Today, CSAs don’t just offer seasonal fruits and veggies. Local bakeries and breweries are also borrowing the concept.

Here’s how it works: Farmers and makers sell a certain number of “shares” and consumers pre-pay for a membership or subscription. In return, consumers receive a box of fresh produce or other goodies each week throughout the season. And CSAs aren’t limited to summer thru fall, winter and spring options are often available, too. Here are five we love.

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MI Farm Co-op // Leelanau County

This year-round CSA, offered by a multi-farm cooperative in Leelanau County, provides seasonal produce and goods from more than five local farms in one box. Expect to receive a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, fresh greens, 2-4 pounds of seasonal veggies and 2-4 pounds of seasonal fruit for $47.50 per week (total cost is $380 for spring 2021, $760 for summer 2021 or $570 for fall 2021). Members can also add on to their boxes—options vary season to season, but include chicken, beef, flowers and extra eggs. MI Farm Co-op offers Tuesday pick-up times at five locations in Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

Earthen Ales // Traverse City

Earthen Ales offers several four-week beer CSAs (Community Supported Ales—very clever!) throughout the year. Watch for release dates on Facebook and their website. Subscribers get two four-packs of 16-ounce cans each week for $115. (Mug Club members pay $105.) Don’t need that much beer? Sign-up for a half-share for $60 and get one four-pack each week. You can also add a 12-ounce bag of coffee from Fortunate Coffee Co. (sold by BLKMRKT) for $15 per week and/or eight ounces of cheese from The Cheese Lady TC for $10 per week.

Harvest Thyme Farm // Cheboygan

Founded by Brendan Prewitt and Greta Jankoviak in 2014, this 5-acre, bio-sustainable farm offers fresh produce and cut flowers through its farm share (CSA) program, as well as area farmers markets. Harvest Thyme, which sits on land that was originally homesteaded by Greta’s family in the 1890s, serves Cheboygan, Indian River, Mackinac Island and St. Ignace, and offers “farm cards” that make the CSA process a breeze—purchase a pre-loaded card on their website and use it to order online for pick-up at the Cheboygan Farmers Market or at Harvest Thyme’s farm stand.

Common Good Bakery // Traverse City

The Community Supported Bakery program at Common Good has a lot of crusty perks. Members pay $4.50 a loaf compared to $9, can pick up their bread any day of the week, are treated to $1 baguettes and get a complimentary coffee or tea with each purchase. A $100 minimum (which equals a six-month subscription with one loaf a week) is required to join the Rebel Bread Club, though you can add more money to your club card at any point to purchase as many loaves as you like. “It’s a CSA without rules, for the rebel at heart,” says Joy Martin Omar, assistant general manager/marketing manager.

The May Farm // Frankfort

Touting “trustworthy food raised close to your table,” The May Farm raises rotationally grazed beef, lamb and broiler chickens at their Frankfort pasture. In previous seasons, CSA members have had access to 100 percent grass-fed beef by the quarter, 100 percent grass-fed lamb by the half or whole and pastured broiler chickens. At the time of publication, details were not yet available for the 2021 season. For information on prices and availability, head to the farm’s website to sign up to receive their spring flyer.

How to Get the Most Out of Your CSA

CSAs, especially produce-based subscriptions offering pounds of fresh fruits and veggies, can be intimidating at first blush. But prepping your produce and utilizing it each week doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are some tips for planning and cooking up delish, locally sourced meals:

Prioritize produce: While some fruits and veggies can last days or weeks, others need to be consumed or preserved sooner rather than later. A good first step after picking up your CSA box is to take inventory and prioritize: eat produce like greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, berries and bruised fruit as soon as possible. (This is also a great time to plan and meal prep for the week!)

Prep your haul: Speaking of prepping—this can be the most labor-intensive step in the process. We recommend getting some of the work done right away. Once you have your box, take an hour (or less) to pre-prep your produce—wash lettuce and store it in a container lined with paper towel, and chop up your veggies. You’ll be more inclined to use these ingredients in a dish or snack on them throughout the week.

Blend it up: A great way to use up those pounds of produce—throw them in a large crock pot for a soup or stew, or experiment with your fruit and veggies and test out different smoothie combinations.

Preserve any excess: Sick of making salads? Whip up some fresh pesto with your leftover greens, or pickle those beets, carrots and cucumbers.

Swap what you can’t use: Maybe you’re not a fan of beets, or there’s a certain leafy green that’s not your cup of tea. Why not swap these items with a neighbor, or just give them away for some karma points?

Find this and more articles about life over 55 in Northern Michigan in the free, digital edition of  MyNorth Inspired Life below; or get two issues of Inspired Life in print each year for free when you subscribe to Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, delivered to your door each month.

Photo(s) by Rachel Haggerty

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