What is a CSA and how does that differ from a Farm Membership?
The definition for CSA—The phrase; Community Supported Agriculture comes from the Robyn Van En Center one of the early founders of CSA in the U.S.
“CSA is a relationship of mutual support and commitment between local farmers and community members who pay the farmer an annual membership fee to cover the production costs of the farm. In turn, members receive a weekly share of the harvest during the local growing season. The arrangement guarantees the farmer financial support and enables many small to moderate scale organic family farms to remain in business. Ultimately, CSA creates ‘agriculture-supported communities’ where members receive a wide variety of foods harvested at their peak of ripeness, flavor and vitamin and mineral content.”
CSA has been called “Farming with a face on it” because you’ll have a very direct relationship to the farm and farmer growing your food.
How does CSA work vs a Farm Membership?
In a CSA, the shareholder “shares” in the season’s harvest by receiving a weekly box of fresh delicious, quality produce throughout the growing season. Shares can be varied in size from a half-share (small basket size) to a family share (bushel basket). Shareholders give their farmer the opportunity to focus on the art and science of farming – of caring for the land while growing the most healthful and highest quality food. In this way, shareholders also support the land and the environment through the beneficial practices of their farmer. When love is put into the plant, love and better nutrition comes out of it and these foods perform better in positively influencing every cell and molecule of your body.
Elk Meadow Farm & Nursery side note: When we lived in town, every year at least a few clients in Dr. Denice’s practice noticed our yard was much more lush and green than the neighbors on either side of us and they always asked why that was? The answer to that question remains true here on the farm; We water our plants regularly for one thing and we also provide love and attention to all the plants in our yard, our gardens, on our farm. We care for our gardens as we do our health because it is all intertwined.
Farm Memberships: The challenge our farm has is that it’s not generating suficient funds to pay it’s own way yet. At this point, the time to grow, harvest, wash, package and go to markets takes us away from growing, nurturing, watering, beautifying and completing projects around here AND Dr. Denice has less available time for earning a living being a Medical Intuitive. Also, we don’t like getting up at 4:30 AM to arrive and set up for market and then stand there pretending we love socializing (which we don’t) and then spend 3 days recovering from the experience. We would much rather be on our farm growing and building things. We want to spend MORE time on our farm doing what we love. We love touring people around, sharing what we know, showing people how to do things and helping to connect them with the goods, produce and education that will take them closer to their health goals without leaving the farm! With those thoughts in mind; we came up with the farm membership idea.
We think that there is room for everybody in this world to do more of what they love. And so, we are offering U-Pick Farm Memberships. Members are invited to the farm Tuesday’s Noon to dark and Friday’s 10 AM to dark to pick and wash (or not) their own chosen produce. If you don’t don’t like beets; don’t pick them! We’ll weight your stuff on the way out and punch your punchcard and … see you the next time you come around. We are growing lots of wonderful vegetables, herbs, and flowers so you will be sure to… get all your punchcard holes punched by the end of the season. Shucks, we are growing so many wonderful things you may want to purchase more punchcards and of course, we hope you will. You have a say in what you want and how much you want. We might even custom grow crops for you. If you like, we’ll teach you how to garden. You can also just breathe our clean air, absorb the good energy and walk on the grounds. We have a kids garden as well if you’l like to teach your children to garden. We’ll even water and help with the weeding in between visits.
How long is the harvest season?
For both, CSA farmers and ourselves, the vegetable and flower growing/harvest season is approximately 20 weeks. We can extend this time with a Farm Membership if you’re into potatoes and winter squash. And of course, we have farm fresh eggs almost all year round.
What’s in a CSA Share?
CSA farmers grow everything in the garden catalog from A to Z in the way of veggies, fruit, heirloom tomatoes and herbs and some things you’ve probably never even tried before! Often the grower will include a recipe or two with each new addition in your basket We think that’s a nice touch and we’ll be putting lots of recipes up on our website. In addition, some of our neighboring farmers raise and sell fresh meat; pastured beef, chickens and even turkeys for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. Watch our Locavore section for other farmers in the area to augment your CSA or Farm Membership.
CSA produce is delivered fresh to your door or it is sometimes distributed from a community area (like a health food store, a centralized farm or Co-op) on certain days throughout the growing season. We are not doing any CSA’s this year but if you’d like to pick some veggies and deliver them to a friend you can do that.
Our Farm Members can choose from what is available with the availability increasing every year. Most times a member will harvest for themselves (U-Pick) what they want but for some crops we’ll have prepicked baskets available to be purchased by the pound.
Hopefully, the produce you receive from your CSA or purchase at the grocery store is grown organically – synthetic chemical free. True organically grown foods ensure the absence of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Organic growing practices give plants the best conditions to develop the highest nutrition and flavor. Denice (co-owner of Elk Meadow Farm & Nursery) is “blessed” with being chemically sensitive so we don’t even use sulfur on our apple trees (even though it’s considered “approved” for certified organic farms.)
How much does a CSA cost?
This varies widely by area, but shares can be in a range from $400-$800 or more per/season. CSA shares are usually paid for in advance; before the growing season starts. You’ll have to check to see if they have this kind of service in your area. You will want to reserve your share early because often there are long waiting lists for this type of service. Our Farm memberships are an alternative. To start you’ll purchase just two punch cards for $200 (plus $25 farm membership which allows you to pick your own produce on our farm; Tuesday’s from Noon till dark and Friday’s from 10 AM till dark. For this relatively small investment you receive $230 worth of produce, plants, eggs or whatever else we’re producing at the time. Yes, you can purchase more cards if you like. We’d love that actually!