What is a CSA?
CSA means Community Supported Agriculture. It is a way for you to directly connect with the farm that produces the food for your family. The concept began with vegetable farmers who saw it as a way to spread the risk of farming as well as gain some much needed cash at the beginning of the season instead of at the end. The CSA sells shares in the farm prior to the growing season. As the vegetables are planted and harvested, members pick up their “share” or fresh veggies each week. Typically vegetable CSA’s require full payment prior to the start of the season.

Chestnut Farms meat CSA operates on a similar, community-based principle. We offer a certain number of shares each six month cycle based on the number of animals we are raising. These shares are distributed once a month at pre-arranged locations. Unlike the vegetable model, we charge monthly rather than upfront in order to make our CSA as widely accesiible as possible – HOWEVER, we require a minimum commitment of six months. Unlike a vegetable CSA, we are able  to guarantee the lbs of meat each month. The shared risk is in the mix of meat in the share as this can be affected by who is ready for “harvest” and issues at the slaughterhouse that may be beyond our control. Some months we may plan to process a cow, but the pigs are ready and the cow could benefit from another month on pasture. Thus, members would receive more pork that month.

Why join a Meat CSA?
Our CSA is for people who love animals and happen to eat meat. It is for people who want to know the farmer that raises their food and be sure that the meat they consume is humanely raised without any hormones or antibiotics. It is for people who seek a deeper understanding of and connection to the food cycle –  It is also for people who love great tasting meat! Each monthly share contains meat that was processed that month – unlike commercial meat that can stay in cargo ships in a semi-frozen state for many months- our animals go from hoof to plate in an average of thirty days or less.

How do I become a member?
Memberships are offered in six month cycles: summer: June through Nov (which includes purchasing (and naming) rights to your Thanksgiving turkey) and winter (December through May). Shares are available to current shareholders first and then to wait list members. To sign up for the wait list please fill out the form entitled Join Our CSA. You will receive an immediate confirmation that the form has been submitted and receive a follow-up email within a month. Please be patient as Kim and Rich are full-time farmers and do not spend their days in the office.

How much does it cost? Do I pay all at once?
Please view our cost sheet for specific costs. Currently, based on our costs, we range from $8 to  to $9.50 per pound, depending on the amount of meat you commit to each month. You do not need to pay for it all at once, but rather you pay each month when you pickup your share for that months share.. We also ask for a one-time $25 cooler deposit.. We accept cash and checks or credit cards at the time of pickup.

Our costs are directly tied to the cost of raising animals in a humane and sustainable fashion here in New England.  Please note that although we charge each month, we plan and raise our animals according to OUR commitments to our shareholders – we are a real livestock farm – not a meat distribution service..

How do I get my meat?
When you enroll in our CSA you pick a specific site. Each month you will receive a reminder to pickup your meat. You arrive at the site any time during distribution. You will receive a Playmate Cooler full of freshly processed, hormone and antibiotic free, great tasting meat and you return the empty playmate cooler from the previous month.

All of our meat is flash frozen at the time of slaughter and we use the coolers to protect the integrity of our meat until you defrost and enjoy it at home. Most meat sold commercially is frozen and thawed several times.

Are you Organic?
No, we are not certified organic, nor do we plan to become certified organic. Organic certification simply certifies that the animal is fed organic feed. It does NOT address how the animals live, how they are treated or whether they ever see fresh air and sunshine. In addition, it costs money to simply have paperwork inspected.

We feed a great deal of hay to our cattle and sheep over the course of the winter. We purchase our hay from a local farmer who used to milk cows and now sells hay. He keeps over 200 acres open, does not use any chemicals or sprays and is basically organic. He is not going to spend the time or money to become certified organic because he has no need to. We choose to spend our dollars locally and support his hay business rather than trucking “organic” hay in from Canada or the mid-west to feed our animals.

We are all about the quality of life for our animals. We do feed and water each one of our livestock twice a day. We take time to pet and play with our pigs, say hello to our cows and cluck at our chickens. We make sure our moms can nurse their babies, we allow our animals to give birth naturally. All the animals have pasture to play in, woods to roam in and a warm dry place to lay down in at night.

How do you know what you will get in a share?
You know you will get at least the number of pounds of meat you signed up for – but you don’t know in advance what particular cuts will be in your share each month.

We work hard to make sure each share has a mix of daily cuts and higher end cuts. We also try to make sure we have at least three meats are represented. We do honor kosher requests and also pack “no-lamb” and “lamb” shares. That said, we are a family farm and do not have an inventory control program for our meat. We take our animals to slaughter and pickup the boxes, and then we divide the boxes into shares. We DO pack and label individual shares and try to honor requests when possible, but we are a CSA – not a grocery store. Your shares will vary each month, but will usually include a couple of pounds of hamburger, some sausage, a breakfast meat (either bacon or breakfast sausage), some poultry, lamb or pork chops, a steak. In the winter we include roasts and in the summer we focus on easy grilling items.

What happens if I miss a pickup?
Our pickups are the same day, (first Sat, second Tuesday) time and location each month and are noted at the time you join as well as available on our website. We do send a reminder out just prior to pickup each month, but email is not perfect. We work hard to raise the animals, we feed them, water them, move them from pasture to pasture. We then truck them to their appointment at the slaughterhouse and return a week to two later to pickup the boxes. We bring the meat back to the farm and pack it into freshly washed coolers. Finally we bring the coolers to the distribution. We do expect to see you at your pickup. If you know in advance you can’t make a distribution, we ask that you take responsibility for finding someone else to get your share. If this is not possible, please provide notice to Kim and we will try and work out alternative arrangements. The notice must be provided at least 48 hours ahead of distributions.

Under federal law, we cannot restock the meat once it leaves the farm. Thus, if we bring your meat to a distribution and you do not make the pickup you will be invoiced for the meat.

I heard rumors of Turkeys….
We raise fresh turkeys for our CSA members each year. We pasture 200 heritage and broad breasted turkeys each summer and fall to ensure a supply of fresh, local and pastured birds each Thanksgiving. These are available to CSA members only and are pre-ordered and pre-paid in September. They are delivered with care and feeding instructions to our CSA distribution sites just before Thanksgiving.

Can I visit your farm?
Yes, we run a fully transparent operation and welcome visitors – but please make sure we are here and available. We have had frightening incidents with unannounced visitors roaming our fields with our bull and in our barn with new sow mothers. Livestock farms by nature different than vegetable farms and we are a working farm with tractors and other equipment running, real animals and a nervous insurance provider.

We offer an open barn each year in June. We are also here on the first Wednesday of each month from 3 to 6 pm to do on-farm share distribution for the local community. We also offer in-depth farm tours by appointment. These are two to four hour tours of our farm with either Kim or Rich and can be arranged for groups from two to twenty. For more information, please contact us directly.

Can I buy your meat anywhere else?
We are working to have an on-farm store to sell our meat. At this time, our products are available at the Tip Top Store in Brookfield, MA; http://www.tiptoponline.us/ and at the farmers markets we participate in. (Boston Public Market, Newton, Natick and Arlington)

Chestnut Farms
PO Box 545
404 Turkey St.
Hardwick, MA 01037
413-230-6396 (cell)