Event Name: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Fair
Purpose: Meet over a dozen area farmers, compare share options, sign up for 2015 farm share
Sponsor: Co-sponsored by St. John’s Home and MVP Healthcare
Location: Brickstone’s by St. John’s Home, 1325 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620
When: Saturday, March 7, 2015, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Fair showcased over a dozen area farmers who offer membership in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. A CSA is a group of farms funded (at least in part) by the community at the beginning of the growing season.
How does a CSA work?
- Farmers use the up front money from consumer CSA memberships to continue production, rather than having to wait until each crop is harvested to get their income.
- The consumer members get a curated food share throughout the growing season (usually weekly).
- Most programs are set up so that the consumer picks up their share at a local farm market and/or at the farm.
- A few programs require consumers to contribute time working either on the farm or at the distribution location (this is rare, and the time involved is minimal).
- Some farms will deliver to a business if a minimum number of consumers from that location participate.
The consumer, the farmer and the environment all benefit. (For more information on what a CSA is, please see my previous post here.).
There was an overwhelming the amount of handouts and pamphlets available at this fair. The photo below shows a sampling of the mountain of documentation which I acquired in less than one hour. My friend and I agreed that it was a lot of information to take in at once. I decided to let it all sit for a few days before going through it. Keep reading for a summary of the various programs offered by the farmers who participated in the fair.
The front entrance lobby of St. John’s Home, a long-term care facility, served as the location for this fair. With over a dozen farmers and a hand full of event sponsors, there was not a lot of room to wander. Interestingly, there was quite a bit of unused space which could have been used to spread out the tables and allow for better traffic flow. That space also could have been employed for guest seating. It would have been convenient to have a space to sit and discuss/review the materials with a companion.
I am not quite sure why a long-term care facility was chosen for this fair. it seems counter intuitive that the mostly senior citizen residents would be interested in purchasing a CSA share, especially if they have on premises dining and a one person household.
Parking for this event was also limited. A few parking attendants tried to direct drivers, but they could not create parking where there was none available. The grounds of St. John’s Home are the home to hundreds of residents, many of whom park their cars there or have visitors who park there. Perhaps a bigger venue with more parking would have been a better choice for this fair. However, a larger turn out than expected is a good problem to have.
The Farmers and Their Food Share Programs
Over a dozen farmers were at the fair, each with a table on which to present their agricultural offerings. Most of them handed out pamphlets with their share options and pricing. Some had samples of the components of a share, while others had displays, showing photos of their farms and their produce. A few even offered samples of their ready to eat foods.
There are a several different types of food shares, both in content and length. Payment is usually due up front – a deposit is often due in April and the balance of your pre-payment is usually due by May.
The length of the shares may vary:
- Full Share – a full growing season – usually between 18-22 weeks, with a weekly pick-up
- Half Shares (either half a growing season or every other week of a full growing season or half as much for the entire growing season)
- Mini shares (very limited time period or amount of food, or both).
Note: the names of these shares are different for most farms – some call them “small, medium, large” while others refer to them as “mini, single, double”, etc. Be sure to check the details on the length of the growing season and the frequency of pickups.
As far as the contents of the food share, there are various options for that as well:
- Fruit only
- Vegetables only
- Fruit and Vegetables
Note: some farmers combine the various types or allow “add-ons” on a per week or per season basis. ie: add on bread or eggs each week. Also, many programs also have a “U-pick” feature, allowing members to pick their own produce.
Can you see how it all starts to get overwhelming?
Most of the farmers were eager to tell us about their programs, but a few others seemed more comfortable passively answering questions. The fair organizers (MVP and St. John’s Home) kindly distributed a partial summary of the farmers’ programs, showing a side-by-side comparison of their offerings. Shown below is my own summary in which I have listed the name and location of each farm, as well as their food share program options, pricing, 2015 growing season and their pick up locations. Applicable notes are are listed.
If you have been thinking about joining a CSA, but you just haven’t had the time to compare them, then you have come to the right place. I have done the research for you! (All are in western, New York).
B & C Christ Farms (Kendall, NY)
- Mini Share: $395 (for 1 person)
- Regular Share: $595
- Double Share: $1050
2015 Growing Season: June 9-November 3 (23 weeks)
Pick-up locations: Greece Ridge Farmers Market, Pittsford Farmers Market, or at the farm
Notes: Farm provides a reusable tote. You can customize your share to meet special diet needs and preferences.
Buzz’s Garden (Honeoye Falls, NY)
- Full Summer Share: $500 (feeds 2-4 people)
- Half Summer Share: $250 (feeds 1 person)
- Full Fall Share: $150 (feeds 2-4 people)
2015 Growing Season: Summer – 20 weeks, Fall – 6 weeks
Pick-up location: at the farm only on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings
Notes: Bring your own re-usable bags.
East Hill Farm (Middlesex, NY)
- Full Vegetable Share: $550
- Full Bread Share: $115 (1 loaf per week, various options)
- Full Egg Share: $110 (1 dozen eggs per week)
2015 Growing Season: June 11 – October 25
Pick-up location: South Wedge Farmers Market, Brighton location TBD, or at the farm.
Notes: Payment may be made seasonally (preferred), monthly or weekly. Organic vegetables include viable seeds.
Fellenz Family Farm (Phelps, NY)
- Micro Share: $380 (4 items only)
- Small Share: $565 (6-8 items, feeds 2-3 people)
- Large Share: $740 (10-12 items)
2015 Growing Season: June 5 – Nov 20 (25 weeks)
Pick-up location: Friday evenings in Pittsford
Notes: Produce is certified organic. Members are required to work one time during distribution on Friday evening. Members are not required to work on the farm but they may earn a membership credit if they choose to do so.
Lagoner Farms (Williamson, NY)
Full share- 10-15 items per week, half share – 8-10 items per week:
- 20 week harvest season: Full Share- $640, Half Share – $420
- 18 week harvest season: Full Share – $576, Half Share – $378
- 10 week artisanal cheese share: $120 – ever other week distribution
Length of Season: varies
Pick-up location: varies with membership type – up to ten farmers markets and at the farm
Notes: Produce is certified organic.
Lakestone Family Farm (Farmington, NY)
Share options: Vegetable Share, Chicken and Egg Shares
- Full Share – pricing not given
- Half Share – pricing not given
2015 Growing Season: 22 weeks
Pick-up location: Rochester, Victor, Farmington
Notes: Produce is certified organic.
LOV Farms (Ontario, NY)
- Personal Share: $225 (for 1 person: 4-6 items per week)
- Small Share: $325 (for up to two people: 6-8 items per week)
- Medium Share: $425 (for up to 4 people: 8-10 items per week)
- Large Share: $525 (for up to 6 people: 10+ items per week)
Length of Season: 16-18 weeks
Pick-up location: Fairport Farmers market, Irondequoit Farmers Market, and at the farm
Notes: Produce is certified organic. USDA Organic.
Markwood Acres (Medina, NY)
- Half Share: $225
- Single Share: $450 (10-12 items, for a couple or one hungry veggie eater)
- Family Share: $675 (for families with children)
- Add 1 dozen pasture-raised eggs: $3 per week
Length of Season: 22 weeks
Pick-up location: Rochester city or at the farm.
Notes: Pesticide free. Herbicide free. Fungicide free.
Mud Creek Farm (Victor, NY)
- Full Share: $660-$775 Sliding Scale (for 2-4 people)
- Half Share: $340-$440 Sliding Scale (for 1-2 people) every other week pick-up
2015 Growing Season: June 15 – October 26 or June 18-October 29th
Pick-up location: at the farm only
Notes: Sliding Scale: you are welcome to pay any price within the range given. Choosing a fee towards the upper end of the range helps to keep the share affordable to others and provides farm workers with fair wages.
Pachamama Farm (Farmington, NY)
- Full Share: $495 (weekly pickup)
- Partial Share: $325 (every other week pickup)
Length of Season: June 23- October 6 (16 weeks)
Pick-up location: Atlas Eats: Kitchen and Bakeshop (Rochester) or at the farm
Notes: They are not certified organic but they use no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals.
Peacework Organic CSA (previously GVOCSA) (Newark, NY)
- Full Share: $495-$795 Sliding Scale + $15 per household membership fee (7-10 items per week)
- Partial Share: $375 + $15 per household membership fee (4-6 items per week)
2015 Growing Season: Mid-May – Mid-November (26 weeks)
Pick-up location: city of Rochester
Notes: Work commitment required: 1 farm shift of 4 hours AND 2 distribution shifts of 2.5 hours each. Product is certified organic. SNAP benefits are accepted.
Porter Farms (Elba, NY)
- Share: $400 (for a family of 4 or for 2 vegetarians)
2015 Growing Season: late June through November (22 weeks)
Pick-up location: Saturdays at 15 sites including: Brighton, Brockport, Chili, Fairport, Greece, Henrietta, Irondequoit, Penfield, Pittsford, Rochester, Webster, and more.
Notes: only one share size available
Wickham Farms (Penfield, NY)
- Full Vegetable, Flower and Herb Share: $625 (8-10 items per week, up to 19 items per week at peak season)
- Bi-weekly Vegetable, Flower and Herb Share: $395 (pickup every other week)
- Grab and Go Vegetable Share: $435 (6-10 items per week with emphasis on popular items)
2015 Growing Season: 18 weeks
Pick-up location: various locations in the community (TBD) or at the farm
Notes: will deliver to businesses or organizations with 15 or more members.
Food and Beverages
Because this event was not about eating food on site, there isn’t a lot to say about the food and beverages available to the participants. However, The Good Food Collective offered apples and a few of the farmers offered tastings of bread and/or butter. Brickstone, the St. John’s Home on premises food vendor, offered tastings of bread and jelly, which they also sell in their on site store.
The real food focus was on the fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs and bread which are available through the various growing seasons, via a CSA membership. Fresh fruits and vegetables were on display at most of the farmers’ tables, with the goal of showing participants what a sample share would contain. A few of the farmers even offered printed recipes, using seasonal ingredients.
Raffles and Giveaways
MVP Healthcare, a co-sponsor of the event with St. John’s Home, distributed a large produce-themed grocery tote bag to each visitor. It was a convenient gift, which I used to carry all the other give- aways and CSA-related paperwork. MVP Healthcare also gave out children’s knit winter hats and stretchy knit gloves, as well as pens and stickers.
The event featured two free raffles. One was a large wicker basket filled with health and wellness items including a few workout DVDs. The other was a certificate for a freshly baked loaf of bread from an area bakery. There were ten of those to be given away. Since my phone still ain’t ringin’, I’m guessing I didn’t win.
The Atmosphere and Experience
The organizers made a valiant effort to infuse the fair with excitement and anticipation. The greeters were friendly and animated and seemed genuinely happy to greet visitors. However, the overall mood was a bit subdued, I think because the target audience was missed. Again, a senior living facility with residents on fixed incomes is not exactly the right audience for purchasing quantities of fruits/ vegetable over an entire growing season. Still, there were other attendees in addition to on site residents who seemed quite interested and willing to investigate the available options.
Several farmers offered discounted memberships available through the weekend of the fair, adding to the sense of exclusivity and “limited time only” buzz.
I am glad that I attended this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Fair as it gave me the opportunity to talk with area farmers about their CSA programs, all in one place. I surely would have spent days (maybe weeks) tracking down each one individually on the phone, in person or even online, to get information about their offerings. The convenience of having them all in one place is priceless. I also liked being able to converse with them – it gave me a sense of the personality of each one.
However, after much thought and consideration, I have decided not to join a CSA this year. Instead, I am going to monitor how much money I spend each week during the growing season, and track if I use all that I buy. I will then compare that to the cost of the CSA. If my real goal is to buy local, then I can do that at the local farmers market each week. However if I also want to also save money and time, then I need to know what my current spend and food usage is, before I can make an informed decision about joining a CSA. As a single person, it might not be cost-effective for me, so I may also investigate splitting a food share with a friend or family member, or purchasing a micro/small food share next year.
This fair gave me the opportunity to become more aware of my produce budget and usage. For that, i am thankful.
About The Good Food Collective
This organization was at the fair as well. However, they are not a farm, but rather a group of growers. They offer a CSA program share for each of the four seasons. Consumers can take part via Pre-Box Share Delivery to your workplace or community or religious institution group, or via Green Truck Distribution at five locations throughout the Rochester area, where one can buy their food on an as needed basis. To find out more about it, browse to thegoodfoodcollective.com