Chicago will finally get to experience spring weather this week, and that means other seasonal staples?like farmers? markets?won?t be far behind. While most farmers? markets in Chicago don?t officially kickoff until early summer, you can get a jump-start on the fresh-produce scene by becoming a shareholder in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Investing into a CSA programs provides local farmers with much needed seed money (pun intended), and in return shareholders receive a variety of fresh produce each week to help them support their healthy lifestyles.
Some programs aren?t cheap, so it?s important to choose one that fits into your hectic schedule. Here?s a rundown of notable programs that offer convenient pick-up locations in Lincoln Square, North Center, and Ravenswood. Most farms begin shipping out their produce in June, so you better hurry and sign up.
Keep in mind, however, that investing in a CSA has some risks. For example, the weather may wipe out most of the tomatoes, or you could end up with more kale than you originally wanted. But that?s what freezers are for, right?
Pick-up locations: Ravenswood Manor (2800 block of W. Leland) and Ravenswood (4600 block of N. Hemitage)
The deal: Angelic is one of the better-known programs in Illinois, and it was even the focus of a documentary. Twenty-week vegetable shares start at $640, with optional add-ons including summer fruit and winter shares. Smaller shares are also available.
Phone number: (815) 389-2746
Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm
Pick-up location: Provenance Food and Wine (2313 W. Leland Ave.)
The deal: If for some reason you don?t like fresh produce, you can still support a family farm by subscribing to a meat share, which includes hamburger, Italian sausage, chickens, and eggs. Shares are available for 3-, 6-, and 12-month subscriptions ($255/$500/$975).
Phone number: (815) 431-9544
Pick-up location: 3038 W. Irving Park Road
The deal: Genesis Growers? Web site allows shareholders to customize their orders. You can order produce according to specific seasons and distinguish the amounts you?d like to receive.
Phone number: (815) 953-1512
Heritage Prairie Farm
Pick-up location: The Chopping Block (4747 N. Lincoln Ave.)
The deal: This program has decided to make deliveries to the Chopping Block in Lincoln Square for 23 weeks starting in June. Each week?s individual shipment feeds a family of four for a total cost of $825.
Phone number: (630) 443-8253
Pick-up location: Lincoln Square Farmers? Market (4700 N. Lincoln Ave.)
The deal: This program offers a share perfectly sized for one vegetarian (or a couple of omnivores) for $300. Discounts for ?worker shares? are available if want to help during the market or get your hands dirty down on the farm.
Phone number: (847) 334-4278
Scotch Hill Farm
Pick-up locations: Provenance Food and Wine (2313 W. Leland Ave.) and on 3915 N. Hoyne
The deal: For those who subscribe to a 20-week vegetable share ($570 to $1,070), Scotch Hill offers an optional flower subscription ($90) as well as two deliveries of “fall storage” food ($125).
Phone number: (608) 897-4288
Pick-up locations: Luther Memorial Church (2500 W. Wilson), 5061 N. Claremont, 2418 W. Grace St., and 5056 N. Ravenswood.?
The deal: This cooperative offers a variety of goodies from more than three dozen Wisconsin farms. Their wide selection includes fruits and vegetables ($230 to $440), eggs ($40 to $75), meat ($500), cheese ($60 to $150), and preserves ($165). Residents of Illinois can take advantage of a special ?wellness rebate? ($25 to $50) if they sign up by April 15.
Phone number: (608) 630-7097
If you need even more options, check out the comprehensive list of CSA programs on the Local Beet.