More on CSA
Sarah Milstein (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mon, 27 Nov 1995 15:22:05 -0500
Hi there. Glad to answer as many questions as I can.
As a side note, I'm posting this to SANET because there seem to be a number
of people interested in this subject, and because your postmaster returns
things that I send directly to you.
>How long have you been a CSA?
> Have you had positive growth?
> What types of problems or concerns have arisen?
Many, many. From whether we get too much daikon, to whether the site
co-ordinators should be paid, to whether we need to raise/kill cattle to
sustain the farm, to whether our distribution sites are legal. By nature,
CSA's generate continual problems and concerns: thus, the core group (see
> How have you dealth with them?
Constructive input from core group members, the farmer and other concerned
>How many members do you have?
We sell 450 shares. This could be as many as 1000 members.
>How much does it cost to be a member? What does a share equal?
Last year, the NYC share price was $258 per single share; this year it will
be $263. The share cost at our other locations is different, mostly
because they have different trucking needs. At the annual budget meeting,
we figure out how much the base price for each share will be (that is, how
much the farm needs) and then each of three sites determines its own
trucking costs (based on a common formula) and its administrative needs
(decided by the core groups). A share is usually 7 to 9 different veggies,
plus herbs, delivered weekly from June through November, and then every
other week from Thanksgiving through February. One share can feed a couple
of people who are *not* eating an all-plant diet. (As a vegetarian who
eats no eggs or dairy, I eat at *least* a single share by myself every
>How is the farm strucutred?
What do you mean here? Who works on the farm? There's the farmer; one 2/3
time person who coordinates with the sites and does some field work; one
1/2 time person who does some office work and some field work; and up to
three apprentices, who do almost all field work are paid a monthly stipend
and receive on-site housing and a food allowance. The farm itself has been
owned by the farmer's in-laws who are in the process of putting the land
under a conservation easement and gifting it to the farmer and his wife and
do you have a core group o members?
Each of our three sites has a core group. In NYC, our core group ranges in
size from 5 to 7 (there are 225 shares sold in NYC).
>What are their responsibilities?
The core group responsibilities are legion. We coordinate the distribution
of the veggies; organize the members' work/volunteer shifts; write up, send
out and collect each year's reenrollment agreements; meet with the farmer
and other core groups three times each year (officially) to determine the
budget and direction of the farm; plan and execute two farm festivals each
year; plan and execute two potlucks and member meetings each year; etc.,
>It it an organic farm?
Actually, it's biodynamic, which is sort of the Anthroposophical take on
>How do you distribute the food? Pickup, deliveries, farm stands?
>How often? How many weeds do you distribute?
The food is distributed once a week at each site (the sites are hours apart
by car, and members can only pick up at their own site). The farm brings
us crates of veggies and a list of how much of each veggie one share should
get. Then we set up the crates in a logical order and post a board with a
list of what one share equals. Members check in on a rollcall sheet, and
then weigh or count out their own stuff (they bring their own bags). If
they don't want something, they can put it on a surplus table for other
members to take (besides the surplus table, *there are no extras
Anything that is leftover at the end of the day, goes to a local food
pantry. The distribution site in NYC is open from 4:00 to 7:00 pm each
Thursday; our other sites have different days and hours. There is at least
one site coordinator at the site at all times (in NYC, there are three site
coordinators -- core group members who have the time to oversee
everything), plus a few volunteers (a different crew each week) who help
with unloading the truck, checking members in, consolidating the crates and
cleaning up. The truck does not stay for the distribution (it arrives at
3:00 and leaves after unloading; we open at 4:00 exactly).
We try to distribute very few weeds.
>What are the member responsibilitlities?
In addition to paying on time, members are responsible for picking up and
bagging their own shares, and if they're out of town, they can have a
friend pick up for them. Members must also work at least three hours each
year for the farm. This work can be done at the distribution site (we need
at least four workers each week to help out) or at the farm itself (we have
special work days there for members). We also ask that people attend our
two potluck/meetings each year, but that's not mandatory.
Are their working shares? What
>do they do?
Working shares are available, but only people who live near the farm can
really take advantage of this plan. As I understand it, working shares
can, on specified mornings, pick peas and/or strawberries (two
labor-intensive crops) and can get refunds on their shares based on the
number of pounds they pick of each. If you want more info about this, I
can put you in touch with the core group in the farm's area, since they
coordinate this project.
Do you depend on volunteers? What do they do?
We at the site distribution depend on members volunteering/working their
shifts. See above. The farm itself does not depend on volunteers at all,
although we do arrange for members to work at the farm a few Saturdays of
>Would you share your budget with us? Specifically how you support your
>farmers? Do your farmers receive benefits?
I'm not certain whether our books are open, but I'd image they could be,
and I will look into this. Our farmer is paid an annual salary out of the
CSA budget; benefits are taken into account when determining his salary,
and he buys his own (and his family's) insurance out of his salary. At
this point, nobody receives insurance as an employee of the farm.
>What other sources of income support your CSA other than membership
About 95% of the budget is supported by the CSA membership. For
flexibility in crop harvesting (that is, if we have an overabundance of
chard or something), however, we also sell some produce to a New Age-y
retreat center near the farm, and we sell some predetermined lots of
canning vegetables to members who are interested.
We call this predetermined stuff Shareplus and it works like this: after
we've gotten in all of our enrollment forms, we send out an additional form
listing ten veggies in large units that people can readily can or freeze
(tomatoes, corn, etc.) and the amounts in which they will be available
(i.e., one unit of tomatoes = half bushel; one unit of corn = 50 ears).
For an additional $65, members can sign up for six units of which ever of
the ten veggies they'd like (for instance, you could get six units of
tomatoes, or one each of six different kinds of veggies). Shareplus does
not effect regular membership in any way, and it represents a risk in just
the way that regular membership does (i.e., if corn fails, you will not get
any). When/if these crops become ready, the farm delivers special boxes of
these units to the distribution site, to be picked up by members when they
pick up their regular share. If you're not there to get your Shareplus
stuff, it goes to the food pantry. Shareplus is a lot of extra work for
the distribution and site coordinators, since we call everyone before their
stuff is coming in (in NYC, we have 25 members who subscribe to the
Shareplus option). It does, however, provide the farm with a little extra
income, gives the farm some leeway in harvesting the Shareplus crops (all
of which are also part of the regular share) and allows members to extend
the season by putting food by.
This year, we also started selling beef and pork shares to members who were
interested (there were one-time deliveries of large, frozen parcels); all
of the animals were raised on the farm for their manure (cattle) or for
their ability to demolish lots of compost (pigs) and were slaughtered when
they were no longer fulfilling their primary function in an efficient
manner. Like Shareplus, the beef and pork shares were offered as an option
at an extra expense to members who were interested.
>What types of social interactions or functions help support the farm
In NYC, we have two potlucks/meetings per year for our members. At the
other sites, they have monthly potlucks, but no formal meetings. There are
also two festivals at the farm each year: one in the early summer
(strawberry time of year) and one in the fall. Generally, the festivals
have themes (like sustainability or artists in our community) and they are
organized by members and/or core groupies from each site on a rotating
In addition, each site gets a weekly note from the farmer with recipies on
the back that give inspiration for any weird veggies we're getting that
week (like celeriac). And we have a monthly farm-wide newsletter that is
edited by a core group member in Albany, but always contains contributions
from each site.
>What are some unique qualities of your farm? Can you send us your
There are many unique qualities to our farm, not the least of which is the
fact that we have a superb grower and a number of committed, creative core
groupies and members.
In NYC, we don't even have a brochure anymore. But I can see if one of our
other sites has an extra.
>I'm glad you
>are so willing to help others. Thanks.
No problem -- you're very welcome. Is Lamspon Brook Farm located in
western Mass? If so, have you contacted any of the farms in your area
(such as Caretaker)? And how many members have you got?
Core Group, Roxbury Biodynamic Farm
227 W. 20th St. #4C
New York, NY 10011