Weekly Set Up at the CSA

Each Wednesday morning, volunteers work alongside staff to prepare the weeks share of the harvest for members.  Many members, to their own surprise, tell how positive the experience is in terms of working with the food and with others, contributing to the sustenance of so many people, working with their hands and minds in a concrete and beneficial way and learning what goes on behind the scenes.  And it is absolutely needed to sort the food and make the shares every week.  School-age children especially like to help and often ask for more.  See below for other CSA tasks and projects.

Why Volunteering?

Volunteerism is a common practice in ordinary corporate, non-profit, government, and such enterprises. In many cases it is a way to build up a resume or to gain access to certain positions, which means there is a personal benefit expected from the action. In other cases it is a true desire for service that comes from the soul. In the science of Yoga, volunteerism is framed as a very clear practice called Karma Yoga. 

Karma Yoga, or “service” or “devotional service,” specifically establishes that the action should be performed without any expectation for the fruit of it. That is no expectation of reward or any form of tangible benefit. Yet there is something very valuable in its practice if we look at it in its right context. 

A human birth is a precious opportunity to learn about our ultimate destiny. Thanks to our intellectual and reasoning capacities we have been given the possibility to recognize that we are pure spirit embodied temporarily in a physical frame and capable of feeling the urgency of fulfilling the purpose for which we came to this planet.
The immortality of the soul, that has gathered trough eons of time knowledge of its true nature, inspires and sustains our awareness of the reality of a spiritual world. 

At some point in our existence we realize the need to manifest our capacities for what they were intended -- the practice of unconditional love. But unconditional love is not easy to manifest, moreover conditional love is first developed and tends to grow into strong attachments that are very difficult to transcend.

The great gift of reasoning capacity that we human beings have (as opposed to instinctual capacity by which our brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom operate) leads us, often after protracted and painful experiences, to inquire about the purpose of our existence. Hence we strive to acquire what is known as transcendental knowledge. This is a very beautiful stage of our existence but again not easy to come about. First we have to ascend through the preparatory steps. One of the important initial steps is in learning the difference between service and devotional service. Service is the path to love; devotional service is the path to unconditional love, a God - like trait that gives us a taste of divinity. 

Goethe said “to reach the infinite, one must tread the finite in every
 direction.” In other words in order to understand Eternal Life we must first understand everything about this life. But, thanks to God’s mercy we have been granted as human beings the possibility, working within our limited capacities, to practice simultaneously both levels. 

We have heard repeatedly from several members of the CSA and the
School of Life how surprised they were of the satisfaction derived from doing “Karma Yoga” as we call it or volunteer work as it would normally be understood. Doing this work for the CSA there is no expectation of reward. This shows the wisdom of this ancient practice, which brings about the experience of love even without any preparation or expectation of any kind.

The boon or special additional gift comes when, once we have discovered the blessing that comes with this practice we can enhance it manifold by simply embracing the notion that our activity is in alignment with God’s will, given that it is done for the purpose of serving our fellow human beings in each one of whom we can see the divinity within. 

With time elation starts to grow, without any apparent reason. When we learn what true happiness is - the precursor of joy, that happiness comes from within without any external stimulation - then we start experiencing the freedom from dependence on external objects. When we are free of attachment to “things” or “stuff,” which we sometimes confuse with a source of happiness, we know the blessing of the spiritual work has started flowing in us. We are on our way to experience and discover the true reality of the spiritual world for us to explore and attain.

Karma Yogis

Hanuman has been bringing the food from Kimberton PA most of the past 10 years.  He now 
spends every Tuesday, all day, going to Kimberton, PA, weekly in summer and bi-weekly in Winter to pick up between 2,000 and 4,000 lbs of food for the CSA and Essene Church of Peace.  He also maintains the van, trailer and refrigeration.

Parvati, maker of the homemade Peace Pasta, spends 3 1/2 hours every Wednesday delivering the goods locally to each pick up site and a few homes, regardless of rain, shine or traffic conditions.  She is our ambassador to the on site volunteers who help unload the van and reload the previous week's bins and boxes, keeping track of what goes where to whom.

For more volunteering photos go here

From set-up to blueberry picking, the CSA has many great volunteering opportunities!

CSA Volunteering opportunities here
The Details of Volunteering

Volunteering is not mandatory, but is necessary!

We feel that mandatory volunteering would be an oxymoron, self-contradictory, however this CSA depends on member participation for its operations. The reason is that volunteering is an important element in the community building and economic impact of the CSA idea, as well as for encapsulating the spirit of service and connecting with our source of nourishment. Economic impact means we prefer to pay farmers the true cost of food over paying high overhead costs at the consumer’s end.

It is important to keep up the positive energy all the way from mother earth's body until it is in our bodies. Love is the main nurturing "vitamin" that this food should be providing and we should reinforce it with our loving care for the benefit of our families and all the CSA members.

Ideally everybody should contribute in one way or another, but we should not prevent people from joining if they cannot volunteer. Single parents for example, should benefit from the extra effort that those in a better position can offer. The spirit of community is precisely to practice sharing and love for each other, understanding each other's predicaments so we can all "trust", a very battered word in modern society. A better world will not happen if we don't make it and we have to start a step at a time.

On a practical note, volunteering makes the CSA run… and fun! 

In reply to whether she would host the Arlington CSA for a 5th season, Susan replies- 
"We would love to!  We truly enjoy it!  If someone else would like to, let me know!  Others should have the opportunity to have such a wonderful experience!"

PLEASE be prepared to join in! It is fun to work with the food and share in the community spirit; more so, if you have a desk job, need a mental break, are at home with children and need an outing…we can think of lots of reasons to volunteer even besides the fact that there is much work to be done!

Those with 9-5 jobs are often able to arrange a few hours off a couple times in a season to accommodate setting up on Wednesdays. If this is absolutely not possible, other tasks are available.

School age children are welcome and usually enjoy and benefit from the experience. Those with infants and toddlers usually prefer to come without the children (or choose one of the tasks that can be done from home). Some teens and pre-teens have volunteered with the CSA for Community Service hours for their school.

There is work to be done at all of the pick up locations. In fact, those other than Bethesda depend on members to help prepack the shares on Wednesdays.

What follows is details on what needs to be done and how to sign up. Members receive an e-mail about this each new season so don’t worry about trying to remember it all.

The Main Tasks:


  • In Bethesda, this involves sorting for the other locations, setting the food out for display, making signs, and neatening up the space.  Allow 2-3 hours.
  • At other pick up locations, shares can be pre-packed so everything is counted or weighed out, sorted and bagged for each member each week (and members don’t have to bag their share or clean up after hours).  Usually 1-1 ½ hours.  If pre-bagging of shares is not done, the food needs to be set up for display and there needs to be a clean up person after pick up hours.

 If everyone helps at least twice during the season all will be covered easily and we can relax and enjoy the community effort!  (Note: At places with fewer members it may require 3 times a season but the shifts would be shorter)


Dry goods come in bulk and need to be bagged and counted.  This can be done in Bethesda at a time convenient to you or even in your home.  You’ll be contacted when needs arise. Bethesda members do a lot of this since the goods are physically there and because Bethesda has the greatest number of members.  However, the bagging is for all and the food is sorted each week for all locations in Bethesda, so participation by members from other locations is strongly encouraged and gives everyone the opportunity and experience of contributing to the whole community.  Items can be sent on the van to be done at home or those from other locations are very welcome to come to work in Bethesda and see the other side of the CSA. 


In Bethesda, two members or member couples alternate weeks to put things away and tidy up.  This can be done at their convenience Thursday through Saturday.   This is a quiet and very satisfying job and a tremendous help.

There is also general cleaning to do such as washing counters, refrigerators, the vans scheduled at your convenience (a great job with children in the summertime). 


Each location needs

  • A volunteer coordinator to be sure the schedule is filled
  •  A weekly reminder person to contact the volunteer for that week


There are many fun projects looking for enthusiastic members, such as:
  • Organizing recipes
  • Researching food topics
  • Welcoming new members and answering their questions
  • Interviewing people in the community 
  •  Even picking blueberries!

You don’t need to be an expert or even experienced.  We can offer guidance to make it easy; volunteering is a good opportunity to learn something new and expand your horizons, and to really make difference. 

Some of these projects can be done from home so are good options for those who absolutely cannot get away to volunteer on site.

 Help is also needed by experienced members to help manage things while the School of Life is on retreat twice a year, such as:

  • Supervising set up in Bethesda
  • Driving to the farm and around town for local deliveries
  • Preparing the share lists


 For bagging, special tasks and projects, talk to your hosts on opening days of the season, look for e-mail messages or contact us anytime (301-654-4899, spiritualfood@schooloflife.org).

 For the weekly SET UP of food, there is a sign up chart for each location.  

  • Sign up on line at the Yahoo site in the month before the season starts. If you have problems using Yahoo, please e-mail: durga_devi@earthlink.net with a choice of dates, and she can sign you up. Or, you may call 301 654 4899x5 and leave a message with dates you can come.  You’ll receive a letter about this from your area coordinator.
  • If you were not able to sign up before the season starts, please fill in any remaining slots during the first 2 weeks of the season.  Bring your calendar please!
  • Sign up continues online on the yahoo site throughout the season
  • If you need to verify the date you have chosen, check on the yahoo chart

Once you sign up, you will be counted on for that day by other members at your pick up location!

  • If you must change your date, you can post a notice on the yahoo group (e-mail to spiritualfoodcsa@yahoogroups.com) asking for a switch or go to the chart on yahoo to see who is working around the same time and contact them directly for a possible switch.
  • If there is a last minute emergency, contact your coordinator to see what can be arranged

To use the online sign up, you need to join the Spiritual Food CSA group on yahoo.  Go to the Contact Us link on this website to start.  Once you’ve joined, open yahoo.com, sign in with your ID and password, click on groups, enter spiritualfoodCSA where it says search for a group, and you’ll see a link on the left called DATABASE.  The volunteer sign up charts are there.  You can save this page in Favorites for quicker reference in the future.  (Subsequent times you sign on to yahoo, you’ll automatically see the SpiritualFoodCSA group link on the left and can enter easily there. 

We understand that everyone is very busy with this fast paced life.  Please consider what you can do to contribute to the CSA community and its goals of providing good food, supporting special farms and building food security for all.  Other opportunities here