FAQ

How do I join?
Please go here for information on how to join.  Click here for the registration form. We're excited to meet you! If you're a returning member, welcome back!


What is in a share?
Every season is different. A CSA teaches us to eat according to the seasons and locally, but also year by year as the farmers adjust to our wishes and weather/climate conditions and according to Mother Nature. We are working with small, very special farms. The size of the share and availability of items may vary as CSA members share the bounty and the risk with the farmers.  Shares are planned to include: vegetables and herbs, fruit, and eggs plus dried fruit, cheese, bread and other grains and legumes on a monthly rotation for a wholesome diet.  Everything is Biodynamic or organic. The bread is hand-made, whole-grain slow-rise, non-yeast bread suitable even for many people who are considered wheat intolerant.
For those who cannot use use the bread or prefer a smaller share with just the fresh vegetables and fruit, we now offer 3 types of shares:
  • Main share of veggies, fruit and supplemental eggs and dry goods as said above
  • Main share without bread
  • Veggie / Fruit Only
See more on what kinds of foods are in the shares throughout the seasons including sample shares.


When is the season?

We are a year round CSA divided into Summer/Fall and Winter/Spring seasons. See Share Options and Cost for the exact season dates this year.  We also offer a School Year option for members at our Waldorf School pick up site or others who go away for the summer or may have a home garden.  (Waldorf school members may also join for full year and choose another pick up site for the summertime.)

Full Year Discount:  The Full CSA Year is 12 months of food from the end of May to May the following year A 5% discount is offered  ($100 weekly, $50 bi-weekly) for your commitment to the farmers, to your own health and eating habits, and to the School of Life that administers the program.  This applies to the MAIN SHARE (with all supplements). The CSA year is 50 weeks, skipping two weeks during winter at the end of year holiday time.


Can I try out the CSA before committing to a season or year?

Yes, new members who want to get their feet wet before making a commitment may join for a 6 week Trial Period.  Then,  if you join for the remainder of the season, this amount is applied to the prorated balance.


What is the cost?

See the Share Options and Cost page which has a chart for each share type, each season, and for weekly and bi-weekly shares.  It may look complicated due to the various options but it is simply calculated out for the number of weeks according to what is included in the 3 types of shares.


How and when do I register and pay?

SUMMER season opens in springtime, WINTER season opens in late summer.  Summer season registration includes the FULL YEAR (with discount) option as that is the beginning of our CSA year.  SCHOOL YEAR registration begins in springtime also and continues throughout the summer.  

The 6 week TRIAL can begin anytime. Send in your registration and we'll confirm a starting date. 

The farms need to plant and plan so it is VERY helpful if you make your commitment long before the season starts.  Please register early.  We consider the deadline a month before the season start.


Payment may be made in a lump sum or installments.  Please see the registration form for details.  We do have online registration however payment is by check or cash so needs to be sent in to confirm your membership. 
If using the installment plan, all checks (i.e. post-dated checks) must be included up front.


I just found out that I missed the beginning of the current CSA season.  Is there a way to get some food now?

Yes, there are several ways.  There are usually shares available even after the season starts.  Please inquire, and we will prorate your registration for the remainder of the season. 

Some of the fruit and dry goods may be ordered through Spiritual Food for the New Millennium and picked up in Bethesda or shipped to your address.


How do we know when and where to pick up the food?
See the Location and Hosts page for pick up location options.
Pick up day is Wednesdays - afternoon through evening.
Registered members will receive a letter from the host of each location within the month before the season starts giving exact pick up times, address and directions, contact information and logistical details such as suggestions on what to do if you are late one day, etc.


What farms does the food come from?
The main vegetable farm is Kimberton CSA certified Biodynamic and certified Organic through the Demeter Association.  For more information on the farm and its gardeners go here.  In addition to the weekly share from Kimberton CSA, Spiritual Food also provides vegetables (that Kimberton cannot provide) and fresh fruit from other Biodynamic and organic farms.  About 75-80% of the vegetables come from Kimberton.  The supplements included in our Main Share come from providers we know and trust from having established a relationship and worked together over many years.

We currently work with:
8 farms for fresh vegetables, fruit and eggs
4 farms for dried fruit

2 small producers (bakery, cheese)
a Farmer's cooperative
and a distributor (that started as a family farm themselves) for some of the dry goods

All are Biodynamic or organic. To learn more about the farms that provide our supplements, please go to the Meet the Farmers and Providers section for interviews and photos.


Will one share be the right amount for me and my family?
The share is planned for:

  • A couple who cooks at home regularly (not necessarily every day)
  • A small family with young children or teens
  • One dedicated natural food lover

If I only want half a share, what should I do?
Single people or those who frequently travel, don't cook at home all the time or are just getting used to a natural whole foods diet, often prefer a half share.  We offer a bi-weekly pick up where you are given a starting date, either the first or second week of the season, and pick up every other week from then on. 

Some people prefer to pick up a smaller amount every week.  In this case, you'll need to find a partner at the same pick up location and arrange between you to divide the share into 2 bags.  It's easiest if one person registers and the partner reimburses that person for half.  It can require cutting in half some items such as a loaf of bread or head of lettuce or else talking it out with your partner each week as to who wants what.  This can also work for people with food intolerances or special diets who divide it according to what they can and can't eat.

CSA partnerships are formed between parent/child, co-workers and neighbors.  Partnerships are private arrangements but you can provide e-mail addresses of both parties so we may be in communication with everyone.


What if I’m going out of town?

  • Invite your friends to try Spiritual food and have them pick up your share
  • Try to exchange with someone else, or sell your share that week, through the CSA online Yahoo group; many shares exchange hands on Yahoo
  • Donate your share and we will find a good home for it


What if I miss the pick up time on Wednesday?  Will I have lost my share that week?


We all know things sometimes come up and plans can go awry.  The coordinator at each pick up site sets guidelines for late pick up which are announced at the beginning of the season.  You would need to contact that person to let her know what happened and see about picking up late.  Any share not picked up will be given away by the site coordinator.


What if I move or for some other reason need to withdraw after joining the CSA?
Joining a CSA means committing for the full period of time, yet sometimes unforeseen circumstances arise.  In the traditional CSA model, it is the member’s ultimate responsibility to ensure a replacement for the remainder of the season.  However, now-a-days staff can help take care of this.  Please do not give installment checks with the intention of “trying” the CSA and withdraw before all checks are cashed as this would leave staff and other members picking up the tab.  If you are wary of making a commitment for the full season, please use the trial option first.


Is the CSA food all from local farms?
Our main aim is to support and promote Biodynamic farms, but as said, we offer food from other farms to round out the shares and to support other Biodynamic and
local organic farms.  In other words, local is a top priority but is sometimes sacrificed for the preference of Biodynamic. To learn what is special about Biodynamics and more about how the providers are selected and why it is not all local, click here.


Kohlrabi? Some of those foods are new to me. How do I cook them?

Our website offers suggestion for how to prepare new foods or foods that come in bursts such as carrots or beets. Check out the Food-a-pedia for food specific suggestions (and remember it is a work-in-progress and we are always looking for input from members). CSA participants join an email (yahoo) list where weekly share lists are posted with tips and information and where members trade recipes and suggestions on how to prepare items found in the shares.  It is helpful to be patient, flexible and enjoy an occasional adventure in order to fully enjoy the CSA experience.

We welcome members ideas and input.


Do I need to help out - volunteer?
CSA is a community endeavor depending on the cooperative efforts of its members; and seeing firsthand some of what is behind the scenes in getting this food to us is eye-opening and is also fun and rewarding.  In our first 14 years of operation, we depended on members to volunteer with getting the food out and about 80% did participate from all locations.   This helps keep overhead costs low so the farmer gets a fair payment for their hard work.  It also builds community! 

In 2012, our CSA made lots of changes to accommodate members and their busy lives.  The "headquarters" in Bethesda is where all the food arrives and is sorted on Wednesday mornings and sent off to the other locations.  All other locations now receive the shares already boxed so volunteering at these sites is no longer needed.  

Lest you are concerned that community spirit will suffer or there won't be a chance to share in the farm fun, Wednesdays in Bethesda offer a great opportunity to pitch in and we do need members to help pack the shares and set up.  Members from all locations can participate - we are metro accessible.  The time is 8:30 - about 10:30 am (but just let us know if you will be late or have to leave early).  There's a sign up chart on our yahoo Spiritual Food CSA group (under the database link) and in the Bethesda garage or you can reply to our e-mail requests and sign you up. 

Members also help with bagging dry goods (can be done at home or here) and special projects.  Children often like to help and teens can get community service credit.  It can be a great family or community project.  We’d love to hear your ideas on building community through the CSA.


When can we visit the farm?

Visiting the farm is an important experience for CSA members to connect with the farmer and the land that is their source of nutrition and the forces of life.  Directions are available here.

Farm tours will be offered usually in May announced through email and flyers.

To visit the farm on your own, please check with us and we'll find out from the farmers if it is a good time.


Is home delivery possible?
We encourage members to exchange this service with each other. Also, home delivery is possible to some locations for $10/week. Shipping via Fed Ex ground is also possible to neighboring states for about $13-15/week. You may note your interests on the registration form.

What if I'm going out of town for a long stretch during the season?
Our CSA purpose is explicitly to not only procure an important source of highly nutritious food but to support the farmers who provide it, and to build community.  While we know some members go out of town occasionally or even for long stretches, the CSA model depends on its members to commit to the season or preferably the full year. 

If you know before you register that you will be gone for a month or more, contact us and we'll see about prorating your share.  However, the best way to handle going out of town is to find someone to take your share while you are away.  It takes some advance planning but it upholds commitment to the farm and gives an opportunity for others to participate in the CSA.  The yahoo chat group is one place that share exchanges take place. 


Those who can afford it, might consider giving away for a longer period of time and many members appreciate this opportunity. One member gave the share to an employee; another donated it for an entire summer to a family in need.

If you'll be out of town for a week or so periodically, as said above, many members give or sell it to a friend or someone on the yahoo group list, or contact us to donate their share while they are away. We have families who very much appreciate this, of course. 


I thought CSAs were for vegetables.  Why does this one include grains and other items?
We made a choice many years ago to expand the share content beyond vegetables for 3 important reasons:  to support more farms, to reduce the need for shopping at commercial grocery stores, and to round out the weekly share to offer more whole foods for balanced nutrition. 

Over the years, this CSA has developed relationships with several farmers and providers for staple items such as additional vegetables, fruit, bread, cheese and eggs.  These supplements also help fill out the shares during leaner months and if there is a particular crop that fails on the main farm.

Our family cannot eat wheat or dairy.  What should we do?
We now offer an option for the main share without bread.  However, please read about our bread before deciding.  The bread offered in the CSA is slow rise, sourdough and many people with wheat intolerance can enjoy this bread with no problems.  Much of the recent near epidemic of wheat allergies can be traced to commercial preparation of bread.  Genetic modification of seed adds to the problem but our biodynamically grown wheat is certainly not GMO.  See the bread article in Food-A-Pedia for more information. 

Frequency: bread is usually included for 2 weeks, then skipped for 3 weeks. (therefore bi-weekly members would receive it every 5 weeks.) Some members who cannot use it, share their bread with others who can. Those who want it more often can place an order. 

Cheese is usually offered every 4-5 weeks i.e. less than once a month.  Those who want more can order or purchase from the garage in Bethesda. 

If you prefer a share without eggs or cheese, choose the Veggie/Fruit only and you can order or purchase other dry goods if you wish.


Can I buy more of some things that we use a lot?

Ordering more of the fresh food from the Kimberton CSA farm may be possible sometimes.  A standing order of something while in season is the best option.  Occasionally, when there is a surplus of something from this or any of the farms we work with, we will announce availability of bulk orders.

For other foods, we have a service called "special orders" where members can establish a standing order or order anytime (by Thursday) for pick up in Bethesda or delivery to other CSA locations the following Wednesday.  A standing order is great for fresh items like eggs, yogurt and bread.  Cheese, grains, dried fruit and legumes are also available along with staples like cooking oil, honey, nut butters, healthy snacks, etc. and household and body care products.  See Special Orders and Mail Order Service.  Some items can be ordered in bulk for a discount; some can be shipped directly from the farm to you home. There is a product list available and any package can be shipped anywhere in the USA for yourself or a gift. 


If I know already that I won’t be able to use certain items, will I be throwing money away if I join this CSA?
No, not if you look at the big picture.  CSA offers an alternative to the concept of putting a specific dollar value on a basic need like food items and creates a broader picture of health and security for all. You might rather look at it as an investment.

CSA is about much more than return for your money or prices.  It addresses the true cost of food, which includes a living wage for farmers and supports economic and environmental sustainability.  It is true that not all CSAs include supplements like grains, dried fruit and dairy but we believe that by broadening the scope to include more kinds of food (because after all, we eat more than vegetables) we are opening this alternative way of doing business to cover more of our needs and to support those who provide them.

Wasting money is certainly a real concern, but we can look at a broad picture here as well.  There is an incredible amount of waste in the modern world and CSA because of its structure and way of operation, (no wasteful packaging or expensive premises, processed foods, throw away containers etc.) reduces this to almost nil.  Farmers markets and grocery stores, restaurants and hotels throw away a LOT of food.  Single use packaging, shipping across the country or the ocean, and excessive paperwork or “middle-men” while useful can also be considered wasteful and are reduced or avoided in CSA.  Perhaps the biggest waste is when human minds and bodies are not treated and utilized in a well-rounded healthy, life-supporting way.  The CSA model attempts to address, in its small way, all of these very real phenomena of modern times.

I’m still concerned about wasting food or money. What would I do with items I cannot use?
If there are certain vegetables or some of the supplements that you cannot use, here are some ideas we’ve heard from other members:

  • Food can be shared with family, friends or neighbors reminiscent of the days before refrigerators when harvests were abundant and sharing was part of the recognition and joy of nature’s bounty as well as avoiding waste.
  • Informal exchange – Put things you can’t use into an exchange box at your pick up site for another member to enjoy and you might find something you can use.
  • If you split a share, your partner can have the items you cannot use.
  • Formal exchange – Try finding someone at your pick up site or through the yahoo group to exchange certain items with you on a regular basis.
  • This special food can be offered as gifts.  Many a gorgeous head of lettuce and luscious grapefruit have gone to doctors/healers, nannies, teachers to say thanks or to a neighbor in need.  Dry goods can be saved up for a thoughtful gift.  Storage crops from the fall make great homemade holiday baskets.  Here at the ashram, we give food bags to volunteers, speakers, and out of town guests.
  • If you just leave it behind, it will be donated to a home in need the next day.

Our experience of visiting many farms over the years is that one can NEVER leave empty-handed!  It’s even embarrassing sometimes when we know they don’t have a lot of money but insist on giving something -- literally the fruit of their labor and of the land.  I believe this is one of the joys of being a farmer. We can experience a little of that as members of the CSA.

This beautiful food never need be thrown away.  It can be given to another person as an act of friendship or charity.  We also know that what goes around, comes around -- what we do for others selflessly, ultimately comes back in another way. 

As the prayer of St. Francis says: It is in giving that we receive.