Donna Williams, founder of Field Goods
What is a CSA?
We are often asked if Field Goods is a CSA. The answer is “not really”. While Field Goods customers receive farm produce like a CSA, we approach serving our customers in a markedly different way.
CSA, Farm Share, and Farm Co-op are all terms that refer broadly to the original concept of Community Supported Agriculture, which has its origins as an economic model solution for local farms. The fundamental idea was that a community supports its local farm by sharing the risks and benefits of farm production. For example, a farm might sell shares to its members for $550 per share for a 24-week season. In exchange for this upfront payment, members receive a weekly share of what is harvested by the farm. In the northeast, a member would pay for their share in the winter/early spring and receive weekly distributions beginning in early summer through the fall. If the harvest year is very good, the member will receive a lot of produce. If there is a disaster, as was the case in 2011 when Hurricane Irene wiped out 1000s of acres of fruit and vegetable fields in eastern New York, a member may receive little or none. In this way, the community is sharing the risk of farming with the farm and providing funds for the farm to invest in seeds and planting.
There are many different variations of the CSA theme, as the idea has evolved from its ideological economic model roots to a popular marketing strategy steeped in the idea that CSA also represents high quality, sustainably-farmed produce. Some CSA farms distribute weekly shares on the farm, while others may have pick-up locations off the farm. Some offer members the ability to select the size and type of their shares (full-shares, ½ shares, fruit shares, etc.) or to customize the specific items they receive. Some require members to spend a number of hours working on the farms. Over time, the term expanded to include organizations that are referred to as multi-farm CSAs since they aggregate products from a group of farms.
For some people, a CSA is a better option than Field Goods. Many of our farm partners also offer CSAs and we encourage people to join CSAs. To ensure strong small-farm agriculture in our communities CSAs, farmers markets, farm stands, and local produce retailers all need to be successful.
Our service is designed for customers that for any number of reasons would not or could not join a CSA. Lack of convenient access to a CSA as well as lifestyle and financial considerations make Field Goods a more suitable choice for some. Field Goods is designed for a broader range of household sizes and lifestyles. We differ from most CSAs in that our customers subscribe to a weekly delivery of produce that may come from 5-10 different farms. Customers can hold or cancel their subscriptions anytime. We have four different size options. We deliver year-round, and customers who love their summer-through-fall CSA use us winter through spring. We also publish a newsletter with recipes and tips for each item we deliver. Most importantly, the majority of our deliveries are to customers at their workplace. Field Goods is unique in that we help employers and organizations enhance their wellness and sustainability initiatives.