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As Promised – Guest Post re CSA

Reflections on My C.S.A. Involvement

Observations from a New C.S.A. Member

Guest Post by Matthew Donoher

I joined a CSA this spring.  This has been my first involvement with any group of this sort.  It was briefly stated at my introduction/recruitment that I would be charged a fee, based on a sliding scale in accord with my income.  This could be paid initially in full or by placing a down payment (which would be used to acquire the start up costs that a Farmer might use for seeds etc.).  I then could make weekly payments, at the time of pickup to pay off the balance.  Each week a distribution of locally grown, organic vegetables and fruits would be made at a designated time and place.  Fruit is available at an additional cost, as are cheese, eggs, meat and wine (at the particular CSA of my membership).  A condition of membership is involvement with the distribution for two periods of 2-1/2 hours.  The distribution time is a four-hour period and it takes approximately ½ hour to set up and then break down the site.

At the time the program got under way this spring I was unemployed and I would come to the distributions at about 4:15, just as the site coordinator would be starting setup, and I would volunteer my services in doing the same.  From this practice I became acquainted with how the organization worked out in the practical applications.

The farmer drops of the shipment in the early afternoon (an act which I never witnessed),  the contents of which may or may not be known to the powers that be.  At sometime after 4:00,  the site coordinator and volunteer staff (members fulfilling their obligatory service) would begin setup.  The site coordinator ultimately delegates individuals to tasks to which they are suited (lifting or nonlifting).

Setup involves pulling out tables from storage and bringing them to position in the yard, if it is clear and if not, under the porch roof.  Then the produce is hauled, bushel and box and sorted by its type, taken from the pallets the farmer left earlier.  All of the necessary scales to measure are dealt out, along with the chalkboards which are scribed to identify the produce.  Let us not forget about the eggs & cheese, and whatever additional items.

It is at this time it seems that all of the distribution is evaluated and the quantities for each share are calculated and determined by count and or weight, because the delivery content can vary from the expected lot.  All of this occurs in about a half-hour with a staff that probably is inexperienced to the task at hand (you might include indifference to the demeanor of the individual delegated to the role, although it is not the general attitude).

Breakdown is different from Setup; although I never participated actively, I was present for part of one and I can elaborate on the actions.  Now there is all that was brought out of storage which requires to be put away. Although there are no full containers of produce, there is the residual share and left-over produce which has to be sold, donated or put away.  Trash has to be removed and a general cleanup of the grounds is required.  All of this with a staff that is anxious to leave as soon as possible having fulfilled their obligation, and all of this occurs — get ready — in the DARK.  Would you want to be a site coordinator?  Positions are available.

I believe this is why there are two coordinators at a site, one for each detail, Setup & Breakdown, at least to my observation.

It has been an interesting involvement, being a member in this organization, which began this spring. The location is easy enough for me to get to, I usually ride my bike there, its located just off Church and Flatbush avenues. All in total I feel it has been worth the while. I like this group, I meet people of interest with every visit, and I have developed some new friendships, (always worthwhile) and this will continue until some time in the fall.(at least). The food is a subject for another writing, I can say in all honesty that my refrigerator is stuffed with all sorts of leafy vegetation. With consideration I just may do it again next year.

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