What is a CSA? Many of you have been members since we started it in 2009. Many others may not really know what CSA means or how it works. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a model used by many small farms. It gives them the financial head start necessary to get growing early in the season and a dedicated outlet for the harvest. It’s a subscription service to whatever is in season at the farm. Customers pay a lump sum early on and then pick up their share of the harvest each week for a set time period.
There are many methods of distribution and White Barn has tried them all. We have settled on having CSA members come on their assigned pick-up day to collect their share from a display set up just for the CSA. You follow the instructions along the way, take 1 of this or 2 of that, occasionally having choices between different items and sometimes weighing out a certain amount of produce that’s in your share. Doing the work of packaging and weighing out your share is another way members support the farm. Managing labor cost is the most challenging obstacle to running a farm business. The time you save us by packing your own shares is extremely valuable in keeping share prices low!
As the years have passed, we have found ourselves becoming more and more of a local food hub for our customers. We buy in eggs and meat from ethical New England farmers, cheeses and mushrooms from local producers, and the wonderful breads from Iggy’s Bread in Cambridge, MA. The risk of buying in such perishable, high-cost items has been softened by the advent of our CSA Add-Ons program. Members are offered the convenience and consistency of counting on picking up their weekly eggs, bread, mushrooms, cheese, or meats. The variety and mystery exposes members to types of cheeses or breads, varieties of mushrooms, or cuts of meat they may have never tried otherwise. For many, not having to choose and to have already paid a long time ago are included in the benefits!
Why is the CSA model so important to us this year? Moving across the street from the tent to the White Barn always comes at a risk to us. We are not nearly as visible and the parking is limited. We tried staying open in the tent last fall but the New England weather made it very difficult. We are also experiencing a labor shortage in our area during this unusual time. Selling through the CSA model will allow us to serve the most customers in the space we have with the staff we have. If we have dedicated members coming to get their fall produce and picking up their add-ons at the same time, you are helping us manage our time and yours.
As the fieldwork lightens, it is crucial that the farmers be are planning for the next year: ordering seed, marketing, posting jobs and planning next season's Farmstand. This year in particular, we are having to do some more long-term planning. We are at a precipice. The farm needs to become confidently sustainable financially. We have got to plan for a better Farmstand structure. We’ve seen the success and community response to Shawn Heide’s Kitchen at White Barn. I mean, we’ve tasted the pizza and must find a way to keep this chef connected to the farm! That means connecting town water, improving electric, building an insulated space for a kitchen. We are going to need to go into debt, which is a little terrifying when you run a vegetable farm in the midst of climate change unpredictability! One intangible that is extremely valuable to us is YOU! Our community.
My vague idea for saving my family’s land from becoming another housing development and for preserving prime agriculture land in the middle of densely populated suburbia, was to gain community support as we grew our business. The overwhelming, humbling response to our water leak/water bill debacle was unbelievable. Through GoFundMe, the community absolutely saved us during a cash flow pinch at the very height of our seasonal labor cost, as money was tied up with the unexpected expense. The outpouring of support was such a morale booster, true encouragement, in addition to being crucial, timely financial relief. Thank you so much to every one of you who donated. We will do our best to be a source of good food, education, beauty, wildlife habitat, open space, a sequesterer of carbon through soil building, a place for community to gather, a place for local kids to learn how to work, in reciprocity for all of the generosity you have expressed.
I knew I’d end up on a tangent. We just want you all to understand why we are reducing our hours so drastically this season and why we are trying so hard to compel you to become Fall CSA members with Add-On Shares as well. The support of each one of you is so valuable to us!
Thank you so much! Really!