Why Join a CSA? Bringing 100% Local, Grass-Fed Beef to the Long Island CSA Bounty
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a member-based farm business model that is gaining popularity as more farmers seek a direct sales route to their customers.
In a CSA, members purchase a share of a farm’s annual production at the beginning of each growing season in exchange for a weekly subscription of what is available. The movement has grown since its blossoming in the early 1980s when one of the first CSA farms started in our home base of Amagansett.
Connecting directly with our community is important to us at Acabonac Farms, which is why we partner with local vegetable CSAs to incorporate cattle ranching into Long Island’s CSA community. For the first time, CSA members have access to 100% local fruit, vegetable and grass-fed beef shares.
Why is this cooperative model so attractive? Because consumers, farmers and ranchers, the local economy and the community all share the benefits.
Benefits for Consumers
In many CSA models, memberships comprise the majority of farm sales, which places a great deal of value on CSA shares. This means members have access to the freshest quality product harvested that same day.
Since shares are seasonal, members have access to a diverse range of new fruits and vegetables. Now, with Acabonac Farms involved, members can diversify their familiarity with meat, as well. We have the chance to introduce them to alternative cuts of meat they may not otherwise explore.
By collaborating with established CSAs whose farm owners know their customers’ tastes, we design meat shares specifically tailored to each CSA community. Diversifying our diets means widening the scope of vitamins and minerals we take in. For example, ever cook with bone marrow? Packed with minerals, it’s one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Wouldn’t you like to see a CSA share containing a bone box, roasting herbs and all the vegetables you need to make broth?
Many CSAs are designed so members pay discounted prices for exclusive, top-quality products often not available at farm stands or stores. It’s important to us that our CSA members feel they are getting their money’s worth. Our custom CSA design ensures member shares may include different ratios of steaks from those of our popular Burb’ Box or Metro Boxes available for purchase online. Our goal is for CSA members to have exclusive access to custom boxes with premium steaks at a lower price, designed just for them.
Some CSAs, as far east as Southold, make it easier for consumers to have access to regionally produced food even if they don’t live within 20 miles of a farm or our ranch. Many farms now have CSA delivery models with satellite pick up locations in New York City. CSA members can have their local food delivered conveniently to their door.
Benefits for Farmers and Ranchers
The most common CSA payment structure asks members to pay for their share up front or in a few large payments. This gives farmers and ranchers access to start-up cash flow when we need it at the beginning of the season, including purchase of grass seed and duck manure we invest into our pastures in the spring.
Not only do small farm businesses have direct access to this money, but also to members. Why go through a middleman when farmers and ranchers can communicate directly with customers? Through this direct contact, we can better understand members’ preferences. We want every burger our customers eat to be the best burger they’ve ever had. Communicating with members ensures we will always have access to this kind of feedback.
Another pillar of the CSA model is shareholder risk and reward-sharing. Farmers and ranchers are guaranteed that despite fluctuating market prices and environmental conditions, CSA shares are a sure thing. Members sign up knowing that the contents of their share may be subject to change based on growing conditions, which insulates production delays and losses.
It also creates an outlet for our bountiful supply of ground beef. About 50% of the meat we produce is in the form of delicious ground beef. Through our CSA shares, we can distribute this surplus fairly ensuring that everyone gets a taste of their favorite cuts and all of the beef we produce is enjoyed.
Benefits for Local Economy
Few farms are diversified enough to meet member demands for more local products. However, CSAs offer alternative shares for products produced by other local farmers and artisans. The H.O.G. Farm in Brookhaven, for example, carries a fruit share grown by Briermere Farms. Sylvester Manor Educational Farm offers a locally baked bread share and will be the first CSA on Long Island to also offer one of our meat shares!
The close network of local farms created by CSA collaborative distribution channels allows smaller businesses the chance to partner with other local farms. Farmers and ranchers share the wealth as our meat share provides additional income to our vegetable CSA “hosts” in exchange for an introduction to their members.
Fostering The Community
While the economic benefits are bountiful, the heart of CSA is truly the sense of communityit fosters.
Many CSA pick-ups are social events designed to encourage community building through potlucks, volunteering opportunities, workshops and member-only events. Members can get to know their neighbors with shared culinary interests. They can exchange recipes, attend educational workshops and meet their growers. We look forward to serving up our beef paired with some local veggies and wine at community events we will host this summer.
What began as a grassroots initiative from a few concerned eaters has evolved into a nationwide movement that has changed agriculture for growers and consumers alike. It’s this kind of intimacy between farmer and customer that will foster the transparency of growing practices we at Acabonac Farms both value and strive to achieve. It’s the most effective way to know exactly how your food is grown and ensure it is done in a way that nurtures farmers, ranchers, the soil, animals and the community.
We are thrilled to finally include 100% grass-fed and local beef in the Long Island CSA bounty.