As we are launching our CSA, we’re getting lots of great questions! And, because our CSA is not structured in the typical fashion, our model does need a little unpacking. Hopefully, this article will answer your most frequently asked questions about community supported agriculture:
What is a CSA?
Community Supported Agriculture is a co-operative between farmers and a community. Community members pre-pay for a season’s worth of produce. That money helps the farmers buy seeds, soil, fertilizer and water and pay for land, equipment and labor. Then once or twice a month, the members meet in a recreation center or church basement to pick up their share – whatever is in season.
What’s different about The Holistic Homestead’s CSA?
To join a CSA community members typically must pay $300-$400 upfront for a whole season’s worth of produce. We recognize this may not be feasible for many folks in our community, so membership is only $30/month, on a monthly basis.
Also, we are working with a broker who works directly with farmers in Colorado, but also in the Southern states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida) to provide fresh produce in the winter. That ensures greater variety and availability as we are just getting going.
The long-term goal is to build a stronger network of local producers from whom we can purchase produce.
Why join a CSA when I can just go to the store and get more variety?
First, most folks in our rural mountain county must drive a minimum of 20 miles to the nearest grocery store. At that, there’s no guarantee the produce is fresh or available, especially in the winter when it is cost prohibitive to purchase certain fresh items in quantity.
Second, the CSA model does not require refrigeration or storage, and is usually coordinated by volunteers. This dramatically reduces the overhead and allows members to get produce at close to wholesale pricing (for example, a head of organic romaine lettuce for $1 and 0.80 cents for a pound of organic Roma tomatoes). I’m also partial to the CSA model because it’s set up like going to the grocery store, where you get to pick your produce rather than having it picked, boxed and shipped for you.
Third, get to know your community! CSAs are build around the needs of a particular community – the members influence how much of what kind of fruits and veggies are grown and delivered, and members decide when and where the pick ups are organized. Because the pick up is usually a 5 or 6 hour event, everyone must come and get their produce at the same time, and inevitably you get to socialize with your neighbors.
Finally – the REAL purpose of a CSA is to bring fresh, organic and as-local-as-possible produce to the communities that need it most. By joining a CSA, you are not only ensuring that you will have healthy fruits and veggies in your kitchen, but that your neighbors will have access to the same basic nutrition – the staples that make a healthy meal or snack – apples, broccoli, lettuce, onions, sweet potatoes, peppers, oranges, radishes and more!
Who benefits from the CSA model?
Everyone involved will benefit from getting most (if not all) of their produce through a CSA. The more people join, the more there is to chose from; CSA pick-ups are wonderful community gathering opportunities; more fresh, organic produce in your diet means better overall health and wellbeing. A balanced diet is the foundation of a healthier person, community, and world.
Where do you get your produce from?
Right now we are sourcing our produce from Colorado Organic Produce, a small, family run farm and produce broker in Greely, Colorado. Travis Lease, the head honcho at Colorado Organic Produce, has strict guidelines for his growers in Colorado to ensure their small farms meet organic growing standards, without having to pay the USDA to be “certified” (a fee that most small producers simply can’t afford). In the winter months, he sources fresh greens and citrus fruits from California, Arizona, and Florida while holding to the goal of sourcing as much as possible from Colorado.
By the way, are you an organic farmer along the Front Range in Colorado? We’d love to meet you and talk about incorporating your produce into our CSA. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
How often are pick-up dates?
Since we are just getting started, and only have 10 members (as of February 6, 2018) our pick up schedule is presently on a monthly basis. Our hope is to get up to 20 members, at which point we could go to bi-weekly pick ups. (The cost for the monthly membership will remain the same, but with two opportunities to get a reasonable amount of produce instead of one BIG pick up!)
What do I get?
This month everyone goes home with 5 pounds of potatoes, 5 pounds of onions, 8 apples and 8 oranges. Then you’ll have the option of choosing among radishes, carrots, yams, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, green peppers, and Roma tomatoes.
Do I have to take 10 potatoes every time?
Yes and no. We ask that you take your full share, which will include about 10 potatoes (remember, this is a whole month’s worth of produce!). Many folks hang out in the lobby and barter after they’ve picked up their produce, or you are welcome to wait until the pick-up is over and trade in your potatoes for any other produce of equal weight that is left over.
Alternatively, you can take 5 potatoes and “donate” the other part of your share to The Homestead. We will sell those donated shares at our open market on Sundays (the day after pick-up), and whatever does not sell will be donated to the Gilpin County Food Bank on Monday morning.
What if I miss a pick up?
Life happens. There will be days that our members are not well, cannot find a neighbor to get their share for them, or are stuck in Denver traffic. We totally get it. (There will be days when a delivery is not possible due to weather, in which case we will postpone the pick-up to the next week.)
Here’s our most reasonable and flexible policy for missed pick-ups: Please contact the Homestead as soon as you know you will not be able to make the pick up! (E-mail email@example.com; or call us at (303) 582-3001.) We will pick out your share and hold onto it for 24 hours. If you still cannot pick up your produce, or get a neighbor or friend to pick it up for you after 24 hours from the pick up time, your share will be donated to the Homestead. We will sell the donated shares at our open market on Sundays and whatever does not sell will be donated to the Gilpin County Food Bank on Monday morning.
Over 25 pounds of produce – that is waaaay more than I could eat in a month!
I agree – it’s a lot of produce to take home in one shopping trip. Dry it, make smoothies, bake it, roast it, make a huge batch of soup and freeze it. Hopefully, however, we will be switching from monthly pick ups to bi-weekly – where you’ll get about 13 pounds of fresh produce every two weeks, perhaps a more manageable amount for a small family.
Alternatively, we do offer half shares for $15/month. To order a half-share please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You may want to increase to a full share once we get going with the bi-weekly pick-ups.
Finally, the more people we have the more options you’ll get! When we get up to 30 members we will start ordering dry goods like beans, oats, rice and flour.
This is how good things get started – creating greater health and happiness truly does take a village! Thank you for your vision and dedication to personal and community wellness.
Ready to join? Become a member of the Holistic Homestead for just $25/year, and you’ll get all the details about joining the CSA.