-START A FREE

VEGGIE BOX PROGRAM-

Women stand with assortment of veggies and flowers.

Garden members pose with produce for the Boxes of Blessings. The garden’s motto is that “It WILL be Good.”

Even though they sometimes worry that they won’t have enough produce, the boxes are always overflowing with delicious vegetables.

The Garden of Concord

Graham, NC

Alamance County

Every week for 6 months out of the year, 25 families gather in Concord United Methodist Church’s basement to receive a box of fresh produce harvested from the church’s community garden. The families are all part of the garden’s Box of Blessings, which is a type of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In a CSA, people pre-pay for a “share” of the garden’s harvest, then receive weekly boxes of fruit and veggies from the garden. Each box also comes with a handout detailing what is in the box, how to store the produce, and recipes based on that week’s bounty.

Along with selling these boxes, The Garden of Concord also gives away 10 shares to families in need. At the beginning of each season, the garden distributes applications through Southern Alamance Family Empowerment (SAFE), a food ministry, and through a social worker at the local elementary school. Eligible families must live within 12 miles of the garden and already enjoy eating vegetables. This is to make sure the boxes remain a blessing rather than a burden.

 

The garden also offers workshops on canning, nutrition planning, and cooking throughout the season. Everyone who receives a Box of Blessings is invited to garden workdays and Neighbor Nights, where they can learn more about where their food comes from and get to know other people in their community.

Offering a free or cost-share CSA is a powerful way to ensure that food-insecure families in your community have access to healthy, fresh produce. However, it can be hard to start a CSA from scratch. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you commit to this model:

  • Can you grow a diverse amount of fruits and veggies? CSA members don’t want to eat the same veggies every week. Make sure you grow a variety of produce so you can provide at least 5 different vegetables in each share.

  • How long will your season be? Most CSAs run for about 20 weeks, although they can be shorter or longer. Make sure you plan to grow enough produce to provide for all members throughout the entire season.

  • Who pays for the boxes? The Garden of Concord covers the cost of the boxes through sponsorships, fundraisers, and grants. Another option is to offset the cost of free shares through full-price orders.

  • Could you subsidize a few free boxes through an already-existing CSA?  It may be easier to gauge interest by working through an existing CSA program, before you start growing your own box shares.

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