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April 1, 2017
The Economy Share
By Charis Lindrooth
No fooling, things are heating up on the farm. The tractor hums by me daily, the driver happy and content to be back in the “saddle,” as it were. The nursery is turning a brighter shade of green, touched by the magic of popping seeds and emerging shoots. The haygrove, our triple-bay hoop house is covered and full of baby lettuces, bok choi and sweet salad turnips, designated for Spring Share boxes later this month. Did I say later this month? Yes! In less than 4 weeks, our season begins again. I can hardly wait to taste those first, most tender and sweet baby vegetables. I cannot wait to visit the grocery store less often, when my refrigerator is bursting with vegetables.
I still get a CSA box every week. Being the Farmer’s Wife, I get a steep discount, of course. You might think that because the farm is right at my feet I wouldn’t need a box, but thirty acres is a lot of ground to cover when you want something specific. And nothing beats the thrill of the weekly list that magically appears each week, picking my favorites, planning my weekly menu and then the delight of opening the fresh box each week.
Recently I asked our members what works and what doesn’t work for them about CSA. If you haven’t responded to this question yet, feel free. We are listening! Almost everyone lists “choice” as a top priority, and we have that covered. Others mentioned the need for pick up site closer to their home. We are willing to accommodate any group that organizes enough interest to host us - we need help with that! And others mentioned that they wish we had a smaller, more affordable share size.
Our recent work on our Community Supported Accessible Food initiative has highlighted this same issue. We have created a new Economy Share to fill a niche for a smaller share for those people who want a more economical option. This share will include 5 Farmer’s Choice items weekly for 22 weeks. The Farmer will pick vegetables for these boxes that are family favorites, with the hopes that the customer will easily be able to use the contents of the box each week. The cost of the share is $306 for 22 weeks, just $13.91/week. In mid summer the box might hold 1 large head of lettuce, 1 quart of tomatoes, 1 quart of potatoes, a quart of green beans, and 4 juicy cucumbers.
Please let us know if you have questions or feedback for us!
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March 1, 2015
Are CSA's a Sustainable Model?
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer and I had a date night this week. Yes, its true, we didn’t actually go anywhere. After the kids finally fell sleep, I slipped into a new dress and put on my pink fuzzy bathrobe. We enjoyed a salad together and a piece of Endangered Species chocolate. As usual the conversation drifted to the farm. We revisited a previous discussion about our three, five and ten year goals for the farm.
Invariably, this subject brings up the question of the long term sustainability of the CSA model. Recently we have seen evidence that big corporations are moving in. We have already been approached by “Big Name Corporation” asking if we want them to sell our “local” produce nationwide. All we have to do is pack and ship. Hmmm....
But aren't we all super busy? Running all day long and always looking for ways to save a few minutes here and there. Many of you have supported our farm for a decade, or longer. Is it getting more difficult to find the time to run and pick up your box?
The Buy Local movement gained momentum after the recession, but now more and more people are questioning it. How about this article written a few years ago, titled, 'Buy Local' Movements are for the Economically Illiterate? Or here is another, The Locavore's Dilemma: Why Pineapples Shouldn't be Grown in North Dakota. In this article the authors state, "Local food is generally more expensive than non-local food of the same quality. If that were not so, there would be no need to exhort people to 'buy local.'" After my recent trip to buy vegetables from Giant food stores (such a painful wintertime necessity for the Farmer's wife!) I can safely argue that our produce is no more expensive, and mostly less expensive than the organic alternatives I find there. Two packages of romaine lettuce for $10? That seems pretty pricey to me. And the taste? Well, I can't go there because I am completely biased.
Nevertheless, an argument that resonates more soundly with me is based on the economy of time. We are all short of it. I frequent Firefly Bookstore, a small family owned treasure just 15 minutes from the farm. And yet I confess that I still find it easier to pop online and order a few books and a spiral staircase from Amazon, wait a few days and pick them up from my front door step. (Okay, I didn't really order a spiral staircase, but did you know that you can?!)
The Farmer and I have long believed that CSA needs to be about the customer, as much as the farm. Supporting a local farm has value, but we feel the consumer should feel valued and supported as well. That’s why we offer online ordering. We believe that this gives the vegetable consumer a better experience than simply receiving a box of any old vegetables the farmer wants to put in there. But we still recognize the flaws in the system.
Now don't get me wrong. We aren't trying to shoot ourselves in the foot. And we certainly hope we haven't persuaded anyone to UN-register for our CSA this season.
We DO want to hear from you. What makes CSA work for you? How important is time efficiency versus the feel good moment of supporting your local farming family? Looking down the road, what do you think needs to change to make the CSA model remain a viable option for busy families?
Simultaneous to this blog, we have opened this discussion on Facebook. Please hop over there and post your comments, concerns, and thoughts. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Let’s gather together, virtually for the moment, and talk about this. Times are getting harder for CSA’s, the market is filling with large and small farms vying for the same customer base. And now big business wants a piece of the same pie. View our Facebook post here
Oh, was our date romantic? It was.
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