Frequently asked questions
Q. What is a CSA?
A. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSA members pay up front for a share of the farm’s production.
Q. How is free choice, full diet CSA different from the average vegetable CSA?
A. Essex Farm pioneered the free choice, full diet model.
Full diet means the share includes meats, eggs, dairy, grains, and more. For members who are dedicated to cooking whole food in season, the share provides enough food in enough variety to make the grocery store obsolete. In practice, most members still buy some items we don’t produce, such as vegetable oil, rice, and tropical fruit, plus some convenience food and some occasional out of season vegetables.
Free choice means that instead of receiving a box that has been packed for you with things you may or may not use, you can choose any quantity or combination of items each week.
In order to make the share work for everyone, we ask that you take only what your household will use in a week. The exception to that rule is that during the growing season, members are encouraged to take extra produce to freeze or can.
Q. What is the term for membership?
A. We welcome new members at any point in the year, as long as we have space. Once signed up, your membership will extend through the end of the calendar year. Members renew their contracts each January.
Q. Why do I pay upfront for the rest of the year?
A. CSA creates a close relationship between farmers and members. Farming is a slim-margin business with a lot of inherent risk. The CSA model, with upfront payment, helps with our highly front-loaded production costs, our mid-range field and livestock plans, and balancing our yearly budget. It also allows us farmers to focus less on sales and marketing, and more on growing high quality food. Finally, it gives members a deeper sense of partnership with the farm and the farmers.
Q. What payment methods are accepted?
A. We accept checks, PayPal, or credit cards, with a surcharge.
Q. When do I pick up my food?
A. We invite our members to visit the farm on Fridays, from 3pm to 7pm, and take what they need for the week, in any quantity or combination they choose. Members are encouraged to take extra produce during the growing season for freezing or canning, to supplement what is available from the root cellar during winter and early spring. We sometimes limit scarce items, like maple syrup or the year’s first tomatoes, but most food is available on an all-you-can-eat basis.
Q. What about vegetables in the winter?
A. We harvest hardy vegetables from the field through late fall and even into early winter. The selection in late winter and early spring comes from our root cellar, and includes potatoes, winter squash, carrots, beets, cabbage, garlic, onions, turnips, rutabaga, etc. We encourage members to freeze extra produce and herbs in the summer for variety in late winter and spring.
Q. What is raw milk?
A. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. We encourage all members to become familiar with the risks and benefits of raw milk.
Q. Do we offer everything, every week?
A. No. We butcher for each distribution but do not always offer beef, pork and chicken every week.
Q. How is your meat different from what I might get at the grocery store?
A. Most people think our pastured chickens are much more flavorful. Chickens come whole, not in parts. Our pigs are raised on pasture, plus skim milk and organic and home grown grains; depending on the age of the pig they tend to have a little more fat – and a lot more flavor – than what you typically find at the store. Our grass-fed beef is lean, and is generally tougher and also more flavorful than grain-fattened beef. Most members like it best ground or as slow-cooked cuts, not steaks.
Q. What cuts can I expect?
A. Because we are raising and butchering whole animals for our members, we all eat from nose to tail. We offer ground beef and ground pork, plus roasts, chops, bulk sausage, chickens, organs, and bones.