Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our First CSA!

It's almost time! After three years in the making, we're getting ready to launch our first CSA season at Oak Hill.

What's a CSA?

"CSA" stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." In the CSA model, individuals or families buy "shares" of the farmer's crop for the season. Shareholders pay up front, giving the farmer the funds and financial stability to pay for seeds and labor. In return, shareholders get a share of the fresh-picked produce on a weekly basis, depending on what's ripe for the harvest.

The Oak Hill CSA, Spring 2012

Starting on March 15, we'll be accepting 10 shareholders to purchase a share in our spring CSA. Once a week for six weeks, you'll receive a 1/2 bushel box full of fresh produce from the farm. In at least three of those boxes, you'll also get a surprise free gift from us -- a dozen farm-fresh eggs, a hand-crocheted vegetable bag, or a jar of jelly, for example.

Since this is our first year, we're looking for ten shareholders to act as "guinea pigs," who are willing to put up with us as we work the kinks out of a brand-new system. In return, we're offering shares at $96 for 6 weeks of fresh produce. That's $16 per week -- half the price (or less) of most CSAs in the area.

If all goes well, we plan to offer these veggies in the first six weeks as they come into season:
  • Lettuce (multiple varieties, including butter lettuce and black-seeded Simpson)
  • Swiss chard
  • Parsley
  • Green onions
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
We're going to arrange a drop-off location in East Memphis or Collierville within the next couple of weeks. We may bring them to our farmer's market booth, depending on market restrictions. You can also arrange to pick your box up at the farm. Once we have prospective members lined up, we'll contact shareholders by email to work out pick-up details.

Risk and Reward in Community Supported Agriculture

There's always a risk in buying in to a CSA -- but we believe the rewards far outweigh the risks.
When you buy a share of a CSA, you're buying more than produce -- you're "sharing" in the fortunes of the farm. We can't guarantee that a drought won't kill half our crops, or a late spring frost kill everything we've got in the ground. We can't guarantee that we'll have a bumper crop of all your favorite veggies. We can guarantee that we'll leverage our extensive knowledge in botany and organic/sustainable farming to get you the best crop we can, and to work hard every day for our shareholders and our business.

Here's what else we can guarantee:
  • You'll know what we do, when we do it, and why. We'll send out a weekly email to our email list with farm updates, so you'll know how our crops are doing, what's ripe, and what your "gift of the week" will be. You'll also get a look into farming with the Maclin family, including our exploits in donkey training, hog raising, and Do-It-Yourself farm rejuvenation.
  • We won't start Week 1 of the CSA until we have crops ready to harvest. That means the Spring CSA may run from mid-April to late May, or from late April to early June, depending on how things progress. That means you'll get the most out of your money.
  • Your veggies will be sustainably and locally grown. We use organic and permaculture methods, even though we haven't paid for the organic license. We do get some of our seed by supporting our local farmer's co-op, so a few types of seed come pre-treated, but once they're in our hands they are never subjected to chemical treatments or sprays. 
  • You'll have first dibs on a summer share. Assuming our summer harvest comes along nicely, we'll sign up shareholders for a summer CSA before the end of the spring session. If you're a spring shareholder, you'll have first dibs on a summer share at similar pricing.
Summer 2012

We want to extend our CSA season into summer and potentially fall, depending on how the growing season goes. Folks who sign up for the spring CSA will be first in line for summer and fall shares at comparable pricing. If anyone drops out, we'll open up their share to a new customer. Here's what we hope to be offering this summer:
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Bell Peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Cayenne Peppers
  • Cantaloupes
  • Garlic
  • Corn
  • Okra
  • Green Beans
If you want to get in on the action, email We'll put you on our email list, and you'll have a chance at grabbing up one of the 10 shares when we open them on March 15.