Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA) is a model of growing food where the customer purchases a share of the season's vegetables ahead of the growing season, and the farmer commits to growing and distributing those vegetables on a weekly basis. At Good Stead, our certified organic CSA shares (think of it like a weekly vegetable subscription) runs 18 weeks, from June through October, and features 7-10 different vegetables every week. In our CSA, items are harvested, washed, and packed same day. There are also certain items that CSA gets, that we don't typically make available to our customers outside of the program. It is a production, quality, and marketing commitment that we make to our customers, despite not knowing weather, pest, or labor conditions and it's a time and energy commitment our customers make to us, despite not knowing exactly what they'll see in their shares week to week. But I'll be honest, CSA is not for everyone.
CSA is a great way of introducing people to new produce, or even better, reintroducing them to familiar produce. However, getting people to take time out of their busy lives to transform needy vegetables every week to meals that satisfy their families can be a big ask.
One reason we love to farm is that we get to produce items that we ourselves enjoy eating and value seeing in our local food community. We farm as the type of business we ourselves would want to frequent and have built our model around our love of cooking, eating nutrient dense foods, and eating in season.
While it can be hard asking customers to buy into the CSA model, it's also not an easy one to coordinate: deciding and distributing the right quantity and variety of vegetables for 85 different families, with different eating habits, schedules, preferences and cooking tendencies is challenging! One way I've tried to overcome this is by building more options into each share, but even then, I know our shares aren't for everyone. So the question remains, to CSA or not to CSA?
What's important to know about our shares? Fresh greens are an important part of our shares. Shares harvested in the spring could see as many as 2-3 different types of greens in a share, whereas in the summer maybe only 1, and back up to 2-3 in the fall. Greens vary from lettuce heads, bunched greens like chard, kale, or collards, micro greens, and baby greens like lettuce mix, Swiss chard, baby kale, and the occasional spinach.
Another important element of our shares is aliums (otherwise known as the onion family). In my kitchen, onions, scallions, garlic, shallots, and leeks are the base of just about anything I make and are the basis of many a recipe. Because of that, we prioritize one alium item in each share, assuming you will also be cooking and using them as the flavor base of your cooked dishes, vinaigrette's, and fresh salads.
Eating in season is an eye-opening benefit of the CSA. What can we grow, in our climate, in an organic system, throughout the year? How does the reality vary from the expectations created by shopping at grocery stores where everything is always in season? Eating in season means embracing what's available, when it's available! When it's tomato season, you're going to be getting tomatoes every week! When it's zucchini season, you will see at least 1-2 zucchinis in your share as a main item, or as a choice for much of the summer. Since we produce over 35 different vegetables, you'll get many options week-to-week, but there will likely be repetition of some items you or your family doesn't like or you're fatigued of. However, it's never our intention to load you up with a bunch of weird items, but rather offer you a balanced, thoughtful selection week-to-week. Before jumping in, take a minute and really look over our crop list and see if those are foods you're excited about bringing into your kitchen and incorporating into meals.
Finally, our shares are not meant to be preserving sized shares. They're meant to be enough food to get you to the next week's pickup, give or take. The weekly share size would be best for a couple, or a family of up to four (if they're veggie light). Check out how a sample share in August might look. However, we've designed our system so that you can always add more of exactly what you want by adding on an order through our online store. This way, you have a base share, you get all the perks of the CSA (sweet corn! watermelons! recipes!) but then can add on as you see fit. Get what you want, when you want, no waste.
Now what? At the end of the day, we want our customers happy and we want to feel like our work is useful and valuable. That's why we've diversified into home delivery, an online farm store, etc. - it's our attempt to meet you where you are: if you're a busy young family, if you're an older couple with less mobility, or if you're just a person who values local food, but doesn't always have the time to make yet another stop after work. And knowing that food waste is the #1 reason customers leave a CSA, we want you to find the fit that's best for you, and ultimately the farm and community. So, to CSA or to Marketshare?