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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about our CSA program. Click on each question to display the answer. And if you’re still looking for more information, feel free to contact us directly.

Being a CSA Member

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a commitment between members and farmers, where members buy into the farm at the start of the growing season. In exchange, members receive a weekly share of the farm’s harvest. The funds raised early in the year from CSA shares are crucial for farmers to purchase supplies and plan for the season ahead.

Why should I join the Red Fire Farm CSA?

  • Enjoy fresh locally grown vegetables. Our careful variety selection and organic growing practices bring out the very best in flavor!
  • Help us compete with environmentally detrimental industrial food producers from distant regions.
  • By supporting Red Fire Farm, you also benefit the local economy. Red Fire Farm both provides jobs and also recycles money by purchasing supplies from other local businesses.
  • We don’t use chemicals, synthetic pesticides or herbicides on our vegetable fields.
  • You become involved in a community of farmers and eaters committed to healthy food and a cleaner environment!

What will be in my share each week?

As a CSA member, you will receive our weekly newsletter with news from the farm, coupons, and a guesstimate of what’s in your share. We try to provide the most accurate information possible, but during the week we may need to make adjustments based on what we find in the fields.

What is is like to pick up a share?

For more detailed information, check out our Tips for Pickup page.

The basics:

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.

What is the difference between what's in my share and what is sold in retail locations?

We are often asked how we decide which types of produce go into the shares each week, especially our greenhouse-grown crops like early season tomatoes.

 

Many of our greenhouse products, like heirloom tomatoes, show up at our farm stands and farmers’ markets earlier in the summer than when we begin placing them in CSA shares. This is because our greenhouse spaces are so expensive to maintain: we invest a great deal of money in constructing new greenhouse space, heating the structures, and accounting for the more detailed labor that goes into caring for greenhouse crops. Because this special growing space is very limited (we only have about 1 acre of greenhouse space versus 150 acres of land), we need to charge extra for greenhouse crops compared to outdoor grown produce. Because we sell these higher-priced crops separately, this keeps the cost of our CSA lower.

 

Our goal with the CSA is to provide a strong source of seasonal local produce for the community that is a good value for organic food, and is raised sustainably for the environment and the farm crew. Harvesting 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!

 

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. 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.

What happens if I missed my share pickup?

Unfortunately, if you miss your share pickup for any reason, we are unable to provide a makeup share. This condition was noted in your CSA sign up form.

All of our shares are harvested, packed, and delivered in precise numbers,which makes it impossible to manage makeup shares on the large scale that we provide our CSA. Your missed share is not wasted: food relief organizations receive all remaining produce at the end of the day.

If you have any questions, please call the office at (413) 467-7645.

What if I am going on vacation?

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.

What if I don't like a certain veggie in my share?

If you have any allergies or dislikes, there will be a swap box at every site. You can swap out one item from your share for one other item in the box (for example, you can trade in the share’s allotment of cucumbers for the zucchini that someone else didn’t need).

You can also feel free to bring that item home and give it to a friend, neighbor, or coworker who loves that kohlrabi more than you.

Pricing and Payment Information

Is the share a good value?

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.

See our Share Value page to see a price comparison between our retail prices, CSA price, and comparable prices from other stores.

In June and July, it is not uncommon for members to need to source some produce from farmers’ markets for meals. August and September is our peak season, and the size of the share will grow to reflect the season’s bounty.

How can I make a payment for my share?

If you would like to mail a check, please mail to:

184 Meadow Rd.

Montague, MA

01351

Can I join a payment plan for my share?

If you would like to pay for your CSA share in installments, please indicate this on your sign-up form. Everyone must pay the $100 deposit before receiving their share.

To follow our payment plan, please pay one third of your total share amount on the 1st of July, August, and September. You will receive a reminder email when these dates approach. If these dates have passed and your installments have not been paid, you will not be allowed to pick up your share.

If you have any questions about our payment plan or would like to check your remaining balance, please don’t hesitate to email our CSA coordinator at thefarmers@redfirefarm.com or call the office at (413) 467 7654.

Can I use EBT/SNAP to pay for my share?

We are now accepting EBT/SNAP at several of our CSA locations! Please call the office at (413) 467 7645 or email thefarmers@redfirefarm.com to learn more and arrange a payment plan.

Several of our farmers’ markets, including Springfield’s Farmers’ Market at Forest Park and Northampton’s Tuesday Market, also offer discounted rates for EBT/SNAP users to buy fresh produce.

Share Sizes and Options

What size is a vegetable share?

Regular Summer Shares generally contain between 9 lbs  to 14 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. Each share contains 9-12 individual items of produce.

Usually, a family or household of 2 – 4 people can eat a share. Two people who eat lots of vegetables and cook most meals, or four people who cook less frequently or typically eat vegetables as side dishes. Small households can freeze, dry, or can extras. Large households should seriously consider purchasing two shares.

Small Summer Shares generally contain between 5 lbs to 10 lbs of produce depending on the 6-8 items in each share.

We recommend Small Shares for families that cook several times per week, one or two person households, or as a supplement to home gardens.

The vegetables in the Fall Season 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.

Can I split a share, or are half-shares available?

We do not sell half-shares, but it is fine if you’d like to split a share with a friend or co-worker. 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.

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I have a question about my Bread or Herb Share

Bread Shares are managed and provided by Hungry Ghost Bread in Northampton, MA. If you have questions about your share, please contact them at (413) 582 9009.

Herb Shares are managed and provided by Sawmill Herb Farm in Northampton, MA. If you have any questions about your share, please contact them at sawmillherbs@gmail.com.

Organic Certification

Is my CSA share certified organic?

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.

What does it mean to be certified organic?

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.
usda certified organic logo

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.

organic cabbage interseeded with clover cover cropIf 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.

omri logo 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.

ryan standing in a great field of cover crops

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!