Friday, September 14, 2012

Full Circle Farm Review

Every Thursday, we eagerly await a box of organic fruits and vegetables from Full Circle Farm.

We get the “Garden” size box, which contains 30-40 servings, and is intended to serve a family of 3-5. Since this is our primary source of vegetables and fruits, we opted for a bigger box—and are even considering the “Harvest” box, with 45-55 servings and a greater variety. For now, though, we are able to supplement the box with canned fruits and vegetables, and vegetable-rich foods such as tomato sauce and salsa. 

Organic, but not “Local”

Full Circle is not a traditional CSA, in that it sources from a variety of organic farms in Washington, the West Coast, and Latin America. This allows for a wide variety of items available year-round. Although it would be nice, 100% local eating is obviously not feasible here, especially since there are issues with groundwater contamination.

There has recently been some doubt in the scientific community over the relative advantages of organic produce, but I’m glad that Full Circle is an organic source. Among other things, organic produce just tastes better. Placebo effect? Maybe. But a powerful one.

Selection, Customization, and Add-Ons

One thing I really like about Full Circle is how much control you have over what you get in the box. Obviously, there’s some seasonality, though not as much as you would get with a traditional CSA, given the geographic diversity of Full Circle’s supply network. But every week, there’s a list of substitutions, and you can go through and change out items in your order. Theoretically, you could get a box of just cucumbers or whatever else struck your fancy.

You can also set permanent exemptions, making sure you never receive beets or cabbage or whatever else. Thus far, I’ve not set any, because I customize the box every week, and it’s also good to branch out. For instance, cabbage isn’t something I really would have bought before, but I opted to get a red cabbage and discovered a great recipe for cole slaw. My motto when shopping and ordering is variety is king. No matter what, we’ll have a lot of repetition, but small tweaks can keep things interesting.

In that spirit, I occasionally order add-ons, such as extra fruits and vegetables, eggs, and cheese. Our first order of eggs arrived safe and sound! 

The extras add to the cost, but I think it’s worth it every now and then for variety and nutrition. Speaking of costs…

Full Circle is Expensive, But So is Scurvy

Our “Garden” box costs $66 a week delivered*. A “Harvest” box, which would meet our nutrition needs a little better, would be $80.75.

That’s a lot for just fruits and vegetables— almost as much as the “thrifty” USDA estimate for weekly cost of food for a family of two in the Lower 48. However, when you consider that we’re in rural Alaska, the cost includes delivery, and everything we get is organic, it’s not so terrible. We’ve purchased the bulk of our staple food already, so that’s not an ongoing cost, and we also have access to wild food.

Alaska is expensive in general; the USDA estimates a weekly cost of $101.40 for groceries for two, and that’s almost certainly not taking into account the added cost of organic food. We took high food costs into consideration when we did the financial calculus for this move, and in the end it comes out in the wash. Plus, we’re never ever tempted to eat out or get delivery.

Gripes and Customer Service

One thing that I don't love is the quantity of greens that come attached to the root vegetables such as carrots and beets. I know that you can cook with them, but I'd really rather have a few more carrots than a small bunch with a huge shock of greens.

Also, it’s a long way from Carnation, Washington to the island. We’ve seen some fairly banged up produce. Yesterday’s box had a very sad eggplant, so I gave Full Circle a call to see if it would be possible to add some extra padding. They took note of the feedback and immediately offered a refund for the item—excellent customer service.** 

Each box comes with a newsletter with updates and recipes. Sometimes they even sneak in a sample, like this herbed salt. 

Bottom Line: Our Only Option, But a Good One

Knowing that fresh, organic produce would be available was an important factor in our decision to move. It would be very hard to get enough fruit and vegetables into our diet without Full Circle. When we eventually move again, we’ll certainly consider continuing our service.

If you live in Washington, Idaho, Alaska, or San Franciso and want to give the service a try, sign up here and use the code SUMMERDEAL (and the referral name Olivia & Ivan). You’ll get 50% off your first box, and we’ll also get a 50% credit!

*Prices vary significantly by location, and we’re in the highest bracket. In Anchorage, our box would be $43.95, and in the Bay Area it would be $31.95.

** I did not mention that I would be writing this review. We have no relationship with Full Circle other than being happy customers


  1. This is a lot better than I'd have thought! You may be on an isolated island but it's an American island...
    Btw, we are discussing your adventures at the dinner table, and my boys have some questions which are very boyish, like, "Do they play basketball there?", "How do they heat the houses?", "How many kids are there on the island", "Do the kids come and watch the plane land every week?", and "Do they have cold or hot bath water?" The latter sparked a long discussion about the virtues of hot vs. cold water... We may be 12 time zones away but we are very much interested in your life!

  2. One "frequently" asked questions post, coming right up!


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