What is CSA?
Community Supported Agriculture is a relationship of support and commitment between a farm and a community. CSA members purchase shares of the farm’s entire growing season before the harvest begins. They then receive a share of the harvest throughout the season, grown and delivered by a farm they know and trust.
Payments from members enable the farm to cover yearly costs, almost all of which are incurred before the crops are ready for harvest. Because the farmers know that their crop is sold, they can concentrate on farming the best way they can rather than on marketing, sales, and accounting.
What is Stoneledge Farm?
Stoneledge Farm is a USDA-certified organic farm in South Cairo, NY about two hours north of the city. We’ve been working with farmers Deborah and Pete Kavakos for 20 years; their son Peter is now in the process of taking over. The Kavakoses grow more than 50 different crops and deliver to almost 20 sites in New York City, Westchester, and Connecticut. To learn more about the farm, visit their website
What is Yorkville CSA?
Yorkville CSA is a group of about 150 families and individuals that purchase shares in Stoneledge Farm; we’ve been doing it since 1998. Our group is 100% volunteer-run; no one is paid, though some of us receive all or part of shares for free.
The Stoneledge truck delivers vegetables to our site; volunteers help unload and arrange the vegetables on tables. We post signs that list what’s in the share and members pack their own shares.
We’re a laid-back group and there are not a lot of regulations. We generally follow the Golden Rule: Do onto other people’s vegetables as you would have them do onto yours. If you come at the right time, avoid squeezing the tomatoes, and keep your dogs away from the food, you’ll be fine. There are always experienced volunteers around to help and answer questions.
How much does it cost?
VEGETABLE SHARES come in two sizes:
Full shares: $535 for 24 weeks
Half shares: $297.50 for 24 weeks–but we sell out of half shares very quickly; they’ve been sold out since January. Many members buy shares with friends and split each week; we provide a place to leave half the share for the second member of a split share to pick up a share that’s been packed by the first member. We also arrange alternate week shares–we match up two people who don’t necessarily know each other; they buy one share and each one picks up every other week.
FRUIT SHARES: 20 weeks of fruit—local, low-spray BUT NOT ORGANIC: $240
MUSHROOM SHARES: 24 weeks, mushrooms from a local farm: $120
COFFEE SHARES: 6 deliveries of fair-trade coffee, from Central America; $126
Where do we pick up?
Church of the Epiphany, corner of 74th and York; we set up outside the church garden on the 74th Street side. On rare occasions, we move to the York Avenue side and if it rains we go inside, in the church vestibule on 74th. We’re not part of the church; they have generously allowed us to use their facility and store our supplies in their courtyard.
When do we pick up?
Official time is Tuesday, 4-7 pm. Our volunteers arrive at around 2:30 to set up tables, post signs, etc. The truck arrives at around 3 and we unload and organize the tables. We’re almost always ready by 3:30, sometimes earlier, and we’re happy to allow people to pick up as soon as the food is on the table—we use the 4 pm starting time in case the truck is delayed by traffic. The 7 pm closing time is strict; the church has to be locked by 7:15 and we have to get the site broken down by then. We do try to pack some extra shares for latecomers so that they can pick up until we leave.
When is the first week?
The first delivery is scheduled for June 7. A few weeks before the first delivery, we’ll email you and ask you to confirm that you know the opening date; if you don’t respond to the email, we’ll call you.
The season runs for 24 weeks and ends the week before Thanksgiving.
Are we required to help run the site?
No volunteering is required; we have a group of amazing volunteers, most of them grad students from Rockefeller, Cornell-Weil, and Sloan-Kettering. They’re smart, experienced, dedicated, and truly nice. They run the site so well that I usually feel superfluous. But if you want to volunteer—some of it is a lot of fun—there is always work to do. Let me know and we’ll set it up. There are also volunteer activities outside the site—writing recipe sheets, setting up farm trips and potlucks, informing members of the start date. If you want to be involved, we can use whatever time you can give us.
This year, we’re asking each member to contribute one or more recipes. A few of us have been compiling recipes sheets each week, but they’re getting old and we’re repeating ourselves. With 150 members, there are probably lots of great ideas out there. So even though I have no clue how to enforce it, we’re making a recipe contribution part of the deal.
What’s in a share?
There are usually 8-10 items in the share every week. We eat with the seasons; we don’t get tomatoes in June or broccoli in August, but the tomatoes of August and the broccoli of October are delicious. The farm website has a list of the crops they grow. Our website has lists of what was in the share each week in 2014.
How do we communicate?
We keep communication to a minimum, usually one email per month in the off-season, one per week during delivery season. Our weekly email during the season includes lists of what’s in the share, recipes and tips. We try to include some community information and news from members as well.
You will have phone numbers to call if you really need to, including a phone number for the farm. Remember, everyone in the city is a volunteer; and everyone at the farm is really busy.
When do we find out what’s in the share each week?
Our vegetables are harvested very close to the time they’re delivered. Even the farmers don’t know exactly what they’ll be picking until they pick it. Sometimes, a vegetable spurts up at the last minute; sometimes it slows down. We know it’s hard to plan without knowing what we’ll be getting though, so we try. On Sunday night or Monday morning, the farmers send a list to the site coordinators and we send them to members—but things still change. Sometimes an item will be taken off the list. More often, something is added.
What if I can’t make it one week? Can I send someone to take my share for me? Can I pick up extra the following week?
You can send anyone to pick up your share. Our security system is simple: if someone asks for your share and gives us your name, we let him/her have it. We’ve never had a problem. We’ll give you an info sheet for surrogate picker-uppers.
But no, we can’t promise to hold your share and you definitely can’t pick up extra the following week. Shares that are not picked up are donated to the church’s meal program or to a food pantry. Volunteers are allowed to take a bit extra. The farm can’t replace food that has already been sent and we can’t hold it. That said, on weeks when I’m at the site (I’m sometimes out of town), I usually take home an extra vegetable share; the first person who asks for it, gets it. And if you let me know by 3 pm, if I’m around, I will leave your share with my doorman for pickup later in the evening or the next morning—on a best-effort basis, no promises.
What if I don’t like or am allergic to something in the share? Can I take more of something else?
We do have a swap box; you can leave something you don’t want in the swap box and take something that someone else has left. But you can’t count on finding what you want. In some cases, you will just get one item less or take it for a friend. If you can’t use most of the vegetables that we get, this probably isn’t a good idea for you.
I can’t pick up my share until right before closing time. Will I get the dregs?
We don’t put all the vegetables out at the beginning of the evening; we keep some covered and replenish every half hour or so, so there is fresh stuff right up to the end. We do occasionally run out of an item. There’s usually extra of something else that’s acceptable as a replacement; if not, we replace with that item or something of equal value the next week.
But please remember: we are strict about closing time. If you arrive at 6:59:59, you’ll get your share—but you have to pick it very quickly or take a pre-packed bag. If you get there at 7:01, all bets are off. We have to lock the church by 7:15 at the latest and it takes time to break down in a way that lets us open properly the next week.
What are “CSA extras?”
We can order additional products in two ways:
Stoneledge Farm Marketplace offers local honey and maple syrup, fair trade coffee and chocolate, and bulk produce when available. Order by Friday of each week for delivery the following Tuesday. For more information:
www.stoneledge.farm (click on Marketplace; ordering will begin right before the first delivery)
Lewis Waite Farms: We can also order meat, dairy, grains, and other sustainably-raised products from a consortium of local farms. The products are delivered every second week to the site; you place your order the previous week. For more info
How many people does a full share feed?
That’s a very tricky question; it depends how hungry you are. I’m single and take a full share. I usually finish it before the weekend—but I cook for other people and I freeze/preserve some. There are families of five that take a half share and say they have too much.
How many members are in the group
We sell about 100 full shares; some of these are divided into half shares, split shares, and alternate-week shares. There are about 150 separate families and individuals on our roster. We usually sell out months before the season starts and could sell many more shares–we’re limited by space in the truck.
What if bad weather or another disaster makes it impossible to deliver or harms the crop?
We all sign up with the knowledge that we are accepting the ups and downs of nature, along with the farmer. When nature cooperates (which is usually the case) crops are bountiful. Sometimes, bad weather harms a crop, but there are plenty of others that make up for it. On balance, most of us feel that we get a great deal—over 60% of our members return each year (many do not return because they leave the neighborhood). Over the past twenty years, there were two weeks when the farm could not deliver (once on 9/11/2001 and once right after Hurricane Sandy) and we lost several weeks of deliveries during Hurricane Irene. It’s important for members to know and understand this—even though the vast majority of the time, we get beautiful, delicious shares every week.
How do I sign up? Do I have to pay for it all at once?
Just go to the farm website and click on the “new members” button. You will be given prompts to set up an account and then to purchase shares. Once you’ve purchased a vegetable share, you will be able to add fruit, mushroom, and/or coffee shares—you can’t buy the extra shares without first buying a vegetable share. You can pay by credit, either all at once or in three installments. Or, you can click “pay by check” and mail a check to the farm.
By the way–I’m Lori Stein. I’ve been volunteer site coordinator for the past four years; I was also site coordinator for the first five years when she started. I hope to meet you on June 7.