Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Scheme

Our Communuity Supported Agriculture Scheme members enjoy a weekly supply of local fresh vegetables, all grown without the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides in Rushmere-St-Andrew, East Ipswich. Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and the local community, providing mutual benefits and reconnecting the people to the land where their food is grown.

CSA schemes have been popular in the USA and Japan for many years, and are now growing in the UK.  We are the first Community Supported Agriculture Farm in Suffolk!

working

Our Community Supported Agriculture Scheme is now fully subscribed for vegetable shares from June 2014 to May 2015. Watch this space, we will offer new shares for a veg box from June 2015 from Autumn 2014, on a first come, first served basis as always.

We don’t run a waiting list as all our members have signed up for a full year to end May 2015, so we don’t have any spare veg! Keep an eye on our website here, our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TheOakTreeLowCarbonFarm & our Twitter @OakTreeLCF account for the latest news.

CSA members enjoy an equal share of all the vegetables grown on the farm, for a weekly price of £8.

  • Members commit to work a minimum number of hours on the farm: at least two hours per week on average during the busy season (March – August), and one hour per week on average during the rest of the year (September – February). This work commitment is per share, i.e. may be shared between members of your household. For example:
    • a couple with a single share might choose to work one 8-hour day together once every eight weeks during the busy season
    • a single shareholder might choose to work two one-hour evening sessions each week during the busy season.

    This commitment may include work to administer/publicise the CSA if you wish (by agreement with the farm) . Please note that members who sign up after 1st March begin their work commitment from the date they join, not from the first of March – we don’t ask you to start with a backlog of hours to work!

  • Members and their families are welcome at free social events at the farm to celebrate changes in the seasons, including our annual harvest meal.
  • Minimum veg share membership one year from beginning of June 2014 – end May 2015- cancellation by written agreement with the farm only- and only if there is a very good reason for it, eg moving away from the area.  Payment annually in advance by cheque or bank transfer, or monthly in advance by standing order, from 1st June 2014.
  • New members pay a deposit of £25 on filling in their membership form which will be refunded at the end of the first year of membership (end May 2015) if all payment and work comittments have been met.
  • Members have the opportunity to buy a side of Oak Tree Pork, free-range pastured eggs in their weekly box, a weekly bunch of flowers in season, along with a Christmas goose.

veg-box-wb10-09-12Find out what our members say about the Community Supported Agriculture Scheme on our Members’ Testimonials page.

Do you have a summary of what is happening when at the farm?

Yes, here are the key dates for CSA members.

Can you tell me exactly what vegetables I will receive each month?
No, except that it will be one fifty fourth of the vegetables grown on two and a quarter acres by the farm professional growers with the help of CSA members.  To see what previous shares have included see our regular photos and descriptions of the weekly shares. And you can see the contents of the lastest box here We invite members to complete an annual veg survey to say what they would prefer to see in their boxes over the year to come. Here are the results for 2013.

We try to keep the volume of the veg in the boxes as even through the year as possible, but inevitably there are seasons of plenty, such as the autumn when we enjoy plentiful sweetcorn, beans, carrots, squash and more, and the summer when we enjoy abundant lettuce, tomatoes, courgettes, Swiss chard, among many other crops.  Wintertime brings parsnips, leeks, brassicas and more.

The really hard time is “the hungry gap” which is typically April/May when the winter crops have all but finished, and the spring crops haven’t yet started.  We’ll work hard to keep the shares as generous and varied as possible, crops include sprouting brocolli, Swiss chard, winter salads including rocket and spring greens.

In 2013 some of our members got together to create the farm preserving group. We will distribute the fruits of their labour among all our members in some of the hungry gap boxes in the spring!

We also run a members only Wild Food Walk free of charge each year in the spring.

Very occasionally we cancel the weekly boxes if the harvest is too small to justify distributing the boxes, but this happens at most a couple of times a year, all being well.

I live miles away, is there something similar near me?

The short answer is we don’t know. There isn’t an up to date list of all the UK Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Schemes. That is why Joanne is helping to set up a new National CSA Network in her free time, one of the things we hope to do is set up a new website with all a proper listing of the UK Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes. We need your help with this.

But I don’t know how to cook half of those!
Don’t worry, we share recipes on our website for unusual vegetables, and we welcome your ideas for other members on how to make the best of the harvest!

I’m interested in the chickens, pigs and geese. Can I get involved with them?

Goslings_smYes, absolutely!  The farm livestock is intimately interlinked with the veg production as our animals eat much of the waste veg from the farm (stuff that really is too damaged or past it to go in the veg boxes!) and provide fertility for the soil with their manure. Members already have the opportunity to get involved in caring for the poultry & pigs as part of their CSA work commitment, and we plan to get beef cattle too in 2014!

When can I work on the farm?
Any time during daylight hours!  For your first few sessions we suggest you join one of our sociable Saturday working parties.  Once you have learnt the ropes you are welcome to visit the farm alone, or with other CSA members, to complete jobs from the current task list.  Tools, seeds, fertilizers etc. are all provided, as is water, tea and milk.  Many of us like proper coffee so we ask members who are fellow coffee drinkers to contribute a bag of ground coffee from time to time.  Please bring a packed lunch if you plan to stay all day.

Hang on, you want me to pay and work?
We’re competing with cheap, oil-powered, large scale industrial agriculture.  We do our very best to offer good value, excellent tasting, completely fresh, locally grown vegetables and a very direct link between members and the farm. Above all, the CSA is a community of people growing food together, and many members find working at the farm not only satisfying, rewarding and sociable, but also good fun!

In the long run, our costs will stay moderate as the cost of oil, and as a result, chemical fertilisers, grow, so the long term aim is to offer excellent value.  In the meantime we do the very best we can.  The farm is a not-for-profit social entreprise, so you can be sure that all your money goes into developing the farm to provide excellent food for the benefit of CSA members.

How does one CSA share compare to growing vegetables on an allotment?
A standard allotment, which is intended to feed a family when cultivated by an experienced gardener, is one sixteenth of an acre.  By comparison one CSA share is grown on just over one twenty fifth of an acre.  Joanne was an allotment holder for many years, and her experiences were pretty similar to these from a telegraph article which suggests a minimum weekly workload of at least 12 hours per week, compared with minimum 2 hours per week as a CSA member – with the added benefit of flexibility in the CSA so you can take time off without worrying.

Many newcomers to allotment holding fail to achieve good yields due to lack of experience and shortage of time or commitment.  As a CSA member your work commitment is far lighter than serious allotment holding, and you don’t have to worry who will water your crops when you are on holiday!  All seeds, compost, machinery, tools, etc. etc. are included in your CSA membership.

Can my children come along?
Children under 18 are welcome at the farm, however they remain the responsibility of their parents/guardians at all times.  Please remember that this is a working farm, so take care to follow any health and safety instructions given.

Can I bring my dog along?
No, sorry, we don’t allow dogs on the farm.

Isn’t this just another vegetable box scheme?
Well, the weekly shares will come in returnable ex-mushroom boxes, but that is where the similarity ends!

All the vegetables included in the weekly CSA share will be grown on The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm, and while members share the risk of some crops failing, your annual commitment to the farm and your work on the farm ensures you get your vegetables at a better price than many organic box schemes.  You eat completely with the seasons, from fresh sweetcorn in the late summer, to sprouting brocolli in the early spring. Most box schemes buy in at least some of their vegetables, often from abroad during the difficult months. We never do as it is against our philosophy of ultra local, ultra fresh food.

Is The Oak Tree certified organic?
No, and we’re not allowed to use the “O” word because we’re not certified.  All cultivation at The Oak Tree is done without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or other chemicals, and we use only natural non-chemical pest control and fertilisers.

Organic certification costs around £500 per year and imposes considerable paperwork overhead, and might mean we couldn’t use the horse manure from our friendly neighbouring stable yard, and other similar constraints, which would in turn increase our carbon emissions.

Can I “share a share” with someone else?
Yes, no problem.  All we ask is that we receive one single monthly standing order, per share, and we will prepare each share in a single box – you’ll need to arrange delivery and split the veg between you yourselves.  This is simply to keep the administration and packing work down for the farm, so we can spend more time growing the vegetables.  Members who “share a share” are welcome to share their farm work commitment.

Can I come and have a look before I decide whether or not to join?
When we are seeking new members, yes, but at present we are fully subscribed so we are not currently inviting prospective members to visit. Find out here how to visit to The Oak Tree Farm.

It sounds great!  How do I join?
Our Community Supported Agriculture Scheme is now fully subscribed for vegetable shares from June 2014 to May 2015. Watch this space, we will offer new shares for a veg box from June 2015 from this Autumn, on a first come, first served basis as always.

Just to give you an idea of what is involved in case you are interested in joining in future years, here is our: Membership form 2014 2015 new members

Please note that members who signed up after 1st March begin their work commitment from the date they join, not from the first of March – we don’t ask you to start with a backlog of hours to work! This isn’t on the form simply to keep things simple :)

Please note that there are only ever a limited number of places available, which are always allocated on a first come, first served basis. While your vegetable share would begin in Jun, your work commitment (as described above) would begin in March – there is a lot of work to do to get the new crops established before they can be harvested! Please note that members who sign up after 1st March begin their work commitment from the date they join, not from the first of March – we don’t ask you to start with a backlog of hours to work!

As explained on the form, completing & signing the membership form is a definite commitment (other than in exceptional circumstances by written agreement with the farm) – we need this certainty to plan in advance for next year’s growing season.

Any other questions?
Please contact us.