WASHINGTON -- Parking lot piles of dirty snow that have yet to melt from recent storms are a tormenting sign that this year's winter has been a rough one -- and it's not over yet.
But despite the constant cold air, there is a glimmer of hope that spring is just around the corner: it's CSA sign-up time.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture -- a membership, of sorts, to a local farm. In a CSA, members pay a fee to help support the farm's operations, and in turn, receive a "share" of the farm's bounty for the season.
The most typical CSA "share" is a weekly or bi-weekly crate or box of the farm's fruits and vegetables -- leafy lettuces and strawberries in the spring; kale, collards and plums in June and July; and cucumbers, squash, corn and tomatoes in August and September.
Some CSAs also include meat, eggs or products such as olive oil, jams, honey and baked goods in the seasonal harvest.
Pick-up and delivery options for CSAs vary by producer, but many offer home, office or farmers market delivery for an extra fee.
As the farm-to-table food movement continues to boom, so does the number of local farms who offer CSAs. Here are a few to consider for this season:
Carrollton Manor Farm is a 200 acre farm in Buckeystown, Md., near Frederick. Its CSA program begins at the end of May/early June and runs for 16 weeks. The program offers a weekly or bi-weekly membership option, as well as workplace and home delivery options.
The cost for a weekly share (eight items) is $550 for the season; bi-weekly share is $275 for the season and the weekly half-share (four items) is $325 for the season.
This farm in The Plains offers plenty of pick-up locations in the D.C. area, including Falls Church, Alexandria, Logan Circle, Cleveland Park, George Mason University and Manassas. Depending on the size selected, prices for the CSA range from $510 to $1,415. Fruit and eggs are an additional cost.
This weekly home delivery service works with the area's small farmers and producers to select six to 10 seasonal items per week. For those who have lots of summer plans, this CSA is a great option, since there is no weekly commitment: you pay for the weeks you want.
Prices for From the Farmer bushels range from $35 to $55, depending on how much produce you select. Customers can also add a loaf of bread from Lyon Bakery for $10 a week.
Located in Brandywine, Md., this CSA offers an abundance of produce -- from Japanese greens to kombocha squash. The cost for the seasonal share is $450, plus $120 for home delivery. Each share averages 10 items each week.
This 20-week CSA program, based in Bluemont, Va., offers shares that include fruits and vegetables in a box designed to feed a family of four. The base fee for the CSA is $419 for the season; home delivery is $150. The program also offers vacation make-up options, so you don't let a week go to waste when you are traveling.
The 2014 CSA program at Lehigh View Farm will run for 16 weeks this year, from June through September. Pick-up is at select area farmers markets and at the farm. A full share is $525; it is meant to feed a family of two and includes six to eight different items each week. Add ons include an egg share and a cheese share.
The summer share program for Potomac Vegetables Farm runs from early June through mid-September. Delivery and pick-up is available in several Northern Virginia locations. Summer shares run from $352 to $720, depending on abundance. Extra options include an egg share, meat share, cheese share, flower share and bread share.
This Prince George's County-based farm offers two options for the 2014 season: Customers can enroll in a traditional CSA, where the farm determines what food members get each week, or the customer can pick out the weekly stash from Radix's stand at the farmers market.
The traditional CSA share pick-up has two locations in Northwest D.C.; the cost is $675 per share. The market CSA share pick-up is located at the Petworth Community Market; the costs is $425 to $600.
The 12-week summer share from this Caroline County farm runs from June through August and costs $550 for the season. The fall share (September through November) is also $550.
Unlike other CSA models, the growers at The Farm at Our House does not pre-package boxes of produce. Rather, they display the available produce and let the CSA members choose what they want from the bounty.
Aside from the farm, pick-up locations include Silver Spring and Crystal City.
Find several other CSAs near your zip code at Local Harvest.
© 2014 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.