Frequently asked questions
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSA members pay up front for a share of the farm’s production.
How is free choice, full diet CSA different from the average vegetable CSA?
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.
Why should I pay upfront for the rest of the year?
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.
How much food do I get?
We invite our local members to 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.
Do you offer short-term memberships?
Essex Farm offers seasonal shares for households in need food for only a brief period of time. Seasonal members receive food in share blocks of at least four consecutive weeks. They do not incur any penalties for canceling their membership before December 31, nor do they have to make payments towards weeks they did not receive shares. Seasonal memberships are priced slightly higher than annual memberships to cover administrative costs and to support the farm during the members’ absence. Households who are interested in only getting enough food for a few weeks are encouraged to shop at our Farm Store.
What if I travel a lot or will be away from home for an extended period of time?
If you will only be away for a week or two, we encourage you donate your share to the local food bank or “gift” your share to a neighboring household--of equal size to your own–who can pick it up for you. If your travel is more extensive, Essex Farm offers seasonal shares for households who are away from home often or for a long time. Seasonal members receive food in share blocks of at least four consecutive weeks, and can take a hiatus from their memberships for as brief or extended a time as needed. Seasonal members do not incur any penalties for canceling their membership before December 31, nor do they have to make payments towards weeks they did not receive shares. Seasonal memberships are priced slightly higher than annual memberships to cover administrative costs and to support the farm during the members’ absence.
What about vegetables in the winter?
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.
What is raw milk?
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.
Do we offer everything, every week?
No. We butcher for each distribution but do not always offer beef, pork and chicken every week.
How is your meat different from what I might get at the grocery store?
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.
What butcher cuts can I expect?
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.