CSA Handbook / FAQ

CSA Handbook

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1.  What if I'm late to distribution?

2.  How should I store my produce?

3.  What if I can't pick up my share box?

4.  What time is pickup at State College?  At the farm?

5.  What is a CSA anyway?

6.  How can I volunteer?

 

Introduction

Village Acres Farm
Village Acres is a 45-acre farm located just outside of Mifflintown, PA, in Juniata County - about 50 minutes south of State College and the same distance north of Harrisburg. Our lower fields nestle along the banks of the Lost Creek, which empties into the Juniata River a quarter mile downstream. Roy and Hope Brubaker have cared for the farm since 1982, with help from their four children and numerous apprentices. Currently Village Acres Farm operates as a partnership between Roy and Hope's daughter, Debra, and Debra's partner, Hannah with help from their children
.

Our CSA
The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) at Village Acres was started in 1998 by Angela Brubaker, daughter of Hope and Roy, and Liz Hunsberger. The CSA began with 19 members and has since grown to serve over 200 families. Our farm is certified organic through Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO).

 

Community Supported Agriculture


Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) restores relationships by connecting people to their food, their land and their farmers. The concept is simple: members, as participants in the farm community, buy a "share of the harvest." This fee helps to pay for the costs of running the farm. In return, the farm provides a weekly supply of produce during the season.

This relationship guarantees small farmers a secure market for their produce and minimizes the risks involved in farming. The 2003 growing season was the first year we did not have to take out spring loans to cover the costs of buying seeds, paying workers, etc. That is directly due to upfront payments from CSA members, and means that farm income can be spent on crops and not interest payments.

The CSA model provides market security throughout the season. Farmers relying on wholesale markets may find that their broccoli, for instance, is worth substantially less in September than they budgeted for in January. Those selling at farmers markets may find that weather or special events may cut weekly sales in half during the height of the season. Having a predictable market for a variety of crops makes planning straightforward (for planting, crop rotations, etc.) which gives us room to manage the unpredictable aspects of farming (like the weather).

While CSA helps farmers it also serves members, who receive a season's supply of fresh, healthy produce. Much of the produce we provide during the summer season is picked the same day as distribution. Food purchased in the grocery store, on the other hand, can travel for days on a truck across the country before it is put out on the shelf for purchase. CSA members have the security of knowing that their food was grown organically using sustainable methods and that fewer natural resources were needed to transport the produce. Finally, CSA provides members a tangible connection to the land through a farm and the satisfaction of contributing to the health of the local community. Members are welcome to come see the farm and its operations by volunteering at workdays or coming to one of our festivals.
 

Volunteering
Members are welcome to volunteer at any time during the season. Jobs include assisting at distribution, helping to coordinate festivals at the farm and being a Veggie Buddy to a new member (providing knowledge about the produce and how to prepare it). The contributions members make by offering their time, talents and energy keep the CSA vibrant and connected.


The Share

Summer/Fall Season
Summer Share generally begins toward the end of May. Members are contacted with the exact date and location of the first pick-up. Produce is delivered every week through mid-November or through mid-December (depending on number of weeks elected by shareholder).  Separate egg and chicken shares are available, as well as flower shares over the summer season.


Winter/Spring Season
Produce is delivered every other week until through May.   Separate egg and chicken shares are also available over the winter season.


Pick-Up Locations

At the Farm
Members pick up produce at Village Acres Farm, in Cuba Mills, 1.5 miles from Mifflintown. Look for the CSA Member entrance at the rear of the FoodShed.

Summer Pick-Up Time: 3:30 to 6:30 pm every week
Winter Pick-Up Time: 3:30 to 6:30 pm every other week (see calendar)


In State College

Members pick up produce at The Friends Meeting House, 611 E. Prospect Ave. Parking is available on E. Prospect Ave. and in the Meeting House lot. 

Summer Pick-Up Time: 4:00 to 6:30 pm every week
Winter Pick-Up Time: 4:00 to 6:00 pm every other week (see calendar)

In Lewistown

Members pick up at the Community Partnerships RC&D Office (23 North Main St., Lewistown, PA 17044).  Boxes are kept on the porch, along with a checklist and any additional outside-of-the-box items.  Just check your name off on the list, take your box and extra items, and you're ready to go!  Pick-up times are 3-6:30 pm every Tuesday.

In Harrisburg:

Harrisburg members can choose to pick up at our Uptown/Susquehanna Township, Midtown/Broad Street Market or Swatara Township drop off locations.  

Harrisburg-Uptown (Winter/Spring - Wed Distribution; Summer/Fall - Fri Distribution)

2:00 PM - 7:00PM: 4017 Green St, Harrisburg, PA - Shares are left on screened in front porch of the little blue house

 

Harrisburg-Swatara (Winter/Spring - Wed Distribution; Summer/Fall - Fri Distribution)

 

2:00 PM - 6:00 PM: Unitarian Church - 1280 Clover Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17113. Shares are left under the porch of the Main Entrance.

In Selinsgrove

Convenient location organized by Selinsgrove shareholder - please contact us for more information.

 
At Distribution
When You Arrive

State College/Farm
Check off your name on the check-off list. Next to your name you will see notes from us as well as a list of the extras (meat, cheese, eggs, etc.) that you ordered. These items of business, including payment for extras, can be taken care of with farm staff.

To collect your produce, read the board to see special instructions for the week. Return your empty box and cartons, pick up your full box and Veggie Voice (the CSA newsletter), and gather the rest of your share as the signs indicate.

On most weeks, at the self serve table you will receive additional produce to what we put in your box. Selecting and packing this requires some time, as you will need to bag up the food or weigh out the vegetables. Plan enough time for this and chatting with friends and farmers. We love to see you each week.

Lewistown/Harrisburg  

These distribution locations are unstaffed.  All share items will be contained in the box or instructions will be given. Any extra's ordered will be identifified with your name, and accompanied by an invoice.  Payment should be sent via mail to the farm upon receipt.  Items requiring temperature control will be left in coolers, but the responsiblity for timely pickup is the member's responsiblity.  


Transporting Your Produce
Members are asked not to take their boxes home if possible, but to bring reusable tote bags or recycled grocery bags.  This allows us to use durable but expensive wooden crates, instead of the cheap-but-replaceable paper boxes.  Since the crates are so sturdy, and we can wash out the plastic liners, this substantially cuts down on our packing costs.  The closed, breathable plastic liners also seem to increase the shelf life of our greens.  If you do find yourself needing to take home crates or liners, please bring them back next week so that we can continue to keep our costs down.  We'll reuse most types of containers if you give us a chance - we collect clean plastic grocery bags from members for use at distribution, as well as the berry, tomato and egg containers; we reuse these each week.


The Sharing Table
We are anxious to provide you with the kinds of produce you like and the amount of produce you can use. If you find that you are taking home more food than you can eat, consider leaving a portion of your produce at the Sharing Table. Conversely, if you see items on the Sharing Table that you would like to be eating, help yourself! Produce left on the Sharing Table at the end of distribution will be donated to those in need in the area.

 
Extras
We sell locally-raised meat, eggs and flowers, and local products such as cheese and honey. Sign up for these extras each week at distribution, or by email and we will deliver them for you the next week. Payment may be made when you pick up your extras.

Eggs - from our pasture-raised chickens at Village Acres
Honey - from our and other local farmers' hives
Flowers - organically grown at Village Acres and arranged into bouquets
Chickens and Turkeys - pasture-raised at Village Acres without hormones or antibiotics
Beef, Lamb, pork - grass-fed lamb and beef and pastured pork available through partnership with  Blue Rooster Farm. Raised without hormones or antibiotics
Cheese - from grass-fed cows at Hillside Farms
Olive Oil - certified organic and imported from Italy through Tuscarora organic growers

Business Items

Schedule Conflicts

If you will not be able to make a distribution, please let us know in advance. You may also send a friend to pick up your produce for you. Friends should check off your name and ask us for help if they are new to the system. If you prefer, we would be happy to donate your share for that week.

Likewise, please let us know if you will be late. We have made provisions for late shares to be picked up at the farm and in State College (see below), and will try to work with folks at all locations to make sure you can get your produce, but this is easier to do if we know in advance so we can coordinate with pick up locations hosts.  

 

Late Comers in State College

Shares which have not been collected by 6:00 p.m.(winter season)/ 6:30 p.m. (summer season) will be left for pickup with CSA member Kevin Gombotz. The boxes are then available for pickup from his front porch until midnight (during the summer season) and 9:00 PM Tuesday night, during the winter season.  Food may not stay fresh in the heat/cold, depending on the season. Typically we do not leave Egg Shares at the late pick up location but are willing to do so as long as you notify us ahead of time.   Food which has not been collected by Wednesday morning will be donated to community organizations. His house is located near the Friends Meeting House on 323 East Keller St. If you turn left out of the Meeting House parking lot, turn left on the first street you come to (Keller). Kevin’s house is on the right with a bicylce on the roof.  Please do not knock on Kevin's door.  

Late Comers at the Farm
Please pick up your box within 24 hours.  If you arrive after hours, please find your box in the main cooler inside the packing shed.

 

Payments
Shares may be reserved with a $100 deposit up to the full amount.  Full payment for each season is due by the first pickup date.  Those not paying in full may make payments in installments until the due dates. Please take responsibility for remembering to make your payments on time. A large part of our expenses are incurred at the beginning of the season, so full payment as early as possible is greatly appreciated.

Community Fund

As a farm community, we want to ensure that local, organic produce is accessible to everyone, regardless of economic means. Our Community Fund provides reduced cost shares for those on limited budgets who want to be part of the CSA. If you are interested in receiving financial assistance from the Community Fund, please contact the farm for more information. Community Fund assistance generally ranges from simply allowing you to pay on a payment plan throughout the year, to subsidizing up to half of your share cost.  We also invite donations to the Community Fund, which are matched by the farm, and can be designated as part of your share payment.

Refunds
We regret that we cannot offer refunds for shares once the season has begun unless there is someone on the waiting list who can take over your membership. All refunds are subject to a non-refundable $25 processing fee. If you find that you will not be able to use your share as planned, we suggest that you arrange for a friend or family member to take over your share for you.


 
Processing Your Produce

Storage
Produce is susceptible to damage if left in a hot car (or cold car in the winter). Most produce should be stored in the refrigerator in clean plastic or canvas bags. Greens are delicate and should be placed gently in bags in the refrigerator as soon as you get home. Without a bag, they will quickly wilt. Potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash should be stored in a cool, dry place.

When greens are exposed to air, even for a short time, they may begin to wilt, but they are still good to eat. To refresh the greens, soak them in a sink full of cold water as long as needed until they are rehydrated.

Some crops prefer temperatures warmer than found in your refrigerator. For example, tomatoes, winter squash and sweet potatoes like to be kept around 60 degrees F.

Washing
Winter root crops (potatoes, carrots, celeriac, turnips, etc.) will store better with the soil on them, so at times we will leave the washing to you. Scrub thoroughly with a brush before using. Greens are usually washed in large batches at the farm. You can give them a thorough washing at home in a sink full of cold water. In general, produce stores better the less it has been handled, so wash just prior to using.


Freezing
Many types of produce can be frozen for eating at a later date. With the exceptions of peppers, tomatoes, cooked pumpkin or squash, onions and herbs, most vegetables need to be blanched before freezing. Blanch vegetables by submerging them in boiling water. Blanching times vary depending on the size and shape of the vegetables. For example, peas need 1 1/2 minutes, while corn on the cob takes 6-8 minutes. Blanched vegetables need to be cooled in a large quantity of cold or ice water. Cool vegetables for the same amount of time that was used for cooking. Drain and store in airtight containers.

Stir Frying
Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add minced garlic and saute lightly. Add the chopped vegetable of your choice and cook on high heat until heated through. Add salt and pepper. Vinegar is an optional flavoring. Most vegetables can be prepared this way, including greens, onions, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, etc. The denser the vegetable, the longer it will need to cook. For example, we often begin with the stems of greens and throw in the leafy part near the end.


Baking
Cut up root vegetables in 1" chunks (or rectangular matchstick shapes). Toss in olive oil, salt and an herb of choice (we recommend rosemary, parsley or thyme). Spread into a baking pan and cook at 400 degrees until vegetables are brown. This method works for potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, celeriac, turnips, etc.


Recommended Cookbooks
Simply in Season by Mennonite Central Committee
From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Farm-Fresh, Seasonal Produce by Madison Area CSA Coalition
Victory Garden Cookbook by Marion Morash
Smith & Hawken Gardener's Community Cookbook by Victoria Wise
A Midwest Gardener’s Cookbook by Marian Towne
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

VISITING THE FARM
Please Visit!
We hope that each member will take many opportunities to visit the farm. We sponsor two festivals at the farm: the Strawberry Festival in June, and the Harvest Festival in October. Work parties are scheduled on certain Saturdays during the season. Members are also invited to the farm at other times to volunteer, tour or spend leisure time at the creek. Call ahead or email to schedule your visit if you would like to work or spend time with the farmers. Stop by any time if you don't need us to facilitate your visit.