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Seattle loves its fresh veggies. Pike Place Market is the oldest continually operating farmers market in the United States, and just about every neighborhood boasts

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Veg-Tastic Seattle's Top Five CSA's

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Seattle loves its fresh veggies. Pike Place Market is the oldest continually operating farmers market in the United States, and just about every neighborhood boasts its own colorful weekend farmer's market. Our area also supports some of the healthiest Community Supported Agriculture programs in the country.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a socio-economic model of food production that benefits small farms and the communities which support them. People purchase shares or membership in the farm of their choice, and in return receive a weekly box of goodies during the growing season, sort of like buying stock--but the return on investment is more immediate and way more enjoyable. CSA's also benefit the environment by drastically reducing the carbon footprint of produce flown halfway across the world by large-scale agribusiness. One last benefit is the tight network of organic producers that has resulted from the growth of the CSA model.

Since all CSA programs are different, and to cover the basics (do they deliver? can I order substitution?), I've created a key with every description.

KEY:

Locally Sourced: More than 50% of produce is sourced from a farm or farms in Western WA

Seasonal: Due to Washington's location on the globe, harvest season typically runs from June-October.

Online Sign Up: Can you sign up to be a member online?

Substitutions: Is it possible to make substitutions to weekly deliveries if you know there is something you can't eat?

Vacation Holds: If you will be away for a week or two, is it possible to pass on the delivery and not be charged, without having to cancel your subscription?

Delivery/Drop off: Delivery is home delivery. Drop off means it is dropped off in a neighborhood location for convenient pick up.

Cost: Most CSA's charge up front or by the month (shares); others charge by the week.

Phew. Now, finally, we bring you the top five CSA's in our area, chosen from among Seattle Weekly reader recommendations:

5. Full Circle Farm, Carnation, WA

Mother Nature's Organics, Seattle, WA

These operations share the #5 spot because neither can be considered a true CSA but both are popular options in our area, and both sprang from traditional CSA roots. Many argue that large fleets of delivery trucks and use of airplanes negate the value of large-scale organic producers/delivery services with the increased carbon footprint. Others argue that creating locally-focused networks that use, but do not depend solely on, long-distance delivery creates for a stronger, more committed, more diverse network of small, organic farms- the benefits of which can negate carbon footprint issues.

Full Circle Farm cultivates over 50 crops and 200 varieties of produce on 400 acres in Snoqualmie Valley. Since its first harvest in 1996, Full Circle Farms became the largest CSA in the United States so demand forced them to branch out from the traditional CSA model into a larger, but no less committed one. Full Circle Farms depends on a small, international network of organic farms from which they source product. It also offers untraditional (and sometimes non-organic) CSA products such as Theo chocolates, Essential Baking Company breads, and fair trade organic coffees from Grounds for Change. On the Seattle Weekly Facebook page Ellen Adams Kilbourne recommended Full Circle Farms because she can "add chocolate bars to my order AND pick up my weekly box on the Microsoft campus...oh-so-convenient," while on Twitter @markct chimed in that the "Best thing for us is the variety of produce, and their green grocery options."

Mother Nature's Organics is a locally-owned organic produce delivery service that sources products from regional organic farms, and expanding as seasonal needs change. Mother Nature's Organics will source its most demanded fruits, such as bananas, from as far away as Mexico where they source from G.R.O.W. (Give Resources & Opportunities to Workers) certified organic bananas. The service does not offer fruits like bananas when there is a variety of local fruit available. Stacey Howell Davey gave the thumbs up on Seattle Weekly's Facebook page noting, "Mother Nature Organics delivered to my door and I can add fresh baked bread to my order. Totally changed the way I shop and eat."

Locally Sourced: NO

Seasonal: NO

Online Sign Up: YES

Substitutions: YES

Vacation Holds: YES

Delivery/Drop off: DELIVERY

Cost: Check web sites for options.

4. New Roots Organics, Seattle, WA

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New Roots Organics
Courtesy of organic/CSA/vegetarian cooking guru Carolyn Boyle, New Roots Organics is a Phinney Ridge-based CSA service that buys most of its local produce from Frog Song Farm near Mt. Vernon. In order to provide customers with a balanced selection of produce, New Roots Organics sources summer fruit from Eastern Washington. It also purchases products not grown at Frog Song Farm from two wholesalers (one in Seattle, the other in Oregon) that both source from their local networks of farms. Seattle Weekly Twitter follower @amylakhani recommended New Roots Organics because "They allow you to substitute (one day in advance) and they deliver!"

Locally Sourced: YES

Seasonal: NO

Online Sign Up: YES

Substitutions: YES

Vacation Holds: YES

Delivery/Drop off: Neighborhood deliveries M-F

Cost: $26/week personal bin (feeds one person)

$35/week standard bin (contains 12-14 fruits/vegetables, feeds 2-4 people)

3. Nature's Last Stand, Carnation, WA

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Nature's Last Stand
Nature's Last Stand is run by John Huschle, co-founder of Full Circle Farm, and his family. Nature's Last Stand's goal is to "help you and your family live well by eating well." Its produce is grown on an organic farm in Carnation but it also sources non-seasonal produce from other farms in Washington, or from its West Coast network. A simple and straightforward service.

Locally Sourced: YES

Seasonal: NO

Online Sign Up: YES

Substitutions: NO

Vacation Holds: YES

Delivery/Drop off: Delivery to greater Seattle area Tuesday and Wednesdays

Cost: $35/week small box (1-2 people)

$50/week large box (4-5 people)

2. Nash's Organic Produce, Sequim, WA

Nash's has been growing organic food, saving Sequim farmalnd and training future farmers for over 30 years. Nash's produces vegetables, fruits, grain and seeds year-round in the Dungeness Valley. Nash's goes the extra mile by offering a hard to find winter share option that extends the traditional Western Washington CSA season an additional 10-weeks. By way of Seattle Weekly's Voracious Facebook page, Brooke Young extols the virtues of Nash's Organic Produce saying, "I love that they grow everything they sell - unlike some that give you things from CA, Mexico, etc."

Locally Sourced: YES (due to demand for seasonal fruit, some fruits are sourced from E. Washington)

Seasonal: YES. Has both Summer (July-November) and Winter (Jan-March) shares.

Online Sign Up: NO. Have to print a .pdf, fill it out and mail along with check. You can also call with credit card information.

Substitutions: NO

Vacation Holds: NO

Delivery/Drop off: No delivery. Drop sites are the U-District Farmer's Market (Saturday) and Ballard Farmer's Market (Sunday)

Cost: $29.95/week (9-12 produce items); $599 for 20-week Summer share

$17.90/week; $179 for 10-week Winter share

*Offer pro-rated and early registration discounts

And the #1 CSA is....

1. Helsing Junction Farm, Chehalis, WA

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Helsing Junction Farm
Helsing Junction Farm came to our attention by way of a recommendation on Twitter from @KFMackinnon who said "women owned & operated, 100% organic and always has been. They're in W. WA. so reaaally local!" @KFMackinnon hit it right on the mark. Helsing Junction Farm is a woman-owned and operated farm located in Independence Valley, on the banks of the Chehalis River, about 20 miles south of Olympia. For over 20 years, Helsing Junction Farm has grown certified organic vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs on 50 acres of bottomland soil. Helsing Junction Farm was one of the first CSA programs in Washington and as such, also do a large amount of educational work on organic, small-scale farming. As they say, join Helsing Valley Farm and "help us put the culture back in agriculture!"

Locally Sourced: YES

Seasonal: YES

Online Sign Up: YES

Substitutions: NO

Vacation Holds: NO

Delivery/Drop off: No delivery. Drop sites from Lynnwood, WA south to Portland, OR., and from West Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass

Cost: $26/week standard (feeds 2 people generously); $465 for 18-week season

$37/week large (3-4 people generously); $665 for 18-week season

Despite assertions by some that it's impossible to eat a fresh, healthy diet on a small budget, CSA's prove you can do just that, and support local farmers and a healthy environment, in the process. They're all winners in my book!

 
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