Vegetable CSA

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

While the format of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) varies from farm to farm, the basic idea is the same.  CSA is a program in which consumers buy a share in a farm and receive in return a share of the harvest each week.  Read on for more information about CSA and the Off the Fence program.

What are the benefits of CSA?

  • Often it is more cost effective than buying local food from a grocery store or farmers market.
  • It can be very rewarding in terms of really connecting with where your food is coming from
  • Closer relationships with your farmer can facilitate better communication and an opportunity to possibly influence how your food is produced.
  • Participants learn when each item comes into season and may be exposed to a wider variety of produce.

CSA is also beneficial to the farmer in that they can spend more time in the garden and less time selling their goods – we spent over 24 hours each week attending farmers markets last season.  In contrast we spent less than 10 hours preparing our CSA shares.  We also enjoy the sense of camaraderie and fellowship with our customers.

What are the drawbacks of CSA?

  • Harvests can be unpredictable – you might see a surplus, shortage, or even crop failure of some items.
  • Some farms require the share fees for the entire season upfront which can be difficult if not properly budgeted for.
  • It can be inconvenient to pick up your share each week.
  • Some consumers may be unaccustomed to planning their meals around what is currently in season.

CSA can also be difficult for the farmers in that there is a lot of pressure to perform.  Many times the members have paid for the entire season upfront and understandably have expectations as to what they want to see in their shares.

Is CSA right for you? 

  • First off, do you like to cook?  Do you have the time?
  • Are you used to building your meals around what is in season?  Are you willing to learn?
  • Is your family interested in trying new things?
  • How willing are you to share the risks?
  • Is your financial situation such that you feel you can commit to the full season?

CSA isn’t for everyone and that’s okay.  On the other hand don’t be scared of the unknown.  Take all the factors into consideration and make the best decision for your family.

Choosing a farm – things to consider

  • How do they raise their product?  Are they certified organic?  How do they feel about stewardship?  Finding a farmer with the same mindset regarding the production of food as yourself may be the single most important factor in choosing a CSA program.
  • How experienced is the farmer?   While there is quite a bit that is uncontrollable, the experience of the farmer can help offset some of those variables.  Keep in mind that even the best and most experienced of farms have bad years.
  • How “old” is the CSA?  Newer CSA programs can be riskier than those that have been around a while.  Coordinating a CSA program is very different than selling at markets and there is no better teacher than experience!  That said, if you feel the farm is a good fit for your family, don’t be afraid to give a young CSA a try!
  • Does the farm supplement their shares with products from other farms?  If so you’ll want to ask for information regarding their farming practices as well.  Also, ask if the offsite product will be labeled or otherwise identified.
  • What types of things can you expect to see in your share?  What does your farmer usually plant? Does the farm offer fruit?  Baked goods?  Cool things like foraged stuff or honey?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  You might want to tour the farm before deciding.  You might want to ask about how last season went and if they can give you references.

Tips for a successful CSA experience

  • Communicate!  Especially if you’re struggling.   Your farmer wants this to be a positive experience for both of you and is willing to work with you to improve your experience.  If it is truly not working out for you, some programs will let you out of the contract.
  • Be understanding! There are truly some things that are totally out of the farmer’s control.  Or maybe the farmer had a lapse in judgment – we’re human!
  • Be adventurous! Don’t be afraid to try the okra.  Or the hot peppers.  Or whatever it is that you think you don’t like.  Prepare it a few different ways before writing it off.
  • Educate yourself! Learn about what is in season and how to prepare it.  Expect to supplement a little.  Most importantly learn about your farm and what they have to offer.  Do your research before you commit.

How does the Off the Fence CSA program work? 

We do set share values that are fully customizable.  A full share gets $15 worth of Off the Fence produce each week with a 10% discount off our market prices.  Half shares receive half that amount - $7.50.  Each week our members receive an email detailing what produce we have available with the prices for reference, garden news, and recipe ideas.  Members respond with their preferences by text or email, we fill the shares, and members pick up their shares from our farm on their designated pickup day.  Members are welcome to be as specific as they’d like – listing what they do and do not want or even doing the math themselves and requesting specific quantities of each item.  It is understood that at times there are limited quantities but we do our best to accommodate everyone.

What might a half or whole share look like?

A lot of people have asked how much might be included in a share.  Depending on your preferences and the season shares will look differently.  A half share in the spring might be a bag of half spring lettuce mix and half mixed greens, a small head of cabbage, a half pound each of broccoli and cauliflower, a bunch of radishes, and a bunch of carrots.  A full share might have more variety or more quantity depending on what the share holder wants.  So a full share might contain a bag of half spring lettuce half arugula, a large head of cabbage, a pound each broccoli and cauliflower, a couple bunches each of radishes and carrots and a bag of snap peas.

What are the costs?

Share fees are due when you pick up your share the first week of each month during the season.  Full shares are $60/month, half shares are $30/month. For those who enjoy getting their hands dirty we do offer work shares – you can spend a couple hours helping out in the garden in exchange for your produce.

How long is the growing season?

Typically our growing season is May through October though depending on the weather it might be longer or shorter.  You will have the option to start early if we have an early crop or stay with us later if our fall growing season is extended.

How do I sign up?

It looks like our 2015 shares are probably full but I keep a waiting list going in case there happens to be an opening.  Please email Gwen at spoodles927@gmail.com if you are interested in more information or would like to be on the waiting list.

Other CSA Programs in the Area Include:

Seton Harvest

Vegetable Land

Turning Point

Stonewall Farms (Meat CSA)

If you have any questions about our CSA program or CSA in general don't hesitate to contact us!

 

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