Fresh, hand picked vegetables, bagged or boxed with your name on it, and bound for your table every week of the growing season, sold to you by a local farmer.
That is what a Community Supported Farm does.
Three of Haverhill's largest farms which operate year round — Kimball Farm at 791 East Broadway, Fletcher Community Farm at 595 East Broadway and Stasinos Family Farm at 436 Salem St., — run annual CSA programs as a way to promote immediate sales of their fresh produce.
They begin in June and run to October or November.
"We have repeat customers who come back to us every year now, and that helps get business going right away," said Tyler Kimball of Kimball Farm.
It works like this: A subscriber who buys a share, or membership, in the CSA venture pre-pays a fixed dollar amount for a specific number of weeks in which to buy product from the farm. If a farm operates for 20 weeks and the customer pre-pays $500, that customer is allowed $25 worth of the weekly produce grown at the farm.
Fletcher Community Farm offers a way to reduce the cash payment with a work-to-share program developed by farm owner Don Cox.
"We offer a six-week program where if you work five hours a week, we give you half a share of your goods that week," Cox said.
The formula works for the farmer and buyer in several ways.
The farmer gets money up front when a buyer joins the program. The buyer becomes a member of that season's effort with the purchase of the membership. The up-front payment usually represents 50 percent of the value of the membership.
Kimball Farm requires a 50-percent deposit to join and the balance paid in full by June 1. The Stasinos Family Farm asks for 50 percent no later than April 15 and the balance paid when the member picks up their first order.
Fletcher Community Farm takes memberships with a 50-percent deposit through March 30 and the balance paid by April 30. The farm also offers the work-to-share program.
The Kimball Farm memberships are $275 for a family of two, $475 for a family of four and $600 for a family of six. The Stasinos Family Farm cost is $200 for one person, $350 for two people and $575 for three to four people.
At Fletcher Community Farm, which sells in half and full shares, a half share costs $400 or about $23 a week for a family of two. A full share is $700 or about $40 a week for a family of three or more.
To cover themselves in a bad growing season, experienced farms include a no-production clause in their agreements that tells customers the farms cannot guarantee produce if the farm has a poor growing season.
The pre-sale advantage of this farming system takes away a lot of the marketing and guess work that can make farming conservative, farmers said.
Meanwhile, members get fresh vegetables every week of the growing season, the system removes the middleman price jump, and the grower and buyer get to know each other — and it's all local.
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