
1741 N. Western | Chicago, IL 60647 |
773-347-1374 | growingpower.org/ market_basket.htm
Growing Power, an urban farm-training program, has baskets of conventional sustainable produce available year-round for $15 a week ($8 for half baskets); family-size boxes are also available for $26. There are 12 drop-off sites throughout the city, including the Garfield Park Conservatory on Saturdays (for orders placed by Monday). Subscribers are encouraged to prepay and volunteers are welcome.
Home Grown Wisconsin
Amanda Raster | 313 W. Beltline Hwy., Suite 37 | Madison, WI 53715 | 608-333-1227 | homegrownwisconsin.com
This cooperative of 21 certified-organic farms guarantees a variety of fruits and vegetables in every basket. Subscriber-only events include strawberry picking and harvest festivals. A 20-week share, running from June 20 to October 31, is $575; a 10-week half share with biweekly delivery is $325. Biweekly dozen-egg shares are available for $39. Drop-off locations are 5061 N. Claremont, 2418 W. Grace, 737 W. Gordon Terrace, 1815 W. Thomas, 5056 N. Ravenswood, 2834 N. Halsted, Luther Memorial Church (2500 W. Wilson), and 1916 Lee in Evanston.
King's Hill Farm
Tom Ulick | 19370 Hwy. G | Mineral Point, WI 53565 | 773-307-3931 | kingshillfarm.com
King's Hill delivers year-round, growing its own vegetables from July to October and purchasing from other growers and distributors the rest of the year. A membership fee of $60 entitles you to buy a full share (a bushel) at $33 a week or a half share at $22. Customers may pay by the week; home delivery is an extra $6.50. Chicago pickup days and locations are Saturdays at True Nature Health Foods, 6034 N. Broadway, and Fridays and Saturdays at Quad's Gym, 3727 N. Broadway, and the Living Room Cafe, 806 E. 64th.
M's Organic Farm MM Graff | 14101 Washington | Woodstock, IL 60098 | 815-338-8148 | msorganicfarm.com
M's offers a limited number of shares for Sunday pickup at the Logan Square Farmers Market. A nine-week vegetable share is available for $225, $252 with eggs.
Montalbano Farms Rob Montalbano | rob@montalbano farms.com | 630-882-8008
Using land leased from Growing Home in Marseilles, Montalbano offers an 18-week CSA share delivered Sundays to the Logan Square Farmers Market starting in June. Each box feeds one to two people and costs $320. A family-size subscription costs $480. He'll also offer organic seedlings at the market for do-it-yourselfers.
Mother Earth Organic Farm
Gray Wiedhern | Naperville-Plainfield Rd. | Plainfield, IL 60544 | 815-254-0211 | localharvest.org/farms/m10105
The CSA service at this ten-acre farm, now in its third season, came about after many requests. Members are asked to volunteer if able and pick up orders at the farm site, just south of Naperville. A limited 15 shares are available at $300 and run from May to October; half shares are available at $175.
New Leaf Natural Grocery
1261 W. Loyola | Chicago, IL 60626 | 773-743-0400 | newleafnatural.net
New Leaf, a grocery store and wholesaler focused on affordable organics and local producers, offers boxes for pickup 360 days a year; providers include Home Grown Wisconsin. Delivery and drop-off are available within a limited area for an additional fee. Prices range from $15 to $33 per box depending on size and type; you must order three days in advance.
Union Pier, MI | firstname.lastname@example.org
A project of the Chicory Center, a grassroots Chicago organization advocating for a "poor people's food justice movement," On-the-Fly grows vegetables and procures free-range eggs, fruit, and pickles from low-income local farmers. A subscription also funds one donated box a month for a Chicago community organization. Previous deliveries went to the Puerto Rican Cultural Center's stand at the Home Grown market in Humboldt Park; this year's location has yet to be announced. A 15-week delivery starts in June and costs $300.
Leo Sances and Michael Zink | W3566 County Rd. E | Berlin, WI 54923 | 920-369-8747 | prosperafarm.com
Prospera Farm specializes in heirloom and gourmet vegetables, and this year it's offering home deliveries in Chicago. A 15-week share, running from June to October, is $435 and feeds two; a biweekly half share is $205 and a 15-week family share is $460. An additional ten-week egg delivery is $40 a dozen or $20 a half dozen. Nonsubscribers may purchase boxes once a month for $35 through Sprout Home (sprouthome.com), 745 N. Damen, 312-226-5950; pickup is the last Tuesday of the month, June through November.
Peg and Matt Sheaffer | 32140 N. Harris | Grayslake, IL 60030 | sandhillorganics.com
In addition to selling shares, Sandhill Organics hawks its goods Saturdays at the Oak Park Farmers' Market. Farm events will be planned for this summer and volunteer opportunities are available. Drop-offs are Thursday afternoons at 220 S. Laflin in Chicago and at Buzz Cafe, 905 S. Lombard, in Oak Park. A summer vegetable share runs from June 14 to October 11 and costs $490; spring, fall/winter, fruit and flower shares are also available.
Scotch Hill Farm
Tony and Dela Ends | 910 Scotch Hill | Brodhead, WI 53520 | 608-897-4288 | scotchhillfarm.com
Scotch Hill Farm, in its 13th season, is moving toward organic certification. In addition to produce it also sells goat-milk soaps, and a limited quantity of eggs is available. Subscriptions run 20 weeks, from mid-June through mid-October, for $510. A ten-week flower share is available for $80. Deliveries are Saturdays at the Oak Park Farmers' Market; Provenance Food and Wine, 2528 N. California; and Berry Memorial United Methodist Church, 4754 N. Leavitt. Reuse and recycling of grocery bags is encouraged. One farm visit a year is requested.
Sweet Earth Organic Farm
Renee Randall | P.O. Box 323 | Wauzeka, WI 53826 | 608-875-6026 | email@example.com | sweetearthorganicfarm.com
Randall, an organic farmer since 1974, has been running a CSA off her 120-acre farm for six years. Full shares, running about 20 weeks, cost $485 and start in late June; a partial share is $375. Pickup times and dates have yet to be announced, but six Friday Chicago sites are targeted: Addison at Austin, Belmont at Ashland, Montrose at Pulaski, Chicago at Damen, Lincoln Park at North and Clark, and 19th at Halsted.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Bob Bower, Angelic Organics.