The 411 on local agriculture + how to support it

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Photo provided by Community Supported Grocery

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We hear a lot lately about the benefits of eating local, but putting that concept into practice can seem overwhelming to the average consumer (read: me 🙋‍♀️). And, let’s face it: for many of us, eating our veggies is not something that gets easier, or more fun, with time. So, to better understand the hype behind local agriculture, I took a trip out to Vertical Roots Farm in Cainhoy.

If you aren’t familiar: Vertical Roots Farm grows + sells lettuce to over 80 restaurants around Charleston. You can find it in most local grocery stores, including Lowes Foods, Publix, + Harris Teeter. And, thanks to innovative technology that even the most die-hard carnivores would find cool, they’re growing the would-be seasonal crop year round.

vertical roots grow pod

Inside a Vertical Roots grow pod | Photo provided by Vertical Roots

Step 1: Forget the traditional sense of a ‘farm.’
You won’t find rows of crops out in a field at Vertical Roots. That’s because every head of lettuce is farmed hydroponically inside of a repurposed shipping container. This type of innovative agriculture has several benefits – the biggest being the ability to grow lettuce year-round, rather than just in the spring, because of the climate-controlled environment.

Step 2: Redefine what you consider ‘fresh.’
Over 95% of the leafy greens sold around CHS comes from the West Coast – meaning that produce has traveled 2,000+ miles, and for upwards of two weeks. You’re not at your freshest after a long car ride – so why would your produce be, either? Local lettuce spends less time in a truck, meaning that it will stay fresh in your fridge longer.

Step 3: Start choosing local.
Check the produce in your local grocery store to see where it’s grown – most locally-grown foods will be labeled accordingly. If you get the chance to make it out to your local farmers market, chat with the vendors to learn more about where the produce you’re buying comes from. And, if you really want to commit to keeping your fridge stocked with fresh ingredients, try taking part in a CSA. CSAs, or community shared agriculture, are essentially boxes stocked with fresh ingredients produced at a local farm. Scroll to learn more about the variety of CSA options around the Lowcountry.

CSA Programs

Community Supported Grocery
Cycle: Weekly. Order by 5 p.m. Tuesday, delivered Wednesdays
Price: Prices range from $20 (or $10 for SNAP/EBT customers) for the staples bundle to $100 for the baller bundle.
Subscription: Both monthly subscriptions (pay for 4 weeks in advance) + weekly opt-in’s (choose which weeks you’re in + which weeks you’re out) are available.
Included: Every bundle each week includes eggs, one loaf of bread, one bag of lettuce, + a variety of fruits and veggies.
Delivery: Delivery Wednesdays 2:30-7 p.m. (with a delivery fee), or pick up from GrowFood Carolina (downtown at 990 Morrison Dr.) Wednesday 4-6 p.m.
Pro tip: CSG makes its offerings customizable, so if you have any dietary restrictions, make sure to speak up. There are also “add-on” options offered each week with specialty items available for an additional fee.
Sign up here.

The Twenty Bag at Rooting Down Farms
Cycle: Weekly. Menu shared every Monday at 12 p.m., orders close every Wednesday at 12 p.m.
Price: $20
Subscription: No subscription required; order on a weekly basis
Included: An assortment of locally grown veggies. See what’s up for grabs this week here.
Delivery: Pick up from one of several local drop-off spots around every Thursday.
Sign up here.

Gruber Family CSA Farm
Cycle: Seasonal. April-July + Late Aug.-Late November
Price: $275, small share (1-2 people) $385 medium share (3-4 people), $495 large share (5-6 people)
Subscription: Yes. You sign up for a season + will receive 12 consecutive, weekly boxes.
Included: Fresh produce
Delivery: Delivery available from the Midlands to the Lowcountry. Scheduled based on selected region.
Sign up here.

Abundant Seafood
Cycle: Quarterly. January - March, April - June, July - September, October - December
Price: $300 for a full share (30 whole pounds of fish), $150 for a half share (15 whole pounds of fish)
Subscription: Must sign up for a half- or full- share, each of which run throughout the course of the cycle.
Included: Fresh, local seafood
Delivery: Pick-ups.
Inquire about signing up for the next cycle here.

The Bounty Box
Cycle: Weekly. Orders placed for the upcoming week every Friday.
Price: Options range from the sprout box ($23-25, 1-2 people) to the harvest box ($27-29, 3-4 people)
Subscription: If you don’t make a selection one week, you’ll automatically receive whichever option you’ve selected as your “default box.” Though this is a subscription service, you can cancel your membership at any time.
Included: Fruits + veggies
Delivery: The box will be delivered to your doorstep between Wednesday-Friday the next week.
Pro tip: If you don’t think you’ll be home when your box is delivered, leave a cooler + ice packs outside to keep your goods fresh.
Sign up here.

Legare Farms
Cycle: Seasonal. April-June + Oct.-Nov.
Price: $400 full share, $295 half share
Subscription: Yes. Sign up for 15 weeks.
Included: Local produce – type dependent on season.
Delivery: Pick-up locations across tri-county.
Sign up here.

Disclaimer: This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Did we leave out your favorite CSA program? Share it with us in the comments below.


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