What’s a CSA?

Want to learn more about CSA before you commit?

We began our CSA for a lot of reasons. Primarily it was a way to live the life we have always talked about, which can be summed up in a single sentence that Richard’s father use to say as they would be preparing to go camping,

“Always leave the place cleaner than when you arrived”

It is quite simple: Vegetables, in this world of consumerism on steriods, should travel as short a distance as possible to leave the smallest carbon footprint as possible. We feel trucking carrots from California, for example, is good only for the California farmer in the short run and extremely damaging for the planet in the long run. Buying produce from local farmers provides a host of patent and latent benefits to everyone in the area.

Money spent locally tends to stay in the area longer and provides local jobs. Financially stable farms provide the “rural agricultural character” that makes New England the vacation destination for millions of Americans providing even more jobs not to mention an environment which lends itself to a more connected community.

Small farmers tend to stay away from monoculture (the production of a single crop for export), the farming practice that is most damaging to the ecology of an area and the health of its economy and people. Monoculture farming produces vast quantities of a single crop but unfortunately also brings along with it vast quantities of pesticide immunities which have brought on the necessity of GMOs.

GMOs are pest resistant strains of plants, however the vast majority of these plants are patent-protected food crops, nearly all of which, are owned by one company, Monsanto, a fact full  of problematic scenarios. One of which is the limitations of modern science to fully comprehend all of the potential negative ramifications of genetic manipulation.

With the recent state of recalls on meat and vegetables from our store shelves, the question of food safety is foremost in most consumers minds. Over the last 20 years, CSA has become a popular way for consumers to buy local seasonal food directly from a farmer.

There are no unknown middlemen. By paying for your produce upfront in the winter and springtime, you become “member” or “shareholder” of The 1780 farm’s yearly harvest. Each week during the growing season, you receive a portion of your share.

The 1780 Farm  offers a certain number of “shares” to you, the public. Typically a full share consists of a ¾ bushel of seasonal produce each week, (and a U-pick Blueberry opportunity twice a month as the berries come available) throughout the farming season, typically from the second week in June through the end of October (depending on mother nature). We will also have pork and chicken shares available. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the The 1780 Farm and you, the consumer.

What Are The Advantages of CSA?

  • We Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before our 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • We Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food we grow
  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking (Jeanny will usually include recipes)
  • Usually get to visit the farm and keep an eye on what we are doing
  • Will find that your children typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

What Else Should I Know?

Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it. The government does not track CSAs, so there is no official count of how many CSAs there are in the U.S. The number is growing with leaps and bounds.

As we mentioned above CSAs aren’t confined to produce. Some farmers, including The 1780 Farm, include the option for shareholders to buy shares of eggs, homemade bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with veggies. This year we will be offering a pork and chicken shares, along with u-pick blueberries. Next year we will be offering beef and cheese.

There is an important concept woven into the CSA model that takes the arrangement beyond the usual commercial transaction. That is the notion of shared risk. When originally conceived, the CSA was set up differently than it is now. A group of people pooled their money, bought a farm, hired a farmer, and each took a share of whatever the farm produced for the year. If the farm had a tomato bonanza, everyone put some up for winter. If a plague of locusts ate all the greens, people ate cheese sandwiches.

Very few such CSAs exist today, and for most farmers, the CSA is just one of the ways  produce is marketed. We may (depending on harvest) also go to the farmers market in Keene, do some wholesale off the back of the truck, sell to restaurants, etc. Still, the idea that “we’re in this together” remains. On some farms it is stronger than others, and CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce. Here at The 1780 Farm  it is an unspoken agreement between you and us because the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between our members and the farm.

If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, we are all disappointed together, and together we’ll cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. We feel a great sense of responsibility to our members, and when certain crops are scarce we will make sure you get served first. Still, it is worth noting that very occasionally things can go wrong on a farm – like they do in any kind of business – and the expected is not delivered, and you may feel shortchanged.

Every year we hear complaints about a few CSA farms (two to six farms a year, over the last nine years) where something happened and the produce was simply unacceptable. It might have been a catastrophic divorce, or an unexpected death in the family. Or the weather was abominable, or the farmer was inexperienced and got in over his/her head.

In our experience, if the situation seems regrettable but reasonable – a bad thing that in good faith could have happened to anyone – most CSA members will rally, if they already know and trust the farmer. These people are more likely to take the long view, especially if you have received an abundance of produce in the past. They are naturally more likely to think, “It’ll be better next year,” than are new members who have nothing to which to compare a dismal experience. The take-home message is this: if the potential for “not getting your money’s worth” makes you feel anxious, then shared risk may not be for you and you should shop at the farmers market. We won’t have our feeling hurt.

In the hope of minimizing disappointment and maximizing satisfaction, we’ve prepared the following tips and questions.

Tips for Potential 1780 Farm CSA Members

 Don't expect all your produce to come from the CSA

Most CSAs do not provide families with enough fruit to meet their usual intake. In fact many don’t provide any fruit at all, and until our newly planted fruit trees mature we will not have any fruit. Depending on the size of your family and how much you cook, you  may find that you need to supplement the vegetables with staples like onions and garlic.

 If you are not used to eating seasonally, do some research

If you are not accustomed to eating seasonally, you may find that it takes a while to make a transition from eating whatever is at the grocery store (pretty much everything) to whatever is in your CSA basket (what’s in season). For instance tomatoes do not ripen until August in our area. You will see the season start off lighter than it finishes.  The first crops will be salad greens, peas, green onions and the like. By the end of the season, the boxes should be much heavier, with things like winter squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli. We will do our best to provide a list of what produce to expect when.

 Quantity varies – It's good to ask up front

When filling the weekly CSA baskets, we try and provide a variety of items, in a reasonable quantity. We don’t want to be skimpy and we don’t want to overwhelm you. Too much of even a good thing, and it ends up going to waste, which makes everyone feel bad. Of course, the weather and other mitigating circumstances can get in the way of our ability to provide the ideal amount, as discussed above.

 If you want to preserve food for winter, ask

We allow members to get extra quantities of certain vegetables for canning or freezing when nature and skill make them available. If this is something that interests you, talk to the us early in the season.

Frequently Asked Questions

 How long have you been farming?

Jeanny and I have been growing gardens most of our life this is our fourth year with a market garden

 How long have you been doing a CSA?

This will be our fifth year. Our first year was strictly for our farm stand.

 Are there items in your box grown by other farms, and if so, which farms?

As of this writing everything you will receive in your CSA share is grown here on The 1780 Farm. We do offer a variety of other products outside of the shares and are investigating partnersips with other local farmers that might benefit all.

 How did last season go?

We had an incredible harvest. Pepper, and Egg plant harvests were better than the year before. Tomatoes were only fair here – great at other places, no one seems to have a handle on why. The guesses are heat, stress, and lack of seasonal rain.

 I'd like to talk with a couple of your members before I commit. Could you give me contact info for a couple of references?

Yes! Just send us an email with the subject line “Looking for CSA references”.

 What if I am late to pick up my share?

Our policy regarding baskets not picked up on your scheduled day is that we will hold them for another day and then make the contents available to other members unless you advise us other wise. We do not have a cooler large enough to store vegetables for extended periods.

In Short…

Create your own stimulus…
buy local, eat in season, and join your local CSA!

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