Vegetable Share FAQ

CSA programs (Community Supported Agriculture) are world-wide, but operate on a local level. They offer a way for consumers to buy farm goods directly from farmers they know and trust, and for farmers to supply a local community with food. There are many types of CSA programs based on the types of products that are involved: vegetables, fruit, flowers, meats, dairy, fish, eggs, cheeses, fermented vegetables, etc. Here, we offer CSA programs with vegetables, flowers, fruits, and eggs.

The CSA system began in Japan when a group of mothers (who were alarmed when they found out about the amount of chemicals being used in the production of food and saw the effects on their families) approached some local farmers and contracted with them to grow all of the food that their families required throughout the year. They wanted clean food so badly, that they told the farmers that they would buy all of their production, if the farmers would agree to grow food without the use of chemicals.

IMG_20161112_105742Fast-forward a few decades, and CSA programs have been multiplying across the world. Through the years, there have been several evolutions of this concept, but one of the core tenets of CSA programs is that a local farmer is producing food for a group of members who commit to buying a portion of each week's harvest.

You might wonder how to choose a CSA program, and what to look for when considering a local CSA. Since every CSA is different, look for a farm that aligns with your values, and whose farming practices you support.

Here are a few things to consider:

How do I know if a CSA program would be a good fit for my household?

Do you want to know where your food comes from, and how it's produced? Do you want to support local producers and ecological farming systems? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then a CSA program may be for you.

On the practical, in-your-kitchen side of things... Check out the quantity of produce that will be available each week. Is it a reasonable quantity for the number of eaters in your home? Also find out what types of produce will be included. Are they vegetables that your family eats (or would be fine with trying)?

By joining a CSA program, you'll be given produce that is seasonal to your local area. In general, there'll be a wider variety of produce available over the course of the season than many families are used to eating. If you prefer to eat the same few vegetables every week, then a CSA program is likely not a good fit for you. If you prefer to enjoy a diversity of foods throughout the season, then a CSA program is likely a good fit! (Most of what we grow is familiar to everyone, but we sometimes include some less-common vegetables that we feel are really worth a try.)

Even though eating seasonally can be an adjustment for some people, we feel that the benefits dramatically outweigh any inconvenience. By eating seasonally, you get the freshest, tastiest produce (think: garden-fresh, heirloom tomatoes in the summer, versus imported or greenhouse-grown tomatoes in the winter). And, depending on who grows your produce, you may also have access to foods with a higher level of nutrition, which has an incomparable value.

Are all products from CSA farms organic or ecologically-grown?

No - there is a wide variety of production practices. This is where it pays to ask farmers questions! If it's important to you that your food is grown organically (whether certified or uncertified), look for a CSA program with these farming practices.

Ask questions relating to what is important to you, such as: how produce is grown, what types of fertilization is used for crops, what is livestock fed and how are they housed, what farmers are doing to improve soil health, etc, etc.

Are all pre-boxed produce offers a CSA?

No. There are now various types of "vegetable box" programs on the market. What differentiates a CSA from others is that you actually buy from the farmer - not a middleman. Buying directly from a farmer is the best way to support the farm. When consumers buy from middlemen, the farmer is often left with very little for operating margins. The relationship between farmers and their CSA members is not so much "seller - buyer", but "producer - consumer / supporter".

What is the difference between a CSA and your Vegetable Share program?

They're actually one and the same! We usually refer to our program as a Vegetable Share (and Flower Share, Egg Share, etc), since these terms are more widely recognized in this area. They are types of CSA programs, in that members receive weekly farm goods directly from the farm / farmer, and give the farmers their support ahead of the season by signing up in advance for their share of the farm's goods.

We greatly appreciate the payments ahead of the season to help cover some of the costs for seed, natural fertilizers, supplies, labour, etc that occur long before anything is ready to harvest. It also means a lot to know that our production has a waiting market of members, and we enjoy the connection between our farm and members who are receiving the goods from our farm.

Sept vegWhat can I expect in my CSA share?

Expect to find a variety of in-season foods each week! The contents of CSA boxes are different from every farm, so look for a program that meets the needs of your household.

At Bee Loved Gardens, we have a "formula" that we use to pack the Farmer's Choice boxes, to ensure a variety of popular crops in a box, and from week to week. We tailor our crop production based on our members' feedback, and strive to produce a lot of the practical, every-day crops.

Here's what we pack each week (with slight variations, depending on the size of the share you've purchased):

  • 1 - 2 types of salad greens, such as spinach, baby lettuce mix, head lettuce, arugula, etc
  • something from the "broccoli family" most weeks, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc
  • 1 - 3 types of root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes, salad turnips, etc
  • tomatoes & cucumbers for as many weeks as possible (early summer to mid-fall)
  • in the spring: peas; in the summer: beans; in the fall / winter: a squash or pumpkin
  • a type of cooking green, such as Swiss chard, kale, bok choy, etc
  • 1 - 2 items from the "onion family", such as onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions
  • a fresh herb, such as cilantro, dill, basil, parsley, etc
  • other items, as they're available: melons, an occasional less-common vegetable, specialty crops such as fresh ginger or turmeric, etc.

Since we're dealing with seasonal produce, it helps to be aware of what's in season. In general, there are more greens in the spring, more tender fruiting crops in the summer (tomatoes, cucumbers, beans), and lots of roots and storage vegetables in the fall. While we aim to have lettuce available every week, for example, other crops are much more seasonal such as asparagus in the early spring, peas in the late spring, squash and sweet potatoes in the fall / winter, etc.

June 2015 boxWhat if I receive "too much" in my Vegetable Share?

It can happen, though we aim to provide a useable weekly amount. We give tips on using produce, introduce new ways of preparing / using vegetables, and try to not give too much of any one item. We also give tips on preserving produce (such as freezing, fermenting, or drying), so that nothing goes to waste and you have something delicious to pull out of your pantry in the middle of winter.

Does membership in the CSA program have any other benefits besides the weekly produce / flowers / eggs?

Yes! As a member of our CSA program, you'll receive an exclusive newsletter through the season with recipes, cooking tips, easy food preservation tips, etc. You'll also have preferred access to surplus crops for freezing and canning, and other farm products that are not available to others. You get to know your farmer (if you wish!), which you would hopefully find to be enlightening / educational / inspiring (!), and you'll be the first to know about events and new things happening on the farm.

This year, we are planning a lot more on-farm events, as well as other things you can see & do when you come to pick up your CSA share.

What does it mean to "share in the risk and reward of a farm's production"?

This means different things on different farms.

On this farm, "sharing in the risk" means that there may be a shorter-than-expected supply of a crop if it's been affected by adverse weather conditions or pest pressure. This is usually a temporary situation. For example, last year we were out of spinach for a couple weeks, after a heavy storm flattened a tall crop onto the rows of spinach beside it. We grow a wide variety of crops here, so that if there's a shortage of an expected crop, there are other crops to fill the temporary gap.

"Sharing in the reward" from your CSA farm has two meanings here:

  • First, you get to eat the freshest, most delicious produce that we can grow for you. Most members comment on how much better they feel when they start eating our super-fresh, organically-grown produce. So, the reward is double: great flavour, and we strive to produce health-supporting foods!
  • Second, if we have a surplus of a crop, we make it available to CSA members first. This may be tomatoes for freezing or canning, spinach to freeze, herbs to dry for winter, sweet potatoes to store, etc. This is beyond the cost of the Vegetable Share, but these surplus crops will be available to members at a price below the usual retail price.

150618 closeup harvestWhat is the "Customized Vegetable Share"?

This share has been created for members who wish to choose everything that they receive in a given week. It's for members who grow tomatoes (or whatever vegetable) in their backyard & therefore don't need any in their CSA box... and for members who want extra tomatoes each week so they can make batches of salsa or whatever. It's for members who have more mouths to feed, or often entertain, or require larger amounts of certain vegetables... and their needs vary from week to week.

How it works: each week, you'll receive a list of what's available, and you choose what you'd like to receive. The value of your order will be deducted from the amount that you paid ahead of the season. Your credit is topped up as the balance runs low. There is a minimum order of $22/week to use this option.

What if I don't like a certain vegetable? Will I have to deal with it anyways?

There are two parts to this answer.

  1. We'd encourage you to try all of our produce at least once, because the flavour of a vegetable is HUGELY impacted by how it's grown and by how fresh it is. As you may know, there is a world of difference between our garden-fresh spinach or heirloom tomatoes (or any other crop), compared to what has been imported from thousands of miles away.
  2. If you really do have a distaste for something (or an allergy), let us know, and we'll do our best to keep that vegetable out of your box. (That's why we ask about this on the registration form.) Take a peek in your box when you pick it up, and if there's something there that you won't use, swap it for something that you will use. (That's why we have a swap box, and offers swaps for items of comparable value.)

Will participating in the CSA / Vegetable Share program be a replacement for going to the grocery store?

No. Maybe. Possibly yes.

It all depends on the produce you choose to eat on a weekly basis! We don't produce everything. There are crops we'd like to grow in the future (like mushrooms) that we don't have currently. And there are things that we wish we could produce, but can't produce in our climate (like citrus fruits, avocadoes, etc). So, there are likely things that most families would still choose to purchase from the grocery store.

Having said that, we hope to provide the bulk of your produce needs throughout the season. Every family's reliance on the grocery store varies, and depends more on your eating habits and preferences than on what we provide in the Vegetable Share each week.

If you have any further questions, get in touch! We want to make it workable for our members to eat clean food from our farm. We're always open to feedback on the types of crops we grow and how we can improve.