Why Join Henry’s CSA? (the complete answers)
Eating with the seasons means eating what is happiest…when it is happiest. And I honestly think that makes you and your body the happiest, too.
Although there is a lot of talk about eating with the seasons, unless you grow your own food in your own backyard it is pretty much impossible to do. It’s oxymoronic, but these days you can even get locally-grow out-of-season produce, thanks to season extension technology, much of which uses lots of electricity from coal-fired power plants, plastics and fossil fuel. But our motto at Henry’s Farm is “Make Our Farm Your Backyard Garden.” Just like you would go out to your garden and pick whatever is ripe and ready, we do the same, just on a larger scale.
As a member of Henry’s CSA, you will eat what Nature wants you to eat that week. Each week we pick what Nature (the soil, the weather, the ecological web of organisms) did best at growing to maturity that week. Out of the 50 or so different crops that I harvest each week, you will get the 7 to 9 that are at their peak.
I can usually get lettuce to grow even in August, but it is not very happy then. I still sell it at the farmers market because the customers want it even in the heat of summer, but you and I won’t eat lettuce then. Why bother, when the long, hot days of summer are heaven for tomatoes and cucumbers, and they taste like it, too. A tomato in October? It’s not very happy. It’s chilled, pining for sunlight and worn out from producing fruit through a long, long season. But a butternut squash? It holds within its shiny, laquered shell all that summer sun, now converted to sugars and Vitamin A, fiber and phytochemicals, bursting with flavor and nutrition. That’s what you and I will eat in October.
As a CSA member, you will eat like I do-- truly with the seasons. And you don’t even have to work at it, don’t even have to think about it. Nature does the thinking for us, selecting what is best for us--as one of the threads in this Midwestern web of life--each week of the season.
Every farming season is an adventure in growing and eating and living and as a CSA member, you will be an active participant in that adventure.
Not only are we the least expensive CSA around, but our 26-week season is one of the longest in the Midwest. Make sure to compare the per-week cost when comparing CSAs.
At $445 for 26 weeks of produce ($16.75/week), you won’t find a more reasonably priced CSA anywhere. And I guarantee that you will get at least $16.75 worth of produce per week, averaged out over the entire season. I also guarantee that you will get 6-9 different vegetables each week. If you are already a frequent shopper at farmers markets, you know that most produce costs at least $2.50 to $3 per unit, so simple multiplication tells you that you will be getting well over $16.75-worth of produce each week.
In the 16-year history of Henry’s CSA, the actual value of the produce in the share has always exceeded the price that the members paid. Not only are we low-priced to start out with, but then we give you more than what you pay for—far more.
To give you some hard numbers, last year the real value of the weekly share averaged nearly $21. In other words, members paid $16.75 a week but received $21-worth of produce. For the 26-week price of $435, they received about $545 worth of produce. That’s $110 of free produce! Or to look at it another way, that’s like getting a 20% discount at the farmers market.
The basic philosophy of the CSA model is that the farmer and the members are in it together. When times are good, the farmer shares the bounty with the members and when times are lean, the members tighten their belts along with the farmer. In my CSA, though, you will never have to tighten your belt. Since more than half of what I grow is produced for the farmers market rather than for the CSA, in bad times, I can always pull produce away from the market offerings to feed my CSA members instead. And since CSA members have already paid up, feeding you always comes first.
While you won’t need to worry about lean times, you will definitely share in bountiful times. When each crop on the farm is at its peak productivity, I usually end up with more of it than I can possibly sell in a week. Rather than letting it go to waste, I pass that excess on to you, the CSA member. For example, when tomatoes peaked last year, each CSA member got 4 pounds of tomatoes! That’s covers half of the cost of that week’s share right there and there were still 5 other items in the share. The actual value of the share that week came to $26. And since a different crop is peaking almost every week on the farm, you will be sharing in the excess bounty of the farm almost every week, too.
I do this in a number of ways. First, I build choice into the weekly list of produce, often providing a choice of two or more different roots (e.g. beets or carrots), herbs (parsley or dill), and/or greens (lettuce or mesclun salad mix or arugula). In addition, downstate CSA members may use the Exchange Table, while Evanston CSA members have a generous substitution policy.
If abundance is the up-side of the CSA model for the member, the upside for me as the farmer is that I get to decide what goes into the share each week. This makes my farm incredibly efficient. I can harvest crops exactly when they need to be harvested for best taste, best nutritional value, and best use of time and space. I can plan my harvests to avoid crop losses due to pests, weeds, and inclement weather. Basically, my ability to choose what to harvest, when, and how much makes my farm far more efficient, productive, and sustainable—and that is what makes it possible for me to give you $110-worth of free produce and still make a living at it.
My ability to choose what to put in the share each week, of course, translates into a relative lack of choice in what you get in your share. This can be a problem for some people. I will come right out and say it: if you are a picky eater, then the CSA is not for you.
That said, because in my CSA you pick out your own produce rather than picking up a pre-packaged box (as in most other CSAs), I have been able to come up with three methods to give you quite a lot of choice in what you get each week.
First of all, I build choice into the weekly list of produce. Cilantro is a great example. It’s one of those things that people seem to either love or detest. So, nine times out of ten, if I put cilantro in the share, I pair it up with something else, usually dill. So on your share list that week, it will say “Choose cilantro or dill.” Almost every week of the season, the share list will contain several choices like this.
Secondly, for downstate CSA members, I have an Exchange Table where members can exchange something they don’t want for something they do. (Please see FAQ #9 “How does the Exchange Table work?” below for the details.)
For Evanston Farmers Market members I have a Substitution Policy that allows you to substitute three of the items in your share for alternatives of your choice. (Please see FAQ #11 “How does the Substitution Policy for the Evanston Farmers Market CSA work?” for the details.)
All these choices means that you should never have to go home with a vegetable you dislike!
By joining my CSA, you become a fighter against the current high-consumption, high-waste civilization that is ravaging our planet. As consumers of food grown in a sustainable way, you are initiators of a circle of health that extends from you to the entire planet. Eating my highly nutritious food makes you healthier, and it also makes my farm healthier. And my healthy farm makes the larger ecosystem surrounding it healthier, and that makes our entire planet healthier. And it all starts with you and each forkful of food you eat. So, join the CSA—help save the world!
I can think of no better model for a sustainable farming system than an authentic CSA. The direct connection between me, the grower of the food, and you, the eaters of the food, allows me to be the best possible farmer. It makes the farm super-efficient and highly sustainable, in both economic and ecological senses.
the same, just on a larger scale.
What is a good farmer? A good farmer is a person who raises Good Food. I define Good Food as food that tastes good, is good for you, and is raised in a manner that is good for the environment, and that is what I try to do.
These three “goods” are all linked and interrelated. Only highly nutritious produce tastes delicious. The nutrients in produce are what give it flavor. In turn, highly nutritious food can only come from a healthy soil and healthy environment. That means that to grow delicious, nutritious food, I have to work with nature to protect the environment and ecology of my soil, my fields, my farm—and in the process leave this piece of land as healthy and productive as it was before I started farming it. By protecting and sustaining my farm, I am also doing my part in protecting and sustaining the larger environment surrounding the farm.
I do not pollute the air or the water with toxic agrichemicals. I conserve energy and resources. I even combat rather than contribute to global warming by improving my soil (i.e., instead of releasing carbon into the atmosphere where it enhances the greenhouse effect, my crops pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and sequester carbon in the soil in the form of stored organic matter).
I couldn’t do any of this without you. I can only farm the way that I do because people like you eat what I grow. So, join the CSA, and help make our world a better place. Thank you!
Evanston Market CSA Details
In almost every way, the CSA for Evanston area members works exactly like my CSA in central Illinois. For all the details about the length of the season, the price, what kinds and amounts of vegetables you will receive, and all other basic information about the CSA, please refer back to the main CSA page and read the rest of the “Prospective Members FAQs.”
The only real difference for Evanston Farmers Market members is how the pick-up works.
Where: You will pick up your produce each Saturday of the season at my stand at the Evanston Farmer Market, in the far northwest corner of the market.
What time: Anytime between 6 and 10 a.m.
Season length: 26 market Saturdays, starting with the second to last market in May and ending with the pre-Thanksgiving Market
How to pick up your weekly share:
A. Every Monday evening we will email you the CSA Food and Farm Notes, which will list the produce you will pick up the following Saturday. This is the same email that goes out to my downstate CSA members, who pick up their produce on Tuesdays, so don’t be confused if you see references to Tuesdays, Bloomington/Normal, etc. (You may already receive the email that goes out to Evanston Farmers Market customers on Thursday, but please use the Monday evening email to find out what's in that week’s CSA share—it is clearly identified as the Henry’s Farm CSA email.)
B. We will pick your produce on Thursday and Friday.
C. On Saturday, come to the market between 6 and 10 a.m. with the list of the items in your share that week from the Tuesday email.
D. Check in with me. I’ll mark your name off the membership list and then we will go over the share list together. For example, say it is August and your list reads: sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, beets and Swiss chard. I will say, “Okay, this week you get 4 ears of corn, 2 lbs. of tomatoes, 1 cucumber…etc.”
E. Walk through the stand picking up your items from the market display. In other words, it’s self-serve! The CSA produce will not be separated from the market produce and we won’t have your share pre-bagged for you. You will bring your own bag, pick out your produce from the display tables and bag up your own produce.
See Prospective Member FAQ #13 and #14 for what to do if you can’t make it to the market one week. See #11 for details about the Substitution Policy.