Food Clubbin’–Unusual CSAs


CSAs aren't just about veggies anymore. Photo: Gabe the Fish Babe

The bounty of the fall harvest is upon us, and for CSA members that means crates full of greens, beans, berries and the odd, unpronounceable root vegetable to cart home and cook. But the standard CSA model–pay upfront at the beginning of the season for a weekly allotment of fresh produce–has gotten a tweak in recent years. Here are a few inspired food clubs in Brooklyn that will satisfy both body and soul.

Dairy: Milk Not Jails
Backstory: Lauren Melodia, the founder of Milk Not Jails, has been immersed in prison reform initiatives for years, but it wasn’t until 2010 while living in rural upstate New York, that she began to draw a connection between the New York State prison system and the faltering dairy industry. She founded Milk Not Jails, a grass-roots alliance of dairy farmers and prison reform activists, as a way of generating money and awareness, offering branded dairy products from New York farms like Ronnybrook and Hawthorne Valley who have agreed to support prison reform in their communities.

Availablilty: Members and non-members can purchase weekly shares of milk, half-and-half, yogurt and butter, or can put in monthly orders for cheese, ice cream, milk, half-and-half, butter and other dairy products through local CSAs. You can also form your own buying club at work or with friends and Milk Not Jails will deliver to a location of your choosing, so long as you meet the minimum order. Email or call 917-719-MILK for details.

Pickup locations: Brooklyn Bridge CSA (downtown Brooklyn), Brooklyn Beet CSA (downtown Brooklyn), Legal Aid Society (downtown Brooklyn), Park Slope CSA, Prospect Heights CSA, Prospect Park CSA, Flatbush Farm Share, Ditmas
Park CSA, and Greene Harvest CSA (Fort Greene). Coming soon: Park Slope Food Coop and Greene Hill Food Coop

Cost: Varies on your dairy preferences.

Fish: Gabe the Fish Babe
Backstory: Gabe Stommel has had a tuna’s-eye view of the fishing industry since she was a child–her dad is a commercial fisherman and she comes from a line of Cape Codders that reaches back six generations. Which is why she was determined to offer consumers a more sustainable seafood option. Her operation, based in Point Judith, Rhode Island, sources domestic fish and seafood directly from local fisherman who use gear and handling techniques Stommel deems humane and environmentally sound.  Due to her focus on wild-caught seafood, her selections change based on availability and season.

Availablilty: Four-week memberships consist of one bag of shellfish (littlenecks, oysters, crabs, scallops, mussels) and 1.5 lbs of fin-fish (fluke, striped bass, bluefish, swordfish, tuna, cod) each week. There’s also a fish-only membership.

Pickup locations: Depanneur and Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Victory Garden in Clinton Hill, Eat resataurant in Greenpoint.

Cost: $160 for four weekly installments of fish and shellfish; $100 for fish only.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Local Roots
Backstory: Wen-Jay Ying founded Local Roots in 2011 as a solution to the stringent, virtually choice-less CSA model, allowing the micromanagement-inclined to sign up for customized packages. In addition to the more traditional fruit and vegetable shares, Local Roots offers a bread CSA courtesy of Orwasher’s, a dry goods CSA featuring grains, flour and dried beans from Cayuga Pure Organics, and for the ultimate in Brooklyn foodie-ism, the so-called Artisanal share offering  an ever-changing lineup of prepared foods and treats from Brooklyn artisan food producers. Past shares have featured goods from Brooklyn Soda Works, Ovenly, Mike’s Hot Honey, Rick’s Picks, KBBK kombucha, Liddabit Sweets and SlantShack beef jerky.

Availability: Still accepting members for the late fall; sign up here. Local Roots also offers a workplace CSA option with free delivery; email for details. There are also plans for a pop-up Thanksgiving CSA for a locally delicious feast.

Pick-up locations: 61 Local, Boeurm Hill; Cubana Social, Williambsburg; Harefield Road, Williamsburg; The Diamond, Greenpoint: Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountian, Carroll Gardens

Cost: Half-shares of the Artisanal option: $84 [$7 per week]; Full shares: $168 [$14 per week]; other packages vary

Pam Yung wraps a loaf of bread.

Bread: Community Supported Baking
Backstory: Pam Yung was the pastry chef at Williamsburg’s critically lauded “modern primitive” restaurant Isa alongside her boyfriend, sous chef  Jose Ramirez-Ruiz. Both departed a few months ago and struck out on their own, hosting a vegetable-forward pop-up restaurant on Tuesday nights at Whirlybird and a weekly Sunday night pig roast at Crown Victoria Bar. Yung’s baking pedigree led her to begin offering a very small bread CSA (technically more like a buying club). “I think there are people out there that value a good product made with care and compassion,” Yung says. “I have a relationship with every person in my CSA, and that’s an incredible opportunity for exchange.” For 8 weeks this fall she provides members with crusty loaves of long-fermented, levain-raised sourdough boule, which she says  “can easily feed two people for three to five days.”

Availability: Currently full but email to check for spaces, or to inquire about future shares.

Pickup location: Sundays in the backyard of Crown Victoria Bar in Williamsburg from 4pm to 8pm.

Cost: Option 1: $88 for 8 weeks of sourdough bread
Option 2: $136 for 8 weeks of sourdough bread plus an accompaniment like locally made butter, homemade jam and a selection of charcuterie from Greenpoint’s Ends Meat

Meat: Crossfit  South Brooklyn
Backstory: In 2011, personal trainer Margie Lempert piloted a meat CSA at her gym, fusing her interest in nutrition and sustainability. “Our gym is a perfect place to house such a CSA because of our dietary preferences, health concerns, strong community and disposable income,” says Lempert, who researched a number of local farms before partnering with Herondale Farm in Ancramdale, New York to provide members with organic grass-fed beef and lamb and pasture-raised pork and poultry. “It’s easy in Brooklyn to get organic and small farm raised vegetables,” says Michele Knaub, who recently took over running the CSA’s operations. “To opt out of the industrial meat system requires more effort and the CSA makes that very easy.” The gym has also partnered with Sol Flower Farm, offering eggs, veggies and flowers.

Availability: The Herondale Meat CSA is opened to gym members and non-members alike, in monthly 10- or 15-lb shares that include ground meat, sausages, roasts, chops and prime cuts. There is also a monthly chicken share available, as well as eggs, while they’re in season. The current season is closed, but you can email Knaub at for details on winter shares.

Pickup location: First Wednesdays of the month at Crossfit South Brooklyn for meat, third Wednesday for poultry, flowers and eggs, weekly Wednesdays.

Cost: Five monthly pick-ups of 15 lbs each: $875; five monthly pickups of 10 lbs each: $720. Five monthly pick-ups of 10 lbs of chicken: $395. Payment plans are also available.


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