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May 20, 2017
We Need Your Help!
100 Members in 1 month!
Calling on your support and creativity! We need 100 more members or we are going to be drowning in produce at the Farm!
Here's how you can help:
  • If you haven't renewed yet, LOG IN - the Main Season starts June 5. We are counting on you!
  • Share our Flyer found here on google docs also on our Facebook page if you can't open that link
  • Choose one of our blog posts and share it via Facebook or Twitter
  • Visit our Facebook page and like, share and comment on any posts - this gets them out into the news feed
  • And BEST of ALL? Tell your friends why you chose Red Earth Farm! Word of mouth is our NUMBER ONE source of new members!
If each of you took ONE of these steps we will reach our quota! Small farms have small advertising budgets and need community support to get the word out. Thank you!
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March 26, 2017
A Little History Lesson
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer was barely a farmer when he first heard the term “CSA.” In 1999 the phrase “Community Supported Agriculture” was still a new concept in the Philadelphia area. The first CSA in this country began in the mid 80s when Jan Vander Tuin, a Swiss biodynamic farmer, introduced the model to a small farm in Massachusetts.
When the owner of a small farm where Michael (the Farmer) worked approached him about starting a CSA, he was dubious.
The idea of selling a season’s-worth of organic produce up front before the first field had been tilled seemed half-crazy, if not nerve-wracking. But even more concerning to him was that the customer had to accept anything the farmer wanted to stick in their box. Don’t like kale? Well if the kale harvest was good you might get half a box of the stuff. Eat it or compost it, right?
This concept seemed both unfair and un-modern to the Farmer. He he decided to offer their shareholders the ability to choose which vegetables landed in their boxes.
Four years later the Farmer began his own farm, and the Future Farmer’s Wife was one of his first CSA members. With about thirty members, the then-Bachelor-Farmer collected each week’s orders off an ancient answering machine. In an even ancienter Ford van he delivered boxes to several drop off locations. One of these was the Future Farmer’s Wife’s chiropractic clinic. Her staff and patients raved about the fresh food and the following spring attended an Open House to hear the Farmer speak on organic gardening. Okay, that day is a whole story in itself. Suffice it to say that two years later the Future Farmer’s Wife became the Farmer’s Wife and they founded Red Earth Farm together.
More than fifteen years later, the Farmer feeds a growing number of avid vegetable eaters. He is still adamant about offering his customers the ability to choose what goes in their weekly box. And ordering is now streamline through online accounts - no more dreaded evenings of handwriting orders from a scratchy answering machine recording! We are still the only CSA in the Philadelphia region that offers online weekly ordering.
And the Farmer’s Wife? Believe it or not, she is still a member, and loves ordering her veggies online each week. Getting that box (she has home delivery!) each week still feels like a birthday present!
Does "The CSA that Let's You Choose" resonate with you? How much does choice matter in a CSA? Are there other factors that are key to your positive CSA experience? We'd love to hear from you!
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May 21, 2015
3 Big Reasons CSA's Don't Work
...and what we are doing about it!
I recently spoke with a CSA member at our Ambler location and she mentioned that she had to drive a little further to our pick up location than she used to. In fact, she used to host for a previous site. Why did she make the switch? She and her fellow members were tired of endless, second-rate greens. She would love to bring our CSA back to her area, but she feared the reputation of CSA's had been damaged by this previous experience.
This conversation strikes me as the core of what has gone awry with the CSA model. The Farmer and I talk of this often, and our CSA has evolved from the following concerns:
  1. Poor Quality: Since the consumer cannot sort through and pick out what she wants in her box, the CSA system allows the farmer to slough off "seconds" or even "thirds" while saving the premium produce for wholesale and markets. How does this make the customer feel? Second-rate!
  2. Small Portions: Vegetable size can be a matter of preference, so it can be challenging to guess what each CSA member might prefer. Take zucchini for example. Some like the vegetable picked young, small and tender. Others use the big daddy's to make zucchini bread...or zucchini chocolate cake (see recipes). But one little cucumber to feed a family of four? Undersized bunches and boxes can leave the CSA member feeling neglected once again.
  3. Lack of Choice: Most of you know this issue represents our biggest beef with most CSA models. The idea that you, as the devoted farm-share holder, should suck it up and eat whatever comes across your plate seems antiquated and even ridiculous. True, it exposes you to new and unusual vegetables that you might not have tried before, but it takes no account for people who join a CSA who also garden. Someone growing bushels of tomatoes in their back yard may have little need for yet another box of farm tomatoes. And people who don't like kale, still don't like kale ten bunches later.
At Red Earth, CSA is our primary focus. The majority of our growing fields are dedicated to the membership. Filling member boxes with quality, fresh produce remains top priority for us. Hot summer days, boxes left outside at pickup sites, or pack crew error still give rise to issues. In this event we stand behind our produce and offer replacements or refund for anything that arrives in unsatisfactory condition. In June we pride ourselves in glorious heads of lettuce, unlike any found in the typical grocery store. Later, when the summer heat stunts the lettuce growth, we double up those heads to make up for it. Every year we strive to implement systems to improve the consistency of what arrives in your box.
Providing the opportunity for our members to choose weekly items stands as the keystone of what makes our CSA work. For us, this means extra labor. The Farmer has to predict a week in advance what might be ready for harvest (no easy task, I assure you!), orders must be printed and placed in the correct boxes, and then the crew has to pack each box correctly. Easier said than done, but definitely worth it. Weekly online ordering remains the number one reason our members choose our CSA again and again. That, and the great tasting vegetables...and maybe the occasional cheery note from the Farmer's Wife!
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March 28, 2015
The History of the Red Earth CSA
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer was barely a farmer when he first heard the term “CSA.” In 1999 the phrase “Community Supported Agriculture” was still a new concept in the Philadelphia area. The first CSA in this country began in the mid 80s when Jan Vander Tuin, a Swiss biodynamic farmer, introduced the model to a small farm in Massachusetts.
When the owner of the small farm where Michael (the Farmer) worked approached him about starting a CSA, he was dubious.
The idea of selling a season’s-worth of organic produce up front before the first field had been tilled seemed half-crazy, if not nerve-wracking. But even more concerning to him was that the customer had to accept anything the farmer wanted to stick in their box. Don’t like kale? Well if the kale harvest was good you might get half a box of the stuff. Eat it or compost it, right? This concept seemed both unfair and un-modern to the Farmer. He proposed that they offer their shareholders the ability to choose which vegetables landed in their boxes.
Four years later the Farmer began his own farm, and the Future Farmer’s Wife was one of his first CSA members. With about thirty members, the then-Bachelor-Farmer collected each week’s orders off an ancient answering machine. In an even ancienter Ford van he delivered boxes to several drop off locations. One of these was the Future Farmer’s Wife’s chiropractic clinic. Her staff and patients raved about the fresh food and the following spring attended an Open House to hear the Farmer speak on organic gardening. Okay, that day is a whole story in itself. Suffice it to say that two years later the Future Farmer’s Wife became the Farmer’s Wife and they founded Red Earth Farm together.
More than fifteen years later, the Farmer feeds a growing number of avid vegetable eaters. He is still adamant about offering his customers the ability to choose what goes in their weekly box. And ordering is now streamline through online accounts - no more dreaded evenings of handwriting orders from a scratchy answering machine recording! We are still the only CSA in the Philadelphia region that offers online weekly ordering. And the Farmer’s Wife? Believe it or not, she is still a member, and loves ordering her veggies online each week. Getting that box (she has home delivery!) each week still feels like a birthday present! And now I am wondering, is there anyone, besides me, who has been a member since the days of Oley Valley Produce, the Farmer’s first CSA?
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