CSAs: Choose Local, Eat Healthy

A Comprehensive Guide to Toledo Area CSAs

Some 66% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions aim for some form of health and fitness goal. But why is it that we predominantly think about this at the new year, only to have 73% give up before meeting the goal they set? Well, you can probably tell I am not a new years resolutioner, but I did once set a fitness goal for myself that eventually morphed into my lifestyle change to eat locally sourced, seasonally grown food, that used as little chemically derived ingredients as possible. I am in no way saying I have reached any sort of dietary perfection, I am saying though, it changed my lifestyle in a great way.

CSA | Simply Jess |Toledo Ohio

I have been told by people much smarter than myself, and I truly believe that eating locally grown produce is one of the very best things you can do for your health. We didn’t always have the means to bring food in from other states and countries, people had to eat local. The vitamins and nutrients indigenous to your community have numerous health benefits. Plus, you are directly putting the money you would be spending on groceries anyway directly back into your community. It’s not going to corporate, it’s going to more seed for the fields, new farm equipment, or even to the child of that farmer’s education. These are real people, hand planting seed, cultivating crops, and caring for the community they serve. They genuinely want to bring you the best product they can grow, meet the people they are selling it to, and shake their hand.


But as for you: do you have a New Year’s Resolution to eat better and improve your health? Well, I have an idea that will help to re-kickstart your resolution all the way through the fall. It is said, it takes 21-days to make/break a habit, how about if you had guaranteed fresh vegetables, fruits, and eggs hand picked at the proper season, ready for you to pick up each week for 21 weeks? I promise you, it’s a great way to encourage yourself to eat healthier, and chances are, you will find some new things you never knew you liked along the way. It’s call a CSA.

CSA | Simply Jess |Toledo Ohio

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture; it is where members of the surrounding community invest in a farm by buying a “share” of the crop. Typically, you receive your weekly share of vegetables (fruit, eggs, meat, etc.) at a predesignated pick up site along with the other shareholders. You product has been picked within the past day unlike food shipped from all over the world it has time to grow, ripen, soak up all of the nutrients, and it is delivered by the farmer themselves. They are there to be accountable for their product and share valuable information on how to prepare, store, or preserve the food you on which you invested. The produce has unmatched taste and freshness, probably unlike anything you have purchased at the store. The farm can then continue to support itself and its surrounding community with nutrient dense foods and many times, supply food or jobs to those who may not otherwise have such opportunity. Many farms contribute to local food banks, a place that rarely sees fresh produce. Others, such as Bittersweet Farms in Whitehouse, Ohio hire adults with disabilities such as autism.


In the summer of 2015, we purchased our first CSA share. I chose a farm that used organic practices, had a pick up location that was convenient to my home and work, had a variety of vegetables that were reasonably within my comfort zone, and one that welcomed you onto the farm with shareholder events (this was really just a perk to me but they were fun). I signed up in March having no real idea that we would be moving as our CSA season began the first of June. I dreamed of the fun, culinary queen I would become, creating new dishes for my table. Yeah… it was the best food decision we ever made because in reality it ensured that we had food every week while we were attempting to work full time, renovate a house, move, and still maintain some sort of decent dietary standard. The bottom line: our CSA ensured we had food at all. Not only did we have food, but we had recipes that came in our news letter a week ahead, so I knew if I did have to go to the grocery store. We had food, and we ate well in all of the chaos.

CSA | Simply Jess |Toledo Ohio

So, this brings me to one of the top reasons I ever started this blog: I have pulled together a list of the major CSAs in the Toledo area. I had a chance to correspond with these farms and gather the general story of each farm, and information about their CSA. Most offer a larger and a smaller vegetable share. The smaller of the two very adequately feeds two adults for a week (we pretty much lived off of it), whereas a larger share can feed a family. Different parts of the season results in different produce, and different quantities.  For specific information, and possible new member promotions please contact the farm directly.

*We are very lucky that all of the farms I spoke with use naturally grown, organic based practices. USDA organic certification is a very extensive and expensive process and many small farms do not pursue this based on those reasons. Again, if you have questions on the individual farming practices please contact the farm directly, or I can ask and forward you the information.

CSA | Simply Jess |Toledo Ohio

Riehm Farms – based in Tiffin, Ohio

Four generations of farmers have built and influenced where they are today. Largely the farm has picked up in the past 30 years, with the persistence and passion of the current generation of Riehm farmers. They have offered CSA shares for 9 years now and they are one of the farms with one of the largest number of share offerings giving them options for a variety of pick-up locations and produce offerings. The Riehms believe strongly in providing the highest nutritional value in the produce they grow. With this CSA you will also have the opportunity to participate in events on the farm from fall activities for the family, to nice dinners and brunches.

Season: June – October (20 weeks)

Share Options: Vegetable-Full Share or Half Share; Fruit-Large share or Small share; Egg Shares, Meat Shares

Approximate Cost per Week for Vegetable Shares: $18-36/wk

Produce Varieties Historically Include: arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, corn, cucumber, daikon, eggplant, garlic, green beans, green onions, hot peppers, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, summer squash, sweet peppers, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes, tomatillos, turnips, winter squash, zucchini

Pick-Up Locations: Arrowhead Park (Maumee), University of Toledo, Toledo Hospital, Levis Commons (Perrysburg), Bowling Green Farmers Market, Findlay, Norwalk, Tiffin, Riehm Farms

Contact Info: riehmfarms@gmail.com funacres.net


Shared Legacy Farms – based in Elmore, Ohio

In 2008 Kurt Bench and his wife Corinna took a leap of faith and decided to make Kurt’s dream a reality by establishing a small CSA farm. With a long standing history of family farming, Kurt used his skill, knowledge, and drive to build a farm centered around sharing their story and truly getting to know his CSA members. In 8 years Shared Legacy has also become one of the largest CSA farms in the area. They are working to gain organic certification* and also offer a variety of pick-up locations and events to encourage members to visit the farm.

Season: June – October (18 weeks)

Share Options: Vegetable – Full and Half Share; Fruit Share; Eggs – Full and Half Share; Coffee (Maddie and Bella) – Full and Half Share; Artisan Cheese Share

Approximate Cost per Week for Vegetable Shares: $20-38/wk

Produce Varieties Historically Include: Arugula, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Collard Greens, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Garlic, Green Beans, Green Onions, Hot Peppers, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Salad Greens, Shallots, Spinach, Summer Squash, Sweet Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Turnips, Winter Squash, Zucchini

Pick-Up Locations: Toledo Farmers Market, Perrysburg Farmers Market, Jewish Family Service Center (Sylvania, OH), Sutton Center (Port Clinton, OH), Shared Legacy Farms (Elmore, OH)

Contact Info: slfarms2@gmail.com www.sharedlegacyfarms.com

CSA | Simply Jess |Toledo Ohio

Friendship Farms – based in Waterville, OH

Back in 2007 while looking for a CSA to join Jamie Minch realized there was only one option in the Toledo area, so they decided to start one the following year. A small operation but you will find they put most of their energy into growing fantastic veggies. At Friendship Farms they too believe healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy food, “Our long term goal is to provide local, fresh, organic vegetables for as many weeks out of the year as we can”. 2016 will be the 9th year operating their CSA program.

Season: Mid-May – October (25 weeks)

Share Options: Vegetable – Large and Small Share; Fruit Share; Coffee: Large and Small Share

Approximate Cost per Week for Vegetable Shares: $18-29/wk

Produce Varieties Historically Include: arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, chinese greens, collard greens, corn, cucumber, daikon, edamame soybeans, eggplant, garlic, green onions, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, peas, peppers, potatoes, squash, shallots, summer squash, sweet peppers, swiss chard, tomatoes, tomatillos, turnips, winter squash, zucchini

Pick-Up Locations: Toledo Farmers Market, Holland/Sylvania Location, Friendship Farms

Contact Info: Friendship.farms@yahoo.com www.localharvest.org/friendship-farms


Goetz Family Farm – based in Riga, MI

Three generations now provide the energy and expertise for the century-old Goetz Family Farm “including our parents, my three brothers, myself [Jake Goetz], my wife and  sister-in-law, and the youngsters are learning the ropes.” With what started as a large garden, now the 25 acre farm prides themselves in working hard to take care of the soil and nurture the ecosystem. 2016 will be the sixth year with their CSA offerings, which became a great addition to their farm, offering a direct connection with customers.

Season: June – October

Share Options: Vegetable: Full and Half Share

Approximate Cost per Week for Vegetable Shares: $10 – $20/wk

Produce Varieties Historically Include: Asparagus, Basil, Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Garlic, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Muskmelon, Onion, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Salad Mix, Shallots, Spinach, Summer squash, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Winter squash, Zucchini

Pick-Up Locations: Ohio: Flower Hospital and Curves in Sylvania, Michigan: Adrian, Riga, The Erie Bread Company (Monroe), The Ann Arbor, Farmington, and Chelsea Farmers Markets

Contact Info: goetzCSA@yahoo.com www.facebook.com/GoetzCSA


Bittersweet Farms – based in Whitehouse, OH

Bittersweet Farms’ CSA program is more than a relationship.  Supporting Bittersweet’s CSA provides employment opportunities for adults with autism. Through the CSA, employees learn and engage in agriculture-related activities such as readying the soil, planting the seeds, harvesting the crops, cleaning the produce, and packaging the product in the CSA boxes. In addition to their CSAs, they provide shelf-stable products sold locally and on Etsy. The production and sale of these items also provide employment and vocational opportunities.

Season: April – June (10 weeks); June – August (9 weeks); August – October (9 weeks)**

Share Options: Vegetable – Standard Share, Petite Share **Three Seasons

Approximate Cost per Week for Vegetable Shares: $20-30/wk

Produce Varieties Historically Include: Beets, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Greens, Collard greens, Cucumber, Daikon, Eggplant, Garlic, Green Beans, Green Onions, Hot Peppers, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Melons, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Salad mix, Spinach, Sweet Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Winter squash,  Zucchini

Pick-Up Locations: Walt Churchill’s Market (Maumee), Bittersweet Farms (Whitehouse, OH)

Contact Info: ssolt@bittersweetfarms.org www.bittersweetfarms.org


Jentzen Farms – based in Monroe, MI

A fourth generation family farm, Jentzen Farms is now in their fifth year offering CSA options. They too practice sustainable agriculture. They reach a wide variety of locations in Ohio and Michigan. CSA members have been pleasantly surprised that their vegetable shares have also included fruit, and other local goods. Jentzen also supplies a weekly newsletter with plenty of recipes to use all of the items in your weekly share.

Season: July – October (16 weeks)

Share Options: Vegetable – Full and Half Share

Approximate Cost per Week for Vegetable Shares: $16-25/wk

Produce Varieties Historically Include: Arugula, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, green onions, hot peppers, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, pumpkins, salad greens, shallots, spinach, sweet peppers, swiss chard, tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash, zucchini

Pick-Up Locations: Ohio: Toledo Farmers Market, Perrysburg Farmers Market, Sylvania, Michigan: Dundee Farmers Market, Monroe Farmers Market, Eastern Market (Detroit), Jentzen Farms (Monroe)

Contact Info: jentzenfarms@charter.net www.localharvest.org/jentzen-farms


My goal was to provide a fully comprehensive list, but there are way too many details to share about each of these farms. Please feel free to reach out to the farm directly or to me, and we will work to provide you any additional info you may need. Also, there are other farms creating CSA programs in the area each year! How cool is that? 

Please share your great CSA experiences below for other readers to gain insight from as they are thinking of which program may suit their household.

Be Local.



CSA | Simply Jess |Toledo Ohio

Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience with Chef Drew Ruiz

This winter don’t hibernate, cook! January 2016 kicks of the second season for the Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience. This is not your normal dinner out, but you will neither leave disappointed nor hungry. Toledo Flavors is out to give guests of their food tours and cooking experience a completely different way to submerse yourself in the downtown food culture of Toledo. Whether it’s a reason to get together with friends and family, learn something new, or go on a fun, alternative date, these events are for the novice and the well-trained cook. Not a cook? Not a problem, you will have fun and enjoy a great meal; all you really need is to like food.

Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience | Simply Jess Blog | Toledo, Ohio

Chef Drew Ruiz, formerly head chef at the Toledo Art Museum and now launching Chef Ruiz On-The-Go, has created three completely new menus for this winter including:
Eggs. Not Just for Breakfast (Jan 15),
Low and Slow Winter Cooking (Jan 29), and
Make Your Own Pasta (Feb 13).
There you go, want to impress your Valentine? Four words: Make. Your. Own. Pasta.

Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience | Simply Jess Blog | Toledo, Ohio

Many years of experience in various forms of cooking brought Chef Drew Ruiz to the exemplary role of Head Chef at the Toledo Museum of Art. His finely crafted foods are amazing for elegant dining, as well as adaptable for everyday meals. Chef Drew excellently describes how and why he prepares dishes a certain way, including the selecting and handling of the ingredients. Patiently and with kind instruction, he welcomes those in each cooking experience to participate and get their hands a little dirty. He may not think he is a comedian, but Chef Drew Ruiz will keep you and your fellow cooks laughing and entertained.  

Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience | Simply Jess Blog | Toledo, Ohio

From the most basic ingredients, Chef Drew teaches us how to cook with predominantly local produce, hand selected from the Farmer’s Market. In November, I was lucky enough to participate in a Saturday afternoon cooking experience that used the foods you would typically have leftover from Thanksgiving dinner, and used them to create a vibrant new meal that would impress almost any guest. While some of us participants wielded some pretty large knives, others scrubbed, scooped, poured and stirred, but we all had fun. Nothing scary, too difficult, or intimidating, just working together to create excellent cuisine with a very impressive look. I was amazed how he turned such common foods: turkey, carrots, potatoes, etc; into dynamic, flavorful, gourmet dishes that even my picky husband devoured.

Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience | Simply Jess Blog |Toledo, Ohio

Each cooking experience is setup to be just that, an experience. The atmosphere is lovely. WS Kitchen Design provides a top notch workplace, with the perfect amount of space for the intimate 10 person groups. Not only will you be inspired by the food and entertainment, but you will leave with a mind full of ideas for your own kitchen space. Contemporary and traditional, the design floor is beautifully laid out for functionality and style.

Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience | Simply Jess Blog | Toledo, Ohio

The mother and daughter team behind Toledo Flavors have been hard at work the past few years developing a way for locals and visitors to experience Toledo in a way that no one else offers. Starting with the summer long Toledo Food Tours that take you and your tastebuds through the Warehouse District of downtown Toledo. DiAnn and Mallory created an afternoon tour that walks a small group of pre-enrolled guests through some very familiar and some not-so-familiar sites in the downtown area. The best part is even a person who considers themselves very well-versed in the food and attractions of the area (like myself) can learn so many new facts and try new foods. Not only that, it is a chance to truly see the city in a new way just by walking around a few blocks. The tour became popular enough that 2015 spun the launch of the holiday inspired Downtown Delights Dessert Tour; same general idea, but with the infusion of art, and seasonally inspired fall/winter treats, participants are in for a sweet few hours. Again, whether date or girls night, the dessert tour is a way to go-out and have a fun few hours while eating and laughing, supporting small local businesses, hopefully learning something new, and maybe discovering a talent you never knew you had.

Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience | Simply Jess Blog | Toledo, Ohio

Toledo Flavors is cooking up something new every month. Check their website (ToledoFlavors.com), Facebook, or one of their other social media platforms for events. They love Toledo and want to bring you the opportunity to have fun, and do something a little different. They want to be sure that we know there is always something to do and something new to discover in Toledo.


Let me know when you have an opportunity to participate in a Toledo Flavors Cooking Experience for yourself! Please leave a comment below.

Be Local.