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John Crow Farm CSA - What Happened to Them?

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A few years ago, we got word of a new CSA in Groton, MA: the John Crow Farm. We signed up and enjoyed great produce for several seasons. Then we signed up for their meat CSA about a year ago and we liked that too.

This past November, we signed up for a meat share, a poultry share, and a vegetable share.

Not long afterwards, Blood Farm burned (it being one of two sanctioned slaughterhouses in the state and, presumably, the butchers used by John Crow Farm, among others).

Then our December meat pick-up was cancelled. We did receive our share in January and February ... but then March pick up was cancelled. They sent out an email saying to stay tuned.

Some 40 days and three emails to them later, we've heard nothing. I just tried calling the phone number on their website and it is NOT the farm phone number. Seems like their Facebook presences is gone too.

So what is going on? I'm getting the creepy feeling like they've folded and are not telling the people who bought into their CSA.

Is this happening to anyone else? Does anyone have any information on them?

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  1. They have folded. When I contacted them about getting my money back for my summer shares I was directed to contact their lawyer

    5 Replies
    1. re: Annesmith

      Indeed, do you have a name and/or phone number for the lawyer? And how did you contact the farm in the first place?

      1. re: Annesmith

        I'm in the same boat. I've only received 2 of my 6 paid shares. Do you have the number for their lawyer?

        What are the odds of us getting a refund?? I'm out almost $300! This is awful.

        1. re: whylime29

          I was at the Somerville winter market last Saturday, and a friend from another farm told me that JCF had folded. It just came up in conversation, I hadn't mentioned them. I think that I would contact the COmmonwealth's Dep't of Agriculture. You'd probably get more information/ settlement of issues through them.

        2. re: Annesmith

          Do you have the contact information for their attorney? Could you please post that if you do?

          1. re: hanguk_yuja

            Attorney Cornelius "Connie" Sullivan assisted them with a corporate filing in 2011. I'm not sure he still represents JCF. I've called several times and have yet to speak to a person.

        3. Well, lescaret, we've been on the identical timeline. We, too, have been very happy with JCF for a couple of seasons. Then we renewed in December, got a turkey instead of chicken because Blood Farm had burned, got an email that March pick-up would be late, and nothing since. I also saw that there is no FB page, and the person who answered the phone definitely didn't seem to be associated with the farm.
          Very sorry for them if they didn't make it, but not at all happy about losing several hundred dollars.
          Annesmith, how did you get the information about a lawyer? Do you have contact information? TIA.

          1. Same deal here. I contacted the AG office a couple weeks ago as I was frustrated with the lack of response. I think it's a good place to start.

            3 Replies
            1. re: kelsammy

              Has the AG gotten back to you?

              1. re: whylime29

                yes, they called the other day and said that someone would be in touch soon to get more info.

              2. re: kelsammy

                I also filed with the AG, I think the more complaints the better...

              3. I don't think Blood processes poultry, nor much of their meat by the packaging I've received, so I don't understand how that affected them. Though I can see that being used as an excuse.

                Which phone number was answered? I have called the xxx-8JCF line and also the one that is listed on yelp - both went to a cheery JCF voice mail.

                Someone on yelp commented that they got a refund - but sounded like in the Dec-Jan timeframe, not March.

                3 Replies
                1. re: kelsammy

                  I tried both those phone numbers. The one from their web site is no longer associated with the farm. The one from yelp just went to voice mail. I saw that comment on Yelp by the person who got the refund - lucky them.

                  I live only a couple towns over from the farm, I'm going to have to make a trip over there and see if I can find a human.

                  This whole thing is very unfortunate, and so abrupt.

                  1. re: lescaret

                    Please keep us posted!

                  2. re: kelsammy

                    I had heard over the summer that they were losing a lease on the property they used - pretty crummy to not take care of their CSA folks if that is the case.

                  3. The corporate filings with the Commonwealth are (mostly) on-line.

                    The starting point for "JOHN CROW FARM, INC." can be located at:

                    http://corp.sec.state.ma.us/CorpWeb/C...

                    From that page, you get the basic player(s), and can review the annual reports (not particularly more useful than the basic info), and the Articles of Organization, which has only a small amount of additional info - including the Atty who filed the AoO. Given that the listed Atty has a hotmail address, it might not be that useful.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: NE_Wombat

                      If you google the attorney's name, you get more recent contact info for him. Of course he may well no longer be involved.

                      1. re: NE_Wombat

                        They filed something in 3/2014...

                        1. re: kingofcarbs

                          Filed what? Where did you see it? Thx

                          1. re: kelsammy

                            an annual report. click view all filings and you can see it
                            http://corp.sec.state.ma.us/CorpWeb/C...

                      2. I drove by the farm site in Groton yesterday. The gate to the buildings and fields was open, so I drove in and parked. But walking around, I couldn't find anyone. There were ducks and geese and chickens and dogs and open farm buildings .... but not a person. Three farm trucks parked in the parking area. The whole thing was spooky. I felt like I was being watched from inside one of the buildings. I called out "Hello" a few times but no one emerged. I would have walked around more but the large dog that greeted me as I walked toward the back greenhouses deterred me from further investigating.

                        We have filed a complaint with the AG but, as with most complaints and petitions to bureaucratic entities, I don't expect a response anytime soon.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lescaret

                          Did the animals look like they were being cared for? I hope they weren't abandoned.

                        2. We haven't gotten any reply from email or phone messages. The complaint we filed with the AG will, I assume, take awhile. Joint legal action might be a possibility ... except I fear that we'll end up spending as much on legal fees as we'll get in any refund. It's hard to know what to do.

                          As far as the animals go (to answer catsmeow), they seemed okay to me but I didn't look closely. The dog that confronted me, one I've petted before when picking up our CSA shares, didn't seem to be particularly hungry or desperate. While it didn't exactly threaten me, it is a big dog and, with no one else around (seemingly), I didn't want to test its temperament by snooping in the buildings.

                          1. Same with us- we were very happy with their veggie and meat CSAs last year, but over the past few months, they've become more inconsistent, and then they stopped communicating all-together. We re-upped our meat CSA in mid-January (actually went from a 10 lb to a 15 lb share, since they stopped offering the 10 lb. share). Paid $774, got only 1 share pick-up, and then nothing. I'm just glad that we hadn't gotten around to re-upping our veggie share.

                            I've filed a complaint with the attorney general's office, and will try to contact PayPal and see if we can contest at least some of the charge.

                            One of the staff told me in February that JCF didn't use Blood Farm (they use a slaughterhouse in NH, I believe).

                            I'm worried about the animals, too. My husband and I were planning on swinging by the farm this weekend.... if we see anything, we'll let you know. If the farm looks abandoned, I'm wondering if we could call Groton's animal control officer to check in on them (and hell- I'd be happy to adopt a few of the chickens!)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: SarahJSG

                              I've also contacted the attorney general; paypal seems to only honor claims made within 45 days of purchase, but if they're helpful please let me know! I've created a FB page so we can collect as many CSA members as possible and continue the conversation in the event joint legal action is required: https://m.facebook.com/?_rdr#~!/profi...

                            2. I have a family member who is/was a CSA member and am very curious about this story, as they are now looking at a major financial loss, not to mention the loss of the food that they were counting on for some time to come. Please keep us up to date with any information and thanks.

                              (With animals seen at the location, someone must be around. I can't get out there myself but would love any follow up there.)

                              This story is upsetting for so many reasons. Let's hope these people do the right thing and return the money.

                              1. To all involved on this thread, chow hound took down my message regarding organizing- please join the Facebook group: https://m.facebook.com/?_rdr#!/profil...

                                (Chow hound mods, please don't take this comment down; none of us have any other way of contacting each other)

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Ioianthe

                                  The link does not appear to work. What is the name of the FB page?

                                  1. re: Allstonian

                                    Bummer- I'll try a new link when I'm on my home computer. The group is called "What Happened to John Crow Farm?"

                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                      This link might work better, though with Facebook links, it's hard to know for sure:

                                      https://www.facebook.com/groups/28237...

                                  2. To all that are worried about the animals at the farm, as well as about their lost money -- I also filed a complaint with the AG's office today, on paper with multiple exhibits, etc. I also called the MSPCA, who will investigate and get back to me (I didn't complain annonymously - no need for that).

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: therobinator

                                      Thank you for calling the MSPCA. Great idea.

                                      1. re: catsmeow

                                        I agree with that. Great idea.

                                    2. I can not comment on any of the legal questions you have here but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the animals have not been abandoned and are well loved.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Inxtcy

                                        I'm sure there are many contradictory stories and rumors regarding this, but my farmer friends who know the John Crow folks have informed me that at a recent auction, some of their last remaining animals were sold and they were "a mess". This information is now on the Facebook page called What Happened to John Crow Farm, where the buyer of the animals confirms this.

                                      2. BU does a CSA with Ward's Berry Farm in the summer that's pretty good.

                                        http://www.bu.edu/dining/about-us/sus...

                                        1. I just ate my last John Crow steak tonight... Delicious!

                                          Farmers are the biggest gamblers in commerce, they take huge risks growing vegetables, raising animals, etc without knowing what the market will bear at harvest/slaughter. I'm sorry to see John Crow go down.

                                          My belief is that is got out of hand and they couldn't make ends meet. I am more disappointed that I will not be able to enjoy their wonderful meats and their good humor on a monthly basis.

                                          I'm sure it wasn't their intention to go 'Bernie Madoff' or 'Goldman Sachs" on their customers but market pressures pushed them in that direction...

                                          Please don't let this taint the wonderful CSA's out there... They need our support! I lost a couple of months of 'shares' but maybe the JC folks will find a way of getting something back to the community and build upon their misfortune.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: sonnyb

                                            I would probably feel similarly... *if* they had had the decency to communicate with their patrons. :-/

                                            1. re: Ioianthe

                                              Communication would have been good but... They were probably advised not to go that route.

                                              When you are dealing with small businesses there is always a risk, similar to tech startups... Risk/Reward.

                                              I am truly sorry for the folks (me included) who lost their investment but I still will have faith in the CSA/farming community!

                                              1. re: Ioianthe

                                                Me too. I just discovered that I've been gypped out of my last few months of poultry CSA and now have to go through the hassle of trying to get a refund, filing complaints, etc. I'm sorry about the farm, but I'm also sorry that so many people were basically cheated out of money and food they were counting on. Thanks to everybody here for their ideas and support! Let's keep it up and maybe there will be a semi-happy ending for most of us.

                                                1. re: cmason231

                                                  Make sure to checkout the FB page- link supplied above- to connect with many of the others who are supporting one another and trying to figure out what to do. Some other farms are contributing shares in order to help out. There is some new information about the animals. It's not an easy situation and for many people it means a large financial loss.

                                              2. re: sonnyb

                                                go "Bernie Madoff"? This is a CSA share, not your life savings. Let's not get too hyperbolic on this. Yes, a share is a good chunk of grocery money to invest each year. But it *is* an investment/risk….the agreement when you join a CSA each year is that you are willing to gain/lose based on the farms success/failures. Of course, you should expect that the farmer will diligently try to succeed, not make off with your share cost! And, of course, they should have let the shareholders know that they were in trouble. One could question whether they knew before folks signed up and took the money knowing full well that they wouldn't use it…but if this was an established CSA with a good track record, I would doubt that.

                                                1. re: sonnyb

                                                  If they had bothered to send out any information to shareholders (beyond "March's pickup will be delayed"), I'd feel a lot better about all this. If they'd said "We ran into unexpected financial and other difficulties and have to cancel CSAs; more information will be coming later"; I'd feel more sympathetic. But I'm out nearly $1000 (factoring in that I did receive 2 of 12 pickups) and I'm not feeling as sympathetic as I might otherwise due to the lack of communication. I'm sure it sucks for them, and I'm sorry for that; but this was my first CSA, I was incredibly excited about it, and now I'm never going to be able to do one ever again because I won't be able to trust that it's going to work out or even that I'll get any proper notification if it doesn't. The lack of communication is *really* the killer here. It's irresponsible and cowardly.

                                                  1. re: daeghrafen

                                                    $1000???!!!! Wow, that must be some share...I've been a member of Heirloom Harvest CSA for almost 10 years now, and shares are always ~$600 ($625 now). I split with someone and it's still usually alot of food for my 3 person vegetarian family.

                                                    I certainly agree with everything you said about it not being handled well AT ALL. I just got annoyed at the extrapolation to that of a Ponzi scheme. ;) Please don't lose faith in all CSAs...there are alot of great, well-established ones out there with farmers that have an outstanding track record and really know what they are doing.

                                                    1. re: Science Chick

                                                      I'm out $1800; that was for a large meat share for 3 people (who like to cook for others)... Most people with JCF were in it for meat shares.

                                                      1. re: Ioianthe

                                                        ahhh, I see. Yes, meat shares would be expected to be pretty costly. Wow, that is really awful.

                                                      2. re: Science Chick

                                                        Hah, thanks. :) I think I'll just stick to farmer's markets now, though, at least for quite a while. I want to support my local farms, but the lack of communication here was a real kick in the teeth and made me feel like a patsy. I'm sure it's a rare occurrence, but I'm a shy type that doesn't trust easily to begin with, so it sort of killed the whole thing for me... I had been looking forward to doing a veggie CSA in the summer, but...

                                                        But yeah, in my case I paid for the larger poultry share: 12 lbs a month. My husband and I were splitting that (and the cost) with my in-laws. We're luckier than some in that we can afford to soak up the loss if need be, but boy, it's painful... If they'd said something, anything, it would have been less so, for sure.

                                                        1. re: daeghrafen

                                                          Be sure to check out the Facebook page where you can get a lot of information on this story. Very helpful, for the most part.

                                                          1. re: mvi

                                                            Yeah, it was actually the facebook page that led me to this discussion; it is very helpful, and I'm grateful it's there. It's a pity that those of us affected were left with no other communication options beyond here and on FB, though. I tried to contact JC multiple times before finally trying to go to their FB page (which has been removed) to see if there was more info there. Only by searching for them in FB itself did I find the aforementioned very helpful page. It sounds like people are trying to spread the word to those who might not know yet in person/at what should have been pickups/etc., so that's fantastic; hopefully we'll all know eventually. The people spearheading that group are doing us all a really great service, and if any of those people are reading, thanks!!

                                                    2. re: sonnyb

                                                      Yes, I do think it was their intent to take money knowing that they were going to close. From everything I have read they knew that the land they were leasing wasn't working, as far back as the summer of 2013, when the second land didn't work out they went straight to a lawyer and they deliberately LIED outright in March to every single person with a very well worded email to buy time to file before anyone could put a lien on the assets. This wasn't an accident or circumstances this was theft. I signed up after checking reviews, seeing how long they'd been in business. Shorted pounds, not the greatest tasting meat is a risk being deliberately robbed is horrible and doesn't just steal your money it steals your trust in the community you wanted to support

                                                      1. re: momma2myboys

                                                        I agree with you. There's a fair amount go compassion and sympathy felt on the FB site, but I sure don't feel that way. It was clearly a ploy to take money at the end. The system stinks.

                                                    3. Well, people are irate, and with some justification. On the flip side, and not specific to this case, it sort of seems like some people may not fully understand what a CSA is. There is risk involved -- not just of crop failures, but you may find that it's just not the right way for you to get your food. I'd advise against dropping down a large sum of money for a CSA unless you've done it before, found it works for you, know this producer, and know what it's likely to get you. Most CSA farms sell their products at farmer's markets or farmstands -- I would never sign up for a CSA if I hadn't tried a farm's products before, and I would never sign up for a share if I wasn't going to get the type and amount of food that I'd actually use. If you're a CSA first-timer, get recommendations, try some of the farm's products first, and sign up for a smaller/shorter term CSA. Don't make a year's commitment and a four-figure investment in something that you may not like even if everything goes as planned.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                        That's great advice. I've never done CSA though I've wanted to, so I don't have personal experience about whether the CSA contract explains all the contingencies about the chance of crop failures, and what you can expect/hope to get. They need to be honest....people who sign up are trying to do the right thing for their food needs and support community agriculture.

                                                        Is there some kind of CSA code of ethics? Maybe should be. I've thought about the fish shares as well.

                                                        1. re: Madrid

                                                          This gives a pretty good explanation of CSA's and what to expect. As well as tips about how to choose which one is right for you.

                                                          http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

                                                          The vegetable CSA that I was a member of for the past two summers was very clear about the risks of crop failures. And they were pretty good with keeping members updated on the status of certain crops through their newsletter. At the end of the season they also sent a nice letter explaining where the money went, and why there would be a price increase for this summer's share. They also allowed you either make a one time payment or spread it out over the growing season.

                                                          1. re: viperlush

                                                            that sounds great Sorry if I missed it upstream, but can you tell us which CSA?

                                                            1. re: Madrid

                                                              I had http://www.redfirefarm.com/ . Enjoyed it, but decided that it wasn't worth the price.

                                                              I think I used this thread to help me decided.

                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8037...

                                                        2. re: LilBrownBat

                                                          .

                                                          1. re: LilBrownBat

                                                            Shared risk of a bad harvest, poor quality produce/meat, etc is one thing. A farm going totally radio silent on their shareholders is quite a different story.

                                                            1. re: black_lab

                                                              Exactly. The whole troubling thing about this situation is that, on the face of it, the farm knew as early as last September that they were in trouble. Yet they continued to take people's payments for shares they had to know they couldn't deliver. Scurrilous business practices are not the kinds of "risks" that CSA participants should have to worry about.

                                                              As someone mentioned elsewhere in this thread, had there been some kind of open dialog, some reasonable communication between the farm and the share holders, then this wouldn't have been such a punch in the gut.

                                                              1. re: black_lab

                                                                You're not responding to what I wrote. You're responding to something else.

                                                            2. YES!! I purchased a 6 month CSA in Feb 2014, they took my money. Then when I went to John Harvard's the 3rd Monday in April, John Harvard's staff had to turn me away. They said they used to get regular Monday meat drops but then all of a sudden they stopped, and they don't have any answers as to what happened. I was one of several people that had trickled in to pick up the monthly share, only to be turned away without explanation. I was also told by the waitress that others could not get through to the farm. I also tried and got some dude on the phone, not the farm. So I disputed the charge and got my money back. Meanwhile I'm super disappointed and feel like I can't trust singing up for CSAs, so it's back to making trips directly to the farm and purchasing in bulk, again.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: meatsharegonebuhbye

                                                                I signed up for the poultry CSA and was very excited to get it starting in July. I got a notice in the mail from the US Bankruptcy Court today. Apparently I am a listed creditor. I suspect many of you who have or are owed CSA funds are also listed creditors. The name of the trustee in this matter is Anne J. White., Demeo LLP, One Lewis Wharf, Boston, MA. She should at least be able to point you in the right direction

                                                              2. This article from the Cambridge Day has more information. (via UniversalHub)
                                                                http://www.cambridgeday.com/2014/05/1...

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: ChocolateMilkshake

                                                                  yikes. Unfortunately it looks like those owed money won't see a penny since the assets are minimal and likely already pledged as security. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a check from the Bankruptcy Trustee. If anything, it will be pennies on the dollar but I doubt unsecured creditors (i.e. those who purchased CSA shares) will see anything.

                                                                  1. re: Gordough

                                                                    A friend has suggested that if you bought with a credit card, you may have some remedies; cash and debit card buyers, not so much.

                                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      That's a great point Slim. If you paid by credit card, absolutely contact your card provider and tell them that you paid for product that you never received. My experience has been that most card issuers will credit you for the charge. This is especially the case when it comes to Amex who has never once questioned a charge that I have disputed.

                                                                      1. re: Gordough

                                                                        ...but do it PROMPTLY, in case there's a time limit on disputes. If you run into issues, make sure you emphasize the date on which the product was to be delivered vs. the date you paid for it.

                                                                  2. re: ChocolateMilkshake

                                                                    Here is an update from Cambridge Day. Good reporting here.

                                                                    http://www.cambridgeday.com/2014/07/0...

                                                                    Penny
                                                                    http://www.bostonzest.com/