Which CSA Is Best For You?

CSA Box | Photo: mystuart/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Buying vegetables at the grocery store is tedious. You spend your time circling the aisles or stands, squeezing and caressing the various options available -- as if you really know what you're doing anyway -- and ending up with the same batch of six zucchini, two peppers, box of mushrooms and bag of mini-carrots you usually do. (Alright, maybe that's more my personal problem.) Luckily, there's a better way.

CSA boxes -- the abbreviation stands for "community supported agriculture" -- are subscription-based programs that take the headache out of buying vegetables. For a modest (or not) fee, members of the program get a box, once a week or so, chock-full of vegetables grown at local farms. What actually comes in these boxes changes on a seasonal basis, but it's always fresh, delicious and, best of all, full of a variety only the most seasoned grocery shopper would come home with.

And L.A., as you'd imagine, has a handful available.Here are some of our favorites:

South Central Farmer's Co-op
The South Central Farmer's Co-op CSA box is all about options. The pricing varies from $20 for a one-time box, $100 monthly (one box a week), or $520 if you want six months worth. There's also an option for a $40 box, where half your money goes to support a community member in need. (And yes, that half is tax deductible.) But the best part about their CSA is the variety of pick-up locations that are available, pretty much all throughout L.A., depending on the day of the week. Find a complete list of pick-up sites here.

Farmer's Market Fairy
If the South Central Farmer's Market box is for the normal folks, the Farmer's Market Fairy is for the upper crust. Instead of having to head out and pick up your box, this is more like a personal shopper. You give the fairy a customized list of the items you want (based on what's in season and availability) and she'll head out to various farmers markets around the area during the week and do your shopping for you. Of course, things can get a bit pricy -- the delivery fee starts at $50 and goes up from there, depending on what you want and where you want them from -- but you can't beat the personalization that comes with this.

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Silver Lake Farms
No, the Silver Lake box doesn't come with plaid shirts, aviator sunglasses and PBR. It's the same sustainable, organic and local vegetables, but it can be had for $280 (for 10 weeks worth) or $140 (if you want the boxes bi-weekly). The downside is that the boxes can only be picked up in either Silver Lake or Pasadena, so think about the drive before any of you Santa Monica residents sign up for this one. The upside is that their blog offers recipes based on the offerings of that week's box.

Farm Box LA
FarmBoxLA fills their boxes with a variety of small local farms, so prices vary, depending on what you want. The "Deluxe" version will run you $100, but is perfect for a "family, or a couple who eats in most of the time," while a "Standard" box costs $75 and a "Tiny" one goes for $50. (Think: Large, medium, small.) The best part, though, is that folks from FarmBoxLA deliver the box right to your door, so you can avoid pesky pick-ups.

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