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Author Topic: What's In a CSA Box?
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  wvhaugen
  Ferndale
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What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sat, Aug 25 '12 at 02:56 UTC)

Several people have written in about how much they did or didn?t get in their CSA boxes, so I thought a listing of a couple of weeks from my program might further the conversation. Since I do multi-tiered pricing (the earlier you get your money to me the cheaper a CSA share is), the share price is an average. This year the average is $470 for 18 weeks. This is a weekly cost of $26.11 and currently the shareholder is getting $36.52 per week on average, a bonus of 40%. Here are the box contents of the last two weeks. As you can see, the shareholder gets a very good deal.

Week of August 15, 2012:
Item Amount Unit Price Total
Apples 1.20 lb 2.00 2.40
Beets 2.51 lb 1.75 4.40
Cabbage 4.40 lb 1.25 5.50
Chard 1.00 lb 4.00 4.00
Fingerlings 2.00 lb 3.00 6.00
Garlic 0.41 lb 8.00 3.25
Potatoes 2.00 lb 1.50 3.00
Purple beans 1.92 lb 3.25 6.25
Snap peas 1.51 lb 3.25 4.90
Box Total $39.70

Week of August 22, 2012:
Item Amount Unit Price Total
Broccoli 1.91 lb 1.75 3.35
Cabbage 5.52 lb 1.25 6.90
Chard 2.00 lb 4.00 8.00
Fingerlings 1.00 lb 3.00 3.00
Garlic 0.23 lb 8.00 1.80
Onions 0.75 lb 2.00 1.50
Purple beans 0.97 lb 3.25 3.15
Potatoes 2.00 lb 1.50 3.00
Snap peas 1.00 lb 3.25 3.25
Summer squash 1.83 lb 1.75 3.20
Box Total $37.15

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sun, Aug 26 '12 at 04:09 UTC)Positive Rank

I also figure out by weekly value and they get at least 125% of the fee. Values hover at $20 a week at the beginning of the season and $40 a week at the end. Right now they are $35 per week.
Right now an average share is
$5 melon worth at least 6 at market (bumper crop)
$5 watermelon worth 6 at market
$2-3 in garlic and onions
$4 in potatoes (crop failure)
$4-5 in sweet corn
$4-6 in tomatoes
$3 in sweet peppers
usually $1 in cucumbers and generally an herb

The rest is made up of any of the following: summer squash $3, green beans $5, carrots $3-5, beets $3, eggplant $3, edamame $5, winter squash $5, broccoli $3-4, kale $3-4. I rotate it around each week so you don't get beans or summer squash every week.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sun, Aug 26 '12 at 10:59 UTC)Positive Rank

My members get to pick and choose what they want in their share from tables and shelves loaded usually with 25 to 30 different items. i do two sizes of shares, Larges which gets a choice of 12 items and regular which gets a choice of 6 items
here is a short video of what my members got to choose from http://youtu.be/05SbUo7pFj8

Sungold cherry tomatoes (1 pint)
Green beans (1 pound)
Jalapeno (10)
blackberries
strawberries
grapes
raspberries
garlic (2 corms)
small cabbages (2)
Beets (1 pound bunch)
Okra (1/2pt)
Onions (1 pound)
Catnip
3 pound mixed eggplant
6 pounds of heirloom maters
Zucchini (take 4)
Basil (1/2 pound bag)
Cantaloupe
Kale (3/4 pound)
Chard (3/4 pound)
arugula (1/2pound)
Fresh herbs (choose two)
Cukes (take 6)
Green Peppers (take 4)
Sangria Watermelon-red (take 1)
Peace watermelon-yellow (take 1)

This past weeks' shares were even bigger and I anticipate this coming week will have even more.

I have said this before and i will say it again. if you are joining a CSA you must ask how ling the farmer has been farming produce. if it is under 5 year there will be problems with supply, especially on a hard year such as this one has been for almost everyone in the USA. If this is the growers first year as a CSA expect problems as it takes several years to get decent at being a CSA farm/Farmer. Never ever base your selection on price. You tend to get what you paid for and if you are paying under $20 a week don't expect much in your share not high quality. CSA is not about getting cheap veggies. Though, on a well run farm with experience you will get this at various points in the season when there is a good/great crop of something or several somethings.

Also if you cannot communicate with your farmer something is wrong as CSA is supposed to be very transparent. Members should be allowed on the farm and the farmer should put together some sort of weekly newsletter to keep members abreast of the news of the farm. Farmers should be willing to answer all questions put forth by members and if that ain't happening that is a red flag.

CSA is not for everyone, be they farmers or customers.

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sun, Aug 26 '12 at 12:21 UTC)Negative Rank

I would disagree with your comments regarding 5 years of running a CSA equates to high quality etc etc. Maybe you mean, 5+ years of overall farming experience? It also depends on how large a CSA one wishes to operate. We do a very small operation, monthly subscriptions, 10-20 shares a month.

Also, you say not to choose based on a cheap price, but then proceed to say $20 or more a week or you won't get what you pay for... Which is it, choose based on price or not?

We offer $5, $15, and $25 / wk options for our CSA. The $5 does well for retirement communities in our area. I think that pricing should be for a full share $20-25/wk. It is difficult to get people to purchase at those prices in my area. I think pricing is certainly a regional and cultural issue. In my area, people are leaving town for better jobs, homes are going up for sale fast, downtown is full of vacant store fronts, steel mills are gone, etc.

So some CSA options for *us* HAVE to be cheap, because the income isn't there for most people. 50+% of our town is on food stamps, seriously. We take FMNP/WIC vouchers as well which have increased our farmers market income 20% this year alone.

Transparency is a must, I do agree there. We routinely have visitors to our farm, chefs, wholesalers etc.

 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sun, Aug 26 '12 at 04:48 UTC)Positive Rank

I did 5+ years of running a CSA before the service gets good usually (there are always exceptions) and at least 5 years of farming before starting a CSA so it would 10+ years of farming before the CSA grower will be giving better than adequate service. Of course if one is doing under 5 shares a week there likely won't be the issues of a full CSA where the farm is making the bulk of their income from the CSA.

From what I have heard from my members who have come to me (and have stayed for years) from CSA where the farmer simply was not experienced as well as the comments I read here I stand by my statements as it seems fpr most of the people complaining about their CSA the farmer has been farming under 5 years and it is usually in it's first 5 years of operation.

I know in my first 5 years of operation I made horrible mistakes and usually lost 95% of my members every year. Now that I am 15 years into this I keep around 80% of my members as I know what I am doing, I know how to grow and harvest correctly and I know what members expect. All from experience gained from 18 years of farming and 15 years as a CSA

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sun, Aug 26 '12 at 06:26 UTC)Negative Rank

Yes I can't believe there are any farms out there with super low prices. It is ridiculous. I think that should send up a red flag to the customer...

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Mon, Aug 27 '12 at 06:23 UTC)Positive Rank

If a CSA is too cheap don't expect it to be around more than a season or two because if one doesn't charge enough for the produce how does one expect to be able to stay in business?

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Mon, Aug 27 '12 at 10:14 UTC)Positive Rank

How cheap is too cheap? I see CSA's in my area of Pennsylvania going as low as $350 for 20 weeks... 17.50 a week. Others are as high as $1000 for 28 weeks, $35/ a week.

 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Mon, Aug 27 '12 at 02:37 UTC)Positive Rank

Too cheap is when the farm is not economically sustainable, the farmer doesn't have enough to put into savings, cannot easily pay bills and decodes that working for under $5 an hour just ain't worth it so goes and does something that pays better like working at a fast food place or a box store.

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Mon, Aug 27 '12 at 03:25 UTC)Positive Rank

Now I know that our CSA is not set up like most . Our members pay $600/year and put in an average of 3 hours/week though it is more like one if you average it out for the year . I grow food for us year round . They get things not usually available in CSA's like fruits from our orchard,fresh foods from the greenhouse and covered beds in the winter, medicinal herbs, canning/freezing quanties of foods and instructions on putting foods up as well as gardening ,composting and seed saving skills . We grow many unusual foods that generally most CSA's do not offer as they are looking to appeal to people used to grocery store foods .I save seeds from most of the foods .
I only have a few members as I have other streams of income from the farm. I mostly want people to share in the abundance as I can't eat it all and help me with the work. The social friendship aspect is what appeals to me as well as the support . I sell egg shares separately and also offer to raise chickens for meat though there have been no takers on that as help with butchering is required .
I am sharing this because there ARE different ways to view CSA . :)Sharon

Sharon Carson
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Tue, Aug 28 '12 at 11:34 UTC)Neutral Rank

Well, then I guess I'm doing alright, I'm earning more than $5/hr, bills are paid, and I've managed to put 4 figures into savings this year ;)

Sharon, do you see much turnover among the work traders? Do they get a reduced rate on the share?

The previous farm I managed (I'm on my own now chea!) work traders got a $700 share for 112 hours of work, average out to 4hr/week and a hourly rate of $6.25 in value.

Honestly, I thought that was too generous to work traders, who typically come with a friend and do as much chatting as working.

Thoughts?

 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Tue, Aug 28 '12 at 07:57 UTC)Positive Rank

I do not offer any money off for work. Funds are donated to the farm for operational expenses... not to pay me a salary . The work is in exchange for education .My members are my friends . The old saying goes, " If you don't work, you don't eat " . Some one has to pick the food our members eat and it IS the members . If they don't show, they get no food . Pretty simple.I am retired :)Sharon

Sharon Carson
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Thu, Aug 30 '12 at 11:34 UTC)Neutral Rank

You're right Sharon, your CSA is a bit different :) I like that you have members doing all the work, awesome! It just won't work in my situation, and I do need a salary !

 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Thu, Aug 30 '12 at 01:08 UTC)Positive Rank

They, by no means do all the work . I do the lions share . I grow most of my own foods. They help plant in the spring and they help harvest in the summer . I only have a few members . I sell plants and seeds from the garden as well as artwork. I have an abundance of fruits and nuts too so plenty to share.I grow foods they like as well as rare seed crops . It is a win/ win situation that works for me. None of us WANT to get up before daybreak on Sundays to beat the sweltering heat ,but that is what we do to harvest the foods in summer. Glad Fall temps are here now . :)Sharon

Sharon Carson
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Fri, Aug 31 '12 at 02:38 UTC)Positive Rank

Transparency! I wanted my shareholders to know they can tour the garden and check how everything is grown. I sent out an email last week with an invitation to tour on a certain night or another day if that worked better and none of them answered! There is another CSA 'farm' here in my town that buys and sells and doesn't allow visitors so I wanted them to know that I am not like that. But I suppose all the photos I send in the newsletters give them enough trust in me.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Fri, Aug 31 '12 at 10:36 UTC)Positive Rank

I have farm dinners for my member, they include a farm tour, though the last one a week ago this evening we did not get around to doing a farm tour as the members with small children left right after dinner and before the melt downs started and the rest of us sat around drinking wine and talking about things and getting to know one another.

I think the key to getting members out to the farm is bribing them with food, prepared food, and alcohol helps a lot too (at least with my members)

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Fri, Aug 31 '12 at 02:29 UTC)

I have had similar experiences. On Mondays I have a work party and then feed them dinner, including wine. They also get as much food as they want. This works good except there are only two stalwarts at the present time. It is mostly about teaching them sustainable methods while they work.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sat, Sep 1 '12 at 01:07 UTC)Positive Rank

I would love to do a CSA dinner but I do not live at the farm.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sat, Sep 1 '12 at 11:28 UTC)Positive Rank

You can still do one at the farm, treat it like a picnic and everyone brings in food and drink (and things with which to eat). This is pretty much what I do as we do not use the house at all for the meals, they are out side near the market garden

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sat, Sep 1 '12 at 01:44 UTC)Positive Rank

Before we switched to an all working CSA, We had potlucks where folks brought a dish . I made homemade ice cream and homemade wine and even had a band one time One year, we offered camping and had a dozen tents and lots of kids- even had a bonfire with music that time. Now, local CSA's deliver to a local farmers market where customers select their share or pick up their shares . Very few go to farms.There is one large CSA that has a store on the farm where some of the members pick up but he also does some farmers markets at the beach where more people pick up .Few people want what I offer because it is NOT convenient or easy

Sharon Carson
 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sat, Sep 1 '12 at 03:52 UTC)

"Few people want what I offer because it NOT convenient or easy." Right on the mark Sharon. Few people realize how much they actually pay in energy costs, pollution, and corporate control when they opt for convenience.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Tue, Sep 4 '12 at 03:10 UTC)Neutral Rank

Yeah picnic style might work but I don't know about inviting people onto the land or bothering the people in the house. There is an office with a creepy bathroom and sink with potable water but it is a pretty messy place to have a picnic.
I could put the feelers out and see the response.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Tue, Sep 4 '12 at 03:15 UTC)Neutral Rank

OK, as to what is in a CSA box, well this time of year it gets kind of boring even though there are so many things in high swing. I was looking at the seed catalogs again to check for any crops I don't grow but should and there isn't much- stuff people would actually want to eat. There were crop failures here on garlic and potatoes and my summer cabbage and cauliflower did poorly. I won't dig sweets until the day before frost. Melons are finishing this week. So most are getting a ton of tomatoes and peppers right now and it sounds like they are ok with it. The weather just is such a factor in things and freak crop failures and bumper crops are going to be the norm I think from now on.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Tue, Sep 4 '12 at 11:02 UTC)Positive Rank

Right now we've got potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, carrots, beets, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, kale, swiss chard, arugula, radish, lettuce, leeks, melons, summer squash (soon winter squash, ate my 1st spaghetti the other day), pac choi....

I think that's it :)

 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Tue, Sep 4 '12 at 08:00 UTC)Positive Rank

this week is week 2 of melonpallooza and that means 1 of the item s the can choose to take is 2 water melon, 2 cantaloupe, 2 galia melons and two charantais melons-yes all that is 1 item
the also can opt for
beets
celeriac
tomatoes (around 4 pounds)
eggplant (4 pound basket)
sungold tomatoes (2 pints)
strawberries (1 pint)
raspberries (1/2 pint)
potatoes-(1 pound mixed box of french fingerling, blue, red and white)
Scallions
arugula
parsley
basil (1/2 pound bag)
onions (1 pound red or yellow)
shallots (1/4 pound)
leeks (take one, they are large)
cayenne peppers(bunch of 3 very looong peppers)
jalapeno peppers (1/2 pound box/10 peppers)
mini peppers (3/4 pound of small, mainly lipstick peppers)
Bell peppers (take 4)
Okra (1/2 pound box)

Large share gets 12 items, small share gets 6 items

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 bulldawg
 Kent Island
Re: What's In a CSA Box?    (Posted Sun, Sep 9 '12 at 09:42 UTC)Neutral Rank

This is AWESOME information to answer my questions. I appreciate eveyrone's input. From what the various CSA have posted here, I know I just made an uninfromed decision this year and got what I deserved for not doing more research! I am in awe of the quantity and diversity of weekly shared detailed here. We had weeks were we got nothing but squash and a melon. Thanks again for restoring my faith!

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