Below are some answers to help you understand how we operate.
Are you certified organic and what does that mean on Signal Mountain Farm?
Yes. Signal Mountain Farm is certified organic by the USDA. This means that we meet all of the requirements set by the federal government to be certified organic. More specifically, this means that we do not use synthetic chemicals, herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers in our production process. We practice sustainable agriculture in which we build up the soil with organic matter and natural fertilizers and we protect water quality.
Can we commit for only one month at a time to see if we like it?
We do not allow this for one main reason: we are limited on space in the CSA. So, we could not allow someone to test it out and have us turn down a seasonally committed member in the trial period. The best trial we can offer is the half share option.
Can we drop out anytime?
Becoming a member of the CSA requires making a commitment for the entire growing season. Making this commitment is an essential part of being a member of a CSA. Therefore, we generally do not refund money in the event that someone chooses to drop out. If for some reason you are unable to continue being a CSA member, we suggest you arrange for someone to take over the remaining portion of your CSA share.
Can we visit your farm?
We would love for any member to bring their family out to the farm. However, there are times when we are extremely involved in a project or are not on the farm, and cannot take the time we would like to show you and your family around. We recommend that you call well ahead of time to see if we will be around.
Can we work in exchange for a share?
We do trade shares in exchange for work. Most work share members work on the farm 4 to 5 hours per week helping with harvest, hoeing, planting, packing, etc. However, work does not have to be done on the farm. Some people have helped us advertise, or done our graphic designing for us, or helped us in working on the recipes and newsletters. We can be extremely creative and can use all sorts of help in exchange for a share.
How long is your growing season?
Our growing season is from spring through fall, with a 18 week CSA season that generally begins in mid-May.
If we miss a pick up, can we pick up on another day or get extras next time?
We understand that no one likes missing a CSA share when they are out of town or special circumstances arise on a pick-up day. However, with an average of 100 CSA members, and multiple pick up locations, we are unable to accommodate day/location changes in our distribution without increasing labor costs. In the CSA member agreement we ask that members find someone to pick up the share for them if they are unable to do so.
What does it mean to be a part of a Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) group?
When you become a member of the CSA, you are purchasing a share of your farmer’s garden. The farmer grows food for you in exchange for you making a commitment to support the farm that year. You are paying your farmer to grow delicious home-grown food for you, and in turn, your farmer knows that his crop has a home and is already paid for. This idea came about as a group of farmers saw the need to have funding upfront in order to buy seeds, tools, soil amendments and other implements. When you become a member of a CSA, you are helping to preserve local agriculture and to partake in it as well. You have the opportunity to get to know and trust the person who grows your food, and these days, that is becoming more and more important.
As a member of a CSA you are taking some of the risk associated with farming as well as some of the surplus. A good way to think of it is as if you had your own garden but were not the one tending to it. When the cucumbers come in, they really come in and when the deer come to munch on the beans or when record heat and drought ruin a crop of peppers, then there won’t be many beans or peppers. Being a part of a CSA allows you to become more aware of how the weather affects our local economy and agricultural businesses. Additionally, you learn that vegetables are seasonal. For instance, you won’t get tomatoes in the early spring or late fall and you won’t get kale in the summer.
What happens in extreme weather conditions to our vegetable delivery?
For the years the CSA has been in operation, members have either received the full value of their payment or up to 3.5% more than they paid for. Buying a share in a CSA is an investment. It is our goal to help our shareholders realize a return on their investment. If we have a bad year, hopefully the others years you were a member helped make up for losses of that year.
If the weather ever gets to the point that it kills everything on the farm, we will do our best to buy or provide you with something. But there may be cases where there is simply nothing growing on anyone’s farm. Because we have already paid workers, paid for seeds and for soil amendments, buying a lot of extra stuff is not a good option. The farm still loses a lot of money because we have already put in the investment for those crops. Nature will then do her thing and possibly wipe out some crops. That is part of the risk you take in being a part of the CSA. The same thing would be the case if you had your own garden. So, although you are continuing to pay, there may not be much food. But you must trust that when the harvest does come, we will try our best to give you what you paid for and make up for the weeks of loss. So far this has not been the case. Fortunately we do have tools and methods available to protect against some crop failures. Also, because we grow over 60 different varieties of vegetables and fruits, it would have to be a remarkable catastrophe to wipe out a whole season’s worth of produce.
Where are your pick-up locations?
Please visit the “Where We Sell” tab of our website for the most up-to-date pick up locations.
Will you buy vegetables or other goods to supplement sometimes?
We will purchase fruits and vegetables from other farms from time to time, as other farmers buy from us from time to time. We have this great network of farmers that help each other out to make sure our CSAs are getting a well rounded assortment of food. When we are short on supply and other farms have something, we will generally buy if we can.