Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about our CSA program. Click on each question to display the answer. 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 for a given season. 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 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. For more information, check out our What’s In A Share page.

What are the CSA dates for each season?

Summer CSA: Generally begins the first week of June and runs for 20 consecutive weeks into October.

Fall CSA: Every other week for a total of four (4) distributions beginning in November into December.

Deep Winter CSA: Every other week for a total of six (6) distributions  beginning January through mid-March.

Spring CSA: Every other week for a total of four (4) distributions beginning late-March through early May.

How do pickups work?

Members come each week to their selected location to pick up their share. At most pickup locations, produce is displayed on tables in a farmers market-style so that you can select the items that you want within the weekly guidelines. Other sites have pre-boxed shares waiting to be handed out to members.

A coordinator will usually be there to check you in and answer any questions about the vegetables and how to cook them. If you have an unboxed site, please bring your own reusable bags or containers to take home your produce. Picking up your share would typically take about 10-15 minutes and involves weighing some items and selecting your produce.

What is the difference between the produce in my share and what is sold at 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 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 one acre of greenhouse space compared to150 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 forget to pick up my share?

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

All of our shares are harvested, packed, and delivered in precise numbers. This makes it impossible to manage makeup shares on the large scale that we provide our CSA. That said, you can be assured your missed share is not wasted, as we partner with a variety of local food relief organizations across the state to donate all remaining produce at the end of the day.

What if I'm going on vacation/need to miss a future pickup?

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.

But if that arrangement won’t work for you for a given week, we can be extremely flexible with the logistics of your share so long as we have advanced notice. For changes to future pickups, we require notice via email or phone call by our weekly deadline of 12 p.m. on the Friday before your requested change. Please note that change requests that come in after this deadline may not be able to be accommodated. But again, as long as you let us know in advance, we can make your schedule work for us!

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

Please note that we are unable to customize shares for individual members. However, 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 (Ex: You can trade in the share’s allotment of cucumbers for the zucchini that someone else didn’t need). You might also consider bringing said item home and giving it to a friend, neighbor, or coworker who loves that strange-looking kohlrabi more than you. You never know what people may enjoy!

Pricing & Payment Information

Is a CSA 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.

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

Early in the growing season when shares are more greens-heavy, it is not uncommon for members to need to source some produce from farmers markets for complete meals. August and September is our peak season, and the size of the share will grow to reflect our fields’ increasing bounty as the season wears on.

How do I pay for my share?

Many CSA members choose to pay for their entire CSA upfront before the season begins. We love when members elect to do this, as it helps the farm immensely during pre-season preparations (buying seeds, budgeting for labor, making new hires, etc.) and is in spirit of the “buying into a farm” aspect that  the CSA program represents.

That said, we also offer a payment plan option that allows members to submit a $100 deposit at time of signup with subsequent installments due towards paying off the balance of the share later during the season (installment dates for the Summer CSA fall on July 1st, August 1st, September 1st, and October 1st).

For all payments, we accept written checks and PayPal. Please note, however, that PayPal deducts a percentage of the transaction as a processing fee, so we prefer the check option from members when possible. Thanks!

All CSA check payments should be mailed to: 184 Meadow Road, Montague, MA 01351. If you have questions about your remaining balance owed, please email us at

For more information about making payments, please visit our Make A Payment page.

Can I use SNAP/HIP to pay for my shares?

Yes, you can! We warmly welcome SNAP/HIP customers at our retail locations and in our CSA program. We believe delicious, organic produce is for everyone to enjoy!

Currently, the state offers a SNAP CSA pilot program that allows members to have their monthly dollar allotments applied toward paying for their shares. PDF forms for a given season can be found at the top of the CSA signups linked on our Join Our CSA page.

For questions about or help with the SNAP CSA program, please email our CSA manager at

Share Sizes & Options

What size options are there for shares?

For the Summer CSA season, we offer two different share sizes.

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, we recommend this share size for a household of 2-4 people (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). It’s also good for smaller households that like to freeze, dry, or can extra produce. Households larger than this 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. There is also typically one item from the Regular Share that does not exist in the Small Share. We recommend Small Shares for households of 1-2 people (small families that cook a few times per week )or as a supplement to home gardens.

Please note that changes to your share size can be made at any time during the Summer season. Just send us an email and we can get your pickup adjusted as needed!

Shares for the Fall, Deep Winter and Spring CSA come in just one size, which is is comparable to the Regular Summer Share in size and designed to span the two-week gap between pickups during these seasons. The vegetables in the Fall Season Share. These seasons are mostly comprised of root crops, onions, squashes and other items that store well, although there are still plenty of greens later on, too. Each share consists of 14-20 pounds of mixed produce.

Can I split a share with someone else?

While we don’t sell half-shares, it is fine absolutely 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 email addresses of folks who want to receive the newsletters and updates.

Our Organic Certification

Is my CSA share organic?

Yes, our vegetable shares are 100% certified organic!

That means every single vegetable in our shares are certified organic. In fact, nearly all the crops we grow on our farm are certified organic. Typically, 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. When this occasionally isn’t so, we’ll let you know in the CSA newsletter.

A few notes on other shares:

  • All egg share add-ons are certified organic.
  • Flower and dahlia shares are certified organic, except one type of flower: lisianthus. This variety 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.
  • Fruit shares have elements that aren’t organic, as we don’t grow all of the items found in this add-on. As such, we buy in many of the fruits, like apples, peaches, and others, from local orchards that use conventional methods. The watermelons and cantaloupes 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 “Local Good” 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, however.

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 of 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. You can visit the 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!