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The kind of glee that CSA bags can instill in even the most jaded of fast-foodies is rather remarkable to watch.

Just ask my children, who before last summer eyed anything green or leafy with serious suspicion.

They now clamor for kale, organic carrots and fresh apples. Miraculous.

For the uninitiated, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a sort of subscription to an individual farm. .

You pay somewhere between $10 and $30 (sometimes more) per week directly to the farm, and in return are delivered a weekly box or canvas bag stuffed with a surprise selection of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables.

One week it may be greens, apples, peaches and onions; the next something completely different. Various CSAs also include fresh eggs, cheese, bread, meat and even flowers. Call it one-stop shopping with a conscience.

And though paying up-front for your subscription (which helps the farmers with crop planning and expenses) can be a bit paralyzing to some, working out the math over the long-haul makes the deal comparable -- and even cheaper in our case -- to weekly grocery bills.

Not to mention the thrill of discovery at what the farmer left for us this week. As we head into the summer harvest season, it's a perfect time to subscribe.

Canvas Ranch: At this bustling sheep ranch and farm in west Petaluma, Deborah Walton and her artist husband, Tim Schaible, have turned neglected pastures into a fertile landscape boasting everything from tomatoes and cauliflower to peppers, beets and zucchini.

Several times a year, CSA members are invited to tour the property, meet the teddy-bear sweet mini sheep and tour Schaible's on-site art studio.

What makes this CSA so special are add-ons including Della Fattoria bread, local cheeses, eggs and flowers. It can all add up, but you can try out the program for $112 (four weeks) to get started. 766-7171, www.canvasranch.com.

First Light Farm: There's plenty of buzz about Nathan Boone's biodynamic farm, now offering a year-round CSA.

Boone walks the walk of earth-friendly, sustainable farming, taking the philosophy one step further into promoting health and healing through food. "Food is medicine," says Boone on his Web site.

And among his fans: Cathryn Couch, executive director of Sebastopol's Ceres Community Project, which provides food for seriously ill patients. Subscription is $1,000 for 50 weeks, with an annual commitment required. firstlightfood.com, 480-5346.

Tierra Vegetables: Renowned for the more than 20 varieties of chiles grown on their farm, this brother-and-sister operation also produces enough vegetables for a growing legion of CSA fans.

The focus is on vegetables at Tierra, but that doesn't just mean kale and spinach.

Expect fun discoveries like dried chipotle powder, homemade catsup, cactus leaves and beans as well as the sporadic inclusion of berries, melons and other seasonal fruits.

Best of all: Entertaining explanations of the week's bounty and intriguing recipes on how to cook up your goodies. $600 per season, June to Christmas. www.tierravegetables.com, 837-8366.

Laguna Farm: One of Sonoma County's oldest and most popular CSAs, Laguna Farms describes itself as "beyond organic," and offers memberships for as few as three months.

Organic bread, seasonal fruit and extra salad mix are available for an additional charge. Sign up: $75 deposit plus $17 week; lagunafarm.com, 823-0823.

Sol Food Farm: New owners Ken Gibson and Lori Dawn Meier, formerly of Mudpie Farm, have taken over this Occidental farm and have lots of big ideas for the future of the CSA. They're incorporating new biodynamic practices, adding animals. $750 for 25-week season, pick up at the farm. solfoodfarm.org, 604-7120.

Valley End Farm: Though you may not know it, you may already be eating from Santa Rosa's Valley End Farm, the largest certified organic farm in Sonoma County.

The Grossi family has more than 70 acres, locally, and sells to Safeway, Whole Foods, restaurant suppliers and at area farm markets.

The CSA offers a handy four-week trial for those just dipping their toes in, ranging from $60 to $100 (based on the size of your box). www.valleyendfarm.com, 585-1123.

Orchard Farms: Weekly door-to-door deliveries from this small, family-run organic farm in Sebastopol. 10951 Barnett Valley Road, 823-6528. www.orchard-farms.com/csa.htm.

Foggy River Farms: Twenty-something farmers Emmett and Lynda begin year two of their back-to-the-land adventures. Along the way they've garnered the good will and support of CSA members, and have a few spaces left for late-comers to their Healdsburg program. farming101.wordpress.com or emmett.hopkins@gmail.com.

Petaluma Bounty Farm: Seeking to provide healthy food for low-income families, Petaluma Bounty serves up "Bounty Boxes" of fruits and vegetables at wholesale costs using donated land and volunteers to work the land.

The growing program also includes support for backyard and community gardens and "gleaning" by Bounty Hunters -- where unused harvests (often from backyard trees) are collected and distributed.

Retail members are invited (those above maximum income requirements) to join as well. ($10-$18 per week, depending on income), www.petalumabounty.org or 775-3663.

Sonoma County Meat Buying Club: Want a little meat with your kale? Local meat producers have been organized by the University of California Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County in a direct-to-consumers club for everything from grass-fed beef to humanely raised pork and pasture-raised chickens.

More exotic cuts like duck and goat are available as add-ons and several CSAs (Tierra, Canvas Ranch, First Light, Laguna Farms) are collaborating with the club for one-stop-shopping. Three-months obligation, $195-$540. Details: groups.ucanr.org/LocalMeatProd/

Singing Frogs Farm: Though only a few spots remain, this Sebastopol CSA is popular not only for its Wednesday delivery of produce, flowers and eggs, but for additional member benefits like their summer blueberry festival, pumpkin harvest and invitation to swim in the pond farm or walk through the "Enchanted Bamboo Forest."

$560-$756 per season, singingfrogsfarm.com, 829-1389.

Wild Rose Ranch: Though tiny -- at just about an acre -- this Santa Rosa CSA grows dozens of veggies and guarantees at least five different types in each week's box. $475 for 25 weeks (June through Thanksgiving) plus three hours of time spent in the garden. Santa Rosa, Cotati pick up locations. sonomamountaincsa.blogspot.com or 545-6062. Check out even more CSAs online in the Press Democrat's archive: www.pressdemocrat.com/csa.

You can reach Heather Irwin at 521-8544 or heather.irwin


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