My Subscription Life is a new series designed to help you get to know the MSA team a little bit better. Each profile introduces a different member of the team, showcases their favorite subscriptions, and explores how subscriptions impact their lives.
Hello, and welcome to this edition of My Subscription Life! This week, I'm speaking with Christen, a writer who has been with MSA since 2019. Christen is a Pittsburgh-based mom with a penchant for great coffee and the outdoors, and she reviews Breo Box, Koala Crate, and the Margot Elena Discovery Box (among others).
The majority of the subscriptions we cover here at MSA are bigger brands that ship nationwide, but there's a whole world of local subscriptions that service smaller markets. Christen and I ended up zeroing in on this during our chat, and we explored the world of CSAs, considered the importance of "shopping local," and talked about how subscriptions can help small businesses flourish.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Christen's subscription life!
My Subscription Life: Christen
Lindsey: Hi, Christen, thanks for taking some time to talk about your subscription life! Let's start at the beginning: when and how did you first discover subscriptions?
Christen: Through MSA! I knew Liz and Eric and a lot of the MSA team from working together at ModCloth, and was brought on as a copywriter. It wasn't until I started receiving boxes to review that I began to understand the world of subscriptions.
L: What are the subscriptions you’re getting now?
C: For review: JourneeBox, Margot Elena, Breo Box, Little Feminist 2-4, Koala Crate, and I just got assigned to Sam & Lance but haven't received a box yet. Personally: Quip and Papergang. I also subscribe to a weekly local vegetable CSA called Harvie Farms.
L: Do you have a favorite subscription?
C: Pipsticks! First of all the stickers have amazing quality and design. But also, as a former childhood sticker hoarder who struggled to "use up" my stickers on meaningless surfaces, receiving a ton of really cool stickers regularly eases that anxiety. I know that once all of one sheet of stickers is used up, there are plenty more awaiting me.
L: Which subscription categories (beauty, food, geek, etc.) do you enjoy most and why?
C: Stationery because it's just sort of a guilty pleasure—handmade cards and notebooks and things are so thoughtful and pretty and lend themselves to adult crafting. They also tend to support small artists!
L: What is a subscription item that you’ve received in the past that stands out as most memorable to you? Why did it make such an impact?
C: I loved the recent Koala Crate we received. It was really fun to do the projects with my daughter, and the items she made have hung around and continued to be played with. The boxes are so awesome to literally save for a rainy day and have some activities to do that don't require much prep.
L: People gravitate to subscriptions for different reasons. What are your primary reasons for subscribing?
C: I always buy small and local when possible, so my favorite types of subscriptions are the ones that are run by an amazing go-getter working passionately to deliver goods that they believe in. In the case of Harvie Farms, it’s local farmers and a team of people making it super-easy to connect consumers with what’s grown in our region. In other cases it’s folks curating clean beauty products (like Kinder Beauty) or hand-selecting stationery sourced from small makers (like PostBox). These subscriptions feel personal and like they’re connecting people with shared interests, rather than simply sending “stuff.”
L: Describe your perfect subscription.
C: I think I just discovered it recently in the CSA I joined. Harvie Farms is a weekly farm share that offers harvest from a variety of nearby farms, so they're the conduit for supporting lots of local farmers. But also they let you preview & customize your order ahead of time, and their options include pantry items like locally made pickles or flour or pasta. Finally, this CSA delivers (which is huge, normally CSAs have pickup locations in a few neighborhoods)!
L: For those who may not know, what is a CSA?
C: CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. Another term for it is “farm share.” It’s a setup that allows consumers to buy food directly from farms.
L: Even though Harvie Farms is based in Pittsburgh, it looks like they work with 250+ partner farms and artisans throughout North America. That's pretty cool! It's like a one-stop-shop for farm shares around the country. Can you tell us what's included in your CSA subscription? What an average box looks like?
C: My family is signed up for the Mini size, which includes 8 selections per weekly box. I’ve received lots of apples, carrots, some red potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, chocolate milk, and I’m looking forward to some fresh pasta in my upcoming delivery!
I filled out our preferences prior to receiving our first box, which entailed ranking dozens of types of foods with “Always Include” if available, “Like It,” “Sometimes,” “I’ll Eat It,” or “Never.” Harvie uses these preferences to prepare a box preview for me several days prior to my weekly delivery day. I can go in and swap for other types of foods, or add or remove items. I’ve had apples and carrots included in every box, and while the quantities differ, it’s usually a bag of each (not just 1 apple or 1 carrot). I’m strongly considering sizing up to a larger box because I find that these days I often order grocery delivery anyway, and the quality from my CSA is amazing.
L: In addition to the CSA, have you explored any other subscriptions from local business, farms, or makers in your area? Or do you know of any that you’d like to try?
C: This is the only local Pittsburgh subscription I’ve tried, but I know there are others out there! Several restaurants and food purveyors offer one-time kits that I would love to either treat myself to or buy as a gift. I have my eye on DiAnoia’s kits!
L: Do you think subscriptions are a good way to “buy local”? Why or why not?
C: Yes. Subscriptions that feature goods from small businesses - even if they’re not local to you - support those small businesses in an ongoing way. This lets them plan and grow their business accordingly, and plus I love the idea that there are people packing your order with love in their living room, doing a happy dance every time you make a purchase from them. That human connection and tangible support is big for me.
Want to know more about Harvie Farms?
The Box: Harvie Farms CSA
The Cost: $49/week for the Mini, $79/week for the Small, $119/week for the Medium, $159/week for the Large, and $219/week for the Whole Diet share.
What’s in the box: Locally grown produce, meat, and thoughtfully sourced pantry items.
Ships to: Some areas in the US and Canada. You can enter your zip code here to see if Harvie delivers to you; if not, they’ll suggest pickup locations nearby. You can also check out this map to view the locations of partner farms.
Thank you so much to Christen for taking the time to sit down and talk about her subscription life.
Questions for Christen? Jump into the comments section below and let us know!