Wildflowers in a jar on a kitchen table

7 Quirky CSAs

Carrots and zucchini are passé, as CSAs offer much more than vegetables these days.

April 1, 2015

In recent years, CSAs have expanded beyond vegetables and fruits—far beyond. In the dropoff that you’ll receive from some of the new breed, you’ll find fermented goods, meat, honey, cheese, fish, and other selections. Here’s a roundup of seven that offer something out of the ordinary. And to find a CSA near you—offbeat or otherwise—search Local Harvest, Eat Wild or the Good Food Merchants Guild.

1. CSA: Greengate Farm, started 1996
Location: Austin, Texas
Share: Flowers
Membership cost: $20/week


In the flower share from Greengate Farms, you will find a ravishing selection: snapdragons, pyrethrum, gomphrena, dianthus, Mexican mint marigold, and rudbeckia have all been included in the mix. Proprietor Erin Flynn creates arrangements with both cultivated and wild flowers. “If we have a wet winter, I might have a field of bluebonnets, and I’ll include those,” she says. “I forage for flowers, so I take advantage of what’s growing around. I also use herbs. Any kind of wild plant that will hold up in the vase. Everything’s very fresh, very colorful, and edible as much as possible.” Flynn notes that growing organic flowers has an added pleasure for both consumers and growers. “When I go into some of these floral stores, everything seems really sterile—your senses don’t come alive. The great thing about growing flowers on our farm is your senses come alive, every single one.”  

2. Mad Urban Bees, started 2012
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Share: Honey
Cost: starting at $40/6 weeks

When Nathan Clarke started his urban beekeeping business, he wanted customers to taste how the flavor of honey changes throughout the season. He harvests honey from July through September and extracts between 14 and 16 batches every year. “The flowers in bloom seem to affect the flavor more than the locations of the hives,” he says. “And the honey is usually lighter and more flavorful than what most people are used to. One week the honey may be minty and the next have a strong cinnamon flavor.” The Mad Urban Bees offerings are raw, since Clarke doesn’t pasteurize or heat them in any way. The flavor of the honey, even to him, is perpetually unpredictable. “One of the first honeys I produced tasted like pears,” he observes. “I haven’t harvested anything like it since.”

3. SloFresh Catch, started 2010
Location: San Luis Obispo, California, and nearby areas including Los Osos and Arroyo Grande, California
Share: Fish
Cost: starting at $6.55/week

SloFresh Catch offers ten species of white fish found off the 100-mile coast surrounding San Luis Obispo. Black cod—aka sablefish or butter fish—is the most popular item, available year-round. SloFresh’s quirkiest offering is fresh squid that has never been frozen. Preparing it is a complex process, not for the faint of heart. “It takes about 14 steps to prepare—more intensive than prepping fava beans,” explains Margie Hurd, “but tastes like abalone when cooked gently in butter.” The CSA runs all year except for the week of Thanksgiving and two weeks around Christmastime.

4. 8 Arms Bakery, started 2007
Location: Olympia, Washington
Share: Bread and baked goods
Cost: starting at $44/8 weeks

A box from the 8 Arms Bakery CSA is a kind of heaven for those with a baked goods predilection. A recent share featured oatmeal molasses sandwich bread, cheese bagels, snicker doodle cookies, and a pumpkin chocolate chip cake. The box always includes a slicing bread, a specialty bread—such as bagels, turnovers, or a banana nut break—a cookie, and dessert. Popular items in the latter category are gluten-free brownies and the bakery’s “I-heart-coconut bars,” consisting of coconut shortbread crust, layers of caramel and coconut filling, and a chocolate drizzle.

5. Small World Food Collective, started 2008
Location: Rochester, New York
Share: Lacto-fermented foods
Cost: starting at $5/week

At Small World Food Collective, lacto-fermented goods are flourishing along with the probiotics you’ll find in these good eats. Offerings from this CSA include sauerkraut, kimchi, ginger carrots, onions, miso, and hot sauce. Garlic lovers will find much to enjoy in the Small World menu: the group’s specialties include whole pickled garlic scapes and a garlic chevre pesto. “Fermentation makes food even more delicious and nourishing,” says collective member Luke Stodola. “They’re full of vitamins and easy to incorporate into your diet. Plus you can preserve the summer and fall harvest into the off-season.”

6. Broad Branch Farm, started 2006
Location: Wyoming, Illinois
Share: Meat
Cost: starting at $380/share

“Our meat CSA is growing faster than the CSA we offer for vegetables,” explains Broad Branch Farm’s Anita Poeppel of the two shares that her farm offers. “People don’t want to eat meat raised in a way that pollutes the environment and places animals in confined and crowded conditions.” The cattle, pigs, and chickens raised at Broad Branch are certified organic; the cows eat only grass and the chicken and pigs consume organic grain solely. All the animals are pastured. Customers who sign up for beef or pork shares receive a variety of cuts, while chickens are typically included whole. The grass-fed beef has proved so popular that the farm has been unable to meet the demand. “In 2014, we finished 8 calves and in 2015 we hope to finish 10 calves—all on grass,” says Poeppel. “Grass feeding and finishing takes more time and management but it maximizes the health of the animals and the quality and flavor of the meat.”

7. Hill Acres Pride CSA, started 2012
Location:  Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania
Share: Cheese
Membership cost: $125/11 weeks

This cheese CSA offers a cornucopia: cheddars, colbys, and artisanal aged cheeses along with ricotta, feta, and fresh mozzarella. Hill Acres also crafts numerous varieties of quark, a soft spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese, but made with milk instead of cream—so it’s lighter. The flavors of quark include Dragon’s Breath (combining raspberry and chipotle), Citrus Sunrise, and Apple Orchard (the latter two flavored as their names suggest). Pair Hill Acres with a wine CSA, and then you’ve got a ready-made-meal to die for.