Frequently Asked Questions
In a Traditional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), members pay a single farmer directly to grow food. Every week, they receive a share of what the farmer harvested. Members share the risks of farming (crop failure, bad weather) as well as the benefits (bumper crops, great seasonal food). But with one farm, there can be a limited variety or overabundance of certain items.
In a Combined CSA (CCSA), each member subscription fee is divided among many farmers and food producers, which means a fantastic diversity of food with little risk. You won’t get stuck with 8 pounds of eggplant, week after week, because we work with so many different vendors. We give you a healthy, balanced, varied share every week, year-round.
Our payment schedule ensures that we have the money when we need it to fulfill our commitments to our farmers. Membership in Fair Shares gives farmers security—they know that we will buy what we ask them to grow. Because we have to commit ahead of time to buying what our farmers grow for us, we also need to be sure we have the membership and capital to follow through for them. Also, all of our vendors are paid on delivery, which is very important to us (and them!).
Most CSAs require full payment up front. Because we run nearly year-round, we spread it out so people don’t have to come up with such a big chunk of change all at once, but we still need to have payments ahead of deliveries for a couple of reasons. We purchase much of our non-perishable stuff in quantity to save on deliveries, and we buy many of our winter canned goods when the farmers make them in the summer. This means our expenditures vary based on the week, so we need to have money available.
We love organic, but unfortunately, there are not enough farmers growing organically to supply all of our needs. However, the majority of our produce is grown by farmers who are either certified organic, or who grow organically (or even beyond organic), but who are not certified. We don’t care much about the certification when we know the farmers personally. And the farmer’s name is on the food, so they are selling their reputation and integrity.
Some produce, particularly fruit, is very difficult to find organically grown in our area, due to the humidity and heat, and the resulting abundance of fungus/mold and pests that can ruin a crop. We source as much organically grown produce as we can find, and even the farmers who don’t grow organically strive to be sustainable and may spray only in dire situations, especially since chemicals are expensive, as well as undesirable.
Our members know that the occasional bug in their produce is a good thing, because if a bug doesn’t want to eat it, why should we? And a live bug only means that the produce is especially fresh!
Although we are unable to offer specifically vegetarian or gluten-free shares, members can trade the non-produce items in the share for other items that add up to the same or greater value to fit their personal dietary restrictions and preferences. Our wide variety means it shouldn’t be hard to find something else you would prefer.
Membership is on a rolling basis—you can join today! Our season includes 48 weeks. During our much-needed breaks, your account is put on hold. Full-share members pick up every week, and half-share members pick up every other week—so half-share members need to know if they are odd- or even-week pickups. Pickups are on Wednesdays or Thursdays—members pick when they sign up.
Season start: First week of April
September break: We take a week off at the end of September
Thanksgiving: We do pickups Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving (instead of our usual Wednesday and Thursday pickups)
December break: We take a week off around Christmas and New Year’s
March break: We take off the month of March to prepare for the start of the season in April, but members can come for a shopping day in March to stock up or use remaining credit on their accounts.
Pay attention to the email newsletters, which will remind you when we’re on a break.
Yes! Great gift idea!
Just email us with the number of shares and share size you want to give, or the amount you want to spend (full shares are about $50/week). Pool resources with friends to make a fantastic wedding present!
We offer a variety of share sizes and payment plans to help fit members’ budgets.
Members can switch share sizes or payment plans mid-season, but must contact us to adjust or end the recurring payments.
All new members pay a one-time, non-transferable $50 membership fee.
The sustainability of our CSA model, in which we pay our farmers on delivery and purchase a lot of our canned goods for the winter up front, requires that we receive member payments sufficiently in advance. We require members to select a plan that will cover at least a full month’s worth of shares and overages.
Let us know a month or more before you want to end your membership so we can cancel payments and use up your credit balance for your remaining weeks.
Fair Shares headquarters (a.k.a. the Mothership) in St. Louis City near The Hill gives you the most flexibility and variety of food, if you’re looking for trades or to pick up extras. Check out our pickups page to see if the Kirkwood or University City pickups are more convenient for you.
Fair Shares also delivers to workplaces, gyms, schools, or wherever else a group of members agrees to meet. Get healthy food delivery at a convenient local location, or add us to your company wellness program.
Unsurprisingly, organizing a few hundred members, dozens of farmers, and the right shares every week gets complicated. All you really need to know is the name on your account and your pickup group (which you will be assigned when you join), so we know who we’re talking to when you contact us, and which food to give you when you show up. But, if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it all works.
We have about 450 shares to fill each week, but work with small farms that can’t supply that much food at once. Instead, each producer might deliver enough food each week to supply 50 or 100 shares. By grouping our members, we can rotate what everyone gets each week, which means each member gets better variety, and each farmer has a consistent weekly order to fill—and can focus on growing their best product.
To pull this off, we have different pickup groups named, in part, after their pickup locations (FS = Fair Shares HQ, UC = U City, KW = Kirkwood). We then have several food lists that these groups rotate through, which means your share is fresh and different every week. This way, everyone gets to try everything.
The food lists are on a nine-week rotation, and we usually try to keep the non-produce items consistent throughout (so if you get eggs one week, you will probably get eggs again within the next couple of weeks). Sometimes we need to swap things around to keep to the $50/week full-share budget, but some weeks it’s a bit more or less. We keep a running balance and make sure you get your full money’s worth throughout the season.
You will see your food list number beside your group name in our weekly newsletter telling you what you’re getting. If you want to take a peek at some of what you might get the following week, look for the number one higher than your group’s current number (if you’re 2 this week, you will be 3 next week). Also, some of the groups will get the same food list each week. Don’t get confused! If it says FSA/FSD, that just means that group FSA and group FSD have the same food that week.
Because of the food-list-dance described above, half-share members who pick up on alternating weeks won’t receive every item we offer. However, if something looks good that you didn’t get, you can always trade for it or purchase it in addition to your share.
Along with providing access to local food that is grown with sustainable practices within about 100 miles of St. Louis, which reduces your carbon footprint, we do a few things to be as green as we can.
BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag. When you sign up for Fair Shares, we give you a couple of sweet tote bags that you can reuse every week to pick up your share. Much of our communication is online—not using paper. You will notice that much of our produce comes in minimal or no packaging, which also helps save our producers money.
In the days before COVID, we had a very relaxed pickup policy. Now, with the need to pack everyone’s bags ahead of pickups, having people not show up means we have to go through all the leftover bags at the end of pickups to pull frozen items, note what was pulled on the bags, store everything, then add it in again when you come the next day for your share. We regret to have to institute a dreaded “Restocking Fee Policy”
If you have trouble making your pickup on a regular basis, please don’t sign up for a pickup time, and let us know ahead so we will always wait to fill your bag when you arrive. We won’t charge you if we don’t fill it ahead. If you miss your pickup without letting us know early, charges will be applied as follows
1st time: No Charge
4th plus: $10
If you miss your share and we don’t hear from you within 24 hours, we will donate it. If you contact us within 24 hours, we will give you alternate hours on Friday or Monday that you can pick up your share. Please see the FAQ “What if I miss my pickup” for the restocking fee policy.
Check your pickup site for pickup hours. If you miss your UCity pickup, come to the Mothership and get your food by 7:00. Kirkwood members can pick up missed shares at our arranged member’s porch (email firstname.lastname@example.org or call for info). If you’re picking up at the Mothership and are running more than a few minutes late, call Sara at 314-852-5743 or just stop by to see if we’re still available. If not, email email@example.com to arrange pickup the following day.
If your schedule means that you will be consistently late, just talk to us and we’ll work with you.
With so many members, we unfortunately cannot manage vacation schedules. You may reschedule with advance notice, but you will have to pick up at Fair Shares headquarters, and we can’t guarantee that the fresh produce will be there for you. If you will be gone for extended length of time, just let us know, we’ll work with you on putting your share on hold.
You can send someone else to pick up your share (tell them your pickup group, name, and to bring bags!), sell your share to someone (give them the necessary info), donate it back to us or give it as a present (let us know so we can make the arrangements, or give the recipient of your choice the necessary info). We especially like getting potential new members in to try us out, which helps us continue to grow.
Have a good vacation!
If you break the contract and want to cancel your share early, you will be charged a $30 disenrollment fee. We need at least one month’s notice. The more warning, the better. Unlike most CSAs, we will refund the remaining balance of your account, or your can use up any remaining credit.
These are our basic policies, but keep in mind that we are just a family who wants to eat good, healthy food, and we want to help your family do the same. We are happy to work with you, so just talk to us if you’re having trouble making it work.
If you know ahead of time you can only participate for part of the year, just let us know when you sign up. We won’t consider it early cancelation, and won’t charge any fees.
Newsletters! Facebook! Human conversation! Our email newsletter contains the most important information and comes out every week (timing can vary, depending on what we’re up to). Our Facebook page has some enticing stuff, and when you join you gain access to our Facebook member group, which has even more recipes, tips, and cool things.
You also get to see us in person every week when you pick up your share.
You can trade items through our online system, Farmigo. You can only trade non-produce items because our farmers grow and deliver a certain amount of fresh produce, and it can’t be put back on the shelf. Basically, someone grew that especially for you, so it’s part of the commitment to our farmers that you buy it in your share.
You can trade items for other goods of equal value. If the trade is within 50¢, we consider it an even swap. You must use up the full value of your share each week (credit doesn’t roll over to the next week). You can get items of greater value, but we will bill you for overages.