Get produce from King's Hill Farm at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
If we truly are what we eat, then most of us should stop calling ourselves Chicagoans — we're more like foreign exchange students, or Californians. That's what happens when the majority of food from our grocery store travels an average of 1,500 miles just to get there. Fortunately there's a local, farm-fresh alternative known as community-supported agriculture (CSA), where nothing (aside from plenty of organically-grown crops) stands between you and the farmer. Here's a look at Chicago's best in terms of cost, value and convenience.
Touted as one of the largest CSAs in the country, this Caledonia locale feeds more than 1,400 families on average. The farm grows its food in accordance with biodynamic principles, so you don't have to worry about any artificial chemicals lingering in your cucumber salad or your homemade apple pie. You also don't have to stress over hiking it out to Caledonia, as Angelic Organics offers more than 20 different drop-off spots in the Chicago area. Shareholders (that's you) receive a weekly bushel of fresh veggies and herbs. Expect plenty of tomatoes, potatoes, sprouts, cauliflower and squash. Half-bushels are also available for those living the single life, and you can bet boxes are filled to the brim, no matter which size you choose. Twelve-week shares (from mid-August to October) are still available for $410, with the option to extend through December for an extra $100.
This year-round CSA-focused farm may be located in Wisconsin, but you can still get the goods locally at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Green City Market, Glenwood Sunday Market and Independence Park Farmers Market. You can sign up for a full-season share (10 bi-monthly deliveries from June-October, $375) until May 30, a summer share (6 deliveries, August-October, $225) until July 31 and a winter share (2 deliveries, November-December, $120) until October 31. King's Hill is big on seasonal veggies like asparagus, spinach, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, garlic, parsnips and rutabagas.
Broad Branch Farm
If you want to get in on this popular CSA, you'd better act fast - you can still get the vegetable share for the main season (June-October; $484 for weekly deliveries, $264 for every other week) or for the fall (two deliveries; $52). A typical Broad Branch box contains six or seven items with the variety depending, as you might expect, on the time of the season. Like most CSA shares, veggies are packed on the day of delivery and each box contains a weekly newsletter listing the latest farm happenings. And as a bonus, Broad Branch includes preparation ideas and recipes for your seasonal goods. Drop-off locations are in Dunlap, Peoria Heights, Peoria and Naperville. The farm also offers a once-per-month meat share, in which all animals are raised on the farm with access to pasture, sunshine, clean water and certified organic feed, and an egg share featuring a dozen eggs every week (or every other week). Unfortunately, both options are sold out for this year.
Triple A Farms
At $330 for the entire summer/fall season, we found Triple A Farms to provide one of the best bushels in terms of cost. The 12-week share breaks down to $27.50 per week (for a full bushel), which is just about right if the bulk of your diet consists of fresh fruits and veggies. If you can't justify spending that much on produce each week, or you're worried about wasting it, we suggest going in half with a friend — though you and your mate may have a tough time divvying up those vibrant red tomatoes, spicy jalapenos and sweet cantaloupes. Other seasonal items include potatoes, green beans, sweet onions, zucchini, sweet corn and cucumbers. The goods can be picked up at multiple locations, including the Logan Square and Andersonville farmer's markets.
Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm
Dear vegetarians, we admire your healthful diets and we're secretly jealous of your will power. But this one's strictly for our carnivorous readers, because at Cedar Valley, it's all about the meat. A sample monthly share from the Ottawa farm includes stir-fry beef, hamburger, round steak, Italian sausage, pork chops, ham steak, pasture-raised chickens and farm fresh eggs. Cedar Valley offers pickup locations throughout the Chicago area, including Logan Square, Lincoln Square, Oak Park, Naperville, Beverly and Evanston. Prices range from $255 for three months to $975 for the whole year.
Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks
While not technically a CSA, Irv and Shelly's uses resources from multiple farms to provide year-round home delivery of fresh organic produce, meat and dairy products.
Hey, commuters! Did you know that many farms deliver to highway oases in the area? Check out your options and bring home a box:
- Harvest Moon Farms
Delivers to: Belvidere Oasis, Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90); Des Plaines Oasis, Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90); Hinsdale Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-294); Lake Forest Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-94); O'Hare Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-294/94)
- Scotch Hill Farm
Delivers to: Lake Forest Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-94)
- Triple A Farms
Delivers to: Chicago Southland Lincoln Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-294/80)
More interested in creating your own box of goodies? Check out our list of Chicago-area farmers markets.
Late to the party? Mid-season shares are still available from these farms.