* For 2021, the prices are $300 for a small share and $550 for a full share.
* For 2021, I am planning on running two pick-ups: one boxed-style at Living Stones Academy in Grand Rapids on Wednesday evenings between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., and another flexible market-style at the farm in Coopersville on Thursday evenings between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m.
* Depending on the weather, the season runs from sometime in mid-June through sometime in the end of October, which almost certainly will yield at least twenty and as many as twenty-two weeks of produce.
* Shares also include invitations to two on-farm events for members to celebrate with one another the beginning and conclusion of the season.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
Briefly explained, Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA) is a farming model where the farmer early in the year offers shares, which interested people purchase in return for a portion of fresh, local, and seasonal produce each week throughout the growing season. Local Harvest provides a thorough description of the CSA model on their website, and I encourage you to read it.
What are the benefits of joining a CSA?
People join CSAs for many different reasons. Here are just three of them:
Do it for the food. Since the vegetables are grown locally and come to the members about as fresh as possible, they have a high nutritional value. Further, since sustainable and natural farming methods build the health of the soil, the produce grown it it is nutritionally dense, as well as more flavorful. The CSA shares also contain a large variety of vegetables, some of which are a little unusual, and many people enjoy experiencing these new tastes.
Do it for the connection. When you belong to a CSA, you know exactly where your food comes from, how it was grown, and who grew it. You forge a relationship with the farmer and the farm, and participate in a community centered on the growing and cooking of good, honest food. What is more, belonging to a CSA reconnects you with the natural world: its weather and climate, its rhythms and cycles, its beauty and wonder.
Do it for health. Few deny the health benefits of a diet rich in vegetables, and one way to make sure fresh, nutritionally dense vegetables enter your home is to join a CSA. But more than the health of you and your family, belonging to a CSA supports responsible farming practices that contribute to the health of the natural world.
Is joining a CSA the right choice for me?
Belonging to a CSA is a unique experience.
First, when you join with a farmer in a CSA, you are agreeing to share the risks inherent in farming. Droughts, floods, equipment breakdowns, employee meltdowns, and other challenges occur and can adversely affect the harvest despite the farmer’s best effort. If the potential for “not getting your money’s worth” makes you feel anxious, then I encourage you to instead simply purchase produce at your local farmers market (or from me at the Sweetwater Local Foods Market in Muskegon every Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to noon).
Second, belonging to a CSA may require you to change how often you cook. Once a week, every week, your share will be arrive, begging to be made into meals. If the thought of weekly staring down a box of fresh produce stresses you out to the extreme, then consider buying just what you need at your local farmers market.
Third, belonging to a CSA will probably also require you to change how you cook. Your share will include only what is in season at that particular time, so you will need to learn how to create meals from what you have, rather than starting with a recipe and purchasing food accordingly. If the idea of looking at a bag of seasonal produce and trying to see what meals you can make from it makes you frozen with sheer panic, then your local farmers market is a wiser choice for you.
Finally, belonging to a CSA means being a member of a community rather than an anonymous consumer purchasing anonymous products in an anonymous marketplace. Here, everyone has a face. You are not just a “paying customer,” and I am not just a “provider of goods and services.” Rather, we are all in this together. If that appeals to you, and you are willing to approach the season with expectation, enthusiasm, and pluck, not to mention a sense of adventure and gratitude, then come please come join us. We have a place at the table waiting for you.
Are you organic?
To legally call a farm organic requires a rigorous inspection and certification process overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture. I have not yet embarked on this process. Nevertheless, I am committed to natural and sustainable agriculture and implement only farming practices and products permitted by the organic guidelines.
What can I expect in my share?
One principle of sustainable farming is growing a wide diversity of crops. Doing so not only spreads risk across different vegetable families but also is a delicious and adventurous way to eat.
If you are new to the CSA model, there likely will be foods in your share that you will not recognize. Further, belonging to a CSA means receiving a lot of vegetables, perhaps more than you are accustomed to eating. It certainly means approaching your cooking in a different way. Don’t panic. I will point you toward resources that will help you navigate your way through.
How large is a share?
Simply put, share size varies. Belonging to a CSA means conforming one’s eating habits to the rhythms of the growing season, starting with mainly greens in June, the riot of many different fruits in August, and the sheer weight of the variety of roots in the fall. Since it also means sharing the farmer’s risk, difficult growing conditions will affect the share’s size and content.
The best way to describe share size, then, is to give examples of possible full shares at three different points in the season. (Small shares receive roughly half of a full share.)
2 heads of lettuce
1/2 pound of salad greens
1 bunch of kale or chard
1 bunch of radishes
1 bunch of scallions
2 bok choy
1 small bunch of carrots
1 head of broccoli
2 summer squash and zucchini
1 bunch of beets
3 peppers or 2 eggplant
1 bunch of kale
1 bunch of chard
1 bunch parsley, cilantro, or dill
1 head of lettuce
1 bunch basil
3 pounds of potatoes
1 bunch of carrots
1 bunch of scallions
2 winter squash
1 bunch of kale or chard
1 pound broccoli
1/2 pound of salad greens
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of parsley or dill
Again, these are given as examples. The shares throughout the coming season will look similar to, not exactly like, those above.
What if one week I can’t pick up my share during your normal pick-up hours?
People’s schedules are full, especially during our beautiful Michigan summers. I understand that. Nevertheless, to keep the farm on track, I need to hew to a rigorous schedule. Please commit to making every effort to picking up your share in person. You are always free to have a friend or neighbor come in your place. Please let me know ahead of time if someone else will be picking up your share. I strive not to waste food, so any unclaimed shares will be donated to a local food bank the following day.
Can I visit the farm?
Absolutely. Seeing where one’s food comes from and how it is grown is an essential part of belonging to a CSA. Members are encouraged to visit the farm as often as they like during the growing season on Tuesdays and Thursdays from dawn to dusk. This is a working farm, as well as our home, so I ask that visitors take responsibility for their and their children’s safety, and also respect our personal spaces.
Can I exchange work for food?
Some CSA farms in West Michigan offer what are termed “working shares,” where members agree to work a certain number of hours in exchange for a discounted share. I think this is a great idea and will consider working shares for future seasons.
Can I come out to the farm and work anyway?
Of course! Again, participating in the life and work of the farm is an important benefit of belonging to a CSA. On any Tuesday and Thursday during the season, you are more than welcome to join me for as long as you like. Dress accordingly, and I will show you the ropes.
Can I split a share with someone else?
The informal splitting of shares, while sometimes convenient for the member, creates headaches for the farmer. Therefore, in addition to full shares, we also offer small shares, which include roughly half the food of a full share. If a full share seems too large for you, please consider purchasing a small share.
Is my share refundable?
Because the payment for your share immediately funds the operation of the farm and its purchase of seeds, soil, and supplies for the coming season, refunds are not possible. However, shares are always transferable. If at some point in the season you are unable to participate in the CSA, you are free to sell your share at any price you discern is fair.
Have a question not answered here? I would love to answer it! Please e-mail Greg at farmer.blackbirdfarms[at]gmail.com.