What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. According to the USDA, CSA philosophically refers to a "community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes...the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production." It can also imply an economic relationship between farmer and consumer, often called subscription farming. In other words, a subscriber agrees to buy a minimum amount of produce at a fixed price, often paying in advance for the subscription.
While we haven't paid in advance, we have committed to buying a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 shares (or veggie boxes) each week. This commitment creates a guaranteed market for the farm's produce.
How does the CSA work for our district?
Each week 3-5 boxes of fresh produce are harvested from Drumlin Farm's fields. After being washed and sorted, they are driven only 15 miles to our school kitchens then find their way to our school salad bars and grab-and-go salads. Weekly items include lettuce, kale, spinach, radishes and spring turnips. We also receive other abundant vegetables throughout the season to support the farm and keep our salad bar options exciting.
|Hand harvested greens!|
|Plants covered in Remay are protected from pests and the elements|
|Turnips for days|
|Radish, spring turnips, and spring greens on the salad bar.|
What are the benefits and challenges of this partnership?
We asked Lauren Mancini, Somerville Food and Nutrition Services Director, Pauline Uccello, Somerville Food and Nutrition Services Assistant Director and Matt Celona, Lead Farmer at Drumlin Farm to share their thoughts.
1) What are the challenges to sourcing local directly from farms?
"Working with purchasing laws and drafting the appropriate bid and contract language is a challenge. Also, it is hard for us to accept whole items, such as whole winter squash, that require peeling and chopping. Choosing the right produce is key to success." Lauren Mancini
"Pricing and staying within budget are concerns for us. Limited delivery days and locations can create logistical challenges." Pauline Uccello
"Guessing what kids will want to eat." Matt Celona