- About us
- About Our CSA
- Find Our Produce
- News from the Farm
- Cooking With RFF
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.
It's a commitment between individuals or families and farmers, where people buy into the farm as members at the start of the growing season, and in exchange receive a weekly share of the farm's harvest.
You come each week to the same location to pick up your share. At most pick up locations, produce is displayed on tables farmers' market style so that you can select the items that you want within the weekly guidelines.
A coordinator will usually be there to check you in and answer any questions about the vegetables and how to cook them. It helps to bring your own reusable bags or containers to take home your produce. Picking up your share would typically take about 10 minutes with weighing some items and selecting your produce.
Pre-packed boxes are offered during the Summer at some locations, and in Fall and Winter at some of the distributions when the weather is cold.
Regular Summer Vegetable Shares generally consist of about 10 lbs of assorted produce per week, although the share size does fluctuate depending on the time of the season and success of individual crop plantings. Regular shares typically contain about 10-12 kinds of produce per week.
Small Summer Vegetable Shares will typically contain between 6-8 kinds of produce and weigh between 6-8 pounds.
In general, shares are lighter early in the season because most of the crops are still growing and sizing up. By midsummer and fall, the shares are abundant and diverse with a wide spectrum of tasty produce.
The vegetables in the Fall Vegetable Share (in November and December) are mostly root crops, onions, squashes and others that store well, although there are still plenty of greens later on too. Each fall share consists of 14-20 pounds of mixed produce.
We recommend a Regular Summer Vegetable Share for two veggie-loving people who cook most meals, or four people who cook less frequently or typically eat vegetables as side dishes. Many of our CSA members find that they can preserve what they don't eat immediately. If you have a large family, we recommend purchasing two shares.
We also offer a Small Vegetable Share during the summer season, which is great for individuals, couples, or those who wish to supplement their home gardens.
Our Regular Vegetable Share is the best deal for produce, and you can split it with a friend or coworker to enjoy together. Some people split the share after pick-up or you can go one week and your friend the next.
When you sign-up, please choose one person to be the main contact for the share. Then also make sure to include the names and contact info of any one who will be coming to pick-up for the share, as well as all the e-mail addresses of folks who want to receive the newsletters and updates.
We also have a Small Vegetable Summer Share option that is good for individuals and couples. We request that people do not split the small share.
Overall, based on various comparison studies we’ve seen and also based on analyses of our own share prices, you can expect your Red Fire Farm CSA share to cost about 1/4 less than if you bought comparable organic vegetables from a grocery store such as Whole Foods.
We offer the vegetable farm shares, Flower Shares, Fruit Shares, and Egg Shares.
Please visit the CSA Basics page for an overview of what we have and to see the details on each option.
We basically grow every kind of vegetable that grows well in this climate. You can visit our Recipes page to see the diversity of produce we grow and get ideas of how to cook it.
We also have a season chart that shows you the general availability of produce throughout the season.
Additional produce of certain crops (peas, beans, basil, cherry tomatoes, herbs, strawberries and cut flowers) are also available to all CSA members for Pick-Your-Own at the farm in Granby at no additional cost.
Current Pick Your Own information and amounts will be posted in the barn and specific details about how to pick will be sent out early in the season in the weekly newsletter emails. Each weekly e-mail will also list what crops are ready for PYO.
Boston area and Worcester members can come and pick larger amounts at one time.
Pick Your Own is for CSA members and Farm Stand members only. Not open to the general public. Though it is great to bring your friends with you when you visit to pick.
Read more on our PYO page.
If you’re planning to be away for the day of your pickup, we recommend setting up a friend to come pickup your share. You could hook them up with some veggies for their help! This is a great way to introduce new people to the CSA concept.
Also if you give us one week’s notice, you can arrange to pickup your share at another CSA pickup that week – only use this option 1-2 times per season!
Most years in June and July we get some questions from new CSA members about how we decide what produce to put in the CSA shares each week. Usually the concern is about tomatoes, and sometimes other early season greenhouse grown produce available at our retail stands, and the question is why are we selling these crops at our farm stand and farmers market stands, but not including them in the CSA shares?
At Red Fire Farm, we have an extensive collection of greenhouses where we grow early and late season crops in order to extend the harvest season for popular crops. Over the years we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and maintain these special growing areas. Since the space inside a greenhouse or high tunnel is so valuable to build and heat, we grow popular crops like tomatoes timed so they will harvest one or two months earlier than it is possible to get these crops to ripen outside. This is important to do to draw people into our retail markets earlier! The resulting greenhouse harvest is then very valuable since it cost so much to grow, and also very limited in quantity since we only have about 1 acre of greenhouse space compared to about 150 acres of outdoor field space.
In order to justify the costs of growing these early greenhouse vegetables, we need to charge extra for them compared to outdoor grown produce. For this reason we sell these greenhouse grown vegetables separately at our farm stands and farmers markets for premium prices that cover the growing costs.
June and July shares, when sourced from Massachusetts farms, are usually lighter than the later season shares. They usually contain many greens and the early crops that the season has to offer. Our goal with the CSA is to provide a good source of seasonal local produce for the community that is a good value for organic food, and raised sustainably for the environment and the farm crew. Staying with the local outdoor seasons of the produce makes the CSA a better value. While saying that, our farm is one of the leaders in season extension, and you will get crops earlier and later than at other places because of the extra work we put in in the fields!
Over the season the share value should average out to about the share price divided by the number of share weeks worth of organic produce per week, and usually much more than that. If you find that you are eating many all-vegetable meals usually, it could be good to get two shares for your household, but I would wait until later in the season to get a sense of that. In June and July, it is not uncommon for members to need to source some produce from farmers markets for meals. We have vegans and athletes that use their share up feeding one person all season long! So it does depend how many vegetables you are accustomed to eating.
We invite CSA members to purchase early season tomatoes and produce as they wish, but due to the erratic supply and cost of these items, we are unable to provide these into the June and early July CSA shares. Possibly in the future we will offer a supplemental "greenhouse produce share", but for now we are not confident enough in our supply of early season greenhouse grown produce to even commit to this. Sometimes when we have an occasional overabundance of tomatoes from the greenhouse, we will include some of these in the earlier season CSA shares, but we make no guarantee on this.
Field tomatoes start to ripen in quantity in August, and typically reach their peak in September in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, we do work as hard as we possibly can to extend the outdoor harvest season for field grown produce. We do use temporary hoops and row covers, transplants, overwintering techniques, and mulches to push outdoor grown plants to yield as early and late as possible. In 2013 for instance, we were able to offer bunch carrots in late June CSA shares that we had grown by overwintering the baby carrot plants through the winter. This is a cutting edge technique that allowed us to put carrots into the CSA shares a month sooner than would otherwise have been possible. We hope to continue innovation to figure out ways to grow and harvest produce for as long as possible from outdoor fields, and wish to make the experience of eating a Red Fire Farm CSA share as diverse an experience of outdoor field grown produce as is possible in our MA climate.
Our Vegetable Shares are 100% Certified Organic
Here are the details about all our shares below.
All, everything, and every single vegetable in our vegetable shares are certified organic 100%. All the crops we grow on our farm are certified organic. If we buy in anything from other farms for the shares, like green beans, or sweet corn, it is only from certified organic sources that we know and are close to us, like the beans from Hadley or corn from Sunderland MA.
All the egg shares are certified organic. The flower shares are certified organic, except one type of flower, lisianthus, that isn't often in the flower shares, which is best grown from plugs (mini plants) that we buy from a non-organic source, and once we get it onto the farm and plant it is raised with certified organic practices.
The fruit shares have elements that aren't organic; we buy in many of the fruits, like apples, peaches, and others, from local orchards that use conventional methods. The watermelons and muskmelons in the shares are organic from our farm, as well as some of the strawberries, and raspberries when we have bumper crops. We work with orchardists who use IPM (Integrated Pest Management), which saves spraying for last resort, and uses minimum spray amounts and least environmentally harmful types when they do spray. Growing these fruits in our climate organically would be difficult and expensive with significantly lower yields, so we decided that sourcing locally is more important in this case.
Deep Winter Shares also have some non-organic elements. The selected local products, stored apples, and frozen fruit are not all organic, though some are. All the vegetables in the Deep Winter Shares are certified organic.
Who Certifies Us and the Organic Logo We Use
Our certification agency is Baystate Organic Certifiers. Baystate is accredited by the USDA organic program, so all our crops are USDA certified organic. We use the Baystate organic logo on our materials instead of the USDA circle logo because we support having a locally-based certification agency.
Before the national USDA program existed, Ryan's farm was certified organic by NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) which had one of the earliest and most successful independent organic certification programs in the country. The NOFA program then became Baystate Organic Certifiers.
To be certified organic you have to submit a yearly farm plan and detailed records of everything done on the farm to an accredited agency to make sure you comply with the national standards. The agency also comes and regularly inspects the farm.
If you look at the actual regulations, they are a lot about what we're not allowed to do. As organic farmers, it doesn't really feel like that, because we are constantly making positive management choices to work with our ecosystem to produce the best crops. Our key tools include a detailed rotational plan (that moves crop families from field to field year to year so diseases and pests don't build up), cultivation practices that reduce the weed seedbank before the crop even goes in to the ground and continue to stay ahead of the weeds as the crop grows, informed field amendment plans that keep the soil rich for plant health, cover cropping to improve organic material in the soil, and more.
Some of No-No's in the regulations include no genetically modified (GM) seeds or plants, no treated or irradiated seeds, no sewage sludge, no fresh manure applications allowed x months close to harvest time, no synthetic chemical pesticides or herbicides, no irradiation, no antibiotics, no growth hormones, and more.
Some of the required Yes things are pest, weed and disease management through physical, mechanical and biological controls as the first lines of defense before using organic approved pesticides; only organic feed for animals; access to outdoors for animals; and more.
USDA Organic Program website for more details.
Any materials that are used on organic farms must pass review and get approval by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). This government agency has very strict standards and tests all products to make sure that the ingredients comply with the organic standards (naturally occurring and safe). This includes everything from potting soil to organic pesticides to soil amendments.
One of our biggest pest challenges and general challenges as organic farmers are weeds. Conventional vegetable farmers have an arsenal of chemical herbicides that they use to keep weeds under control. Organic farms such as Red Fire must rely on mulches, cultivation, careful rotation, and ultimately more hand labor (hoeing and hand weeding on certain crops like carrots). This extra hand labor is one of the major reasons that organic produce tends to cost more than conventional produce.
There are many details to keep track of for organic certification, but we would be doing most of those things anyway to have the kind of farm that we want to have. We think that certification is worth it to give our customers the assurance that we do what we say we do.
When you come down to it, you can't really certify that we are going to bust our butts to get the cover crops in on time to protect the soil before winter comes. The principles beneath our actions come from deeper than needing to fulfill the organic program regulations. We feel committed to providing our community with delicious, healthful food, and see the land and ecosystem as a long-term partner in doing so.
We put lots of energy into making the produce organic and believe very strongly in doing it that way!
If you have any questions about how we do things, please let us know!
Thanks ~ Sarah