How does it work?
With many thanks to Ant our predecessor from whom we have adopted much of the framework for our CSA.
What do I get in my box?
The contents of your box will change throughout the season. Our season starts in November and lastly on average 22 weeks; with cherries and apricots, then peaches, nectarines and plums, and finishes with apples and pears. We have over 5000 trees in the orchard and over 100 varieties. Sometimes you might get a lot of one fruit but they will always include diverse varieties.
The box will contain some ‘seconds’ grade fruit. The value and weight of the box is a guide. Where the box is underweight (eg. at the start and end of the season) the value will still be high.
Can I decide what’s in my box?
By buying a share in the farm, you agree to receive a share of that which it produces from week to week – meaning sometimes your favourite fruit may have had a bad season, or if one particular variety has a bumper harvest, we will share in its abundance.
What if I forget to pick my box up?
If you forget your box at the CFM on Wednesdays it will come back to the Farm Shop in Harcourt. If you can’t make it out to get it here we will pass it on to a friend or charity.
What if I get too much of something?
Is there such a thing as too much yummy organic fruit?!
We will do our best to share recipes and tips throughout the season, particularly if we have loads of one thing to share.
Why is there a suggested price range?
In alignment with the concept of ‘risk sharing’ and following on from the system that Ant developed we invite customers to name a price for their subscription.
The basic premise is that more affluent members of our community who can afford to, can elect to contribute more towards their share, in order to enable less well off members to access shares at a lower cost.
How is CSA different to other food box schemes?
CSA is based on the ‘Teikei Principles’ and is a risk sharing, direct relationship between farmers and eaters.
It aims to address systemic health, community, economic, environmental and political issues.
What does ‘risk sharing’ actually mean?
Growing food is an unpredictable business. Factors such as weather, pests and disease and natural disasters are often out of the control of the farmer.
If the risk is shared amongst the community, the impact is softened rather than one person/family taking the full brunt of it. Farmers provide crucial support for their communities by feeding them. CSA is about asking for that support to be mutual.
In the event of crop failure each CSA member may eat less fruit or a lower quality as opposed to the farmer being stuck with a huge loss. This support network is required to help reduce farmer attrition and improve the mental health of farmers.
It is our job as farmers to mitigate this risk and improvise solutions where possible. Diversity of crop varieties, encouraging ecology and value adding are some methods of doing this. CSA provides us with the guaranteed income so that we can invite in these solutions and build a more resilient farming system.
Can I visit the farm?
Yes! We love visitors (during open hours). As a CSA member you will be subscribed to our newsletter to hear about opening hours, events, farm tours, workshops and ‘pick your own’ days.
We may also host special CSA member-only events and a range of on-farm training workshops.
Please contact us in advance so we can let others working at the farm know or advise if it is not a suitable time to visit – we are very mindful of who is on farm in fire season.
Why sign up when I can see you at the markets?
Aside from the additional value members receive (e.g. first access to premium/limited fruit varieties), CSA aims to address many systemic issues through collectivisation and solidarity (eg. food sovereignty and solidarity economy).
How do you calculate the value of the fruit & box?
We keep track of the value of the box for transparency and in the hopes that CSA members end up with more value than what they put in at the start of the season. We’re aiming for 20% but it depends in good part of the season. However we don’t want CSA share to be understood as a discount per se – we are really hoping to cultivate a relationship with our members and to give you all as much insight as you would like in to running the orchard.
The value of the box is based on our retail prices at the farmers markets. This changes week to week. We calculate the retail price for each variety through looking at a combination of other prices: we look at what Ant, Hugh and Katie have priced things at in the past, we check wholesale organic prices, prices in Melbourne shops and markets, prices in local shops and we also take in to consideration what quantity we’ve harvested / have in stock for that variety.
We are not factoring in paying ourselves much for the work we do (current estimate is about $5 per hour). We are getting more efficient as we learn and have good systems in place but the large amount of labor is still there. On that front we are also looking at alternatives such as CSA members participating actively in the farm work as well as other source of income at the farm to compensate for the systemic low cost of food and making the orchard sustainable.
The value of the first boxes in our 21/22 season was particularly high in large part due to our retail prices for cherries. More broadly the prices this season were between $40-60 for organic cherries. We decided to go with $35 and $30 per kg for our first varieties. It’s been a tough season for cherries and we’ve only had two varieties that have produced really well this year. This week our cherries price will be $25 so the value of the box will likely drop. We’ve just harvested more peaches and a lot of apricots so we may choose to have very good amount of fruit in this week’s box (which will keep the value high).
More FAQs to come…. or send us yours!