The Garlic Farm's community-supported agriculture program
October 12, 2013: The CSA pickups ended last week. Sign up for the CSA info newsletter using the blue button on the left if you want to receive mailings about next year's signups in late winter or early spring 2014.
First CSA pickups for the 2013 season: Thursday, July 18, and Saturday, July 20.
Since 2010, the Garlic Farm has offered the opportunity to purchase in advance a share in the harvest through its community-supported agriculture program (CSA).
Shareholders pay a flat fee in the spring to join the CSA program. Then, during the season, they pick up a selection of vegetables at the farm each week. The CSA season lasts about 12 weeks, starting in mid-July and running to mid-October. Shareholders also are entitled to pick up a generous portion of garlic scapes during scape weekends in mid-June.
Garlic Farm owner Gary Cirullo started small with his CSA to allow it to evolve gradually with little risk to the CSA members. Each year he has added a few households to the roster.
How the Garlic Farm CSA works
If you've belonged to other CSA programs, you may have some idea how a CSA works, but you may also expect all CSAs to be alike. So whether you're new to CSAs or experienced with another CSA, it's worthwhile to read along as we describe how the CSA works at the Garlic Farm.
If you've shopped at the Garlic Farm regularly during a season, you know roughly what to expect of the variety and quality of the farm's produce. Each year Gary grows all of the most popular summer veggies except corn, which he buys (conventionally grown) from a nearby farm to include in the CSA shares. For part of the season he also brings in organically grown potatoes from another producer for the convenience of Garlic Farm shoppers, and some weeks the potatoes are part of the CSA share.
See the list of veggies grown at the farm in the sidebar to the right to refresh your memory of the farm's variety.
Gary and the crew harvest whatever's in season the morning of the CSA pickups, which means the produce could hardly be fresher. They work hard to ensure good quality and good flavor in the veggies, which are grown from organic seeds and without chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. All the farm's growing practices follow the guidelines of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.
At the Garlic Farm, Gary limits the number of CSA shares because he wants to make it likely that each portion will have enough tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and onions, etc., each week to satisfy a household of four members. While the tomato vines are producing abundantly, for instance, CSA members take home pounds each week, not just two or three tomatoes. Gary wants to make sure that CSA shares provide a good value to the members.
How members pick up the weekly share
CSA pickups start on July 18 and July 20 for the 2013 season.
The pickups take place on either Thursday or Saturday, depending upon which is your assigned day. Members can pick up their shares any time during regular business hours, from 10 am till 6 pm when the barn closes. CSA members can have a friend pick up their shares if they are out of town. Two households can buy a share together, but they need to work out for themselves how to divide the share.
When you come to pick up your share, you'll find a chalkboard that specifies what quantity of each item to select from the retail display in the market. CSA members select from first quality produce, the very same produce offered for sale at the market. You select the items in your share as if you were shopping, but instead of paying at the register you just mention your name--unless you opt to buy something extra beyond your week's allotment.
Keep in mind that the variety available each week changes with the season and the weather conditions.
What's the point of a CSA program?
CSA fees help farmers cover costs at a time of year when the expenses of seeds, greenhouse supplies, and labor mount, yet the season's income hasn't begun. In effect, the CSA members provide working capital in exchange for a share of the harvest, which means that the farmers don't have to take out so many bank loans to keep the farms afloat. So CSA members very directly support local farmers in their communities and therefore help keep agricultural land in production.
CSA members also contribute to a smaller carbon footprint by buying locally grown produce harvested just in time and distributed with minimal packaging, minimal refrigeration and warehousing, and minimal expense of transportation fuel.
The CSA members also shoulder a small share of the risk along with the farmer, as the harvest always depends upon factors beyond our control and so the quantity and variety of the produce may vary from year to year, despite the best efforts of the farmer. For example, one year the tomatoes may come in early and remain plentiful well into September, and another year a big storm may truncate the tomato harvest in August. Once in a blue moon we might harvest garlic that breaks records for its size, another year it may be only average sized bulbs. In short, Gary intends to offer every CSA member a generous share of the harvest, but it may not be wildly generous every week of every year.
The upside for the CSA members is fresh, locally grown produce from a trusted supplier at a bargain price--the cost per pound usually works out to wholesale prices by the time the season ends.
If you'd like more info about how CSAs work in general, from the consumer point of view, review Local Harvest's CSA info pages, where you'll find excellent advice.
Some households don't need a weekly share of the harvest, or they prefer to shop at our market more often or less often. That's OK; our regulars at the Garlic Farm stand also contribute to the health of the farm and the local environment. We hope you'll shop with us this season whichever way makes sense for you.
How to sign up this year for the CSA as a first timer
July 13, 2013 Gary has closed the CSA roster for 2013. Check back in late winter for details about CSA 2014. You mught also want to sign up for the newsletter for CSA info, using the blue button on the left to receive e-mailings about 2014 signups.
Download a signup form (available here via PDF), fill it out completely and legibly, and mail it to the farm to indicate your very strong interest in this year's CSA:
New Member Desk
Garlic Farm CSA
76 Simsbury Road
West Granby, CT 06090
Gary immediately accepted the first 20 new members who applied this year. After that, he waited until May 1 to determine that indeed he does have more openings for new members.
Gary doesn't want checks from new members until he knows for certain that he can accept you; he will phone up accepted new members to let you know that it's time to send in the $455 fee.
New members are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis; the sooner you send in your form, the better your chances of landing a spot on the roster for 2013.
In the meantime, please add yourself to the newsletter mailing list if you're not sure you're on the mailing list with your current e-mail address. Use the blue box in the left column of this page to join the mailing list. While you're there, use the same link to update your mailing list choices to select the special mailings for people who are interested in this year's CSA. Or, if you'd rather the newsletter editor sort out your mailing list options, send us an e-mail message (GarlicFarm.email@example.com) saying you want to sign up for the CSA for this year so we can send you the appropriate info to keep you up to date on the CSA signups.
By the way, sometimes Gary can admit a few people in June or early July; he makes that call after he can see how the crops are doing, when he can be sure that he can harvest enough veggies to go around. So being on the waiting list is meaningful not just a formality.
If you've been a Garlic Farm CSA member before but didn't have a share in 2012, you need to start over as if you're new to the program.
Call us at 860 264 5644 if you are a 2013 CSA member and have questions about the Garlic Farm CSA not answered here (and then we can improve this description).
Send e-mail to the newsletter if you're having trouble with the downloads or have any other difficulty with the website.
Updated 12 October 2013