CSAs have become a popular way for customers to pay for their shares of the harvest upfront, and then receive product "dividends" as produce becomes available. Or, to put it another way: A CSA is a win/win approach that gives Marini Farm upfront money at the start of the season when it is needed the most to buy its seeds and supplies to produce food. Customers, in turn, feel more connected to the farm by investing in crops ahead of time, then coming weekly to pick up their shares of fresh produce.
The CSA, which Marini Farm started in 2011, has become so popular that it is fully subscribed for the 2013 growing season, with a waiting list already begun for 2014.
Customers who have invested in Marini Farms' CSA help preserve what has been one of the largest growing vegetable farms on the North Shore for more than 80 years.
"Our CSA is a great way to receive locally grown delicious fruits and vegetables at up to 20 to 50 percent the cost if you purchased the same quality at a supermarket," noted owner Mike Marini. "Local produce travels far less than grocery produce by as much as 1,500 miles which ensures a higher level of freshness."
Other benefits include:
- The ability to try a full variety of fruits and vegetables, and perhaps discover new and unusual produce you like that you may not have eaten before.
- A "swap system" whereby if customers find there is something they do not want in their share upon arrival, they can opt to place it in a swap bin, from which they may choose a replacement item. The swap bin is filled with excess produce from the field and the farm stand. Based on an honor system, the swap system expects a customer to put back into the bin approximately what he or she took out, allowing other CSA members to enjoy the swap throughout the day.
- Receiving fresh produce each week on schedule helps customers maintain a commitment to eating their vegetables.
- Higher quality: local vegetables and fruits in season are the freshest and most flavorful produce available.
- Eating produce based on IPM (Integrated Pest Management), which Marini Farm has used for more than three decades and considers to be the safest method of producing crops.
- Pick-up day can be a great social event to share recipes and stories.
- Fruit is added to shares at no additional cost (most other CSAs offer a separate fruit share).
"By receiving payment in March we hope to be able to pay for the cost of seeds and lessen the yearly start-up loans," Marini explained. "By May, we are now paying a full staff to plant and maintain the growing crops on more than 200 acres, which is how we grow the quality of produce that has built the excellent reputation of Marini Farm for eight decades."