Choosing a Farm
Factors to Consider When Choosing a CSA Farm
Given the amazing quantity of high quality farms serving our community, finding YOUR farm can be daunting. All of the farms in the coalition follow the basic CSA model, grow a wide variety of Certified Organic vegetables and humanely raised meat products. Beyond these similarities, all the CSA farms have characteristics which are uniquely their own. It is important to consider which farm will best meet your needs and expectations. Browse through the following list and note the factors that are important to you. Then check out the NUTS AND BOLTS of farm selection to find your farm.
Location: CSA farms serving the Madison area are scattered throughout Wisconsin. Consider how often you want to be involved in on-farm activities and how far you would be willing to drive. Remember that some farms have activities that take place in Madison and some of the longest drives are the most scenic.
Size: Some CSA farms have small operations with fewer than 10 families enrolled while others are large feed more than 1,000. Within these size categories there are those farms that grow exclusively for their CSA members and other farms that do CSA along with selling at farmers markets, stores, etc.
Price of Share: It is not recommended that you select your CSA share solely on price. Comparing each farm’s price like comparing apples to oranges (or carrots to cucumbers, if you will); each farm has different season lengths, crops, share sizes, etc. Purchasing a CSA share can often save you $$ on high quality, organic food, however, we encourage CSA members to consider the wider CSA experience of community, connectedness and education rather than a traditional consumer/producer commodity arrangement. The value of your commitment to local farms and their commitment to growing high quality food is priceless.
Length of Season/Number of Deliveries: The length of the season and number of deliveries varies among the farms. Most begin in May or early June ending anywhere from October to February. Those with longer seasons utilize season extending devices such as hoophouses and also focus in the cooler months on winter storage crops.
Pick-Up Site: Almost all of the farms have sites in Madison where the weekly delivery of vegetables are dropped off. Many also have sites in outlying towns and on farm. Consider how important it is to you to have a pick-up site located near your home, school, or work.
Delivery Day: The days and times that farms make their deliveries varies. Some CSA members prefer receiving their shares at the end of the week or the weekend so you can supplement your box at the farmers market, other folks prefer to cook up a storm on all week long!
Types of Produce and Other Food Items: Most CSA farms offer a wide variety of seasonal produce, others offer meat shares. Some also have specialty items, which are included in the share or can be purchased at additional cost. These include flowers, honey, meat, apples, cheese, grains, wool/yarn, and eggs. Additionally, some farms have various arrangements for receiving larger quantities of produce including free U-Picks and preservers’ shares.
Production Practices: All the FairShare produce farms are certified organic or in transition to certification (which can take up to three years but requires adherence to all certification requirements). There is also a wide spectrum of mechanization levels between farms. All of our farms are strongly committed to sustainable growing practices.
Opportunities for Involvement: All of the CSA farms encourage some kind of involvement from their members. Most farms organize one or more on-farm events each season and some farms encourage their members to “drop in.” The farms put different amounts of emphasis on volunteer workdays, community/celebration events, educational opportunities, involvement with planning and administration, and other projects. Be sure you’re familiar with opportunities through your farm and the expectations for participation.
Opportunities for Communication with Farmers: One of the core tenets of CSA is to connect farm members with farms and farmers. Farms offer a variety of ways to keep in touch with the farmers through on-farm activities, newsletter articles, blogs, community event presence and more.
Opportunities for Education: All of the CSA farm educational opportunities range from farm tours, canning workshops, herbal workshops, educational pieces in newsletters, children’s’ workshops, and education through work opportunities.
Special Emphasis of the Farm: Each farm has its own unique characteristics and emphasis. Some emphasize children’s activities, social gatherings, wool production, artistic and musical gatherings, rituals, heirloom and native varieties, farm animals, prairie restoration, women’s community, or more, get to know the unique aspects of the farms and find one that is right for you!