One hundred and ninety winter shareholders took part in the Belmont CSA’s Winter Ride Share program. These folks walked, biked, car pooled, participated in driving cooperatives or had their CSA share delivered by the New Amsterdam Project. That’s 190 shareholders out of 300 total for a whopping 63% of shareholders. Wow. Everyone — yes, every single shareholder! — did what they could to reduce traffic congestion and make the distribution run smoothly. Rather than having 150 cars pull onto the farm at 10:00 AM on distribution day, we saw approximately 80 cars arrive, pretty evenly spaced, throughout the five hours of each distribution day.
Here’s how the Ride Share program works. Shareholders agree to have their address and contact information placed on a private (ie, available to shareholders only) map. A link to the map is sent to shareholders and they are encouraged to contact neighboring shareholders and arrange to have more than one CSA share travel home in a car. Help was provided: Shareholders Allison Goodwin and Kristin Bray answered questions about the Ride Share program. They also helped connect shareholders who had difficulty finding a Ride Share partner. Enticements were offered: Ride Sharers were entered into a raffle for prizes like gift certificates to Stone Hearth Pizza, Kitchen on Common, Formaggio Kitchen, and Wool Cycles potholders. Subliminal suggestions to Ride Share were embedded in seemingly innocuous emails. Enthusiastic praise was showered on each Ride Sharer when they arrived at the farm by a cheerleading squad who delivered a special farm cheer. (Okay, those last two things aren’t true:-)
Initially, I developed the Ride Share program because of concerns about traffic in the neighborhood. The farm is in a very residential location. The influx of 150 cars over the 5 hour winter distribution period could easily upset the peaceful character of the neighborhood and make it difficult to continue offering Winter Shares. Of course there were other reasons for the Ride Share program. Reduction of the carbon footprint associated with the CSA appealed me. I also equated less traffic with a reduced risk of car accidents.
Shareholders have highlighted two benefits I had never considered.
First, many shareholders appreciated having their CSA share delivered to them or dropped off in their neighborhood. I like to think that the folks waiting at home for their share were especially appreciative when the wind chill factor was high or when it was raining.
Second, people met their neighbors, and in many cases, were pleased to get to know them. In some cases, fabulous potluck dinners resulted. In other instances, neighbors were able to deliver shares to neighbors who because of urgent business, religious observance or over-scheduled lives, just couldn’t make it to the farm on the distribution day.
So, who won the raffle prizes? The winners, drawn at random from among all the shareholders who participated in the Ride Share program are:
Wool Cycles Potholders: Meg Muckenhoupt; Matthew Bronski & Erin Graham
Kitchen on Common gift certificates: Aaron Kagan; Diane & Russell Barrios
Formaggio Kitchen gift certificate: Gale Pryor
Stone Hearth Pizza gift certificate: Jennifer Nahn
Everyone got a little thank you in the form of a bumper sticker from CISA (this is a fabulous organization that really knows how to support local agriculure) that reads, Be a Local Hero, buy locally grown.