Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are a grassroots part of many local farm’s success. As a member of the community, you feel good supporting local farms and in return are rewarded with whatever may be that weeks bumper crop. Each week it’s exciting to find what will be in your haul. It’s like an ongoing Iron Chef competition, complete with mystery ingredients—often odd or an over abundance of one—that challenges even the savviest cook’s creativity in the kitchen.
Programs run from spring through the fall, with summer being high time for picking. At my CSA, Honeybrook Organic Farm in Pennington, NJ, we’ve already filled our buckets with strawberries, string beans, snap peas, and enough fresh herbs to last the year. Picking is one precious part of my family time that’s still unencumbered with electronics. In fact, just last week my 10-year-old son Elliot, in the heat of the midday sun said, “This is my paradise on Earth.” I thought, me too buddy, me too. That moment turned from bliss to brackish in a split second as one of our field mates decided to take a phone call. That is a farm faux pas my friend. There’re several unspoken rules of etiquette around farm life, or at least the little taste of it many of us look forward to each week. After chatting with the farmers, and fellow CSA members I’ve found it may be helpful for newbies or even veterans to be reminded that even here, in this slice of paradise, there’re a few simple rules to follow for the preservation of the CSA experience.
1. Think of the Field Like Church: We’re all guilty of being overly attached to our phones. However, if the above mentioned offender had taken a call and politely ended it, no big deal. However, this was not an emergency, in fact the yapper spoke so loudly the entire field was privy to her conversation about which movie she was going to take her grand daughter to and why she felt it was her turn and not the other grandmothers. As fellow pickers rolled their eyes and tried their best to focus on to the beauty of the day, and the space we were in, it was impossible not to be defeated by the sheer noise of it. Think of the field like church. It’s often most members only down time all week. Be respectful and turn off your phones. If you need to take a call, take it elsewhere. No drama in the field, please.
2. Stick to Your Day: CSA’s are set up on a daily pick up schedule. If you can’t make your day, just let them know. Most farms are happy to accommodate you to pick up your produce on another day. They just need a little notice. Don’t just show up a day early or late and take your share. You may unwittingly be taking from someone else. They have a pretty well-oiled system that works. If you can’t make your pick up and don’t have any notice call a friend and offer them your share, or half of it if they go pick up for you. It’s a win/ win and no one else gets shorted for it.
3. Respect the Food: Whether in your pick up area or out in the field, respect the food. This experience is different than choosing vegetables at the grocery store, though I would hope there you would also be respectful of fellow shoppers. Don’t man handle the produce. Use kid gloves when handling the goods. Even though all farms are not certified organic many of them abide by those farming practices which means the food isn’t treated to withstand jostling and tumbling. Often the people who helped grow this food are standing right beside you. Show your gratitude and respect the food. That goes for in the field too. Carefully navigate the rows and teach your children to as well. Don’t stomp on crops and help the little ones to learn appreciation for them as well by being kind to the land and the crops that eventually will be lunch or dinner.
4. Only Take Your Share: While blueberries may be your favorite, if your share is only half a pint, then that’s all you should take. Remember if you take more than your share, someone else may not get any. You can always buy more at another farm stand or the grocery store.
5. Show Constant Support: This one may be the most important reminder. Being part of a CSA means you get to see the ups and downs of farm life. If there’s too much rain, or a strain of mold wipes out the berries, or this year the corn crop just didn’t make it, don’t get mad instead be kind to your farmer. No hate mail or snide remarks needed. No one feels the pinch of mother nature more than the farmers do. The idea is that as a member you SUPPORT your farm, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, corn or no corn. Some years are slim and some are abundant. Remember as part of a CSA you’re all in it together. Be positive, be supportive, and be thankful for all the wonderful food, and the beauty of being a small part of the farm experience.