For those new to CSAs, the term stands for Community Supported Agriculture and, in a nutshell, is an agricultural model that links local farmers and local eaters. Subscribers, or members, pay a farmer upfront to grow their produce for a season. They pick up food every week for anywhere from 18 weeks to year around. Our CSA runs over the course of 24 weeks.
Joining a CSA brings lots of advantages and a couple disadvantages. Advantages: you get to eat food as it is seasonally grown and at its best. You become an active supporter of local commerce, decrease your dependence on fossil fuel needed to grow and transport food in contemporary agribusiness, and you vote with your grocery dollars: that you value and want local, naturally grown produce, eggs and honey. And finally, you get to know your farmer and become as familiar as you want with natural farming practices. Two disadvantages are that someone else chooses your vegetables (though you will get to try some new ones this way!), and the produce you receive is more dependent on extraneous factors–like the weather. A cool June makes for a slower start for everything, an early freeze can shorten the tomato season. CSA members take some risk, though most members return.
At Fern Creek pick-up happens at our farm on Mondays and Thursdays, with half of our subscribers arriving each day. We set up market style and members come and take what the fields yielded that week, selecting some produce that everyone gets (greens, beans, onions, cucumbers, berries, tomatoes–the standard fare), and then making some choices from produce more particular to taste (cabbage, fennel, rhubarb, more greens).
We offer 12 spots for a 20-week season spread out over 22 weeks (allowing for vacations); and 12 spots for a 22-week season spread out over 24 weeks. We then pick up a couple Vacation Spot-Holders that can fill in when we have open spots and plenty of produce.
Unique to Fern Creek are our Preservation Shares. We have spots for five members to go deeper with their food storage for the year. Those members come and harvest tomatoes, berries and beans, and go home with extra bags of broccoli, beets, peas, and dried beans. They, and we, are able to put up lots of food for the winter–by drying, canning and freezing extra produce.
Subscribers also have options to purchase free-range eggs from our hens, and other items we carry in the Fern Creek Market, like organic locally sourced butter and local hazelnuts, Fern Creek Honey, fair trade cocoa and chocolate. Bread shares are new this year. For interested members they can pre-pay for a share of bread from the Newberg Bakery (varying from week to week) and pick it up in the Market on Thursdays during their normal pick-up time.
Other CSAs have other unique touches, and pick-up styles, but that’s the gist of it, and a brief description of how things work at Fern Creek.