Thursday, October 18, 2012

Building on Success

Tammy and I often have good conversations when we are driving from our CSA distributions and tonight was no different.  This night's discussion was, not surprisingly, about completing the regular season Farm Share CSA.  The good news is that the discussion was largely positive and we thought it might be a good idea to share this with others.

First and foremost, we both feel good about our accomplishments this year.  We also feel good about the support we have received from farm share members, our farm friends, our families and so many other people who are kind enough to give us positive notes when we need them.  We actually feel good enough about it that we are already talking about things we can do to improve on this year. 

If you have been a member of our program, or are looking to become one, we would love to hear your opinions on these ideas.

More Choice/Option Items
For a period of time, we took to offering kale OR chard bundles.  We also often offered broccoli or cabbage or...etc  in another box.  A few times, we just threw things we had extra of (or a shortage of) into a box and let people choose that which appealed to them most. 

In the first case, it was an attempt to address the fact that many people love kale and others do not - and other people seemed to love chard while others disliked it.  In the second, it was a simple matter of the way the crops grew.  If they didn't want to give enough for everyone at any one time, we just kept bringing some every week and put them together.  We figured things usually worked out. 

What we'd like to work out is a way to allow for a little more in the way of choice boxes.  The issue is finding a way to do this that maintains a nice set of choices for everyone throughout the distribution.  We don't want people coming at 5:55 having too much limitation on their selection.  At the same time, we also don't want to bring a truck full of optional material that we have to go home with in order to maintain that choice. 

Remember, signage is often limited because (unlike this season) we often set up in poor weather.  Feel free to comment and give thoughts on what you would like to see.  Opinions can include suggestions that we do less with this idea. 

"Tasting Days"
We get closer to doing something about this each year, but time always runs out on us.  For example, we would have liked to have had some tomatoes sliced up for members to taste prior to selecting.  But, this requires space and time to keep the tomatoes on the plates, etc.  Another example, we would like to have had the time to have a bunch of kale chips available for everyone to taste.  But, when push comes to shove, these things fall off the list because we only have so much energy and time.

Still, we like the idea of having a tasting day every fourth week of the CSA.  If we want this to work, we will need some things to happen.
1. We need a good season where we have excess of a particular item for samples.  (of course)
2. We need volunteers to help us with the sampling at the distributions.
and perhaps if the item(s) to be tasted require cooking/baking/preparation we might need
3. volunteers to cook/bake/prepare tasting items

What do you all think of this idea?  It would be a way we could help you see why we say some of the veggies we grow taste good.  It is often finding the way to prepare an item that is appealing to each taste.

Volunteering for the Farm - at the Distribution
We have had people suggest that they could help at distributions in the past - and we hope we have not seemed to dismiss these offers.  They are always kindly given and appreciated.  We just haven't always figured out how to accept and use the help properly.  However, it is clear that there are people who would like to volunteer some time, but cannot do so by coming to the farm.

If we had people sign up for 1/2 hour increments during distributions, would there be enough interested parties to actually make this work?  We're not looking for volunteers every single week.  But, there are times when having a person dedicated to one task could be so helpful.  Some examples include:
1. staffing a part of the table where we have brochures with recipes (or some other resource).  This may sound silly - but if there is a breeze, they become a problem.  It is also difficult to stock the trays, handle questions, clean things, up, etc etc AND remember to tell everyone about the nice brochures we printed up. 
2. Helping with Tasting Days.
3. Contacting members who have not yet picked up at the end of a distribution - and perhaps taking that family's share to provide them with an opportunity to get their produce.

I'm not sure that we're looking for volunteers on every day.  And, the goal of getting some volunteers is to further improve what we do during the distributions.  Thoughts?


  1. Anonymous7:41 AM

    This isn't related to any of the above ideas, but for next year...if you could offer half-season shares (ie - Aug-Oct and/or March-May) to students, I think that'd be great. I am a grad student who just moved from Tennessee, and would like to support a CSA, but there isn't an easy way to do so on a school schedule I would suspect you would get several takers for semester-long shares, particularly grad students & upperclass undergrads.

  2. We hear you.
    Regarding March-May. We do an extended Spring share that fits that timeline. But, the number of people we can take is limited. It simply isn't that easy to grow high volume that early UNLESS everyone wants ALOT of greens. I think it is fair to say that a minority of people love greens to that extent, so it is difficult to want to ramp up that part of the operation if it will be a hard sell. That, and, we are trying to get the farm going for the main season, so it isn't so easy to maintain a larger extended Spring group and get the farm going.
    The Fall season is perhaps more intriguing. The issue there is that the growing season is in full swing and it is difficult to do the admin work to promote and add people at that time. It doesn't matter what online tools, etc you have, it still takes time and energy.

    So, there is your long answer. And, here is the short one: We'd like to do this, but we're not sure we have it in us to do this.

    That said - we sometimes have people split a share, with one person being around from June-August and the other late-August through October.

  3. Gillian Wyman10:40 AM

    Maybe the split season share administrative work could be another volunteer task. Either way, I would definitely be interested in volunteer activities that are closer to home. I would definitely be willing to volunteer for half hour time slots or even the full distribution time. Sounds like you could use a volunteer volunteer coordinator. On a side note, are there any openings for the spring season shares?

  4. Anonymous11:59 AM

    It was fun to do the chocolate beet cake. I have a fabulous green smoothie too--kale, apple, ginger, lime juice. Needs to be cold. I'd do the tasting thing. Pat Coffie

  5. mmmmmmm. Smoothie tasting is a pretty good idea. We can probably work something out to keep things cold.


Thank you for your input! We appreciate hearing what you have to say.