What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?
CSA provides direct support for small farms to provide clean local food for families in their direct communities. It brings together community members, farmers and agricultural land in a relationship of mutual support based on an annual commitment to one another. In short, the farmer and members become partners in the production, distribution and consumption of locally grown food. CSA’s are setting roots wide and deep, establishing healthy centers and networks for community engagement, shaping a new vision of agriculture. As a way to deepen this connection, CSA members are often encouraged to volunteer at least two hours of their time per season helping out at the farm. This can happen most days as long as it is prearranged with the farmers.
Indian Line Farm has the honor of being the first CSA farm in the United States when it was started by Robyn Van En, Jan Vandertuin and a group of local community members in 1985. Currently, there are over thousands of CSA farms feeding hundreds of thousands of people throughout North America.
What does an ILF CSA share look like?
The bountiful selection of fresh produce that members take home weekly varies throughout the 26 week growing season. It depends on the weather and length of the days. The weekly share includes a large selection of family favorites and some varieties you may be unfamiliar with.. When you come to pick up your share you will see lettuce, broccoli, onions, spinach, tomatoes piled high on our tables in the barn side by side with kohlrabi, spring turnips, black radishes, and celeriac. Almost every week we invite you into the fields to pick your own string beans, cherry tomatoes or herbs. We plan our yields to have plenty of colorful, flavorful, nutrition packed vegetables for two adults or a small family. The share changes as the seasons change. Our barn doors are open to welcome you for your pick up on Tuesdays between 2pm and 6pm and Fridays between 3 pm and 7 pm. We ask that you commit to the pick up day most convenient for you. Detailed descriptions of the available shares and a Commitment Form can be found at [provide link to “Share Descriptions” and “Commitment Form”]
What do members do when they come to Indian Line Farm to pick up their share?
Members walk, bike or drive to the farm on the day they have selected and enter the barn with their bags in tow. You will be greeted by a member of the farm crew who can help with any questions you may have. You will also be greeted by a beautiful display of fresh food! We provide a detailed list of vegetables on the wall from which you may select from and we try to provide as many choices as possible to accommodate all tastes.
After you have selected your share you may purchase other locally produced foods like Hosta Hill fermented products, locally raised meat, some fruit and cheese and extra produce. At this point you may take a walk down to the fields and participate in picking some of your own produce.
What are pick your own crops?
Every year we designate a place on the farm as Pick Your Own. Here we grow crops that are more time consuming to harvest but usually loved by the members. Starting at the end of June and extending until frost (early October) members may take extra time to harvest their own sugar snap peas, green beans, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, and cut flowers.
How do I sign up for a share and become a member of Indian Line Farm?
Simply go to our Commitment Form on this site, fill it out and send in a deposit.
What if I can't make it on my designated pick up day?
Life happens, we understand. If you can't make it on your designated day, please send a quick email to Elizabeth and let her know of your changed date within the same week only please. We don’t call people back in these instances. We WANT you to get your vegetables. Just try to come as much as possible on the day you have chosen.
What if I want to change my pick up to a different day?
We encourage members to stick to their Friday or Tuesday pick up day because this allows us to harvest and wash sufficient fresh produce, not too much or too little. If however, you need to change your day mid-season or for a limited time during the season just send an email to let us know. Again, we WANT you to get your vegetables and try to be as flexible as possible.
What if I forget to pick up one day?
We do harvest for a specific number of people on Tuesday and Friday. If many people forget to show up on Tuesday, for example, and show up on Friday, it can mean we run out of food on Friday night. Please try to come on your designated day or send someone in your place.
Can someone else pick up my share for me?
We encourage members to send someone else to get their vegetables if they are unable, especially if they are on vacation. Please make sure that those who will be coming in your stead are sure of pick up times and days!! We are not a farm stand.
Can I bring my dog to the farm?
We love dogs, but not everyone else does. We ask that folks leave their dogs at home.
When do I get to pick the flowers that are included with the Regular Share? And how much do I get to pick?
The flowers for cutting are usually ready by July 1st. We will notify members via email or by signs in the barn when they are available. At the beginning, members are usually allowed about 10 stems and then for the remainder of the summer until frost the quantity is about 20 stems. If you choose to select large sunflowers, be respectful of other members and cut fewer.
When are payments due for the share?
We require a $100 deposit when you send in your Commitment Form. The balance can be paid up front (we really appreciate this) or can be split into three payments due March 1st, April 1st , and May 1st.
If I have the Flower Share only, when do I get to pick flowers and how much?
The cutting flowers are usually ready by July 1st. We will notify members via email or by signs in the barn when they are available. At the beginning, members are usually allowed about 10 stems and then for the remainder of the summer until frost the quantity is about 20 stems. If you choose to select large sunflowers, be respectful of other members and cut fewer.
Do I have to bring my own bags?
Yes, members must bring their own boxes or bags. We do provide smaller biodegradable plastic produce bags, but strongly encourage you to bring your own. We sell Indian Line Farm canvas bags if you would like one.
When do the pick your own items become available? (PROVIDE A VISUAL CHART)
-Sugar snap peas-late June/early July
-Green Beans—July through September
-Cherry Tomatoes-early August through frost
-Husk Cherries-August through frost
-Tomatillos—August through frost
-Flowers—July through frost
How many people can a Regular Share feed?
Two adults who really like to eat vegetables or a small family.
Is there a work requirement to be a member at Indian Line Farm?
There is no firm requirement but we strongly suggest members put in two hours a season. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know the farm and farmers. We provide multiple times throughout the season to do this or you can schedule it yourself. For example, every Wednesday from 8-12 we have Working Wednesdays and it is a great opportunity to make the farm weed free and meet other members. We also have our Annual Garlic Harvest in late July. As they say, many hands make light work.
How do I keep my Rainbow Salad Mix fresh?
The salad greens are harvested the day of pick up and are extremely fresh. They are rinsed two times in cold water and then spun to drain most of the water. Some water always remains. Your salad should have no problem lasting for at least 7 days when stored in a cold refrigerator. If you are having trouble keeping your greens for this length of time we suggest checking the temperature of your refrigerator and assuring it is cold enough. We also suggest putting a clean paper towel or cloth in the bag to absorb excess moisture that may be on the greens.
Do I need to wash my greens again?
You will notice that all the greens at Indian Line Farm are exceptionally clean. The salad greens are always rinsed two times and then spun dry. In the farmhouse we eat the greens with no further washing. The more traditional cooking greens--kale, chard, mustard greens and spinach are rinsed only one time and drained but not spun dry. We also eat these without further washing, however, we do not promise that you will never find a little residual dirt or small insect on any of the greens. In seasons of high moisture there is a chance of finding a rare slug or snail. When we are aware of this increased possibility we suggest that you wash your greens at home again.
How do I keep my beets, radishes, kohlrabi and turnips with tops fresh?
Vegetables that we harvest with the tops on are bunched. As is they should keep for 4-7 days in a plastic or mesh produce bag. If you wish to store them longer, we encourage you to remove the greens (tops) and eat the greens (or store separately) and you can save the roots in a plastic bag or mesh produce bag.
Where can I find a more in depth history of Indian Line Farm?
Indian Line Farm is located in South Egremont, Massachusetts, along a strip of land once known as the “Indian Line.” According to research performed by The Nature Conservancy, the farm was originally deeded to the Housatunnuck Nation in 1736, as part of a larger corridor that served as a passageway between the Housatonic and Hudson Rivers. Later the tribe sold the land for 460 British pounds. For much of the 1900s the farm was an active 125-acre dairy farm.
Indian Line Farm is now known as one of the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the United States, and was established in 1985 by Robyn Van En, Jan Vander Tuin, and a coalition of local citizens. An excellent article, written by Steven McFadden, describing the origins and history of CSA, appears at Rodale’s “The New Farm” web site at:
In January of 1997, Robyn Van En died of an asthma attack, at the age of 49 years. Friends, relatives and stunned members of the community wondered what would happen to the farm. Her only child, David, inherited the farm. Coincidentally, Elizabeth Keen and Alexander Thorp (the farmers) had completed training as apprentices on a nearby CSA farm, and were considering what their next steps would be. Elizabeth had spent time working with Robyn just prior to her death. Members of the community and relatives recognized the possibility that these two young farmers might continue using the farm. And so, for the following two summers, the farmers rented the farm from David Van En.
As the summers passed, David who was about 20 years old at the time, sought to let go of the responsibilities of owning and maintaining the farm house, barns, etc. He recalled that his mother had previously, in 1989, sold a 38.8 acre parcel of what once was a larger Indian Line Farm to the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and ultimately approached TNC, represented by Frank Lowenstein, about whether they would be interested in purchasing an additional portion of the farm. The Nature Conservancy was in the midst of a major conservation campaign to protect the nearby Karner Brook watershed. At the same time, the E.F. Schumacher Society, represented by Susan Witt and also located in South Egremont, had developed model legal documents for the long term lease of farmland. The Society sought to utilize the model documents by implementing them on a working farm, and keep the farm affordable for future generations.
Therefore, three major entities emerged: (1) the farmers, (2) the conservation entity (TNC), and (3) the land trust (The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, Inc.). Each of these entities shared a desire to preserve Indian Line Farm as a working farm, yet at the same time, each coming at the effort from a different perspective. Utilizing the concept of a long-term lease, as well as the Conservation Restriction, the three entities were able to simultaneously meet their needs.
The farm was purchased during the summer of 1999 for the lump sum of $155,000 by The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, Inc. The purchase price reflected the poor and neglected condition of the property, and was determined after the completion of several appraisals. Following their purchase, TNC purchased a Conservation Restriction on the majority of the property for $50,000. Finally, the CLT sold the buildings to the farmers for $55,000, and simultaneously gave the farmers a long-term 99-year lease to use the farm.
An intensive fundraising effort was accomplished in the months preceding the purchase, after acquiring an option to purchase from David Van En. The effort sought support from a wide segment of the community, and focused on a number of compelling values, most notably (a) the HISTORY and importance of the CSA movement, and specifically the work of Robyn Van En, (b) the ECOLOGY of adjacent wetlands, (c) the COMMUNITY benefits that would be secured by preserving Indian Line Farm as a working farm, and (d) the ECONOMY of Indian Line Farm as a small regional enterprise.
Brief description of legal documents
Two very important documents emerged from the purchase scenario described above: the Lease Agreement and the Conservation Restriction. The Lease Agreement (the Lease), in this case, is a contract between the CLT, as the lessor (landlord), and the farmers, as the lessees (tenant). It is a 99-year renewable lease to utilize the farm within certain prescribed limits and agreements. The Lease Agreement includes several attachments, including the Land Management Plan, and the Addendum to the Lease Agreement, each of which essentially add to the Lease. The Conservation Restriction, on the other hand, is essentially a deed, with the CLT as the Grantor and TNC as the Grantee. It allows certain stated acts and uses to take place on the property, but prohibits virtually all others.
Other resources including copies of our lease and articles about the partnership: