Community Supported Agriculture is a membership farming scheme. Members of the farm commit to buying a share of the farm’s harvest for a whole growing season. This approach allows the farm to invest in the year ahead knowing that is has the support to continue and that the produce will all be eaten as we can grow to meet the demand. This system is very beneficial for the farm. It allows the growers to concentrate on what they love – growing food – rather than worry about marketing, processing, branding etc. This time can then be spent ensuring that the growing is as ecological and sustainable as possible – ensuring no artificial inputs are used and that most work is done using human labour rather than machinery.
What kind of CSA is School Farm?
School Farm is a grower-led CSA. This means professional growers manage all of the vegetable production informed by the members input on desired crops etc.
What do members get?
As a community supported market garden, our hope is that our members feel connected to where their food is coming from and how it is produced. Our members accept that they are sharing in the risks as well as the rewards of School Farm CSA. A good year provides everyone with a bountiful harvest, but members accept that a bad year also means less for everybody. Members get more than just vegetables from the farm – they get a connection with the food production itself, they know how things are growing and how the weather is affecting them, they learn what is truly seasonal in South Devon, and they deepen their understanding of the costs of food production, economically, socially and environmentally. Members also learn to recognize that their subscription is being kept entirely within the local economy. They are supporting growers to live in the community and the money they spend is not filtered off in marketing, transport, or packaging but only invested in the future of the farm.
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.
Not found your question? Email email@example.com and we’ll add it to the list.
What sizes are the shares?
This year we are offering a standard share and a slightly smaller share. Depending on which size you choose, each member will receive a standard/slightly smaller share of that week’s harvest. Each of the same size share will be an equal portion 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.
Each standard share will 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.” A smaller share will feed a smaller household or one which eats less veggies.
Where do I get my veg box from?
We currently have 3 collection points. One at School Farm in Dartington, which gives you a chance to look in the fields too, and also to collect other produce that is available from this collection point. The others are in Totnes at the Kitchen Table on the industrial estate, and in Buckfastleigh.
Your box will be available for collection every Tuesday after 4pm (5pm for Buckfastleigh).
What do I get in my box?
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.
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.
How will I know which box to take?
The standard sized boxes are in a blue crate and the small are in a black crate, so take whichever one, of the right size.
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
What happens if I miss the box collection day/time or I’m away?
Boxes a the farm are left until 4pm on Thursdsay, after which any uncollected veg is re-distributed to volunteers. If you know that you are not going to be able to make the time you can let us know and we will keep it aside for you.
If you are not able to make the allocated collection time in Totnes or Buckfastleigh, you can let us know by Tuesday morning, and we will keep the box at the farm for you to collect leter.
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.
What do I do with the actual box when I’m finished with it?
We used recycled mushroom crates to pack the veg boxes in, and we ask that members bring their own bag or box to take their veg away in, so we can keep reusing the mushroom crates. If you do take a crate away with you, please do bring it back, as we need to be able to keep reusing them throughout the year.
Do I have to do stuff as a member?
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 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 us 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.
Can I stop being a member if it’s not for me?
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.
Is it possible to join the CSA in order to support it without getting a veg box?
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.
Does the CSA sell veg to local shops?
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.