Farm Store & Online CSA

CSA status as of…  April 13, 2014 

We are currently accepting members from our waiting list, and are now taking in people from March and earlier. If you ask to be added to our wait list in April, I’d estimate an early summer opening, but can’t be sure. Email Randy if you have questions or to be put on our waiting list.

Community Supported Agriculture
CSA is the acronym for Community Supported Agriculture, a loose model connecting farmers and eaters.  It usually involves the customer buying into a season’s produce from a farm in exchange for knowing the grower and where their food is coming from, and knowing that they are helping to keep small farms going in this country. 

That was purposely non-definitive because there are so many different types of CSA in existence, even though you can find newspaper and magazine articles which will tell you exactly how CSA operates. We started doing CSA in 1996 following the traditional model (the method usually described), tried it in several different locations, and are now starting our 15th year of CSA. The most rewarding years have been the last ten in Adams Morgan using our unique online, free-choice, debit account model.

[The crew packing orders in winter.]
The crew (Chris’ sister Kathy, Sam, Chris) packing orders in winter.

How it works

You pay a $300 membership fee, with which we create a debit account for you worth $300. Any week you want to get produce from us on Saturday, you log in to our online store on Wednesday and place your order, picking and choosing what you want from our list of dozens of items in numerous categories, or selecting the Farmer’s Pick, where I choose for you. Pick up your order at our truck at 18th & Columbia at the Farmers Market in Adams Morgan on Saturday. That’s it! The value of your order comes out of your balance. You are not required to place an order if you don’t want anything that week. Some go through $300 quickly, some take a long time – it doesn’t matter to us. When you’ve used up your $300 credit, you are free to “re-up” with another $300 and keep going if you wish, or be done if you don’t. (I would estimate that 90% of our members stay with us for multiple years and “re-ups.” One of our first CSA members in DC is still with us and has re-upped 29 times!)

[A screen shot of online store]
Screenshot of the farm store and online CSA.

CSA information

  • Schedule: Weekly (mid-May to mid-November), Bi-weekly (mid-November to mid-May)
  • Ordering times: Wednesday 7 AM – Thursday 7 AM
  • Pickup: 9 AM – 1 PM in Adams Morgan, DC, on Columbia Road alongside the SunTrust Bank at the intersection of 18th & Columbia, where the farmers market is located.

CSA produce

The produce we offer our CSA comes from our farm and a number of other farmers we know in Pennsylvania. Think of our CSA as a cooperative effort between our farm and neighboring family farms to provide you with an enticing array of Pennsylvania-grown produce, year-round.

The tomato table in the Packing Shed on an order day in September.

Our CSA has a great deal of freedom for members to get what they want, when they want it — as longs as it’s according to our schedule. In order for us to make so wide-open a CSA model work for us, however, requires a lot of details and operating procedures (i.e., rules for you to follow). Initially there were no rules, but as people found ways to try out new possibilities, we incorporated some into our business as “improvements” and ruled out others as “not workable for us.”

THE RULES

1. You must place a trial order prior to joining our CSA.

2. Any payments are by cash or personal check, in person in DC at our truck. Once you are a member, re-ups can be sent in by mail if you prefer. We are not set up to accept credit cards.

3. CSA membership and renewals are $300, no partials or split payments. (We have purposely kept our membership “fee” much below most standard CSAs. And it’s not really a fee, but a credit for you to order against. You get it all back in produce!)

4. Place your order in our online store during its regular open hours (7 AM Wed. through 7 AM Thurs.) if you wish to receive an order that week.

5. Please, only place one order per week. Do not place a second order because you forgot something on the first order. Doesn’t work for us.

6. No cancellations once an order is placed, unless there is an emergency and you let us know prior to us packing your order.

7. Pick up orders at our truck near 18th & Columbia Road during our open hours of 9 AM until 1 PM, not earlier, not later.

8. Your account will be charged for the order you place, regardless of whether you ever come to collect it.

9. You can shop at our farm stand (summer) or at the truck (winter) and sign for your purchase to have it debited from your account, whether or not you have placed an order. That is, you have an account, and if we’re offering anything there in AdMo, you can basically “charge it.”

10. Once you have joined our CSA, we do not offer refunds or allow transfers to non-members. (That is one of the “traditional” CSA tenets we do adhere to!)

11. Accounts with no activity in over one year will be closed and any balance forfeited (following notification).

12. Missed orders can be reclaimed the following Saturday we deliver, if arrangements are made with Randy. You must email and let him know within 3 days of missing your order, or it will be tossed. You are still charged for it in any case.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do I have to order every week?
No. Order only on the Wednesdays when you want to pick up an order on that Saturday.

Can I just place a standing order?
No. We require you to tell us what you want, on the weeks that you want it.

Do I have to get the Farmer’s Pick box where the farm chooses the contents?
No. Some of our members like us to choose, and others would rather do it themselves. Even if you select the Farmer’s Pick (our choice), you can still add on other items as you wish. We have a set number of the Farmer’s Pick box each week, based on availability and recent interest, and being a member doesn’t guarantee you one. They’re available on a first-come, first-served basis, just like everything else in the store, and just like items at the real farmer’s market.

Is there a limit to how much or how little I can order when I go into the store?
No. Order a lot or a little, it’s up to you. We do ask that you only place one order per week though.

Can I cancel my order after placing it if something else comes up for Saturday?
Only in case of an emergency. If you place an order, you take that produce out of our store inventory so no one else can buy it, and we lose our best chance to sell it. So if you want to “put it back” after the store is closed, we lose. Your alternatives are having someone else come and pick it up for you, having someone else pick it up (for them), or telling us to hold it until the following trip to town, when you can collect it.

When and where do I pick up my order?
The location is our white delivery truck along Columbia Road, at the end of Biltmore St., in the parking area adjacent to the SunTrust Bank at 18th St. , and across the street from Perry’s Restaurant. (Note that the other vegetable farm at the market also has a white truck where they hand out CSA orders. Ours is the one with “STAR HOLLOW FARM” on the door.) Pick-up hours are 9 AM – 1 PM. Don’t expect to get your box before 9 AM just because you can see our truck there, as it usually takes us right up to the minute of 9:00 to have the truck all organized and ready for the 9 AM opening.

How can I find out what my account balance is?
There is no online method as that is not a function of our shopping cart system or bookkeeping system. Email Chris (chris@starhollowfarm.com) or ask Randy at market on Saturday — he usually has a list in his clipboard. However, most people never bother to do either, as our policy is to put a note on the bottom of your invoice whenever you get below $50 in your account, letting you know there’s a renewal coming up soon.  (Our bookkeeping is done the old-fashioned way by Chris using a Quicken accounting program.)

How long is the CSA season?
We are a year round CSA and don’t have seasons. Keep ordering until you use up your balance. If you want to continue after you use up your initial $300 (as about 95% of our members do), pay another $300 and keep ordering. There is a time limit on your account (see next FAQ) and we give no refunds on unused portions of your balance.

How long does my CSA membership last if I don’t order for a long time?
Membership is tied to account balance and indefinite, as long as you order at least once every 12 months. We email you a reminder near that time, and if we don’t get an order or hear back from you, your account is closed and any balance forfeited.

What if I don’t pick up my order?
We bring it back to the farm. Depending on the temperature, it may or may not still be usable (most items usually are, except during very hot or very cold Saturdays). If you email us within 3 days of missing your pickup, telling us you still want your box, we’ll bring it back the next time we come.  Whether you come for it or not, your account is still charged, since you ordered and we delivered. Some items may be removed by us (esp. mushrooms, dairy and poultry products, or greens in the winter when it’s two weeks between deliveries) for safety concerns or to avoid a mess in our cooler. You are still charged for those items.

If I miss the ordering time slot, can I call in or email you my order?
Nope. The store manages all the inventory – a very complicated set-up – and we won’t do it any other way.  No phone orders, no email orders, no standing orders. Get your order placed in the store during its open hours or come to the market, shop, and have your purchase debited from your account.

When I shop at the farmers market stand can I have it debited from my CSA account?
Yes. So if you forget to order something you really wanted, or you didn’t order at all because you thought you’d be out of town on Saturday, come on by the farm stand, shop as you please, the cashiers will tally your order and you can sign our CSA member list to have the purchase come out of your account. The same is true at the truck in the winter when Randy brings along miscellaneous items for sale off the truck, since the market is closed.

Can I visit the farm?
Most years we have an open house so you can see our place. If you are traveling this way, call and we’ll try to make arrangements to have you visit.

Do we have to do a work share at your farm, like some other CSAs do?
No. Our farm is three hours from DC, and that would be a long ride to work. However, we do ask that each CSA member volunteer for one two-hour shift of handing out orders from the truck on Saturday morning per year – a good way to meet other people in the CSA and watch the world as it passes by 18th & Columbia in Adams Morgan on a Saturday morning. (Which can be quite an interesting experience all by itself!)

If I am going to move away from DC, what can I do with any remaining balance in my account?
As stated above, there are no refunds. You may order a bunch of non-perishables to take with you, transfer your balance to an existing member, or donate the remainder to the CSA.

Do you at the farm have a preference between whether we join the CSA or just shop at the farm stand without joining?
Prepayment and advance orders help us greatly to smooth out the rough spots of financial planning and knowing what to bring to market, eliminating many of the risks of street-corner produce marketing.

How do I join?
Check the CSA status note at the top of the page. Then email info@starhollowfarm.com and ask to be added to the waiting list. We usually take in new members several different times during the year, but we can’t guarantee any particular opening dates. You are always welcome to stop by the farm stand or truck in advance, so you can meet Randy, talk to other CSA members, check out the produce and location, and ask questions.

[Star Hollow Farm logo]

Star Hollow Farm is a small-scale family farm located in southern Pennsylvania, 100 miles north of Washington, DC. We grow a wide range of produce, mostly in small quantities, more than half of which is sold through our online market & CSA.
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