CSA membership is a new thing to many people. We’ve tried to make life easier by answering some of the more frequently asked questions about membership below. Those questions being:
- What sizes are the boxes?
- What does it cost?
- Where do I get my veg box from?
- What do I get in my box?
- How will I know which box to take?
- What happens if I miss the box collection day/time or I’m away?
- What do I do with the actual box when I’m finished with it?
- Do I have to do stuff as a member?
- I would really like to become a member of the CSA but I don’t think I can afford it. Are there any concessions?
- Can I stop being a member if it’s not for me?
- Is it possible to join the CSA in order to support it without getting a veg box?
- Does the CSA sell veg to local shops?
Not found your question? Email email@example.com if you think we’re not addressing something and we’ll add it to the list.
A helpful short film explaining the concept of a CSA and how it works:
Every member gets a member’s share of that week’s harvest. All the shares are the same but the quantity of that share can vary with the season and the weather – that’s really what distinguishes a CSA veg box from just a veg box.
We reckon the boxes generally feed a family who include fresh veg in their meals on a regular basis or a couple who endeavour to cook regularly from scratch along the lines of Michael Pollan’s recommendation, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
If you’re not sure you have the capacity to tackle a whole box then why not team up with someone? Either you can find someone you know to share with or you can tell us you’d like to share and when someone else comes forward and says they’d like to share too we’ll put you in touch.
Membership is £500 for the growing season, which is 28 weeks, so that’s £17.85 a week.
We currently have two collection points. One is conveniently central, close to the Cooperative store in Totnes, though we are looking to relocate it somewhere else in town. The other is at School Farm itself which gives you a nice opportunity to have a look in the fields and polytunnels at what’s growing (and the parking is free).
Your box will be available for collection every Tuesday after 5pm from June to Dec.
We grow a variety of veg throughout the year so you should get roughly 6-10 types of vegetables every week and the vegetable types will change throughout the year. The growing calendar for 2016 can be found on the Membership page of the website.
We grow quality veg but that doesn’t mean it’s always perfectly formed so do expect to see quirky and interestingly shaped vegetables in your box. We think it’s important to include veg of all shapes and sizes because they’re perfectly good and throwing them away just because of their appearance would be a waste of good food.
You might also get a bit of mud. We don’t have washing facilities on the farm so the veg is plucked from the field and delivered to you au natural. You can tackle if with a good veg scrubber or, if you’re worried about too much mud in your kitchen, you could pre rinse the veg in a bowl of water and then use that to water the plants in your garden with some extra organic matter. However, did you know that having mud on your carrots helps keep them fresher for longer?
We do also sometimes suffer a little from natural pests because from us you don’t get vegetables doused in horrible chemicals. So you may find the odd slug or a carrot that’s suffered a little from carrot root fly. We always try and let you know in our newsletter if a crop is suffering at the hands of a particular pest so you can understand the reason for any blemishes. Generally we’ll only give you veg with minor blemishes which can be easily cut out.
The boxes should all be roughly identical, so take whichever one appeals to you.
Sometimes when people share boxes one person will come and take their half and leave the other half for their box buddy – in which case they’ll put a name on it. So, if it has a name on leave it and choose whichever other box takes your fancy.
Some of the box contents you get to help yourself to, such as salad leaves. Letting people pack their own: helps us, as we spend less time packing and more time growing; reduces food waste, as it gives people to option to take just what they think they’ll use; and, if you bring your own bag, it reduces packaging waste. However, we’ll try and give you an idea of what a “members share” is by packing a demonstration bag or leaving a note that it’s two handfuls of coriander, for example.
A lot of the time we have surplus of a particular crop, in which case you are at liberty to help yourself to your hearts content – we find a lot of chutney gets made this way 🙂
It’s not the end of the world, you have a 24 hour window to remember to come and collect your box but, if by Thursday you haven’t retrieved it, then we give any leftover veg to our lovely Thursday volunteers. What’s still there on Friday goes to local charities or good causes. Then if there’s still stuff leftover we recycle it in our compost, which feeds our soil for the next round of veg!
If you’re away for a week why not offer your box to a friend or neighbour, or whoever’s agreed to look after the cat/hamster/dog/children? Otherwise we can donate your box to a good cause.
Bring it back please! We need to be able to keep reusing them throughout the year.
The difference between a CSA and getting your veg elsewhere is that we do actively like to see people out in our fields, getting involved in the production of the food they’re eating but it isn’t mandatory, you can just rock up once a week and take your veg home.
You can also choose to get involved in different ways. Some members like to come to our weekly volunteer days and get their hands in the mud. For those with less time available the seasonal “Weed and Feed” or “Munch and Mulch” events are a really enjoyable way to spend a day on the farm – with cake (the cake is important).
There are also farm walks, which are less active and more about observing what’s happening, or there’s the annual AGM, which is less doing and more talking and listening and feeding back on your experience as a CSA member. You can even get involved from a distance by emailing us the recipes of what you’re making with your veg at home or hanging out with us on facebook and twitter.
I would really like to become a member of the CSA but I don’t think I can afford it. Are there any concessions?
We really want to enable everyone to have access to healthy, fresh veg so we do offer some subsidies to help with the cost of membership where help is needed.
The way it works is that some members can choose to pay a bit extra for their membership – all those extra bits add up and create the funding to support a subsidy scheme.
In May we work out how much has been donated towards the subsidy scheme and then we share it out amongst those who have asked for a subsidy.
This is the fairest system we’ve come up with to date but it means we cannot guarantee exactly how much of a subsidy is available, as it’s dependent on donations and applications for subsidy. The maximum subsidy would be £100 but we ask all those applying for a subsidy to let us know how much they need.
If you’re interested in subsidised membership drop Jenny a line on firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who have time and would be interested in learning how to grow their own veg we also have four workshare placements available where you help us with the harvest during the season, working every Tuesday between 8am and 4pm, and receive a complimentary membership veg box.
Joining a CSA box scheme is different from a regular veg box because we’re growing the food specifically for you on the basis that members have joined for the whole season and we know how many members there are.
If you’re not sure that a CSA veg box is your cup of tea then perhaps start by sharing a box, so it’s not veg overload right from the start and you ease in a bit more gradually.
If you really have to go because you’re moving or it just isn’t working out then we ask that you find someone else to take over your share and buy you out.
We very happily accept contributions, which help us enormously with the work we are doing.
We’re a community interest company limited by guarantee, which means we don’t accept shareholders and that anything anyone donates or any profits we make are put back into the social enterprise to help it flourish.
Donations can go to a variety of projects such as our box subsidy scheme, supporting our trainee growers, helping us invest in tools for our teaching and community day experiences or helping us invest in core expenses, such as the maintenance of the glasshouses, which it can be really difficult to get funding for.
Sometimes we do. The one crop that’s almost impossible to pick only once a week is courgettes, so we might pick them twice in a week and sell the second harvest to a local shop or restaurant. We’ll only sell crops though when they’re particularly abundant as the crops are grown to provide our members with abundant veg boxes, not with retail in mind.