Farm Share/Community Supported Agriculture Programs

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Here are some frequently asked questions about farm shares.
What can I expect when I sign up for a farm share?
Every farm is different, and every year is different. But here is a farm share timeline charting out a number of events that took place in 2012 when we were members of Cure Organic Farm.
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 me?
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 bad?
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?
Lots of ways!
  • 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 is.
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.