Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is everything organically grown?
We grow our vegetables, following organic principles, without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or sewage sludge. We use crop rotation, cover crops, and compost to enrich our soil so it will support teeming soil biology that, in turn, supports healthy plants. We use the term “naturally grown” to describe our sustainable growing practices. Our sweet corn is grown using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles. Although we are committed to organic growing, we realize good sweet corn can be tough to pull off without an occasional fungicide treatment. If we deem it necessary, we might make an occasional non-organic growing choice.
In our orchards, we practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management). We choose to apply cultural techniques where possible, allowing us to minimize the number of sprays needed per crop. We monitor special traps baited with pheromone lures to determine if we have an insect infestation that might concern us and harm the crop. This helps us determine the best timing to apply a control e.g., spray), if need be. When we find it necessary to spray, materials are selected on the basis of efficacy, safety and minimal impact on the environment. We might choose to spray an organic material or if deemed necessary, a non-organic material. We regularly apply sprays of organic nutrients along with the application of our own compost to the base of the trees to enhance the health of the trees and minimize insect and disease issues.
To date, we have chosen not to seek organic certification. We feel that the trust in, knowledge of, and access to the farmers who grow your food makes certification an unneeded expense at this time. We’d have to pass the expense on to you and frankly, we really don’t want the added time and paperwork. Unlike the grocery store, if you have questions about our growing practices, you can just ask us directly. And you can come to the farm to see exactly where and how your food is grown. We’ll show you LIVE soil, a beautiful, and rare sight these days!
2. How and when do I pick up my share?
When you are filling out your online membership registration, you will be asked to select the location and day you will pick up your share. You will pick up every week on this day at this location. You will receive an email reminder the night before your pickup. Here are the details:
Vollmecke Orchards Location
Come to the farm on the day of the week that you selected, either Tuesday or Friday. Pick up time is between 3:00 and 7:00 pm.
We suggest that you bring your own box or bags to pack your produce. Shares will be “Farm Market Style” which means you will pack your own share by choosing from the bulk containers in the pickup area next to the barn. Often we will have a choice between several kinds of produce; this allows you to customize your share to fit your needs. A chalkboard will list the week’s produce and the amount of each item that belongs in your share.
A few crops will be designated as PYO (Pick-Your-Own), such as cut flowers, blackberries, and red raspberries.
Pick up Site (Non-Co-op. For example: The Bottle Room in Downingtown and West Chester Friends School in West Chester)
We will pre-pack your share in either a CSA share box or a tote bag. Please either off-load your produce or bring your box/bag back the following week. A swap box will be provided so you can trade produce items if you wish.
If you will be picking up your share at one of our co-op locations, you will find your share awaiting you, pre-packed in a plastic share crate (or a market bag if you ordered a small or medium share). We re-use these crates and bags and have a limited quantity of them. We ask that you pack your share items into your own bags at the site (small and medium share bags can be returned the following week). When you first arrive: sign-in, then check the “What’s In My Share” sheet. Often we have a choice of produce. If you see a choice on this list, know that 1/2 the boxes/bags are packed with one item, and the other 1/2 contains the other choice. There is a Swap Box at each site. This allows you to swap one item from your share with one of equal value from the Swap Box.
Plan on visiting the farm when PYO crops are available. These will be announced in the weekly reminders.
3. What if I cannot come on my regular pick-up day?
Harvesting takes place according to the number of members expected on a given day. If you cannot come, send a friend or relative and make sure they know about pick-up time and procedures. However, you may also defer one share per season (see below). If you know you are going to miss a pickup date, email the farm ahead of time (at least 2 days if possible) to defer your missed pickup. This will allow you to pick up a share at the end of the main CSA season. If you forget and do miss a week, your share will not be wasted—it will be donated to a family in need, a lucky neighbor, or a local shelter.
4. What is the Make-Up share or Deferred Share?
If you know you are going to be away and will miss your pickup day, you can opt to defer one pickup (per CSA season) to the end of the season–usually the first week in November. To take advantage of this feature you will need to email the farm ahead of time (so we don’t harvest and pack a share for you). At the end of the season, you will get an email reminding you to come to pick up your share on the designated day. The contents of the deferred share will obviously be different than what you may have missed out on in June or July, but this is a great way to make sure you don’t miss out on any of your shares!
5. How much food is in a share?
Large Weekly Share (L) – $839.96. 8–10 units, picked up weekly, 22 share distributions per season. We have designed the weekly share to feed two adults with two young children or two adults who really like their fruits and vegetables.
Medium Weekly Share (M) – $577.50. 6–7 units, picked up every week, 22 share distributions per season. We have designed this share option for two adults who consume a moderate amount of fruits and vegetables or two adults and two children who want to enjoy fresh local produce but only cook a few nights a week.
Small Share (S) – $367.50. 4 units, picked up weekly, 22 share distributions per season. This share is designed for a single person, a couple that doesn’t cook very frequently, or a family who wants to get their feet wet in the world of CSA.
Here is a typical example of what might be included in a week’s share during different times of the season:
Note: Quantities are approximate and will vary from week to week.
Typical Early Season Large Share:
Pea Tendrils: 1 bunch
English Garden Peas: 1lb.
Snow Peas: ¾ lb.
Spinach: ¾ lb.
Green Onions: 1 bunch
Bok choi: (1 large or 2 baby) or Brocolli Raab
Lettuce: 1 or 2 heads
Apple Mint: 1 bunch
Typical Mid-Season Large Share:
Peaches: approx. 3 lbs.
Green Beans: ¾ lb.
Beets: 1 bunch
Melons: 1 cantaloupe or specialty melon
Summer Squash: 2
Red tomatoes: 3 lbs.
Sweet corn: 6 ears
Herbs: 1 bunch
Note: PYO blackberries & raspberries available at a special membership price.
Typical Late Season Large Share:
Apples: approx. 3 lbs.
Tomatoes: 1 lb.
Cabbage: 1 head or Kale: ¾ lb.
Carrots: 1 lb.
Herbs: 1 bunch
Onions: 1/2 lb.
Garlic: 1 bulb
Winter Squash: 1 or 2
Potatoes: 1 qt.
Remember: Farming is both dynamic and unpredictable. Extreme weather conditions such as a late or early frost, too much or too little rain, rain at the wrong time or a hail storm, may interfere or alter crop quality and availability. Being a CSA member means sharing in the risks as well as the bounty. Nevertheless, be assured that even in the most challenging of years, we will work hard to provide you with quality produce. The farm’s investment in greenhouse, irrigation and cooling facilities and our co-operative production with a few neighboring farms greatly reduces the risk to members and farmers alike.
6. What is a unit of produce?
What constitutes a unit varies according to the season. A unit could be a bunch of beets, a head of lettuce, a quart of potatoes, or 3 tomatoes one week, a quart of tomatoes another, or 5 lbs on yet another week—it all depends on what is ripe for picking and able to be harvested. Typically, our greens are in 3/4 lb bunches, similar to, or slightly larger, than what you find in most grocery stores.
7. How Does Fruit Figure Into My Share?
We grow both fruits and vegetables at our farm. Fruit is included in our shares. Cantaloupes usually begin ripening the middle of July; watermelons in August and early September; peaches are going strong the months of August and September and October is apple time. When in season, members can pick their own red raspberries and blackberries at a nominal fee.
We do not grow strawberries and our blueberries are not yet bearing fruit, but we are sometimes able to get some of these fruits from our local grower friends and offer them for sale on CSA pick-up day. Each fruit has its season — when there is an abundance you can plan on seeing it included in your share. There are times when there just isn’t enough for everyone, (for example, only one tree of ripe fruit) so we offer these smaller quantities for sale to those who wish to purchase or supplement their share. We might also put some of these scarce fruits in the swap box.
8. What is a Swap Box?
A “swap box” is provided at each pick-up site to give members the ability to customize their share. If there is something you are not crazy about, you can exchange for one item of equal value. For example, you might trade your cabbage for spinach, or trade a bunch of beets for an extra melon.
We often experiment with growing new crops or varieties of crops, so the swap box will sometimes contain items not found in the weekly share. This offers an opportunity to try something new! We ask that members be fair to those members who will come later in the day by exchanging items of like value.
9. Do I need to pay for my share all at one time?
Although we encourage lump sum payment to keep our administrative time and costs down, we do offer payment plans. See our CSA page for details.
10. May I come with my family to see and participate in activities at the farm?
Yes. We encourage participation and realize that seeing where your food comes from is a valuable educational opportunity for children as well as for adults. Harvesting and weeding are wonderful ways to participate and work side-by-side with family and other members. We will announce, through email, special working days at the farm.
Special Note: Keep in mind that we are a working farm, and safety is paramount. Proper supervision of children is necessary at all times. To ensure the safety of all visitors please read the Farm Rules (below) and share them with your family and/or fellow visitors.
11. What are the Farm Rules for visitors?
Please be respectful of your surroundings, the animals and other people during your visit. For your safety, we ask that these rules be followed:
Parents need to supervise their children at all times.
No rock throwing.
No chicken, dog or cat chasing.
No running or playing in the growing fields.
The pond, farm equipment, and the barn are off-limits.
Beware of electric fencing around the chicken coop and farm fields—it will give a strong shock.
Stay out of tall grass and rough-mowed areas. There might be poison ivy and ticks in the tall grass.
Park in designated areas only.
If you have a question, please ask.
12. May I volunteer to help at the farm?
We welcome assistance with our work projects from time to time and know that our members enjoy participating. We sometimes schedule special work days during the season when member assistance will be most helpful. We will send an email to announce workday dates and times in advance.
13. May I harvest some crops for myself?
Although your share will be pre-harvested, you can always add to your share when Pick-Your-Own crops (PYO) are available for harvest. Items available for PYO vary and will be posted at your pick-up site, and by email announcement. Examples of PYO crops that are included in your share are flowers and, at times, garden peas. PYO red raspberries and blackberries will be available at a special member price.
14. Are there special events for members?
We often hold a pre-season Open House that includes a behind the scenes look at the greenhouse, growing fields, and orchards. Look for fun and educational happenings during the season. Some of these activities depend on available help and weather conditions. Please remember that we are farmers first and organizers second.
15. What is seasonal eating?
Seasonal eating means consuming foods that are grown in your local area and eaten when they are just picked (e.g., peas in June, tomatoes in August). This way of eating assures peak flavor and nutrition. It goes without saying that our produce, which only travels from our field to your plate, is going to be fresher and better for you than something that has traveled more than 1,000 miles.
By eating local food in season, you become better attuned to nature and appreciative of its ebbs and flows. Did we have a warm spell in early spring that initiated an early harvest of all the green leafy lettuces and cooking greens? Was it hot or rainy during Spring planting, thus shortening a certain crop harvest?
Eating seasonally means thoroughly enjoying particular fruits or vegetables at their peak. You become so satisfied that it becomes an unworthy compromise to eat something that has been shipped in from some faraway place and lacks flavor. As each produce item nears the end of its season, you can choose to let it go until the next year or you might creatively preserve the abundance by canning or freezing to extend your favorite quality produce into another season.
Our philosophy is: Eat and enjoy everything thoroughly while it is in season and then wait until it comes into season again next year. Let your body tune into the rhythms of nature.
16. Is CSA seasonal eating right for my lifestyle?
Picture yourself eating from your own garden at home, then look to the farm as a larger garden, from which you get more varieties of vegetables, as well as fresh fruits and herbs. Seasonal eating from your CSA is simply fresh-from-the-garden eating on a larger scale and with greater diversity.
Here’s an example: Pea season generally lasts for four to five weeks, and includes all varieties like snow peas, sugar snaps, and garden peas. They come ready at approximately the same time of year. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming to a CSA member to have so many different kinds of peas in the share around the same time. Here’s what a seasonal eater will do: assemble a collection of good recipes involving peas, reserve a little time to plan and prepare meals, then perhaps freeze some to use at a later date. Share the adventure of new recipes and new varieties of foods with the family.
If you’ve not eaten from a garden, seasonal eating can take some adjustment. But the rewards of eating things when they’re at peak flavor and nutrition are immeasurable. As a CSA member, you will learn what is currently in season where you live and how long it is available. You will appreciate eating fruits and vegetables while they’re truly fresh, then enjoy the nice memories of each until next year. You move throughout the seasons eating fresh, seasonal foods as they mature for the harvest. This is the adventure of eating well!
As a seasonal eater, your perspective will evolve from “planning a drive to the supermarket to buy ingredients for a specific recipe” to, “Cooking with what you have.” Involving your children in this process can be far less difficult than you think when your own attitude is inclusive. In fact, many of our CSA member children who did not ordinarily eat peas love eating them after helping to pick and shell them.
Simply put, the first year of CSA participation might be more of a challenge for families who often travel, eat out or bring home “take-out” meals, than for families who like to cook at home from scratch. It may take a season or two, but once you get into the swing of CSA seasonal eating, it will be hard to imagine eating in any other way!
17. How much does a share cost?
A large share, meaning 22 weeks of produce is $814.76 if paid in full. A medium share, 22 weeks of produce, is $560.17 if paid in full. Our small share, 22 weeks, is $356.47. Please note that you will see these reduced prices (for payment in full) only after you choose the Full Payment option during the signup process. Sign up early to get your chosen location and day!
18. Can I buy products from the farm even if I am not a CSA member?
Yes! We are open for retail during regular CSA pickup hours, Tuesday and Friday from 3:00 – 7:00 pm during the CSA season. We are also open on Saturday’s during the CSA season from 10:30-4:00. Offseason (December to May), we are open the first and third Saturdays of the month, from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm. If these times are not convenient for you, just give us a call and we will find a time that works for both of us!
19. If I’m picking up my share at a location other than the farm is there a delivery fee?
Yes. If you have chosen a location other than the farm to pick up your share we have a delivery fee (Does not include Narberth). $2.00 a week will be added to the cost of your share at the time of signup ($44 per season). This is to cover our time and cost to deliver your share to the site.
Narberth members do not have a delivery fee since each member takes at least one turn driving to the farm each season to pick up the group’s shares. Members participate in this process and thus the delivery fee does not apply. We call this a co-op site.
20. What is Farm Market style?
Farm market style is designed to be similar to shopping at a farmers market. Members will select their own produce from bulk bins, following the guidelines on the chalkboard in the CSA pickup area.