Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why a CSA/Farm Share?

It is April, once again.  And, once again, we are pushing to fill up our CSA Farm Share program for the regular season.

Chumley, the truck - filled with CSA farm share goodness
Every year, we hope to get our CSA filled prior to January.  And, every year, we fail to do it.  We understand why.  People don't really want to commit to something that far in the future.  After all, so many things can (and do) happen.  Every year, wonderful people move on for any number of reasons.  But, that means we have to find new people to take their place!

And, let's also be honest about our own shortcomings on this front. We work very hard on the farm to bring good food to people.  And, once we get to December, January and February - we don't really want to dedicate every waking moment to promoting the farm.  Tammy is extremely busy with her work at Wartburg College.  And, Rob is trying to do things he doesn't get to do the other nine months of the year.  And, yes, he still has to do planning, farm purchasing, organic certification paperwork, taxes, etc etc.  The energy isn't always there to hit the pavement and yell from the rooftops that we need more subscribers.

But, then we get to April.  Seeds are being planted in trays.  Some in the ground.  And we realize that we still have over fifty slots open in our CSA.  And, so, we start pushing the promotions bandwagon!

Why does the CSA model fit our farm?
We're glad you asked.  Let me see if I can give you a quick summary so you can understand why we want this model to work.

1. We like diversity.
We like diversity in our crops.  We think it is the healthiest way to grow food for our soils, for the environment and for the farmers.  It is enjoyable for us to grow a lot of different things.  It provides us with a built in insurance program.  With the level of diversity we maintain, we're pretty well guaranteed to have something EVERY year barring an absolute catastrophe.  And believe me when I say, we've had some major issues occur on our farm - but not one of them has resulted in complete failure by us to provide some good food for our CSA members.

CSA farm shares promote the ability to be very diverse growers.  We make it even more compatible by using the 'menu style' distribution system where people pick up items from each station and add it to their box/bag.  This gives our customers some choice within the diversity provided.  We don't, by necessity, have to have 200 of a certain type of tomato on a given week.  We can mix and match with the diversity we have.

You can't do that and successfully make sales in a bulk retail market.  And, institutional buyers usually want things to be pretty uniform.  But, in a CSA like ours, the diversity is celebrated.  Some people want the small zucchini and others want the big bread makers.

2. A full CSA gives us a financial base for operations
We're sorry if this sounds bland and unexciting.  But, please believe me when I tell you that farming is exciting enough without the added tension that comes with not knowing whether the things you grow will even get sold!  Seriously, it takes plenty of energy and effort to make sure that we grow good food, get it cleaned up and prepped for delivery without having to work to sell things daily.

So, ideally, we need to get enough subscribers to provide us with a financial base to cover our expenses.  Then, we might like to be able to sell a bit more so we make a profit of some sort each season.  But, you can't start worrying about a profit until you have that coverage of your expenses.

3. We like getting to know our share holders
Having a consistent set of customers who come and pick up their food every week gives us a chance to share more than good food.  We can share some ideas about how to eat well.  We can listen to thoughts and concerns about how things are grown.  We can even respond by making changes if they seem warranted!  Some days, knowing who we are working for is the thing that keeps us going!

4. Less food goes to waste.
Now, hear me out on this one.  We DO realize that some of you have trouble getting through all of your produce each week.  In fact, we've had some people stop being members because they felt so bad about wasting food.  But, we can hazard a guess that less of the produce goes to waste this way than it would if we sold at farmers' market or through a retail outlet.  And, much of the food that does not sell when provided to these venues even have a chance to be consumed by a human. 

Yes, it is true that we do our best to donate food to various organizations.  But, it is also true that they will not or can not take some of the produce we grow.  It is also true that we can feed much of the produce to our poultry.  Again, you have to consider that we usually have enough for them already.  Why?  Because we select the best product for you and the rest is consumed on the farm by us or our poultry.  And, yes, we can also compost.   So, it isn't totally lost.

In the end, if we did the numbers, we're pretty comfortable that less food is wasted using the CSA method.  And, if our members can't eat it all now, we hope we can help them learn to freeze excess for Winter months.  Or, failing that, they can compost as well. 

5. Thank you for considering our CSA!
We may be preaching to the choir.  But, we have to use the tools we have available to us.  If you have joined - you have our thanks.  If you are considering it, please follow through and reach out to us via email.  We make it easy to sign up and we make it easy to pick up your produce.  Let's enjoy this growing season together.


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