As plants begin to peek out of the soil, local farms are offering CSAs (community supported agriculture -- also known as farm shares). CSAs offer an opportunity to pay for vegetables and other locally-sourced products up front at a discount. The model helps support farmers throughout the season and gives them some capital for costs of growing, while allowing customers to eat local and in-season.
Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury delivers its “Good Eats” shares of veggies and local products weekly to delivery sites around north central Vermont, year-round. Options include the localvore share, which is comprised of vegetables and local staples, the everyday standard share, the fancy share, which includes less common vegetables such as eggplants, sunchokes and radicchio, and the lean and green share made up of assorted greens. They also offer a monthly meat share. Pick-up sites include Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Waitsfield and the Craft Beer Cellar in Waterbury. CSAs may be ordered any time at petesgreens.com.
Bear Roots Farm in Williamstown recently changed their CSA model. Previously, customers would sign up for the season and pay up front, then pick up bags of seasonal vegetables every other week at The Roots farm store in Middlesex, which sells vegetables form the farm. Customers had a two-hour window on Fridays to pick up their veggies. Bear Roots CSA has switched to a prepaid “free choice” card that can be used to purchase vegetables and other products in the store at any time. Customers put as much as they want on their cards and receive a discount.
“You’re welcome to get $100,000 on credit, but it might take you a while to spend,” joked farmer John Wagner.
He said the new model is more customer-friendly, as it allows them to pick and choose their produce and pick it up at their convenience. Prior to the pandemic, customers could visit the farm and pick out their own veggies. During the pandemic, they switched to the prepacked bags picked up at the store. Wagner said some customers said, “I really love the idea but I’m wasting vegetables. I’m getting stuff I don’t know how to use or don’t like.”
The new model reduces waste by allowing people to pick out their own foods on their schedules. It also reduces the amount of work involved for the farmers, which Wagner said was one of the major reasons for the switch. Like many entities, Bear Roots is facing a labor shortage, and putting the onus on customers to select their produce reduces the amount of time for farm staff to process and pack CSA shares. Cards may be purchased at any time, though Wagner said there would be a promotional period each season during which customers could receive a greater discount. Customers may purchase a prepaid card at bearrootsfarm.com or in person at The Roots market.
The Gaylord Farm CSA is offered as a summer share from June through October and people can start with just a single vegetable share or a double vegetable share (good for two vegetarians or a large family). The Waitsfield farm, run by Hadley Gaylord, also offers a veggie and meat share which includes 6 pounds of ground beef per month. An egg share is also available. There’s also a summer meat share which includes steak or chicken, London broil, spare ribs, beef roast, top round or country-style ribs as well as ground beef or pork or sausage and a dozen eggs.
YEAR-ROUND DEBIT CARD
In addition, people can purchase a year-round debit card for the Gaylord Farm to be used at the Waitsfield Farmers Market or the farm store.
Gaylord said CSA shares have started off slowly and said that he is nonetheless hoping to grow more produce this year. In addition to CSA shares, he is at the farmers market on the weekends and sells his wares from his farmstand on Route 100 just south of Waitsfield Village. For more details visit the Facebook page of the Gaylord Farm https://www.facebook.com/gaylordfarm .
Muddy Boots CSA offers a 12-week summer share, an eight-week fall share and an annual bulk winter veggie stock-up sale on October 26. People can purchase large or small shares. This year people can add on a bouquet from Mountain Flower Farm for the summer share period. And new this year is the ability to add on a Kenyon’s egg share.
Muddy Boots shares are picked up on Route 100 at Cloud Water Farm in Warren. Muddy Boots is a collaboration between multiple farmers and growers. Shares include traditional vegetable offerings but also items like sunflower oil and strawberries.
CSA spokesperson Robin McDermott said that sales have been strong this spring, despite the fact that Muddy Boots had to raise prices by 15%.
“Prices for farmers are going up 10 to 50% this year and it was a tough decision to have to make,” McDermott said. She noted that Muddy Boots is excited to bring local eggs from Kenyon’s to the CSA this year.
Learn more about Muddy Boots here: https://muddybootscsa.com/current-csa/