What is Community Supported Agriculture?
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and eaters that is transforming how farming is done around the world. CSAs are making it possible for small, organic farmers to succeed. Here’s how: In the past, a farmer would buy, say, tomato seeds, take care of the plants in the greenhouse, transplant them into fertilized and prepared fields, then weed and nurture them for weeks until harvest. After several months of work (that can be dashed by a sudden turn in weather), the farmer proudly looks for someone to buy their tomatoes at a fair price during the few days this precious fruit is ripe. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if an honest buyer finds the farmer too late? After months and months of work, farmers do not get paid. This precarious funding system is one reason farms fail. A CSA eases this financial burden by allowing the farmer to focus on growing, not selling. By paying the farmer in advance, you allow the farmers to purchase seed, hire staff, and fuel the tractor to start the growing season. Advance payment helps us plan our fields better, too. By knowing how many customers we have, we know how much to plant thereby reducing waste. Our farm is a success today, in large part, because our members take a leap of faith with us at the beginning of each season. We’ve repaid that trust for nine years by providing the highest quality food possible week after week, despite record droughts and other challenges. To learn more about CSAs, read Elizabeth Henderson’s book, Sharing The Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture.
About Our Farm
Is your food organic?
Yes, we are certified organic and have used organic, sustainable methods since starting our farm nine years ago. We have never applied synthetic chemicals or fertilizers. Our farm was selected as “Best Place to See Where Your Food Comes From” by the Austin Chronicle, Critic’s Choice Award, 2010. Come see why by taking one of our in-depth farm tours, given every Saturday at noon that the farm is open. Farm tours cost $10/guest, and kids are free.
What foods do you grow?
We grow more than 75 varieties of certified organic vegetables and herbs. Many of these plants are delicate, rare heirloom varieties bursting with flavor. We guarantee that what we grow tastes nothing like what you buy in most stores. We also sell eggs and meat from our rare breed pigs, Barbado sheep and lamb, Nubian goats and chickens.
During our Spring Season, we ramp up with potatoes, green garlic, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, peas, salad, beets, parsley, and leeks. As temperatures warm in May, you receive cucumbers, summer squash, beans, and the first of the tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, okra and eggplant.
The Fall Season features many of these summer favorites, too. As temperatures cool, comes spinach, arugula, kales, mustards, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, green garlic, radishes, snow peas, green onions, butternut squash, pumpkins, turnips, carrots and…tomatoes. Yes, we grow fall tomatoes in our fields so you can eat them in December.
Your share of the harvest is posted in our weekly member newsletter. One of the most important things to keep in mind when you eat seasonally is that the harvest is a bell curve. The beginning harvests are smaller than the weeks that follow. However, as tomatoes and other favorites start producing bumper crops, your share grows. It’s not uncommon during bumper harvests that members are encouraged to take as much as they want. That’s one of the reasons why you should join for the entire season – to relish the bounty.
What are your growing seasons?
Most of our members join for our entire growing season, which is approximately 44 weeks a year. Our Spring/Summer season, which is usually 20 weeks long, begins mid-to-late March and wraps up at the end of July.
Our Fall Season, which is usually 12-weeks worth of food in 10 weeks, begins at the end of September and goes through mid-December.
Our Winter Season is usually 10-weeks and goes from January to mid-March. Our start dates are entirely dependent upon the weather.
Rain permitting, we begin as early as we can each season. Though we prefer members to join for the whole season, you can join for the first or second half (10 weeks each) of the Spring/Summer season. Likewise, you can join as an Alternating Member, meaning you pick up food every other week. Because we are a small family farm with no full-time administrative staff, we need to keep systems as simple as possible. What does not work for a traditional farmer-run CSA like ours is to drop in and out during the season. If you’d rather not support a farm for a season, consider trying a third-party food delivery service that gathers food from many sources (like Greenling) designed to juggle customers that come and go.
What makes your farm different from other farms?
Each farm is like a fingerprint, influenced by a whole host of factors ranging from location to the grower’s personality. Here are some of the ways our farm is different:
- We are a one-stop-shop. At our farm stand, which is open to the public Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, you can get the freshest certified organic vegetables, flowers, herbs, dairy, meat, eggs, honey and other local goodies in a remarkable, historic setting.
- Our open-door policy gives the public access to an in-town, sustainable historical farm for learning and relaxing.
- We are family friendly. Guests are welcome to come to Fridays at the Farm, a time to relax and enjoy the Children’s Garden (complete with sandbox and treehouse) from 10 am on.
- We created New Farm Institute, a 501(c)3, to expand our on-farm education for people of all ages. In addition to developing the first Incubator Farm in Texas for beginning farmers, upcoming on-farm workshops for the public will include: beekeeping, butchering, farm equipment repair, livestock care (horse, pigs), and other activities like day and weeklong camps for kids and adults.
- Finally, prior to farming, we were public health professionals. Our work at the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control has played a large role in shaping the mission of our farm. One of our priorities continues to be addressing the fresh food needs of underserved families living in the food desert that surrounds our farm. That’s why we accept WIC vouchers/Lone Star card, run a farm stand, accept volunteers, offer scholarships to our Kid’s Farm Camp, and partner with organizations like Sustainable Food Center.
What makes your CSA different from others?
We are fortunate that our farm is located in a beautiful, historic setting. (The farm was created by the Bergstrom family — the Swedish family Austin’s airport is named for — in 1902.) This setting has inspired us to share the farm with CSA members as much as possible. CSA members are encouraged to volunteer on the farm and to attend events. Members receive advance notice about dinners and discounts on cooking classes, Farm Camp, and other activities held here. CSA members often suggest and organize events, like birthday parties, family picnics, and yoga in the hayloft. We are committed to feeding the under-served in our neighborhood, which is why we have a Sponsored Share program that benefits children fighting obesity-induced health issues. Anyone can sponsor a share, so please consider participating in this program.
Joining Our CSA
How do I become a member of your CSA?
Signing up is as easy as creating an account on our on-line system, selecting your pickup location, CSA share type(s), delivery schedule and payment options. Join now for Spring/Summer, Fall, and Winter. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis. Existing members are given priority.
Where are your pickup locations?
There are several options for picking up your food. Pickups at the farm (8310 Canoga Ave, Austin, 78724) are on Tuesday (3-6), Friday (10-2), Saturday (10-2). You choose the day that works best for you, then we harvest for you on that day. We encourage you to come out to the farm to experience the rhythms of farm life just eight miles east of downtown Austin and learn about where your food comes from. For those who are unable to do this, we have Community Organizers who arrange pick up locations at various spots around Austin (including Georgetown and Cedar Park). Let us know if you’d like to arrange one!
How much does it cost?
WEEKLY/BI-WEEKLY VEGETABLE SHARES: $30 /share
WEEKLY/BI-WEEKLY EGG SHARES: $6/dozen (availability varies)
WEEKLY/BI-WEEKLY FLOWER SHARES: $15/bouquet (12-weeks in Spring, 8-weeks in Fall)
*Seasonal membership fee: $10
MONTHLY SMALL MEAT SHARES: $50/share
MONTHLY MEDIUM MEAT SHARES: $100/share
*Annual membership fee: $40
Field management is much easier when we know how many members to plant for. That’s why we prefer members to join well before the season begins for you. Though we harvest for you in March/September, funds are needed in January/July to get your season started. We also seek to provide year-round employment for our exceptionally talented workers so that means your funds are needed prior to the feeding season.
*This small fee goes straight back into keeping our farm running and keeping you happy!
What are my payment options?
Payments can be made in one lump sum, in quarters or monthly. We accept payment via Paypal (credit card and e-check accepted, requires a PayPal account) and by check (mailed to the farm in advance of your deliveries). Payment creates an account balance from which we subtract shares received weekly/bi-weekly. Members can elect to sign-up for automatic payments through PayPal at any time during their CSA membership by selecting the Automatic Payment Service on the payment page.
Can I pick what comes in my shares?
Members may not pick what is in their share. Our farmers, workshares and volunteers pack all the shares before delivery. We provide you with lots of recipes and tips on using all of the vegetables in your share in creative and fun ways. Visit our Recipes section on our website and join us on Pinterest for recipes grouped by vegetable.
What if I get something in my box that I have never tried before?
What if I try it, but it’s too little/too much for me?
Please feel free to change your subscription to a larger or smaller share. We just need four (4) days to accommodate, but you’ll see which share size was sent for you on the member sign-off sheet at your pickup location.
If the season has already started, can I still join?
You may register to join our CSA at any time during the season. We pro-rate costs weekly after first delivery. However, you may not join one week at a time; registrations are for the remainder of the season.
Will I know ahead of time what is in my share each week?
Members receive a pickup reminder via email on the Monday of their pickup week. We also send out weekly newsletters to all our members with the week’s share contents, plus recipes and food storage tips.
What is the procedure on pickup days?
Each location is a little different, please be sure to log into your account and click on Pick-up Directions to view the details of where you should go to pick up your share. Each site has a Community Organizer. We encourage all new members to reach out to your location’s Community Organizer to introduce yourself and clarify exact pickup details. There will be a pick up list at each location with your name and your box size next to it. Please check off your name when you pick up your share and only pick up a share if your name is on the list. If your name is not on the list, please call or email us to find out why.
I can’t make it during pickup hours, can I send a friend to pick up my box?
You can send a friend or extended family member to pick up your box, just make sure they understand that they need to check off and pick up using the member’s name. Please remember to respect the site hours and that the farm cannot guarantee you will have a box if it is outside of the designated pickup times.
What if my name is not on the pick-up list?
If your name is not on the list, we have not packed a share for you that week. Please call or email us to find out why.
I am not sure if we can use that much food. Do you offer smaller shares?
Many of our members tell us they’re surprised at how much more produce they start using when they join the CSA: it tastes that good. That said, if you are uncertain about how much you will use, sign up for an Alternating share, where you come every other week. If you decide you’d like to start receiving food every week, you can login to your account and change your subscription.
Can I exchange something in my share?
Yes, we have a swap box at the farm. Just trade out what you don’t like for a more preferred item.
What happens to my share if I go on vacation or am traveling?
You may login to your online account and place a hold on your deliveries for up to 3 date spans. During this time, your account will not be debited for the missed shares.
Can I change my pickup location after joining?
Yes, you may change delivery sites any time during season. Simply login to your account and select the site you would like to switch to.
How will I know when it’s time to pay?
You can login to your online account at any time and check your balance. You will also receive a notification when your account is getting low on funds.
Do you offer refunds?
No, we do not offer refunds.
Can I work in exchange for food?
Yes, volunteers who work a 4-hour shift are given access to “seconds.” Seconds are vegetables with imperfections; that’s what farmers eat. For people who want to come on a regular basis we offer a more formal arrangement through a limited number of Workshare Memberships. Workshares commit to working four to six hours each week of the season in exchange for a discounted vegetable share. You can learn more about these programs and sign up online on the volunteer/workshare page.
Can I get other groceries in addition to vegetables?
Yes, you are welcome to pick up food at our farm stand or sign up to become a member of our Flower, Meat or Egg CSA. You may purchase eggs a la carte at the farm while supplies last.
Can I give a CSA membership as a gift?
Why, how nice of you! Yes, we will provide you with a gift certificate. You can also get gift certificates to purchase produce at our farm stand.
What else do I need to know?
Joining our CSA means you improve your health, strengthen the local economy and preserve green space. We strongly encourage you to visit or participate in our farm.
Join Us Today!