When a CSA farmer goes bankrupt

Cambridge Day reports on the bankruptcy of Robert Varisco, owner of John Crow Farm in Groton, who lists1,000 creditors.

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      Well, that explains it

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      Ah. That would explain why their CSA deliveries stopped in March, and why I never heard anything about the summer vegetable share delivery schedule. I really liked these guys and their meat share options, too... enough that I sprung for a veggie share about six weeks ago. I filed a grievance with PayPal about it last week, before I got news of the bankruptcy. I'm guessing the money is gone, but maybe PayPal's status as immoral backstabbing assholes will work in my favor for once.

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      CSA

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      Bored rich downtown housewives overpaying for low quality produce grown by bored rich suburban housewives.

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      Bankrupcy?

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      sounds like outright fraud to me.

      My understanding of the point of a CSA

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      I have a CSA share (not in the CSA that is the subject of the article). My understanding of this system is that in exchange for me getting unbelievably fresh produce, helping to preserve farmland, and the right to visit the farm and pick what I want a couple of times per season, I give the farmers money up front (it is also possible to pay in installments) to mitigate their risk (which is huge).

      If the crop fails, I'm out. If the farm goes bankrupt, I'm out. I have no expectation of getting the money that I paid back under any circumstances (excepting in the case of criminal fraud or something of that sort, in which case I would only have a "hope" of getting something back). Unless that has happened here (and, sadly, it seems that something fishy might be going on given that this is an individual filing and reportedly does not involve the farm), I don't think there should be any expectation of getting money back.

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      I don't know anyone who has the real backstory here,

      but the track record of community-supported agriculture (and meats and seafood) staying viable and meeting their obligations is good enough that most buyers don't go in thinking, "I'm taking a big risk here; the possibility that this venture will fail in the first couple of months, or natural or other disasters will conspire to crimp the producer's yield and leave me with nothing, is very significant."

      Rather, I imagine most shareholders think, "This is a trade-off: cash up front from a decent-sized subscriber base makes it possible for local farmers to thrive; we pay a bit more, but we get to participate in and support the local/sustainable food chain, getting regular delivery of fresh, in-season produce / meat / seafood that is much higher quality than most supermarkets carry."

      I just hope that this rare failure, whatever its basis, doesn't deter people from participating in a very worthy but still fledgling movement.

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      Your understanding the same

      Your understanding the same as mine.

      I have participated in an almost year-round CSA out of PA for the past three seasons. Last year I paid into the winter share, and then Sandy hit. Well, flooded fields meant that a lot of the farmers' produce rotted before it could be harvested. We had parsnips, and only parsnitps, coming out of our ears for about two months.

      Thems the breaks.

      This year the fields were back to normal and the abundance and variety were stellar. To get field-grown greens in late February? Heaven! That makes the risk worthwhile.

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      I've been a regular at Crow's stand @ Rozzie farmers' market...

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      ... I'm wondering if this was a knock-on effect of last year's fire at Blood Farm in nearby West Groton. Despite the popularity of locally-sourced foods there is a real shortage of independent slaughter facilities in MA. My understanding is that Blood Farm was one of the last of an old breed. In addition to raising and butchering their own meat, they did contract work for other local farmers like John Crow Farms. Don't know for sure if the two farms did business together but I expect this poses a real problem for both suppliers and consumers of locally-raised meat.

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      It is not, one of the

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      It is not, one of the troubling aspects of this is they did not use Bloods as a slaughterhouse (as confirmed by the Blood family themselves in a previous article) but used them as an excuse when they started going out to their CSA customers.