LocalHarvest Newsletter, February 24, 2014

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

People join CSAs for all kinds of very good reasons, but they stay for only two: really liking the food, and workable logistics that work for their family. The food, of course, is primary. It needs to be luscious, more or less the expected quantity, and of good variety, but not too weird. That is, most people don't mind a couple experiences of "what is this thing?" during the course of the growing season, but few want to brave unfamiliar vegetables every week. In terms of logistics, the pickup place and time must be convenient, the payment options need to work for the family's cash flow, and the delivery frequency needs to match the quantity of food delivered so the frig suffers neither deluge nor desert. There are many other great things about being part of a CSA – getting to know the farmer, for example – but usually these are not strong enough to retain members if the food and its delivery are unsatisfactory.

Satisfaction, though, is highly subjective. "The perfect amount" to one family may be too much or too little to another, and notions of acceptable quality and convenience are similarly personal. CSA farmers try their best to meet their members' needs, but sometimes they don't. A growing issue faced by CSAs nationwide is that of member attrition. Some people join a CSA and stay for a season but don't re-up the following year, making it difficult for individual CSAs to grow. My message this month is to try, try again. With your second farm you may find a better fit.

My sister's experience is a good example. A few years ago, she signed up for a CSA. She went in with a lot of motivation to support a local farmer and expose her kids to local food. Sadly, it was a flop. The farmer was new to CSA, which led to inconsistent food quality and too many unidentifiable vegetables. My sister ended up tossing a lot of the food. At the end of the season she left. Still wanting to eat local, seasonal food, the next year she tried to shop at the farmers market. That wasn't ideal for her either. Too often her Saturday morning schedule filled up without getting to the market. She realized that she liked the commitment and routine a CSA offered. ("I already paid for it. I better pick it up!") So last year she tried a different CSA. This time she did more research and asked a lot of questions. She found a CSA that focused on what she calls "the basic vegetables" – those that she and her family like to eat. The quantity and quality were excellent. The pickup fit with her work schedule. Her family had an enjoyable experience and she signed up again for this coming season. Everybody won: my sister kept trying until she found a format and a farm that worked for her, and the farmer gained a returning member.

If you have had a less than stellar experience in the past, perhaps 2014 is the year to give it another try. We have some articles that offer ideas about how to decide if CSA might be right for you, and if so, how to find a good match.

If you've had a good CSA experience - even if it took a couple of tries! - we'd enjoy hearing about your experience.

Until next time, take good care and eat well,

Erin Barnett

P.S. Be sure to read on for the announcement of our new mobile version of LocalHarvest!

From the LocalHarvest Store:

With cold season dragging on, and the cleansing season of spring coming soon, it is a great time to stock up on some herbal medicines to support your physical health. We work with several well-versed herbalists, whose products are among our most popular.

Speaking of health, few decisions affect it as much as your food choices. How about trying a CSA this year, and giving your body plenty of fresh, tasty vegetables?

Looking to grow your own? It's a good time to order some seeds for some of America's favorite veggies, from our farmers to you!

CSA Farmers: Looking Ahead to Next Season?

CSA Farmers: It's a great time of year to consider upgrading your business processes. CSAware can help. If you'd like to ask us some questions about it or take an online tour, let us know!

Food from the Farm: Roasted Broccoli

We eat a lot of broccoli in the winter, and if we have the oven heated up for something else will often throw the broccoli in to roast. It looks beautiful and feels special. The exact same method can also be used for cauliflower, and is equally delicious.