Gardens of Eagan Turns the CSA Model on its Head

When I got the press release announcing Gardens of Eagan's unique new Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program last week, I was excited. Was it possible that Gardens of Eagan had found a way to address customers' primary concern -- that they're signing up for a box of foods they don't know what to do with -- while still directly supporting the farmers who grow local food? Here's a look at the press release:

Gardens of Eagan - the popular organic produce farm in the south metro - is debuting a unique CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that enables shareholders to select their produce items at their convenience throughout the 2011 growing season.

An alternative to traditional CSA programs, in which farmers deliver weekly boxes of various seasonal fruits and vegetable to shareholders, the Gardens of Eagan CSA will allow members to purchase the items they prefer in varying quantities throughout the season at the Gardens of Eagan stand at Midtown Farmers Market and Fulton Farmers Market.

“If you’re a member of a traditional CSA, you pay upfront to receive a weekly box of the freshest items straight from the farm. While it’s a wonderful way to engage with local farmers and explore and enjoy the bounty of their harvests, it isn’t for everyone,” said Linda Halley, general manager of Gardens of Eagan. “Some people just love picking out their own produce, selecting their favorites in an amount that’s just right.

“With the Gardens of Eagan CSA, members have the same farmer connection they receive with traditional CSAs, but will be able to choose their produce when they want it and in the quantity they need it,” she added.

To participate, individuals can purchase $50 shares of the Gardens of Eagan CSA at:

  • Midtown Farmer Market each Saturday beginning May 7;
  • Fulton Farmers Market each Saturday beginning May 13; and,
  • the Customer Service Desk at The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis during regular store hours beginning April 16. (The card is not redeemable for produce at the Wedge.)

In addition, participants can purchase the CSA card directly from Gardens of Eagan farmers at The Wedge Co-op when they appear at the grocer Saturdays, April 16 and 23.

With each share purchased, individuals receive a card valued at $55, which they present at the Gardens of Eagan stand at the Midtown and Fulton Farmers Markets Saturdays throughout the season. Stand operators deduct from the card the value of the food items shareholders select during each visit.

Gardens of Eagan CSA members can use the entire value of the card at one time, or in increments throughout the year as their favorite items come into season. The $50 cost of each share also makes it ideal for first-time CSA purchasers easing into membership with a low-cost commitment. The CSA member cards are completely transferable to friends and family, making them perfect gift cards.

Okay, so maybe it's not really a CSA in the traditional sense. I don't know how this approach will allow farmers to plan for the future, or how it helps ensure the sustainability of a particular farm. But I love the idea of making a real commitment to buying local food directly from farmers, and I'm impressed that people who buy $50 worth of food will actually get $55 worth of value. Plus, I love shopping at the farmers' markets, and I'm excited to find new ways to support them. Win, win, win, win.

Header image from the Gardens of Eagan website.


Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. Email him at