Last year we started a Community Supported Agriculture program. While CSAs are not new, it was a departure from our focus on farmers markets. The financial realities of the farming season were the reason for considering a CSA.
Before we actually sell any food to anyone, we end up paying for all of the seeds, rent, payroll, fuel, supplies, tools among other things. This adds up to tens-of-thousands of dollars. Added to this, any sales to distributors or various outlets can mean a wait of months to actually get paid. Farmers markets are generally the only outlet for early revenue to pay back lines of credit.
In a CSA, subscribers purchase a share of our crop at the beginning of the season. In essence, they are buying some of the risk inherent in farming. Last year, for example, after a cold, wet spring followed by a very hot summer, many plantings of lettuce came on at the same time. Our CSA members received two heads of lettuce in their boxes for a few weeks rather than the usual one.
In return for their early payment, we provide our CSA members with first pick of some of our most sought-after crops, such as berries and broccoli.
We loved having more personal contact with subscribers last year through the CSA program. We received weekly notes from some members telling us what they liked most and sharing recipes. Many of our members commented that they appreciated having a close connection with a farm where their food was being grown.
Now we're into our 2010 season and offering our CSA Harvest Box program again. There are spaces available. We've also made some changes this year. Below are some details about the program, including info on how to join.
The Glen Valley Organic Farm CSA costs $520 in 2010. A $100 deposit is required to hold your spot. The remainder is due by 1 April.
The CSA starts mid- to late-June, depending on when crops begin to mature. It will run for 16 weeks, although we may provide slightly smaller boxes at the start of the season and extend the program by one week, depending on selection and quantity available.
Our CSA boxes are delivered to pick-up depots by the NOWBC Co-op. Please check their depot page to see if there is a drop-off near you. Deliveries are made on Wednesdays or Thursdays, depending on the depot.
Members in the Abbotsford and Langley areas may also pick-up boxes from the farm directly on Tuesday evenings or Wednesdays.
Each week's box contains a variety of in-season fruit and vegetables from our farm. We grow 45 different fruit and vegetable crops. A box is sufficient to provide vegetables for a family of four for a week. Some members who are vegetarian or follow raw food diets use all of the contents themselves. Other members share their boxes with another couple or family. Many members also preserve some of their box contents for winter eating. To determine whether this CSA is sufficient for your needs, consider whether you normally spend $32/week on fresh vegetables. If not, you might want to consider finding someone to share your box with.
In 2009 a typical box contained the following:
1 head of Green Leaf Lettuce
1 bunch beets
1 bunch broccoli
1 head cabbage
1 bunch rainbow chard
1 bunch kale (except one box that gets a bunch of collards)
1 bulb fennel (2 bulbs if they were small)
1 long English cucumber
1 bunch parsley
3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
1 lb rhubarb
1.5 lbs peas
Substitutions and Cancellations
We are unable to accommodate substitutions, except as described below. In order to help you learn how to use vegetables that might be new to you, we will include regular recipes on our farm blog at http://glenvalleyorganicfarm.blogspot.com. We are also unable to cancel boxes. If you are going on vacation we invite you to offer your box to a friend or neighbour. We also offer an option through NOWBC Co-op to donate your box to a food bank if you are unable to use it on a given week.
There is one way to change your box: come out to the farm and create your own! Many 2009 members expressed the desire to have greater access to organic berries or to be able to choose specific items for preserving. We've decided to open our Strawberry and Raspberry beds to CSA members who want to visit the farm for U-Pick during the season. We will do the same for other crops, such as pickling cucumbers, that might not be featured in the boxes or that you are looking to preserve. This will allow people to access these highly perishable crops at a great price -- either in addition to your box or in substitution of a similar value of your box plan.
Connection with the farm
There are a number of benefits to being a member of our CSA. This includes:
This might not have been on everyone's list, but some people requested a CSA in a truer model of shared agriculture -- including the work. As a result, we're going to organize a few weekend work parties throughout the season when you can come out and work with us on specific projects. In exchange, you can choose additional produce to take home or even create your own box for that week. This could also allow us to do some special CSA crops -- like edamame or dried beans -- that you would help tend and ultimately harvest. Plus, it's a chance to see the farm at different stages of the season and an opportunity for us to get to know our members better.
Our CSA members are invited to our open house in May and we're also going to plan a big harvest shin-dig. This will include a large potluck and a preserves exchange. We expect this will happen at the farm in late September or early October.
Our weekly blog posting will provide you with an insight into farm operations, thoughts about agriculture and a number of recipes to help you learn about new ways of using the vegetables in your box.
If you are interested in joining our CSA for 2010, please e-mail glenvalleychris (at) gmail (dot) com.