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Farm fresh produce available
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[FEB. 7, 2004]  URBANA -- You can get monthly subscriptions for a basket of fruit, a bouquet of flowers, even a box of chocolate delivered each month to your door. Now farmers are getting into the act. It's called community-supported agriculture, CSA or "subscription farming."

Customers buy a subscription from a local farmer, much like a subscription to a magazine; but instead of a magazine, they receive a predetermined amount of fresh, locally grown or raised fruit, vegetables, and eggs or meats delivered to their door or sometimes to a common location nearby for pickup. Some CSAs provide recipes and cooking tips along with the week's shipment so their customers will know how to prepare some of the more unusual vegetables they may receive.

Angelic Organics is a CSA that grows vegetables and herbs for more than 1,000 households in the Chicago and Rockford area. Members, called shareholders, receive a weekly three-fourths bushel box full of a diversity of seasonal produce. The farm is 94 acres, with approximately 25 acres in vegetable production each year. At, potential customers can get an idea of what produce they might receive each week and sign up to be a shareholder.

"CSAs create a partnership between local farmers and nearby consumers, who become members or subscribers in support of the farm," said Tom Spaulding, director of the nonprofit CSA Learning Center at Angelic Organics. "In exchange for paying in advance -- at the beginning of the growing season, when the farm needs cash -- CSA members receive the healthiest produce throughout the season and keep money, jobs and farms in their own community."


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Pam Callahan has been a subscriber to Angelic Organics since the mid '90s. She lives in Chicago and picks up her box at a drop-off site in Wicker Park, about six blocks away from her home. "I saw an ad, decided to try it and got hooked," she said. "There's no comparison to the vegetables. They're so good. At first it was a challenge to know how to cook them, but they have a newsletter and a website that gives suggestions for simple recipes."

Callahan said she wanted a source for organic vegetables because as she got older she was developing food sensitivities. Eating organic foods has seemed to lessen those symptoms.

CSAs close the distance between the farmer and the consumer because the consumer buys directly from the farm, like a roadside stand that comes to your door.

"People who subscribe to a CSA say that they like knowing where their food came from and how it was grown or raised," said Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, co-coordinator of the Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program at the University of Illinois. "Understanding the challenges facing family farmers in your community will make you a true partner in the local food system."

For more information on CSAs, visit

[University of Illinois news release]

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