We will not be offering CSA shares in 2016, as we explain here.
The Chert Hollow Farm Community Supported Agriculture program features weekly shares of fresh produce grown on our diversified sustainable farm. Shares consist predominantly of vegetables but also include herbs and limited amounts of fruits and mushrooms (see our produce page for full list). Members are, in effect, hiring our services as professional farmers to produce a wide variety of fresh, nutritious, tasty, local food for weekly delivery in-season to their household, workplace, or the World Harvest store in south Columbia. Fresh eggs will also be available for separate purchase, from our pastured hens fed certified-organic feed & farm/kitchen scraps. Membership includes access to several on-farm events. Read more about the philosophy behind CSA programs here.
Note on farming methods: After 5 years as a certified organic farm, we are almost certainly going to drop our organic certification in 2014. We are steadfastly committed to maintaining our high standards of farming & land-management ethics. Instead of paying hard-earned dollars to an inspector who never eats our produce and an out-of-state organization whose knowledge of our farm comes from a pile of paper, we will instead invite our members to ask hard questions and inspect us. We plan to inaugurate a new event specifically intended to address details about the inner workings of the farm.
Members should expect to receive a total of 25 to 28 shares (dependent on growing conditions) of fresh produce during the growing season, roughly defined as April or May through November, with occasional off weeks especially late fall, but possibly at other times of the year as dictated by weather and crop availability. Only under extraordinary circumstances should there be fewer than 25 share deliveries. The forecast delivery schedule for 2014 is now on our web calendar. We plan for resilience in crop production; read more about the methods that we use to mitigate risk of crop failure elsewhere on the website.
For the record, here’s the number of weekly shares delivered in the past two years:
- 2012: 31 weeks, a marathon we decided we didn’t have the stamina to repeat
- 2013: 27 weeks, after a very cold, wet spring got us off to a late start
DELIVERY DAYS & TIMES
Each member will be assigned to a standard delivery day of either Monday or Thursday. Shares are usually delivered during the early-to-mid afternoon hours. Occasional requests to switch to the alternate day within a week can usually be accommodated.
MEMBERSHIP LEVELS & BENEFITS
All members receive access to on-farm events, share customization for produce & herbs (see below), newsletter, and delivery to home or World Harvest (see below). There are two size options for the produce:
Full share: Our goal is to offer a standard full share that reasonably fills a large cloth shopping bag, generally featuring 7-12 types of produce plus 2-4 bundles of fresh herbs. Early spring shares tend to be less diverse and smaller; late summer shares tend to be more diverse and heftier. A full share is suitable for a family of four that cooks occasionally or a single/couple household that cooks regularly. Browse past newsletters and the 2013 share photos for reference to the contents and amounts of produce in standard full shares; photos do not include any extras requested via our customization system.
Single share: Our goal is to offer a standard single share that fills roughly 1/3-1/2 of a large cloth shopping bag, generally featuring 6-10 types of produce plus 1-2 bundles of fresh herbs. This is approximately half the total amount of a full share. Single shares should have access to nearly the full diversity of produce from the farm over the course of the season, but may receive less diversity than the full share in a given week. This share size is suitable for single people who do some cooking, or for households that desire a small amount of supplemental produce (like gardeners). Price is more than half that of a full share because of disproportionally more management & packing work relative to the full share.
We are also considering the possibility of two other types of share; please contact us directly if either of these might be of interest. Offering either of these will, in part, depend on having the right number of interested parties.
- “Economy share”: would serve a shorter season (midsummer through fall) with less diversity, and omit some high-value items like strawberries, for a lower cost. This would likely include larger quantities of fewer items, with limited choice; a great option for those seeking to save money by food preservation.
- “Flex share”: a form of pay-as-you-go share, for consumers who travel a lot or otherwise don’t want a share every week. You pay a minimum deposit up front, but will only get shares when we have enough produce to spare (and you’re around). These members would get a notification email/survey whenever a share is available, and would only be charged for shares actually ordered. Also a good way to test the CSA waters without committing to a full season. Per-share price would likely be a bit higher as there’s more risk and work for the farmer, but also gives access to the CSA in a more flexible way than full membership.
The 2014 program will retain the 2013 price structure, charging a base price for membership & produce, plus sales tax and a delivery fee (explained below).
- Full share: $1116.78 + sales tax $33.22 (@ 2.975%) = $1150 + delivery fee
- Single share: $699.20 + sales tax $20.80 (@ 2.975%) = $720 + delivery fee
A farm like this takes year-round work to maintain, so full share members are paying ~$21/week throughout the year to have us farm for you (or single shares ~$13/week), from which the farm must first pay all farm expenses and health insurance before any income is left to pay our own time.
We know our prices seem high in comparison with other food options in this country, and we know that our prices already strain some members’ budgets. But we also know that earning a reasonable living through farming is really hard. (Did you hear about the farmer who won the lottery? They asked him what he was going to do with all the money. “Well, guess I’ll just keep on farming till it’s gone.”). Also consider that vegetable farms like ours also aren’t eligible for the sorts of government support programs larger commodity farms take advantage of, so our more free-market price looks artificially expensive compared to conventional subsidized agriculture.
If these prices are still too expensive for you but you really want to take part, please consider contacting us about the availability of work shares.
We’re a low-input, low-expenditure farm, and we do not rely on a large infusion of cash right at the beginning of the season. Thus, we have developed the following standardized payment schedule:
|Deposit, due at time of sign-up||$50||$50|
|Payment 1, due end of Feb. (or at time of sign up, if after February)||$400||$250|
|Payment 2, due May 31||$400||$250|
|Payment 3, due Aug. 30||$350 + custom delivery fee balance, if applicable||$220 + custom delivery fee balance, if applicable|
We are also quite happy to take a one-time payment by the end of February, as this is less accounting work for us; however, if the delivery option isn’t yet settled, there may be a later adjustment. A custom payment plan is a possibility if the above options do not provide sufficient flexibility; contact us with a specific proposal if needed.
We accept cash or checks made out to Chert Hollow Farm, LLC.
DELIVERY LOCATIONS & FEES
Shares are either delivered directly to members’ homes/workplaces, or to the World Harvest store in south Columbia for later pickup. There are pros and cons of each option, and we’ve put this chart together to help you weigh the options:
|World Harvest (near the corner of Nifong & Providence)||Home/work in core Columbia or along our route (as defined below)||Home/work in out-of-the-way places|
|Delivery fee||$50/year; you trade your own time & driving expenses for lower delivery fees||$150/year (with possible price reduction at our discretion to $75 if delivering to nearby neighbors on the same day)||up to $250/year, dependent on mileage & time added to route; price reductions possible for member clusters; not all locations available; ask for details|
|Delivery of animal products purchased with share||For regulatory reasons, we cannot deliver eggs or milk to World Harvest.||Animal products can be delivered with your share.|
|Delivery day||Available both Monday and Thursday; members with seniority & those signing up early will have first choice.||Delivery day may be dictated by how your location fits into our established routes.|
|Member convenience||Shop for additional high-quality ingredients; pick up share on your schedule.||Share appears on your doorstep or at your workplace. No extra driving, no extra risk; maximum convenience. Need to remember to provide a cooler or other proper storage if you won’t be present to receive the share.|
|Handling||Bringing shares into the store is one extra handling step.||Shares go from the farm to you with no extra handling.|
|Storage||Shares are held in store refrigeration until pickup (ideal for some items, less ideal for some things like tomatoes).||Shares are held in the cooler that you provide (up to you to provide ice or not; generally fine without).|
|If out of town on day of delivery but returning soon||Share will be held at the store for up to several days until pickup.||Can arrange for share to be held on farm or dropped off at World Harvest for you to pick up at your convenience.|
|Farmer benefits||Very efficient for us to drop off multiple shares in one location.||More time from our perspective, but custom delivery contributes to happy members & returning customers. Also allows animal product sales.|
- The core delivery zone is roughly bounded by Stadium, I-70, and Old Highway 63. Some additional locations along our route down Rangeline Street to Columbia and to/from World Harvest via Providence and Forum also fall in this zone. The standard annual delivery fee in this zone is $150, but, at our discretion, we will reduce delivery fees by up to 50% if delivery locations for two or more customers choosing home/work delivery are in close proximity.
- For locations outside of the core zone, we will charge delivery fees based on the driving time and distance added to our route for a maximum annual fee of $250. Locations that require navigation of convoluted street patterns will generally be more expensive than locations in a grid. Not all locations are eligible for delivery.
- Delivery routes are different for each day; we will ask for your preferences on both delivery day & location, but we cannot guarantee your first choice on both. Please understand that all final decisions on delivery day & location rest with the farmers, and may not be finalized until the entire membership is set. The practicality of any given location is affected by those around it, and experience has shown that we’re best off setting up our final routes once we have all the data. We hope to have delivery routes defined by mid-to-late March.
- Routes for 2014 should be similar to 2013, so existing members should be able to continue with the same delivery day & location. In general, the Monday route delivers around the fringes of Columbia and the Benton Stephens neighborhood, while Thursday focuses on campus & the residential area between Stadium, Providence, and I-70, including the Stewart Road neighborhood.
- If a member moves from an assigned delivery location during the year (whether it is a home or work address), deliveries will default to World Harvest unless other arrangements are mutually agreed upon.
- If there is more than one location that you could accept a custom delivery (for example, either home or work), we encourage you to share all of the viable address options with us so that we can find the most efficient route with destinations that are maximally clustered. Our goal is to find routes that provide good customer service while also keeping costs down for all involved.
LIMITED SHARE CUSTOMIZATION
We use an online system that allows members to make limited requests to customize their share contents. Three days before each share distribution, we send out a survey stating the expected share contents. Members have the option to opt out of given items or request extras, which will be provided if available (sometimes items that other members did not want, or overabundance, or seconds-quality items). This is a compromise between full customization, which is not practical or fair for the farm, and complete inflexibility in share content like many CSAs. A CSA should encourage members to try unusual produce, but some folks simply don’t like certain products; if these won’t be used or appreciated in one household, we’d rather be able to free those items up for a household that really likes them. Similarly, we want to share the bounty when it is available, but we don’t want to overwhelm a member’s kitchen with lots of extra product unless they are prepared to use it. Those who request a lot will get the best overall deal, but others may prefer to take lesser amounts when desired & trade efficient service for monetary value. This survey is integral to our harvest and share-packing methods, and members should plan to take a few moments each week to fill out the survey.
Members are welcome to request as much produce as they think members of their household can eat, either for fresh consumption or to preserve for later use by the household. Members must agree not to share produce beyond their own household, in order to preserve the integrity and fairness of the system for everyone. Our goal is to maximize the value of our produce to the paying members, not to members’ neighbors or friends. For the same reason, if members will be traveling and unable to use the share contents while they are still good, we ask that they forgo their share for that week. We will redistribute those share contents to other members using the survey system, and those travelers can expect to benefit from such redistributions themselves at other times—something that the surveys allow us to do effectively by knowing who wants more of what.
VISITING THE FARM/MEETING THE FARMERS
Prior to or in conjunction with signing up, we strongly encourage prospective members to visit the farm and/or arrange to meet the farmers in person. Members make a considerable financial commitment to the farm, and we make a considerable work commitment to the members, so we’ll all feel better about the arrangement if we’ve had a chance to meet and talk.
Farm tours: We’re about 12 miles north of Columbia; we’ll send you a map when you arrange a tour time. Our long, steep driveway becomes impassible with a little winter precipitation, so we’re waiting to see how the winter progresses before pre-scheduling formal tours at arbitrary times, but we welcome prospective members to contact us with a request for a tour. With prior arrangement, we can do most weekend afternoon in February and March; contact us if you have a preferred date or time. Children are welcome to come along, but there will be lots of talk about the farm & CSA details that not all children will find scintillating. We do not charge a tour fee for prospective members who are seriously considering the CSA.
In town: If you are unable to visit the farm, we would still like to meet you to discuss any questions you might have about the farm and the CSA program. Options include but are not limited to meeting at the library, or at one of the restaurants in town with a firm commitment to local foods, such as Sycamore, Trey Bistro, or Uprise Bakery.
STEPS TO JOIN (OR RE-JOIN) THE CSA
To join for 2014, we ask that all new and returning members:
- Fill in this online survey to submit your information, desired share size, and delivery preferences. We will email you to confirm whether an opening is available for your desired share size. If you do not hear from us within several days, please write or call. In addition, we spend less time checking email and managing communications during the winter, so be patient during our down time.
- Provide a signed copy of the member agreement;our mailing address will be supplied to you in the confirmation email.
- Pay a $50 nonrefundable deposit with the member agreement.
Membership is reserved when all three requirements are completed.