Here are some frequently asked questions about farm shares. If you have a question about a farm share that isn't answered, please either contact us, or leave a comment below, and I will try to get it answered. (Questions are moderated, so may take 1-2 days to show up.)
What can I expect when I sign up for a farm share?
Every farm is different, and every year is different. You may want to sign up for my CSA intro course which goes into depth on how farm shares work.
I'm looking for advice on a farm and I live in [insert city here]
I typically can't recommend one farm over another, especially if you live outside the Boulder, Colorado area, because I don't have direct experience. I recommend doing your research, including contacting farms directly and asking for happy share members to chat with.
How often do you go to the grocery store when you have a farm share?
This depends on several factors. How big the share you signed up for is, what it contains, and what other foods do you need. During the height of the summer, when we are getting the most vegetables and fruit, we still have to go to the market once a week or so. We get bread, milk, meat and processed foods, as well as any required vegetables for recipes that didn't come in the share.
What is your biggest gripe about joining a farm share?
Not enough tomatoes. Seriously, I've never found a farm share that grew enough tomatoes to satisfy me. The second biggest gripe is that sometimes the amount of food you get, especially in August, can be overwhelming.
What is the best part about joining a farm share?
It's a tossup between getting to know a farmer and learning what it takes to raise food for a community of people, and the taste of a carrot that was pulled from the ground six hours ago. That carrot tastes really good.
How can I choose a farm?
Decide what is important to you (here's a good
list of things to think about). Use
tools on this site
and other sites, talk to farmers (farmers' markets are a great place to do
this), talk to their existing share holders, and
ask about the important factors you determined above. Remember, this is
worth some effort, because you are committing to a season of produce or
other food, but it is not rocket science or parenting.
What is a boarding fee?
A boarding fee is a monthly fee charged for keeping an animal fed and cared
for. This is usually associated with a milk share.
What is a market share?
This is a new type of share that I've seen pop up in the last few years. This is very similar to a prepaid gift card with a discount, often 10%. The farmer gets the money up front as with a traditional share, but the consumer gets more choice, as they can spend the credit with the farm at the market or a farm stand as they please.
Which farm share is right for
Every farm is different. What is a 'better' farm share depends on what you
want. Some offer more flexibility, some require work (which I imagine
would create more community), some offer eggs and meat as additional
purchaseable items, etc, etc. A good thing to do is contact the farmer and ask to speak to other share owners. I did that a few years ago when selecting my first CSA.
I don't know whether certified
organic vs. organic methods is worth the extra cash. Doesn't it usually just hike up prices when farms get certified because it costs them an arm and a leg?
Most of these small scale farmers
are in it for the love of the farm and their customers and won't be
putting nasty chemicals on their crops. That said, organic certification
is a process that makes sure you know exactly what you're getting. One
farmer's "organic methods" could be different than anothers.
What is the difference
between certified naturally grown (CNG) and certified organic?
There are a number of differences, outlined in
this FAQ; they include who does the certification inspections and the
size of the farm targeted.
My husband and I are interested in starting a CSA. Do you have any info on the laws for CSA's?
I have never run a CSA, so I'm not the best person to ask. I've seen
several CSA planning books out there, so the library might be a good
place to start. I'd also call up someone who is running a CSA similar
to what you'd like to run and see if you could take them out to coffee
and ask a few questions.
Here's a website that
might be useful (not sure how up to date it is, though).
You also might want to contact your extension agent. I don't know where
you are, but Adrian
Card in Boulder would be worth talking to and
perhaps getting some pointers from.
Here's a bunch
of info on small farms;
here's an article about
CSA from a farmer's perspective.
What is the difference between boxed and hanging weight for a meat share?
Meat shares are priced differently than produce shares, and are typically based on hanging weight of the animal. The hanging weight is the weight of the animal after slaughter and removal of non edible portions like the skin and head. After the animal is killed and processed, meat is packaged (and typically frozen) and delivered to the consumer. The amount of meat delivered is the 'boxed weight' or 'packaged weight'.
I'd like to live on a CSA farm, with my family?
There aren't a lot of CSA farms that are family friendly. Many farms have interns, but those tend not to be families. You can look at WWOOFing. Ask around. Contact the extension office and ask about farm stays.
Won't my produce go
I will admit that I've definitely composted some produce (a
friend called it 'the most expensive compost I've ever made'), but by and
large, I've been able to cook and/or eat everything I've gotten from a
share. It does take a commitment, so I always suggest starting small. And
if you definitely don't want to cook, there are other plenty of other ways of supporting local farmers.
How can I support my local
farmers without participating in a farm share and/or cooking?
Participate in seasonal events--many farms have pumpkin patches
or corn mazes in the fall.
Eat in restaurants that support local food
providers, and ask restaurants where the food you eat comes from.
Buy value added products (plants, honey, jam, etc) at farmers markets and elsewhere.
Consider having an event at a farm.
A farm share isn't right for everyone, but supporting local food producers
Can I split a share among families?
Often, yes. I've seen some farms that prohibit that, or want to charge extra, but the vast majority of farms are happy to sell you a share and then let more than one person pick it up. If you have any doubts, ask your farmer.
When is the best time to sign up for a farm share?
The best time to sign up for a farm share depends on the type of share. Most produce shares tend to open sign ups in December or January, because summer is the best growing season (though that depends on which area you are in). Milk shares can be available year round. Meat shares tend to arrive in the fall, so take signups throughout the entire summer.
Once you are a member, you can often renew earlier than new members can sign up.
What can I do if my farm is not delivering what was promised?
This is a really tough situation. The ways that a CSA can fail to deliver what was promised range from "not quite the quality and quantity of vegetables I was promised" to "not giving me anything after the first pickup". For the first time, I heard of a couple of farms that were having such difficulties they couldn't deliver what they promised.
Unfortunately, as a CSA member, your recourse is limited. You can contact the farmer and ask for your money back or for better service. You can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and/or Yelp. You can leave comments online about the farm in forums like City-Data. There's not much else to do, unfortunately.
It's worth acknowledging that farming is full of risk and that a crucial part of CSA is to spread that risk. That doesn't excuse screw ups, but it does require consumers to acknowledge that they are taking this risk on knowingly.
This is a collection of information I've collected regarding Community Supported Agriculture programs, also known as farm shares, throughout the USA. Contact me if you have any updates or changes to make. Advertising information.