CSA Check-in: Appalachia Star Farm

Posted on May 23, 2013 by


appalachia star farm chickens

Over the river and through the woods to Appalachia Star Farm we went! For this last feature in the CSA Series, we find ourselves at a small family farm tucked in the hills of Nelson County, complete with roaming chickens and children at play.

Michael and Kathryn of Appalachia Farm were generous and welcoming as they shared their farm with us. Keep an eye out for their produce at local farmers markets!

The details:

The cost of one CSA share is $470, and runs for 21 weeks (May through September).

The 2013 season is currently full, but their produce is also available at local markets, including the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings downtown. So stop by and try out their produce!

Q&A with Michael and Kathryn

When and why did your farm decide to participate as a CSA?

We started our farm in 2004 and used the CSA model right away.  The previous year we had spent interning on a farm in Rappahannock County and they also did CSA along with farmer’s markets and we thought it was a good model.  At the time, there weren’t many CSA farms in the Charlottesville area so we felt like there was a good market for what we wanted to do. Besides the monetary advantage to doing CSA (being able to sell shares in the off-season to help with farm start-up expenses) we also like the community building advantages of CSA.  Members get to really connect with a small family farm and with their food.  We enjoy hosting events on the farm for members to participate in either work days or fun parties, like our annual Tomato Tasting.  Having that community around our farm is great and is really what CSA is all about.

appalachia star farm, family run

Can you give us a brief history of your farm and its role in the area?

We bought our land in Nelson County in late 2003 and our first farm season was 2004.  That first year we started with a very small CSA – about 15 shares, and they were mostly people we knew.  We also began attending the Charlottesville City Market and some other area markets (Lexington Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Nelson Farmers Market on Saturdays) that we still attend.  We have always felt that having a mix of income sources (CSA, farmers market, and some restaurant/wholesale accounts) is essential for our farm.  The CSA income is especially important in the winter and early spring months to maintain cash flow and help with our major spring purchases – seeds, supplies, and equipment for the season.  With facebook and email, we can keep in touch with our customers even in the off-season and let them know what we are doing on the farm.  This year marks our 10th season with CSA and we are very proud to have some folks still with us who have been members since the beginning!  We have a really great core group of members that are truly a part of our farm community and we really appreciate their support over the years!

appalachia star farm
appalachia star farm

What kinds of in-season food will you offer this spring?

In the Spring we typically have a lot of salad greens like lettuce, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, and spinach.  Also cooking greens like kale and chard.  In addition we have radishes, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, and scallions.  We have a little bit of asparagus we try to give out to the members at least once or twice.

appalachia star farm field

How do consumers select the kinds of food they want? Do you allow consumers to come to the farm and select their own items?

appalachia star farm

Our farm is about an hour away from Charlottesville, so while we do have special events where members come out to the farm, it really wouldn’t be practical to have people travel out every week to select their share.  One aspect of CSA that we feel is important is that we try to connect our members with the cycle of the seasons and what is abundant at different times of the year.  We also like to introduce people to new foods that they maybe haven’t tried before.  For those reasons, and also for logistical reasons, our CSA is Farmer’s Choice – we choose the items that go into the box every week.  However, because our CSA pick-up is also at the farmers market, customers have the option to purchase additional items or do a trade-out of a certain item if they want to.  We do also offer a Farm Credit program that is a little different from the CSA.  With farm credit, customers can pay up front and for every $100 they purchase they get $115 in credit.  They can then come to any of our markets and purchase whatever they’d like and have the amount deducted from their credit balance.  Some customers like this option because they travel or can’t make it to the market pick-up consistently every week.  They do get to choose whatever they want to purchase, but it also means they have to make it to market early if they want items that are in limited supply, whereas CSA customers have their boxes already made and ready for them.

What is the most popular item on your farm during the spring season?

Asparagus is very popular, but we really have limited supplies of it, so I would say that after a long, cold winter, people get really excited about having fresh salad greens again!

appalachia star farm

How many CSA consumers does your farm support annually?

About 40.

Describe your farm in five words or less.

Sustainable, diverse, small family farm.

— Q&A by Caitlin Rivas, Words by Linnea White, Photography by Katerina Diplas

Posted in: CSA Series, food, outdoors