Community is the reason we farm with a Community Supported Agriculture method. While it seems like a cyclical argument... Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs aren't all the same. Many of our regional CSAs are either 1) programmed subscriptions offered by coops and logistics companies or 2) customized drop-offs where customers will rarely meet each other or their farmers. Our CSA takes a much different approach... we grow food while getting to know, meet and assist ALL of our members in enjoying the most nutritious food in the region.
There is no 3rd party handling the relationship between our members and us, the farmers. This website to facilitate payments and present introductory information is about as far as any customer will be from us. The money paid through subscriptions directly offset our costs of operations and mortgages. Our members are our Risk Management System, paying for us to grow difficult heirloom crops with their rare, fragile flavors and also to work with over 50 inexperienced yet aspiring workshares and volunteers to produce this unique food. Every dollar spent on subscriptions ensures our continued operation year to year.
Our form of farm operations is a Social Enterprise. Our decisions are made to serve the community of eaters who support our farm, such as the decision to replace Half Shares with Market Memberships. Our Subscription members are our first priority in how we design and grow our business (as we hope is evident in ALL of our product offerings). It's clearly not the 'easy money' we are after... it is the deeper and longer lasting personal connections with the human beings who are being nourished by our work.
A Community that Cooks Together
A major undertaking which began in 2008 has been to build a food processing kitchen here at the farm. This will provide an easy and accessible way for our members to can, dry, freeze and ferment their food at a community scale. It has been our driving force to ensure that our products enter customers bodies and not just waste away in back of the fridge. While we have studied and generated an all inclusive kitchen plan in our barn, we have been building a more community focused (and significantly less expensive) summer kitchen near the farmhouse.
Fresh Air, Water, Soil
We have also taken the official position to not sell any of our Marcellus gas rights. While the rush is on and our neighbors laugh in our faces, we refuse to sign away our future air and water rights to multinational corporations for money. To us, it would be selling the soul of the Earth that we so carefully steward on your behalf. We produced this document with the University of Pittsburgh's Environmental Law Center to explain the risks to farmers who frack.
Our systems of producing food are constantly improving. As we learn new techniques for soil and water conservation, establishing microbial habitat and reducing our fertilizer inputs, we adapt our production systems to ensure that we are producing the healthiest most nutrient dense food offered in our region.
Empowering Regional Resilience
Some achievements we've made along the way include extensive work in informing the design of the regional food system. On the rare occasion that schedules align for us to attend meetings with local, regional and statewide agencies to discuss how to rebuild our local food connections, we take the time. We are currently serving on the Mayor of Pittsburgh's Regional Resilience Steering Committee and as a regional representative for the Pennsylvania Women's Agriculture Network.
We launched our Garden Share program in 2012 to help members who couldn't afford the time and money to travel to our farm each week. Their early success in growing bumper crops of their own CSA shares have led us to expand to over 50 members in 2015. We have not found any CSA program in the country that is comparable. We are now offering this horticultural convenience to community scale producers such as the Tarentum Friendship Gardens and Community Human Services.