WHAT IS A CSA AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
This Member Information Page is meant to answer some of the questions you might have as a new or even a well seasoned member. Please don’t let it replace the direct contact with the farmers and people in the community, feel free to ask any other questions you might have.
The basic idea of Community Supported Agriculture is to connect farmers with consumers. Members get a “share” of the harvest by paying a fixed price for the season. A share price is set based on the annual operating costs of the farm and the number of shares the farm can support. The farmer then organizes the farm to provide a weekly supply of products to its members. Since this direct association of producers and consumers is created by the people involved, every CSA farm is different.
HOW THE SAUGEEN RIVER CSA WORKS
What are the pick-up times and places? In order to manage the produce from a market garden, there needs to be two harvests a week. So for members who live in the Durham area, the pick-up is Tuesdays from 3 – 6pm at the farm, 7km north of Durham on Hwy 6.
How do I join the CSA? First contact Cory to see if there is space available. If there is a waiting list, you will be contacted in February as to whether or not space is available for the coming year.
What are the share sizes, prices, and how do I pay? We offer three share sizes: The large share is approximately a bushel of produce a week and has a base cost of $880, the medium share’s base cost is $615 and is about half a bushel, and the small is about a third of a bushel a base cost of $400. Members also make a pledge towards the capital budget of the farm, at an average of $100/share (see the “CSA Economics” page for more details). You can pay for the share in several ways. 1- pay the entire amount in January; 2- pay half in January and half in June; 3- pay a $100 first payment in January and give monthly post-dated cheques for the remainder. If any of these methods don’t work for you, talk to us, I’m sure we can work something out. Winter Shares are available separately and cost: $400 for a large share, and $250 for a small. You also have the option of reducing the share price by $50 if you help out at the farm for a half day during the season, ask for details.
When do the pick-ups start? We start seeding in the greenhouse early March, and start planting crops outside towards the end of April, and are usually able to harvest the first things around the third week in June. Then it is a weekly harvest until around the middle of November. The Winter Shares start in early December and pick up is every other week until we run out of storage crops, usually in late March or early April.
What do I bring to the pick-up? Please bring your own containers (bags, boxes, baskets etc.). Large shares need about a bushel size, Medium shares a bit more than half a bushel, and Small shares about a third of a bushel. Some people like to bring small bags to keep their herbs separate. There are usually a supply of recycled plastic bags at the pick-up (and you can bring your clean ones to let others reuse), but don’t count on them because we sometimes run out.
What if I miss a pick-up? You have several possibilities:
If you know you will not be able to make it: Please let us know by Monday night. That way we will not include you in the harvest. We can double your share on another week (plan on doubling when you know you will have guests and need extra, or in the fall when the crops store better).
You can also have someone else pick up for you: Please explain how it works (although we are there to help) and tell them to bring their own containers.
On occasion you can pick up at the farm the next day. If you request it, we will bag up your share and keep it for you in our cold storage. In summer our cold storage is not like a refrigerator, and things will not keep fresh for long, so don’t wait too many days.
You can also opt to simply miss that week, but it is best if you let us know.
If you miss a pick-up and don’t let us know before hand: We are sorry but that means you have missed the week. We try to be efficient, and the CSA model is probably the least wasteful agricultural distribution system. But a garden is not a warehouse. What is left over at the end of a pick-up we either try to sell at the last minute, or bring it home and eat it. Fresh produce cannot, for the most part, be stored for later sale or consumption, so what isn’t used within a week is usually composted. This isn’t waste, but it is a labour intensive way to make compost.
What if I don’t like or don’t want a particular item? There are a few options. First, give it a good try!! Often, if you haven’t liked a vegetable in the form you grew up with (overcooked or weeks old from the grocery store shelf), eating it fresh from a Biodynamic garden has changed many people’s (including kid’s) tastes.
Next, ask the farmers or other members for tips on how to use it. The Internet and cookbooks often have unique and simple things you can try.
If you are still not sold on it, see if another member is willing to trade you for something else.
If nothing else, place what you don’t want in the “Free Choice” area to let someone else know it is extra.
Do I have to take everything? No. This is one of the new ways of food economics that CSAs work with. When you buy a share in the farm, you are not paying for food in the way you might in a store. You are paying for a farm to provide you with food. If you really don’t like something, let the farmers know. Also, if you would like to see more of something, let us know. This way we can try to grow what this particular membership wants within the limitations of the land and labour.
What does “Free Choice” mean? Some items we give out as “Free Choice.” This individualizes your share, acknowledging that there are some things some people love, and others that people don’t care for. Usually “Free Choice” means: Take what you can use within a week. If you want enough of a “Free Choice” item to process for later, please ask. There is usually enough, but if not, we may be able to harvest more for you the next week.
Please only take “Free Choice” items for your own households use. We gauge how much of a crop to grow by how much people take. Although we don’t want to discourage generosity, we want a clear picture of who we are growing for.
Are there pick-your-own crops? Yes. The cherry tomatoes and flowers are available for you to pick. We will let you know when they are available, and where they are in the garden.
How can I know beforehand what will be available for pick-up? It’s a wonderful surprise each week. Use the harvest guide page on this site as a start. You can also ask the farmers the week before what is coming up, and we can give you a rough idea. The dynamics of weather and pests can change things quickly in the garden, and we are often deciding that morning, as we harvest, what is most ready, what needs to be harvested immediately, and what can wait. You can plan your other shopping after you pick up your CSA share.
Can I come visit the farm? We definitely encourage visits! We feel it is important that people connect to the land that feeds them, so you are welcome to come. We are a working farm however, and are not always available to show you around. Please be mindfull of your children, and the electic fences and animals.