Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
CSA refers to a model of farming in which farmers sell harvest shares (vegetables, flowers, meat, etc.) directly to people in the local community. It was adopted in America from Japanese and European models, largely as a response to the disappearance of the small farm. CSA represents a shared commitment - shareholders commit to the farm for the season, providing farmers with a secure customer base, and farmers commit to doing their utmost to provide their shareholders with the best-quality, most nutritious food around. This direct connection between farmer and consumers bypasses middlemen (e.g., marketers, long distance shippers), benefits the farmer by increasing farm revenue in the early part of the season when many of our expenditures take place, benefits the environment by decreasing packaging and pollution, and benefits consumers by providing fresh, high-quality produce at competitive prices.
CSA brings together community members, farmers and agricultural land in a relationship of mutual support based on an annual commitment to one another. There are many kinds of CSA's. At Waltham Fields Community Farm, members of the community purchase a "share" of the anticipated harvest, and make payment in advance at an agreed price. In exchange, the farmers plant, cultivate, harvest, wash and distribute a bountiful selection of vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs. In short, the farmer and members become partners in the production, distribution and consumption of locally grown food.
We see the CSA model as building long-term relationships between families and the farm. The real benefits on both sides are realized over many seasons, as shareholders provide feedback to help our farmers refine our crop mix and farm systems, and farmers provide insight into the complexities of sustainable vegetable production for shareholders. A challenging season is educational for all of us, while we share the rewards of a bountiful season.
Because we believe that fresh, local food should be available to all members of our community, we also partner with several local organizations to provide our vegetables to needy families and individuals. You can support our hunger relief work by making a contribution.
How the CSA works at Waltham Fields Community Farm
People pay up front for shares of the vegetable crops that will be grown during the upcoming farming season and distributed in weekly installments. Pre-payment allows us to buy seeds and equipment and helps to pay our staff.
Starting in June, shareholders pick up their vegetables at the farm each week. See the Related Information box above for specific pickup days and hours. Shareholders choose 8-9 items from a selection of the crops harvested for them, then add to their share with pick-your-own crops. We bring in the harvest, with around 15 different crops in the mix. Shareholders choose what items they like, customizing the share each week to their own tastes. We choose the amount of each crop that constitutes an item (e.g. 1 bunch of beets, 1.5 pounds of cucumbers, etc.). Some crops may be limited, and others abundant, depending on the week and weather.
Our farmers harvest the majority of crops for our shareholders. However, a few crops, including peas, beans, strawberries, raspberries, cherry and plum tomatoes, tomatilloes, fresh herbs and flowers, are exclusively harvested by shareholders for themselves. The farm is open every day during daylight hours for shareholders to pick these crops, and farm staff and distribution coordinators are available to answer questions from Monday through Saturday morning.
WFCF depends on a large volunteer labor force, and we invite all our shareholders to join us in our work! CSA shareholders are welcome to work in the fields, help with office work and serve on the WFCF board of directors. You can also bring a group of volunteers from your workplace, school or faith community to the farm. More information on volunteering with us is available in the Get Involved section of the site.
Share the risk, share the bounty
Shareholders take on the risk of the farming season with our farmers. As a CSA shareholder, you agree to share the risks inherent in farming. We plan to provide our shareholders with their money's worth of vegetables and herbs over the course of the season, valued at prices we think are fair and reasonable to our shareholders and our farm operation. In a good season, you will receive more produce; in a challenging year, you may receive less.
Our weekly CSA newsletters keep shareholders updated on the progress of the crops and the ups and downs of the season. Besides in-person interactions at CSA distributions, the e-mailed newsletter is the primary way that our farmers communicate with shareholders and keep them informed about our systems, techniques and challenges. We encourage all shareholders to read the newsletters each week, as well as to talk to our farm staff at distributions.
Our commitment to sustainable farming
Since 1995, we have grown our vegetable crops at Waltham Fields Community Farm using organic practices. We use only materials approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute for pest control and fertility management. We manage our soil to grow nutritious, healthy, vigorous, delicious food without the use of synthetic chemicals. While we are not certified organic, our commitment to sustainability in and out of the fields is ongoing.
We encourage CSA shareholders to ask our farm staff about our farming practices, and we make it a habit to communicate those practices through our CSA newsletter. We invite all our shareholders to join us in the fields for a firsthand taste of sustainable farming practices.