Do you like gardening? Do you want to learn more about growing your own food? Would you like taking home fresh produce each week from a CSA box? Consider joining us as we try a new model of cooperative gardening: the DIY CSA in our large organic* garden.
*We are not certified organic, but we are synthetic-chemical free and practice no-dig.
CSA: Community-Supported Agriculture
If you’re familiar with CSAs, or community-supported agriculture, you know that it is a way for consumers to directly support small- to medium-scale market growers with what is essentially a subscription service. By purchasing your share, you are entitled to a box of farm produce on a regular schedule. This helps farmers by giving them an influx of support in the spring, when they need it most, and allows them to make sure all their delicious food is distributed to people who will enjoy it when it is ripe. CSA members get farm-fresh produce that often pushes them to expand their home cooking to incorporate new vegetables. CSAs are all around a positive and robust way to localize your foodweb.
If you are in southern Wisconsin and are interested in finding a CSA near you, check out FairShare CSA Coalition.
Most CSAs ask members to purchase a share, at a set price early in the year. At some CSAs, members can trade labor for a discount. We are going to experiment with a CSA that only has labor shares.
What is “Do It Yourself” about this CSA?
Unlike a typical CSA, where members buy a share upfront and then show up once a week to pick up a box, we are asking members to spend their time working in the garden to pay for their share. If you consider a typical weekly share at a CSA can run from $500–800, and we are asking for 30 work hours, the DIY CSA is on the low side at $450 (assuming $15/hour).
We are asking members to spend one hour per week to pay for their share. Members will be asked to perform tasks around the garden, from watering and weeding, to planting out, thinning, pruning, and more. After their hour, members can grab their box and pick out the produce on offer that week.
Whether you’re new to gardening or an old pro, you are welcome. We’ll be working with a master gardener who can walk newbies through the basics or chat with seasoned hands about best practices.
Wait, This Sounds Too Easy
You’re right. This is an experiment. We’re limiting the number of shares and we’re not sure exactly how successful this will be, as it is our first try of this model. You might end up with full boxes of great veggies every week. It might be boom and bust and then boom again.
By claiming a share, you do so with the understanding that you’re only guaranteed a share of the harvest, not a specific amount — just like any CSA.
That being said, each year we produce more than we can eat of cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, winter squashes, lettuce, peppers, raspberries, and apples. Barring tornadoes or other disasters, members will get something for their trouble. On the intake form, please be sure to list your favorites so we can take that into account when buying seeds.
A Typical Week
In a typical week, you would show up to start your selected shift and stop by the work board. This bulletin board will have assignments and the weekly share list. Assignments include weeding, watering, planting out starts, mulching, thinning, pruning, tidying, compost duty, harvesting, and more. Pick your duty, grab your tools, and go at it. We’ll have an orientation weekend so everyone is on the same page for each task. If you are new to gardening, we’ll make sure you get whatever support you need to take part.
When done, record your work, grab your box, and harvest and/or collect your weekly share. Example weekly shares for each month could be:
- April: Honey, Canned Goods(?)
- May: Lettuce, Bok Choi, Radishes, Green Onion
- June: Lettuce, Garlic Scapes, Raspberries, Rhubarb
- July: Lettuce, Cucumber, Tomato, Fingerling Potato
- August: Lettuce, Cucumber, Tomato, Okra, Grapes, Currants, Kale, Zucchini
- September: Lettuce, Tomato, Kale, Cabbage, Potatoes
- October: Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Cabbage, Apples
Season, Work Times, Etc.
The season runs from April to October. This is thirty weeks. Work can be completed throughout the week, but because we live here, we ask that you pick a regular time and generally adhere to that. Of course if you are on vacation and want to double up one week or need to change it, that is no problem — just let us know. We’ll use a google calender to keep organized.
I’m Interested . . .
Head over and bookmark the permanent page: https://lowtechinstitute.org/csa/, which will update throughout the season.
Please fill out the following intake form to be put on the list. This does not obligate you nor guarantee you a share. We will offer shares to people in the order they sign up, starting in February. We are asking for a $25 registration fee for each share when assigned. The fee and completion of the insurance liability waiver are needed before your share is assigned. For the first year, we’re limiting this to one share per person, two per household.
We will have an orientation meeting in early March on site.