In these early weeks of spring, local farmers are way ahead of us mere mortals who like yours truly might still be perusing seed catalogs. And as they tend to their seedlings and gear up for spring and summer harvests, farmers across the county are counting on us to express our appreciation — for the indigo blueberries and foraged mushrooms and marigold-colored egg yolks and gorgeous lettuces and juicy cucumbers — by opening our wallets.
Some folks know this neighborly exchange of goodies as a CSA (also known as Community Supported Agriculture). For others, it’s a farm share or subscription. Whatever you want to call it, Lancaster County is brimming with choices for locally grown and raised food. A most impressive list follows, with the scoop on how to participate.
Village Crest Farm (Strasburg)
- When/what you get: One-month minimum subscription, available on a rolling basis. Weekly assortment of seasonal mushrooms, including Lion's mane and four kinds of oyster mushrooms (blue, gold, pink and Italian).
- Pickup: Saturday mornings, at the farm.
- Pricing: $64 per month
- To sign up: Email farmer Scott Breneman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Details: villagecrestfarm.com.
Mirror Image Farms (Bainbridge)
Pastured chicken and pork, and grass-fed beef from farming couple Joella and Tyler Neff.
- When/what you get: Year-round CSA, with four sign-up seasons. Each season includes four monthly pickups. Half (about 10 pounds) and whole (about 20 pounds) shares for beef and pork. Chicken share includes whole bird and parts. The next season begins in June.
- Pricing: $300 to $600 per season.
- Pickup: Third week of the month at the farm, plus three additional locations: Rossmere Mennonite Church, Lancaster; Homefields Farm, Millersville; Hummelstown, Dauphin County.
- To sign up: email@example.com.
- Details: mirrorimagefarms.com/meat-csa.
Horseshoe Ranch (Lebanon County)
Pastured chicken and eggs from farming couple Brittany and Bryan Donovan.
- When/what you get: June through October, with five monthly deliveries (likely the second Thursday of the month). Options include: Four whole chickens; ten- and 20-pound boxes (assortment of whole bird, parts, sausage, ground and smoked chicken). Egg share includes two dozen eggs every other week.
- Pricing: $200 to $800 for chicken; $100 for eggs; payment plan available.
- To sign up: horse-shoe-ranch.square.site; deadline is May 14.
- Details: horseshoeranchpa.com/csa.
Fields Edge Research Farm (Lititz)
- When/what you get: May through the end of the year, on a rolling basis. Farmer Alex Wenger adds a personal touch to his self-described “CSA-style boxes that include recipes and cooking notes plus sauces, jams, seasoning salts and other essential condiments for meal prep.” Those condiments include Floriani cornmeal, an heirloom variety that Wenger roasts and mills into a polenta-friendly texture and lacto-fermented hot sauce from peppers that he smokes and dries. He expects May boxes to include asparagus, broccolini, snow peas and wild ramps. Delivery and pickup available.
- Pricing: $35 for one-time orders; $30/week for monthly preorders.
- To sign up and for details: Accepting enrollments now. Email Wenger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifth Month Farm (Mount Joy)
Farming couple Kristi and Devin Barto offer a CSA in the traditional sense, by asking for community investment in advance to help fund their fall and winter harvest.
- When/what you get: A weekly box of organically grown fall and winter vegetables for 14 weeks, beginning Oct. 15. Three sizes available, with ability to choose your favorites every week.
- Pickup and delivery: Friday and Saturday pickup at Savory Gourmet in Lititz or Front Porch Baking Co. in Millersville; Friday morning delivery available for $60 fee.
- Pricing: $383 to $519; payment flexibility available upon request.
- To sign up: Accepting enrollments now. Limited shares available.
- Details: fifthmonthfarm.com/wintercsa-797585-751597. Email Kristi and Devin Barto at email@example.com.
Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education (York)
In addition to classes and workshops on gardening, composting and foraging, this nonprofit offers a summer CSA that may be a convenient option if you live in the western part of Lancaster County, including Marietta and Columbia.
- When/what you get: A weekly box of seasonal produce (including summer melons) for 20 weeks, beginning June 2. A biweekly option is also available, as well as a 5-week flower share via Betsy's Flowers at the Farm.
- Pickup: At the farm, Wednesday afternoons.
- Pricing: $400 (biweekly box) to $700 (weekly box).
- To sign up and for details: hornfarmcenter.org/csa; 717-757-6441; firstname.lastname@example.org. Betsy's Flowers: betsysflowers.org.
Solidago Farm (West Chester, Chester County)
For immediate gratification, this tiny West Chester farm is offering a subscription that begins at the end of April, with a focus on early spring vegetables, herbs and foraged plants. Located about 25 minutes from Sadsbury Township on the eastern side of the county.
- When/what you get: Weekly box for 10 weeks, beginning April 30. Half and full shares available for farm pickup on Fridays.
- Pricing: $250 to $450.
- To sign up and for details: solidagoorganics.com; SolidagoOrganics@gmail.com.
Homefields Care Farm (Millersville)
This 18-acre farm is also home to residences for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Revenues from the farm’s CSA program, now in its 21st year, support the 24/7 care and programming for the residents.
- When/what you get: A weekly box of seasonal chemical-free produce for 24 weeks, beginning May 27. Biweekly boxes also available. Several add-on options from local producers include: Unkle Fungus mushrooms; meat from Mirror Image Farms; pressed juice from Rijuice; and cheese from Hillacres Pride.
- Pickup: At the farm, Thursday through Saturday. My favorite part: The pick-your-own perk. Farm supervisor Elizabeth Swope told me that all vegetable shareholders have pick-your-own access to strawberries, blueberries, peas, cherry tomatoes, herbs and chile peppers (amounts vary by crop), and the farm supplies boxes and bags.
- Pricing: $216 to $916; payment plans are available.
- To sign up: Deadline is May 21 for the entire season. The farm accepts late pro-rated enrollments, based on availability.
- Details: homefields.org/farm; the farm is hosting an Open Farm Day, with self-guided tours, on April 17, 11 a.m. to 2p.m.
In the spirit of “it takes a village,” here are three examples of one-stop-shopping, local grower style.
Blade & Spade Coffee Apothecary (Lancaster city)
With her Medicine Kitchen CSA, owner Alyssa Miller has cooked up an inventive way to showcase ingredients that are used in the café, all from local growers and makers.
- When/what you get: A weekly box for 13 weeks, beginning early July. Includes: 1 pound of assorted mushrooms from Unkle Fungus; microgreens from Urban Edge Farm; seasonal greens from Field’s Edge Research Farm; one loaf of bread from Front Porch Baking Co. and a quart of housemade herbal iced tea. Miller includes a recipe with each box. Add-on options include honey from Deca City Farm and foraged greens from Susquehanna Apothecary.
- Pickup: At the cafe on Fridays during business hours.
- Pricing: $600.
- To sign up: Deadline is week of June 27.
- Details: bladeandspade.love; 717-869-6548.
Crawford Organics (New Holland)
This family-owned organic farm offers multiple options for nine months out of the year. In addition to their seasonal vegetable boxes, the farm offers fruit shares for both summer and fall, plus add-on options for their pastured eggs and yogurt from Seven Stars Farm in Kimberton.
When/what you get: Spring/summer: Weekly or biweekly boxes for 18 weeks, beginning early May, available in two sizes. Fall: Weekly or biweekly boxes for 16 weeks, starting the first week of September, also available in two sizes. Please note that the fruit is not certified organic and comes from neighboring orchards and farms.
- Pickup: At the farm on Tuesdays and at satellite locations in East Earl, Lititz and Hinkletown.
- Pricing: $204 to $612. Fruit shares start at $96. (A small discount applies for payment by check.)
- To sign up: Accepting enrollment now.
- Details: crawfordorganics.com; 717-445-6880.
Lancaster Farm Fresh
This Lancaster-based farm cooperative has become a massive enterprise that includes more than 100 farms and a distribution network that runs through the mid-Atlantic. Locally, the choices are many and creative, including an herbal medicine share through Lancaster Farmacy, the organic herb and flower farm owned by Elisabeth Weaver. Because LFF is a cooperative, you may not know from which farms your produce shares have been sourced.
- When/what you get: Summer: A weekly seasonal produce box for 27 weeks, beginning the week of April 26. Available in three sizes. Other options include a fruit-only share (beginning the week of June 7); a biweekly herbs share (starting week of June 7 for 10 weeks), plus one for cheese, bread and flowers, to name a few. The herbal medicine share, which begins in May, is dispensed once per season, for a total of four packages.
- Pickup: When you sign up, you will be asked to choose two locations near your ZIP code. Pickup days vary.
- Pricing: $459 to $899 for summer produce.
- To sign up and for details: lancasterfarmfresh.com.