2015 CSA Breakdown


(weekly breakdown and investment return below)

We believe that through our CSA we are able to grapple with some of the thorny issues that persist in farming and food consumption in America.  For instance, local food and organic food is often seen as too expensive, sometimes prohibitively so.  Although many Americans today understand that the playing field for small-scale and large-scale agriculture is not level regardless of this they must confront the financial realities of their lives and make purchasing decisions accordingly.

The problem of high retail cost of organic food is something that organic growers can confront proactively through their CSA.  By simply providing members with a surplus of vegetables slightly greater in value than the weekly cost of their CSA share helps lighten the blow of retail costs required for small farmers to make a decent living.

When farmers have good years their is plenty of surplus to go around, especially with high-yielding, perishable crops like tomatoes, peas, squash, peppers, and eggplant.  Simple supply and demand economics assert that cost comes down while surplus is high, but when supply is perishable why not share the wealth?  So every week our CSA members receive investment returns in the form of extra purchasing points at the pick-ups or heavy bags of additional items pouring out of the fields in bountiful years like 2015.  When you extrapolate the returns to effect the retail cost (say $3 per pound for tomatoes) what you gain in surplus reduces the retail cost of all the produce at the pick-up for the member.

Below is the weekly breakdown of the 2015 26-week CSA season spanning from June-November.  Consider the return a giant Thank You for your support and we hope that the produce made you happy and healthy.

Here are the details:

Full Share. $685 for 26 weeks = $26.35/week investment.

Three-Quarter Share. $530. $20.38/week investment.

Half-Share. $350. $13.46/week investment.

Weeks: Here is what the Full-Share members actually received in 2015. You can extrapolate down for Three-Quarter and Half-Shares.

Week 1 : $42.50  Week 2 : $30  Week 3: $26   Week 4: $35   Week 5:  $34   Week 6:  $34  Week 7:  $32

Week 8: $36   Week 9: $32  Week 10: $34  Week 11:  $35  Week 12:  $40  Week 13:  $46!! Week 14: $42

Week 15: $35  Week 16: $36  Week 17:  $32  Week 18:  $32  Week 19:  $32  Week 20:  $28  Week 21:  $24

Week 22: $24  Week 23:  $24  Week 24:  $24  Week 25:  $25  Week 26:  $30

Total Cash Value of Produce Received :  $844.50

Total Return :  $844.50 – $685 = $159.50 per Full Share Member (23% return on your investment… not bad, right?!?)



Winter CSA, Sign-Up Via E-Mail

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Greetings, we have another 8 weeks left of our Summer/Fall CSA program, concluding the last week of November.  Many of you have asked me “what will we do this winter without your vegetables?” We would like to invite you stay with us by joining our 14-week Winter CSA.

Through the cold months of the year we plant our three open-ground greenhouses (or “high tunnels”) with extremely cold hardy vegetables.  Leafy greens such as Winterbor Kales, Spinach, and Bok Chois are able to tolerate our cold winters by a daily thawing process which leaves them not only intact, but thicker, hardier, and sweeter than during the normal growing season.

We also will be setting aside a portion of our Fall harvest for the Winter CSA program as well.  We intend to have the following storage crops available during the winter season as well as the greens mentioned above: kohlrabi, garlic, onions, potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, daikon radish, sweet potato, rutabaga, parsnips, leeks, and celeriac.  Share will be on average 5 items/week.  Eggs will be available and sold first come, first serve in half-dozen containers for $3/half-dozen.

The logistics of the share will be as follows:  Shares will be one-size and will be pre-bagged (about the size of an average 3/4 share).  Shares cost $300.  Pick-up of your share will be held for two-hours from 5-7pm in the Bell Street Chapel (5 Bell Street PVD) parking lot on Tuesdays.  You will find me in the parking lot in my car or truck handing out bags.  The share will be held on the following dates (All Tuesday evenings): 12/1, 12/8, 12/15, 12/22, 12/29, 2/2, 2/9, 2/16, 2/23, 3/1, 3/8, 3/15, 3/22, 3/29.  Please note there are no pick-ups during the month of January.  

Members who participated in the 2014/2015 Winter CSA last year are entitled to a $10 discount on their share.

Sign Up by sending an e-mail to bigtrain_farm@yahoo.com

Please Note! We only have a limited amount of shares to offer during the winter so sign-up quick!

Processed with VSCOcam with s1 presetPlease Note! Please understand that the winter season can be unpredictable and sometimes ruthless.  We will not endanger ourselves to make it to the pick-up and don’t want you to either.  Bad weather may lead to pick-up cancellations and shares will be doubled-up the following week when possible.  Problems on the farm may lead to pick-up cancelations resulting in weeks that cannot be made up.  Please be willing to be flexible if you sign up for the Winter CSA Share.

Thanks!  It’s going to be great!

Summer/Fall CSA Begins in One Month

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetOur 26 CSA season will begin in one month, June 4th.  The pick-ups are held every Thursday at Bell Street Chapel (5 Bell Street in Providence) between the hours of 3 and 7pm.  You will be updated as the time approaches.  Once the pick-up begins it will be your responsibility to make to the pick-up every week to pick up your share(s).  We are looking forward to seeing our returning members and meeting all of our new members as well!

Things at the farm are rolling along ata steady clip.  We have finally pulled out of our early spring-mud routine.  Except for the warmest and driest of springs we are usually hobbled by wet, muddy fields which stall outdoor planting.  But, at this point many of our fields have some nature of crop planted and our greenhouses are full of early carrots, beets, radishes, onions, and our earliest summer tomatoes and peppers.  We have peas germinating in the field and a wide assortment of greens and lettuces planted and warming under row-cover fabric.  Kales, Collards, Chards, Cabbages, Asian Lettuces, Dandelion, are all planted in the field at this point.  In our propagation house we have herbs slowly growing, waiting to be transplanted into 4″ pots for your shares.  This is a exciting time, spring is always full of promise and anticipation on the farm.  Hope you are as excited as we are to get some of these rich vegetables to you.  Stay tuned for email updates as we get closer to our go-date.  Best Wishes, John

Victoria’s Tamale Fundraiser

Hello everyone!
For the past two years I have been extensively planning and recipe testing and budgeting for my mobile tamale cart, ¡Holy Tamale! And now, finally, all of my ducks are in a row and I’m ready to start crowd-funding and making everything happen.

Last year I interned at Big Train Farms, and it was hugely rewarding. I spent upwards of 60 hours a week covered in dirt, out in the sun, working harder than I ever have before. I walked away determined to focus on ¡Holy Tamale!: to start and build a company and do something that I love, and is just mine. I also developed some very strong feelings about the importance of sustainability and locally sourced ingredients; I have never eaten so well in my life.  This year I am continuing to work with Big Train Farms to ensure that my tamales are filled with only the most delicious spinach, tomatoes, eggs, etc. 

I just visited NYC to buy the moped that will pull the cart.  An electric blue 1981 Pryer trike.  You’ll be able to spot me at the various local farmer’s markets and kickball games throughout the Summer.  I have a feeling my success will lie largely in the bar scene (tamales and beer are like… pizza and beer…).

Since launching my Indiegogo campaign a week ago, I have raised nearly 10% of my goal! I plan to be up and running by the first week of June, and so the fundraising ends in mid-May.  I’m asking for $9,000, which covers the cost of the moped, the cart, kitchen rental, parking, permits, and fresh, organic ingredients.

 Please take a moment to check out https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/holy-tamale and contribute!


Update on our honeybees!

honey jars march 2015


We hope our winter CSA members enjoyed their 4oz honey jars!  The hive that it was harvested from has been active for five years.  That’s a lot of continuous pollination that allows for our crops to exist at all.   That said, most unfortunately all three of the hives we have had at Big Train Farm died this winter. They died from a combination of lax care but also this incredibly difficult winter that killed off a surprising number of hives of even the veteran beekeepers in the area.  Bees have many challenges, as you may have heard, including the always-present varroa mite,  the ever-elusive Colony Collapse Disorder, starvation and various other illnesses so getting bees through a winter such as we’ve had really is quite the challenge. The loss of hives over the winter is not unusual, sadly.  Beekeeping is tough these days!

With that in mind, we are happy to announce that this year Mindy will be taking the helm of all of the beekeeping at Big Train Farm – in addition to finishing her last summer at graduate school!  She has been very excited about this decision and has been deep in preparation for the past couple of months reading every text she can find, completing a series of courses through the R.I. Beekeepers Association and acquiring new equipment.  She’ll be painting the new hive boxes in the next couple weeks and by this time next month Big Train Farm will be home to 6 pounds of Italian honeybees that will live in two separate hives!  Our goal in keeping with good stewardship of the land we share is to prioritize the health of our bees, so harvesting honey will come later – if it happens to be a great year for the bees, we may get some honey.  We’ll see!

So we’ll hopefully have more pictures to come over the season and definitely reach out to Mindy if you have questions or to chat about bees!


honey jar march 2015


I am assessing the benefits of farm work for individuals with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

My survey is online, anonymous, and should not take longer than 10 minutes to complete.

I am looking for individuals who have worked on a farm for at least one growing season (6 months) within the past 2 years, have a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that preceded the farm experience, are at least 18 years old, and can read and write in English (simply to be able to complete the survey).

Individuals could range from occasional volunteers, paid workers, interns, workshares (who work in exchange for a share of product) and is meant to allow for a range of working experiences.


Please feel free to contact me with any questions at MWalls at Smith dot edu.  This research project is for the completion of my MSW degree from Smith College School for Social Work.
If you choose to email me, be aware that your responses will still be anonymous, though I will be aware that you have viewed the study and are interested in participating.

2015 Winter Update

securedownloadWe have been busy this winter, and the term “busy” is not one I use lightly.  I often try to avoid the term altogether because it denotes a sort of preoccupation with stress or ordeals or maybe even self-righteousness.  Instead when asked I liked to say “I’m having fun” or “I have some interesting projects going on”, etc.  Both of these things are true currently.  I also am a little bit more focused on the farm than I normally like to be in January.

BUT, like I said, I cannot possibly complain.  I am, of course, the luckiest person on Earth, and so I try to carry myself accordingly and not sulk.  We bought some land this past Halloween with a USDA 30-year line of credit in Glocester, RI off of Snake Hill Road in Chepachet.  It is 11-acres of land that is currently being cleared of pine and aspen and will soon have the woody brush mowed down.  I know many of you have spoken with Mindy and I over the years about our long search for land, and I truly appreciate your support and friendship and enthusiasm for us as we went through this process.  Well, we’ve done it.

Our plan is to transition slowly off of the property that we currently are on, Urban Edge Farm.  UEF is where we have called home now for seven years and it will be hard to walk away when the time comes.  I have learned so much about myself and farming and have made so many friends through UEF that it is hard to imagine not working there anymore, but this is still some years away.  We will still be farming at UEF for at least the next couple years.  However, the work must begin on the new land, Snake Hill.  Our goal for 2015 is to put up a barn, a bunch of greenhouses, some deer fencing and start the process of turning our naturally rocky, acidic RI soil into dynamic, biologically exuberant, power medium.  We hope to have all of you out to Snake Hill some time soon and look forward to having some bonfires with all the brush we have been clearing thus far.

And in comes the New Year, another trip around the agricultural calendar with it’s hopes, anticipations, hard work, failures, laughs, messes, successes, beauties, conjectures, and refutations.  The joy of working with natural systems and the soul of New England agriculture is it’s unpredictability.

We will be jumping into some exciting projects this year: a more advanced approach to compost tea production, new equipment for prepping beds, building greenhouses for expanding our Winter CSA, applying for some grants, anticipating some fruit tree plantings, building a farm, expanding the CSA to work for social justice, continuing our collaboration with local Universities, and continuing to learn and teach.

We are also going to be taking a new approach to our CSA and try to form a small “inner-circle” of long-term CSA members who can help us move the farm forward and accomplish some of our larger goals, on-farm and off-farm.  More details about that soon.

I want to take this moment to welcome you back to Big Train Farm.  If you are a new or potential-new member we hope you will become part of the Big Train Family.  Our members, many of them, have been with us for years and it is their support that makes what we do possible.  One of our goals for this year is to bring the CSA members closer to the farm by getting involved in work projects, cook-outs, bonfires, local political issues, and social justice.  With much love and respect, here’s to the New Year.  John

2014 CSA Report

The CSA is an opportunity for you to purchase local, high-quality products from small businesses in our community, and to have a direct impact in a local farm. CSA membership is one of the most effective ways of keeping local farming viable. We are able to persist and flourish thanks to our CSA members.

Your investment in our farm is greatly appreciated. We have had an excellent season and we believe that CSA members should feel the benefits of that. A good investment gets you a good return, and that is what you have received this year through your support of Big Train Farm’s CSA.

Here are the details:

Full Share. $685 for 26 weeks = $26.35/week investment.

Three-Quarter Share. $530. $20.38/week investment.

Half-Share. $350. $13.46/week investment.

Weeks: Here is what the Full-Share members actually received in 2014. You can extrapolate down for Three-Quarter and Half-Shares.

Week 1: $36    Week 2: $22    Week 3: $27    Week 4: $28    Week 5: $29    Week 6: $27    Week 7: $32

Week 8: $30   Week 9: $28    Week 10: $31   Week 11: $34  Week 12: $36   Week 13: $34.25    Week 14: $36

Week 15: $37.50     Week 16: $36  Week 17: $34   Week 18: $34.50    Week 19: $36   Week 20: $30   Week 21: $32

Week 22: $28   Week 23: $28    Week 24: $28   Week 25: $24     Week 26: $26

 Total Value Received = $804.25/Full Share member

Total Value of Return ($804.25 – $685) = $119.25/Full Share member

 Calculated for our average of 69 Full Shares (all the shares added up into Full Shares), Total Amount of Return in Produce for BTF CSA in 2014 = $8,228.25

 Although this was an exceptional year, we do always manage to get our CSA members at least a small monetary return on their investments. This helps bring the otherwise high retail costs of local, organic produce down Thank you for your support in 2014.

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February Update


We have some interesting things to share with you, this year is going to be very exciting I think with many projects and new toys and developments.  First off, last year, 2013, was a stellar year for labor.  We upped the internship to two positions (Danni and Joe, whom you met at the pick-up) and this proved to be very effective for the farm as a whole.  I broadened the academic portion of the position and made it possible for the interns to have a more rounded exposure to farming.  We covered topics such as soil science, plant science and nutrition, organic methodology, fertility analysis and planning, marketing and financing.  We are currently accepting applications for our 2014 interns, so if you know of anyone or are interested your-self please get in touch.

We are a research institution!!  We are working with URI and Brown University to partner up with students interested in doing independent research projects.  I will be directing these projects but students will be able to work on their own.  This year we will be doing a compost tea project.  We will be experimenting with different recipes of tea and conducting trials to see what kind of results we get from foliar and drench feeding regiments.  Another project I had in mind was trials that consider the magnetic conductivity of the soil, how it relates to plant growth and how we can interact with it to grow better crops.  All these projects are intended to provide simple, clear methods for growing excellent crops at little or no cost to the farmer.  Look out for our results in the fall.

Well, I took out another loan.  This year we’re going to invest in buying and raising chickens on pasture in rotation with our vegetable crops.  We are in the process of constructing a coop and buying all the equipment we need to get them started.  Egg shares this year will be provided by us for the first time.  We’re also using the loan to get some more field equipment: a new mulch layer, another farm truck, and a new computer.

All this will inevitably cycle back to make your CSA share awesome.  Your investment is the most important contribution that is made to our farm all year.  We are trying every year to make the CSA a little better than the year before, and from what we hear from you, it is working out.  Also we are trying every year to make the farm a little bit more sustainable, both in keeping our bodies in good shape and our land in good shape.

Big Train Farm is still trying to relocate.  Another year is always exciting in the prospect of what may be out there waiting for us.  Finding a suitable farm that we can afford has proven a difficult task, but we are hoping that 2014 is the year we make some headway.  If you have any advice in this department we are always curious to hear about ideas and potential situations.

Thanks so much for reading, tell your friends to join the 2014 CSA!  Looking forward to seeing everyone in the spring, but for now… let it snow!!!



Garlic Scape Pesto

You will know who your true friends are after eating garlic scape pesto. It is guaranteed to ward off evil spirits and maybe even a few good ones.

For this recipe, you will need:

  • A bunch of garlic scapes
  • Some good olive oil
  • Pine nuts or walnuts
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Blender or Food Processor
  • About 10 minutes

The recipe doesn’t use exact  measurements, so just understand that the bulk of the recipe is simply garlic scapes. You will be using the other things sparingly. If I had to put a ratio to it, I’d say 70% garlic scape, 30% everything else combined.  It really depends on how much you like garlic.

Garlic scapes are not as spicy as raw garlic cloves, so you can use quite a bit of them without getting a stomach ache.

  1. Rinse and dry the garlic scapes. Trim off the edges or any browned parts.  Chop into 1-2″ pieces. Tip: I find it is easier to just let the garlic scape curl into its natural position and then cut an X into it.
  2. Alternately add scapes, oil & nuts into food processor or blender. Blend until smooth using a bit of lemon juice to thin as necessary (you won’t need much).  Salt to taste.

I have added other herbs or spices to the pesto to switch-up the flavor. This recipe is only a base and you should experiment with adding other seasonal herbs. Be sure to chew on some parsley after indulging  yourself with this pesto.

Eat it generously on breads or crackers, with cheese or without; on pasta, potatoes, or even meats. Add it to soups, or  use it as a vegetable dip (especially for vegetables you should love, but don’t!); I have used it as a base for salad dressings and in place of mayonnaise, too.

Give it to friends! Give it to enemies!  Give it to grandma when she has a cold. But most importantly, get yourself some garlic scapes and eat ’em up.