January may seem an unlikely time to start thinking about farm-fresh tomatoes, but most community-supported-agriculture shares are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and they sometimes sell out before the growing season begins. Note too that some CSAs give discounts on early subscriptions. A full share typically gets you a bushel of farm-grown vegetables for weekly pickup; half shares tend to be delivered every other week. On March 10 and 11 an expo at the Chicago Cultural Center will bring together representatives from more than 400 midwestern farms and will feature workshops, movies, cooking demonstrations, and exhibits with the theme "Know Your Food, Know Your Farmer." Call 312-951-8999 or see familyfarmed.org for more info.
1547 Rockton Rd. | Caledonia, IL 61011 | 815-389-2746
Farmer John's 1,200-member CSA offers two basic subscriptions in 14 customized packages that give you a choice of fruits and veggies. There are about 25 drop-off locations in Chicago and Rockford. The farm hosts open houses in July and September, and volunteering there lands you a discount on next year's subscription. A 20-week vegetable share running from mid-June through the end of October is $560; a 12-week vegetable share running from mid-August through the end of October is $370. There's also an optional winter share that gets you vegetable boxes delivered every two weeks in November and December.
Green Earth Institute
10S404 Knoch Knolls Rd. | Naperville, IL 60565 | 630-664-5681
Green Earth Institute is a nonprofit demonstration and learning center. On May 5 it will host a fair with tours, presentations, exhibits, and children's activities. Shares are limited to 160. Pickup days at the farm are Tuesdays and Fridays; subscribers are encouraged to combine their orders. Twenty-week full shares running from mid-June through late October are $550; half shares with pickup every other week are available for $295.
2539 N. 30th Rd. | Marseilles, IL
61341 | 312-435-8601
Growing Home is a nonprofit that provides job training through organic farming. Vegetable shares are grown on a ten-acre USDA-certified organic farm in downstate Marseilles as well as on a quarter-acre site on the south side. Pickup sites will be at Beth Emet Synagogue, 1224 Dempster in Evanston, and Saint Gertrude's Catholic Church, 1420 W. Granville. Produce will also be available this summer on Wednesdays at the Green City Market, 1750 N. Clark, and on Thursdays at Harper Court, 52nd and Harper in Hyde Park. A 20-week share running from June 14 through October 25 is $460 ($20 discount if purchased before January 31).
Rainbow Farmers Cooperative
Growing Power, an urban farm-training program, has baskets of sustainable produce available year-round for $14 a week ($7 a week for half baskets); family-size boxes are also available for $26 a week. There are 15 drop-off sites throughout the city, including the Garfield Park Conservatory, where pickups take place on Saturdays (orders must be placed by Monday). Customers are encouraged to prepay.
Home Grown Wisconsin
Suzanne Rubinstein | 313 W. Beltline Hwy., Suite 37 | Madison, WI 53715 | 608-341-8939
This cooperative of 25 certified organic farms guarantees a variety of fruits and vegetables in every basket; for an extra fee there's also egg delivery every other week. Subscriber-only events include cooking demonstrations, raspberry picking, and a watermelon festival. A 20-week share running from June 14 to October 25 is $500 (5 percent discount if purchased before March 1); a 10-week half share with biweekly delivery is $275. Drop-off locations are as follows: 2834 N. Halsted; 737 W. Gordon Terr.; 2500 W. Wilson; 1421 Leonard Pl., Evanston; 835 Ridge, Evanston; 1916 Lee, Evanston.
King's Hill Farm
Tom Ulick | 19370 Hwy. G | Mineral Point, WI 53565 | 888-752-2301 or 608-776-3414
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. An annual subscription of $60 entitles you to buy a full share at $33 or a half share at $22 a week for a half bushel. Customers may pay for their shares by the week; home delivery is an extra $6.50. Chicago pickup times and locations are as follows: 10 AM to 7 PM Saturdays at True Nature Health Foods, 6034 N. Broadway; 11 AM to 8 PM Saturdays at Quad's Gym, 3727 N. Broadway; and noon to 7 PM Fridays and Saturdays at Tom Ulick's, 5959 S. Lowe.
Neu Erth Wormfarm
E7904 Briar Bluff Rd. | Reedsburg, WI 63959 | 608-524-8672 or email@example.com
Neu Erth Wormfarm grows 90 percent of its produce on-site using organic methods; the other 10 percent includes supplements like potatoes. Subscribers are required to pay a one-week visit to the farm, where there are also exhibits, events, and artists' residencies. Drop-off locations in Chicago, Oak Park, and Skokie have yet to be announced. A full share of 18 to 20 weeks of deliveries costs $475, a half share $275; both include a farm stay. Deadline for subscriptions is April 1.
New Leaf Natural Grocery
1261 W. Loyola | 773-743-0400
New Leaf, a grocery store and wholesaler focused on affordable organics, offers boxes for pickup 360 days a year; providers include Home Grown Wisconsin. Delivery and drop-off is available in a limited area for an additional fee. The cost ranges between $15 and $33 per box depending on size and type; three days' advance notice is required.
Leo Sances and Michael Zink | W3566 County Rd. E | Berlin, WI 54923 | 920-361-4747
Prospera Farms specializes in heirloom and gourmet vegetables; fresh eggs and flower bouquets are available for an additional fee. A 15-week two-person share running from June to October is $400, a 15-week family share $460; a biweekly half share for two people is $185, a family-size half share $215. Nonsubscribers may purchase boxes for $35 by ordering through Sprout Home, 745 N. Damen, 312-226-5950; pickup is the last Wednesday of the month, June 28 through October 25.
Peg and Matt Sheaffer | 32140 N. Harris Rd. | Grayslake, IL 60030 | 847-642-8927
In addition to shares, Sandhill Organics sells at Green City Market, 1750 N. Clark. On-farm events this summer will include a solstice potluck, a pesto party, and a fall harvest workday and bonfire. Drop-off locations (specifics to be announced) are in Oak Park and the West Loop. A standard subscription runs from June 16 to October 13 and costs $475; there's a larger size available for families.
Sweet Earth Organic Farm
Renee Randall | PO Box 323 | Wauzeka, WI 53826 | 608-875-6026
Randall, an organic farmer since 1974, has been running a CSA off her 120-acre farm for five years. Full shares running about 20 weeks cost $485 and will begin in late June or July; a partial share is $385. Pickup times and dates are yet to be announced, but five Chicago spots are targeted: Addison at Austin, Belmont at Ashland, Montrose at Pulaski, Chicago at Damen, and Lincoln Park at North and Clark.