CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When people join a CSA, they become members of a farm. They receive regular disbursements of food from the farm. Since most CSA programs offer vegetables, this usually happens on a weekly basis. CSA members are a huge support to small farmers because members pay much of their food costs up front, providing farms with much-needed operating investments. Beyond having a personal relationship with the farm and farmers, members get great food at a reasonable price.
Becoming a CSA member is a big responsibility. You forego some of the convenience of shopping at a grocery store. Shares are distributed on specific days for a defined period of time.
Since the food is usually harvested either the morning of the pickup or the day before, this translates into extremely fresh, high-quality food for your household. Many small farms can also provide varieties that a grocer simply cannot offer. Most of all, the advantage to participating in a CSA program is the relationship between the farmers and the shareholders. We are accountable to you. You know where your food is coming from and how it is produced. We are available to answer your questions. You know us and we know you.
At Bluestem Farm, we offer not only certified organic vegetables, but also pasture-raised meats and eggs, and new in 2016, you get to choose whether you want to customize each box or leave that up to us. Vegetables and egg shares come to you either every week or every-other week, and meat shares and honey shares are given out once a month.
Our CSA members also benefit from free additional vegetables, given over and above the regular amount, to use for food preservation. If you're not already a maestro in the arts of pickling, canning, or blanching, we'll have you over to the farm for a food preservation party where we'll show you how to put up good food for winter. For free.
There are some vegetables and proteins we don’t sell at all to the general public, and some things we don't offer at farmers markets if we're experiencing a shortage. Our CSA members lock in their food in advance, so they get the cream of every crop at our farm.
Along with community events like CSA appreciation parties and free food preservation workshops, this year we are very pleased to be able to offer Yoga in the Barn classes during Thursday night CSA pick-ups at the farm. Classes are taught by instructor Carla Brazell. They cost $7 each, $2 of which goes to support the Help Others Eat Well Fund, the farm's subsidized food program.
Yes! The 80 acres of gardens, pastures, and fields that make up Bluestem Farm are certified organic via OEFFA. Our animals are raised on our own certified organic pasture as long as weather permits, and then they move indoors for shelter.
We do feed our animals grain that is not certified organic. Purchased from a local mill, this grain is non-GMO and non-medicated. As we mature as a farm, we plan to experiment with growing our own certified organic grain and forage crops. Our animals never receive hormone treatments. They would (but never yet have) receive antibiotics only in the case of a true medical emergency.
This is one of the most frequent of the frequently asked questions, and we always find the answer a little tricky to give. The amount of people a share feeds is a tough one to estimate since every household eats in a different way. Some people cook at home all the time, and some people go out a lot. Some people are really committed to eating local food, and others like having more out-of-season produce and convenience foods around the house. Some people feel overwhelmed with the unfamiliar vegetables that can crop up in a CSA share, and some people love being exposed to new foods. Here is a snapshot of what our regular vegetable shares looked like throughout the summer 2014 season.
In general, we find that our regular shares are a good size for small families who cook most meals at home, or for one or two people who have the time and interest for cooking mainly farm food. Larger families who are interested in eating food primarily from the farm might need to purchase more than one regular share.
Some people who belong to our winter CSA program have their own summer gardens or belong to other summer CSAs. We welcome these winter-only members to share in the bounty of our farm’s summer produce distributed for preservation. If you are a winter-only member, please just inform us of your intentions to join this winter, and you will be notified when preservation crops are available.
Chicken shares are distributed once a month, and come in the form of frozen, whole birds. Unlike most other share types, chicken shares begin in July and are a month shorter, lasting only 16 weeks. Regular chicken shareholders get four chickens per month, and small chicken shareholders get two per month. If you are unfamiliar with cooking with whole chicken, Mary has lots of ideas. From informational videos on cutting a chicken into parts to delicious recipes for stock, grilling, brining, and more, she’s happy to help you make the most of your share.
Pork shares are distributed once per month. The pork comes to you frozen. Please keep in mind that the example shares listed below are intended only as an example, and aren’t meant to represent what is available every single month. A word on bacon: we know that everyone loves bacon, but because only about 10% of a pig is made up of bacon, only about 10% of each household’s pork share can consist of this marvelous food. Due to the constraints of porcine anatomy, we are unable to raise the quantities of bacon for individuals. Please note that the bacon in your pork share might take several forms. Cottage bacon, regular bacon, and guanciale are all delicious smoked and cured cuts of pork and can be used interchangeably.
A regular pork share weighs about 8 pounds. A typical regular share might look like a roast, a pound of pork chops, a smoked ham hock, a pound of plain ground pork, and a pound of bacon.
A small pork share weighs about 4 pounds. A typical small pork share might look like a pound of pork chops, a pound of ground pork, a pound of Italian sausages, and a pound of breakfast sausage. Small pork shares get bacon only every-other month. We often don’t give larger cuts like roasts and ribs to small pork shareholders unless you let us know that you prefer them.