The First Thing You Should Know
Table of Contents
Queen Bees don’t usually perspire, but this Queen will never forget how nervous I was felt when I approached the Sunnyside CSA Board with a proposal to offer CSA members a monthly Backyard Bees “soap share” – two bars of plant-based, hand-made soaps, minimally packaged to reduce waste, to be delivered to the CSA site each month. So first thing you should know, is that they said “yes!”
I wasn’t the Queen then, but I had been the volunteer site coordinator for the Sunnyside CSA for ‘a lot of’ years (I have a bad memory for numbers). For 25 Thursdays from June – November, you would find the Queen at Sunnyside Community Services, off of Queens Boulevard and 39th Street, the location of the volunteer-run Sunnyside CSA, the best volunteer group I have ever been a part of.
Thursday was the day. The day when the veggie truck would arrive, loaded with boxes of fresh produce and crates of fresh fruit that needed to be unloaded, stacked and distributed to around 150 CSA members. Every Thursday. In the rain, the snow, the blazing heat, no matter what…a different group of volunteers would meet the truck with me and get it done. It wasn’t always perfect, but wow! What a group of dedicated people!
The 2nd Thing
WHAT EXACTLY IS A CSA? You should definitely know this! In the Queen Bee’s terms, a CSA is a bee-u-t-full relationship between farmers and the people who value the nourishing food that that farmers grow. Community. Supported. Agriculture
CSA Members Get To Know Their Farmers The Sunnyside CSA always held an “Meet The Farmer” open house. For years, Maggie or Matt from Golden Earthworm Farm would make the long drive from out East to Sunnyside (over an hour trip in rush-hour traffic), to spend about an hour chatting with the CSA membership. They would share the season crop plan, talk about farming practices, answer questions for backyard gardeners, and even tell stories about their two young boys. It was informative, helpful, and personal.
Note: The Angel Family Farm is the grower for the CSA now, and you can meet THEM at the 2023 Open House on April 3rd at 7PM.
HOW A CSA WORKS The CSA model is personal! CSA members pay for their “share” of the costs associated with farming at the beginning of a growing season in return for a share of the harvest. Farmers use membership fees to get supplies and pay their bills– from seeds to fertilizer, electricity, water, employees, and so on.
As the season progresses, the farmers harvest and prepare weekly deliveries of cream-of-the-crop, in-season delicacies. Sometimes it’s a really big delivery and sometimes it’s not – because as all CSA members know – there are no guarantees in farming. Droughts, blights, cold spells, disease…anything is possible in nature. CSA members share those risks with the farmers and trust the farmers will grow with them in mind!
CSAs ARE EASY ON YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT The CSA model is more sustainable than traditional grocery stores. A CSA connects people with local food sources, which means both the food and the consumer travel shorter distances. Eating locally and in season, shopping at farmers markets and participating in CSAs are all ways of reducing the carbon footprint of eating.
Joining a CSA can be a challenge for some as it does require a commitment to a set time/place to pick up your share. But it can also offer structure in a world where grocery and convenience stores are open 24/7. Finding ways to support a value system by supporting local growers and forming personal relationships with a community of like-minded “neighbors” is really rewarding.
The THIRD Thing
NOT ALL CSA’S ARE THE SAME The final “look” of a CSA varies from location to location but they all start with the same premise – connecting farmers and consumers with quality, fresh, nutritious food. There is probably a CSA near you; you can find CSA’s all across the country!
The Sunnyside CSA Model All CSA’s have the same model to forge a relationship between growers and consumers – focusing on “A is for Agriculture.” The Sunnyside CSA Volunteer Board equally focuses on the “C is for Community” and “S is for Support.” Here’s a few reasons why the Sunnyside CSA has a special place in the Queen’s heart.
- SUBSIDY PROGRAM: The Board runs special events and fundraisers throughout the season to support reduced-price shares for those with limited incomes. The number of shares available varies from year to year, but the Sunnyside CSA Membership is behind this program 100%.
- GIVE BACK: Sunnyside Community Services is the host site for the Sunnyside CSA. They run a robust Center for Older Adults, alongside a senior nutrition program. CSA members agree that any shares not picked up by the end of the night will be donated to the kitchen, where the chef incorporates the fresh produce into the menu. My 90-year old mom used to go dancing, have her hair cut, play bingo at the Sunnyside Center, and I would meet her for a delicious lunch. Such a bee-u-t-full (and delicious) memory for me – Friday Funday with my mom.
- SPECIAL PRODUCTS PROGRAM: The Sunnyside CSA has a Special Products Coordinator who creates additional opportunities for its members. The Lewis Waite Farms Farmer Network has always been the most popular one: CSA members can order organic meats, raw milk cheeses, eggs, dozens of organic pantry staples (like honey) and even ready-to-eat options for pickup at the Community Center, along with their CSA vegetables. Other special product shares that have been offered through the years include kombucha, beer, fish, garlic – and of course, Backyard Bees soap!
THE LAST THING YOU SHOULD KNOW
I told you they said “yes!” And 7 years later (at least), the Sunnyside CSA still offers a Backyard Bees Soap Share to it’s members. A “soap share” may sound peculiar, but it really makes sense to those who want to live ‘clean’ (no pun intended). People who care about what they put inside their body usually care about what they put ON their body too.
Did you ever take a shower or a bath and come out all itchy? If you take a look at the ingredient list on most commercial soaps, you will see a long list of synthetic ingredients. Many of those ingredients seem to irritate sensitive skin, especially those with eczema or psoriasis.
Backyard Bees soaps are plant-based. We use natural plant oils (olive oil, sunflower oil, mango butter, and others) as the base of their soaps, and natural plant-based colorants, like rose hips or dandelions…or event sunflower petals. Natural soaps like these leave your skin soft and moisturized, often without any extra skin products! And….no itchiness!
Good things take time. Many people don’t realize that natural soap needs 4-6 weeks to cure on a shelf. During this time the some becomes milder on the skin and any extra liquids used in the process have time to evaporate, leaving behind a harder, longer lasting bar.
So, just like a farmer, the Queen Bee benefits from planning ahead – knowing what variety of soap to make, when to make it, and how much to make is more efficient. Backyard Bees can pass the savings on to our CSA customers. Soap shares DO make sense!
Want to join our Bee Clean Soap Club?
The Sunnyside CSA is the original Backyard Bees Soap Share, but you can be a part of it too, even if you don’t live in Sunnyside. Our online shop offers multiple pickup locations in Long Island, or the option for one shipment to your door in November to save on shipping fees. You can also opt for two shipments.
Lots of people on Long Island have asked how they can be a part of the Sunnyside CSA Soap Share. I even have customers in California asking about it! Check out the options! (You get a free surprise with your order)