Why Join a Meat CSA?
What Is A CSA?
The term Community Supported Agriculture has been around for over 30 years. Instead of simply buying products from local farmers, the CSA concept allows consumers to take things a step farther and invest in and support a business they believe in. Members take on some of the risks involved in agriculture (for example, members are not always sure exactly what they’ll be getting in each delivery) but they also reap the rewards by getting great, fresh products. Vegetable farmers were at the forefront of the CSA movement (produce is a little easier to deliver and store.) but soon small scale meat producers got on board and developed systems for safely delivering fresh meats to members.
How Did The Spring House Farm CSA Program Get Started?
When Spring House Farm was founded in 2004, owners Andrew and Liz Crush were mostly interested in providing fresh healthy meats for their family (and share a little with friends). But as the farm grew so did demand for the top quality, delicious meats they were raising. Andrew and Liz started thinking about ways to get their products to food lovers. With busy day jobs and young kids, the weekend farmers market approach wasn’t the right fit. “The farmers market model just didn’t work for us,” Andrew says. “We wanted to try delivering direct to consumers. The CSA model has been a big success.”
In 2013, the Crushes set up a series of pickup locations—businesses and residences in DC and around Northern Virginia.
“The idea was to make it easier and more convenient than a trip to the grocery store for members in DC, Fairfax and Loudoun County,” Andrew says. He adds that he’s always looking for new drop-off hosts. It’s easy to do and makes pick up a piece of cake. The news began to spread through social media, food and wine events and good old-fashioned word of mouth. Soon Spring House Farm was up to 10 locations in DC, Fairfax and Loudoun—at both businesses (wineries, breweries fitness centers) and members’ homes. “It was all hands on deck for deliveries,” says Andrew, who made CSA deliveries on his days off from his job as a firefighter and paramedic– with help from farm hands doubling as delivery guys. Andrew developed his white cooler system—leaving meats in large Spring House Farm white coolers designed to keep meats fresh throughout the day. Based on customer feedback, the Crushes also set up the three share sizes and a color-coding system to make package pick up easier. “The system has worked well, but we are always open to member feedback on how we can improve things,” Andrew says. “In fact, we’re putting together member surveys to find out what our members want and need.”
What Should CSA Members Expect?
Because farming is a seasonal, cyclical activity, Spring House Farm CSA packages always vary, from week to week and from member to member. The farmers do their best to fill CSA packages in a thoughtful way to bring members the fullest possible experience of what the farm has to offer. Andrew and the CSA manager work to include different types of meat (pork, beef, lamb and goat) to provide something for everyone. Because CSA membership is more than a simple buyer/seller relationship, members are putting their trust in the farmers to make selections and give them great products that fit in with the seasonal, cyclical and often unpredictable nature of farming. CSA packages depend on when young animals are ready for processing (for example, because Spring House Farm raises heritage breed pork, the time it takes for a young pig to mature is much longer than on a factory farm where growth hormones, antibiotics and other factors contribute to quicker growth). “We hope for flexibility and curiosity from our members,” Andrew says. “In exchange they get top quality meats from a farmer they know—and that’s important in today’s changing market.” One of the perks of membership is access to the best cuts. While Spring House does sell some cuts outside the CSA program, steaks and chops are reserved for members only.
What Makes Spring House Farm Meats Different?
Spring House Farm’s meats are raised on some of the most beautiful farmland in the country in Loudoun County, VA. With over 400 owned and leased acres, the farm’s livestock free range in pastures and forests that are carefully and sustainably managed by Andrew and his team. Spring House Farm’s commitment to whole animal butchery is another aspect that many members love most about belonging to the CSA program. Spring House Farm works to give members popular cuts like bacon, breakfast sausage and ground beef. But members also get some cuts that are less common. If you’re a new or prospective member, you may find cuts that you aren’t used to. This is because of Spring House Farm’s commitment to returning to the age-old practice of using as much of the animal as possible–for reasons both culinary and ecological.
“There are amazing things that can be done with parts of the animal that factory farms don’t use,” Andrew says. “For many of our regular members, a delivery of trotters [or pigs feet] is the highlight of the CSA season.” To support members, Andrew and Liz regularly post recipes and tips on the farm’s website, and CSA members often share suggestions on the farm’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, inspiring creativity by giving members something they may not have tasted or prepared before. On the Spring House Farm Facebook page, you can find tips on rendering lard or making trotter soup. Member questions are always answered as quickly as possible to help folks make the most of their deliveries. Andrew is currently in talks with local vegetable growers to find the right fit for a full diet CSA that would supply both meats and vegetables. As Spring House Farm’s CSA program celebrates its third anniversary this year, Andrew and Liz look forward to making the program better than ever and encourage members to join the conversation!