Market Style CSA?: Summer CSA ’16 Week #13
Fact: Our farm sells out of summer CSA memberships each year.
Fact: Market trends tell us that there is a greater and greater consumer preference towards more choice and convenience in CSA.
Fact: Last week we received an email from a satisfied member who was so happy she wrote us a super fun song!
Fact: That very same day last week, we received an email from an unhappy member, telling us that the quality, mix, and amounts of vegetables just did not work well for her at all.
As farmers (and small business owners) how should we process this information?
Many of you have been so kind to send your ideas and feedback about your experience as CSA members. Here’s what we are thinking right now:
Currently, we offer what’s commonly referred to as the seasonal CSA. A seasonal CSA grows a diverse number of crops and CSA is just one of the marketing channels for the farm. Customers sign on to a summer season of between 20 and 30 weeks, depending on the climate, by purchasing a “share” of the farm in the Spring-time. There are different sizes and/or frequencies of shares available to try and accommodate different household sizes.
The products are boxed each week for on-farm or off-farm pickup. Off-farm pick-up often happens at drop-offs in area towns and cities such as porches, coffee shops, gyms, and churches. CSA members share in the bounty and lean years, but farms mitigate risk through good farming practices and crop diversity. All of the products are grown on the farm unless otherwise noted.
The seasonal CSA is usually anchored with a main summer share, but there may be other seasonal shares sold by the farm such as Spring, Farm, and Winter shares. The farm may offer add-on shares like eggs, chicken, or bread and may offer weekly “extras” sales such as tomatoes for canning or locally grown flour.
We are now seriously considering changing our CSA model to what’s referred to as a “Market-Style” CSA. The market style CSA share is much like the seasonal box except that products are displayed in bulk bins at the distribution site and each member comes to pack up their own box. This distribution may be on the farm or at an off farm location. This model requires staff at the pickup location to keep bulk bins full and to help customers. Because of this, it is a more expensive distribution model, but customers typically feel a greater connection to the farm because they know some of the CSA staff, and feel much happier having a degree of choice.
Each week’s share may be completely predetermined for each member by the farm OR partially pre-determined (for example, each member must take lettuce, beets, and carrots, but has free choice for other products and/or amounts of certain items). We are considering this partially pre-determined form.
Some CSAs employing this model will have a “sharing table” where members can leave products they don’t like and trade it for other member’s disliked products! (This is like our Swap Box concept).
In our concept of market-style CSA, site staff would be briefed each week with field information pertinent to the veggie options so they could answer questions. Folks picking up on the late end or on-farm pickup folks used to extended pick-up times could request staff to pre-pack a box for them (that way if they were always the last one to their pick-up site, they wouldn’t feel like they were always getting last choice).
From the farm perspective, doing things the way we’ve been doing them is easier, more profitable, and more convenient. For our members, we imagine this change would maintain the current level of convenience while offering more choice, connections, and general satisfaction with the CSA experience.
What do you think? Would you be interested in this type of change? If you have a quick second, please click here to anonymously tell us yes, no, or unsure through this survey link. It’s literally just the one question. Thanks!
Happy cooking. Happy eating. Happy back to school lunch packing!
In the Box:
- Bell Peppers, Red and Yellow
- Carmen Sweet Pepper
- Escamillo Sweet Pepper
- Green Beans
- Head Lettuce
- Potato, White
- Sweet Corn
- Joe Parker Ancho Pepper
- Swiss Chard
- Tatsoi or Bok Choi
- Roasted Red Pepper Risotto
- Herbed Carrot and Leek Chunks, Oven-Steamed
- Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad
- Garlicky Crimini Mushrooms with Leeks on Pasta
- Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
- Cashew-Quinoa “Chili”
- Roasted Carrot and Potato, Lentils and Miso Parsley Sauce
- Pickled Jalapenos and Carrots
- Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Carrot Hummus
- Swiss Chard and Red Pepper Gratin
- Summer Minestrone with Chard or Tatsoi
Wednesday, August 31st: Everyother Group A