Manahoac Farm

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Cancelled CSA mid-season and no word on refund

By: Shalini Robison    (Sep 7, 2011)

While I was generally happy with the shares that we were receiving when this farm was actually in business (except for the families of caterpillars in the leafy greens), the season was cancelled Mid-August, not even half way through. They also skipped one week due to not having enough crops to distribute. Variety for the most part, was not there.

Also, our pick up time and location went from being on Sunday mornings at the Reston Farmer's Market (which closed down) to Thursday evening from 5-7pm near GMU. While it's understandable that the location was moved due to the farmer's market shutting down, the day and time of the new location couldn't have been more inconvenient.

I'm giving them 1 star (although at this point they deserve 0) because since the remainder of the season was cancelled, we have heard NOTHING from the farm about our prorated refund (it's been about 3 weeks now). We are owed back somewhere between $250-$300. Will be filing a complaint with the county consumer affairs department for now...

I would like to sign up for another CSA in the future, but never again with this farm.

Comments on this Review:

Matt Nolan says:    (Sep 16, 2011)
Shared Risk There is an important concept woven into the CSA model that takes the arrangement beyond the usual commercial transaction. That is the notion of shared risk. When originally conceived, the CSA was set up differently than it is now. A group of people pooled their money, bought a farm, hired a farmer, and each took a share of whatever the farm produced for the year. If the farm had a tomato bonanza, everyone put some up for winter. If a plague of locusts ate all the greens, people ate cheese sandwiches. Very few such CSAs exist today, and for most farmers, the CSA is just one of the ways their produce is marketed. They may also go to the farmers market, do some wholesale, sell to restaurants, etc. Still, the idea that "we're in this together" remains. On some farms it is stronger than others, and CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce. Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first. Still, it is worth noting that very occasionally things go wrong on a farm â?? like they do in any kind of business â?? and the expected is not delivered, and members feel shortchanged. At LocalHarvest we are in touch with CSA farmers and members from all over the country. Every year we hear get complaints about a few CSA farms (two to six farms a year, over the last nine years) where something happened and the produce was simply unacceptable. It might have been a catastrophic divorce, or an unexpected death in the family. Or the weather was abominable, or the farmer was inexperienced and got in over his/her head. In our experience, if the situation seems regrettable but reasonable â?? a bad thing that in good faith could have happened to anyone â?? most CSA members will rally, if they already know and trust the farmer. These people are more likely to take the long view, especially if they have received an abundance of produce in the past. They are naturally more likely to think, "It'll be better next year," than are new members who have nothing to which to compare a dismal experience. The take-home message is this: if the potential for "not getting your money's worth" makes you feel anxious, then shared risk may not be for you and you should shop at the farmers market. Sometimes we hear complaints from CSA members in situations where it appears to us that nothing really went wrong, but the member had unreasonable expectations. In the hope of minimizing disappointment and maximizing satisfaction, we've prepared the following tips and questions.

Shalini Robison says:    (Sep 23, 2011)
Shared risk would be acceptable in cases of bad weather, acts of God, or less variety. Not in a case where most other CSAs in the area are operating just fine, giving their customers what they were promised. We paid you $504, and received 10 out of 24 weeks of your crops. You offered a refund when you shut down the rest of the season and we requested it (now over a month ago). Thank you for offering the refund, but are you now rescinding it and keeping my money?