News From the Farm | October 8, 2018

Getting your produce directly from a local farmer is a radically different way to shop than going to a grocery store.  You are trusting the farmer to choose your produce for you, you are investing in the farm in advance (thus venturing into a long-term relationship… gulp), you are cooking much more fresh and unprocessed food, and you are eating seasonally.  That seasonal element may mean that even though in the course of a year you will taste a very high diversity of fruits and vegetables, the experience from week-to-week can bring some repetition. 

One last thing to add regarding how a CSA is different: The produce in grocery chains is manicured.  It sometimes doesn’t matter a whole lot what it tastes like, or how long it travelled to get to the store, as long as it looks cosmetically uniform. The produce in the Full Belly box can sometimes be a little more like produce from your garden.  We will guarantee the freshness and taste but we will also admit that there may be a few dings or lack of cosmetic uniformity. Why waste the crooked carrots or the winter squash that rubbed up against a stem in the field and has a brown spot? We are happy that we do not have to throw this perfectly good produce out after using precious resources to produce it.

Some of these themes came to me after reading the overwhelmingly constructive and thoughtful comments that came in from a survey of current members that we recently completed. (We had a 41% response rate!)  Here are a few of the results:

• 77% have been members for more than a year (and based on the comments, many for much longer than that.)  We do have over 9% newbies — people that have been getting the box for less than three months.

• More than 98% of our members are either very happy (67%) or happy overall with the Full Belly CSA program.

• 65% of our members think they are getting a good value for their money.

• More than 73% of our members say that the quality of the fruits and vegetables is excellent.

We may not have done enough to let you all know about the following:

• If you want information about on-line accounts, contact us by email.  The on-line accounts are for your convenience. They are best for some of the most common things you might want to do (renewing, skipping dates). More complex requests are easier by email.

• If you would like your boxes to be renewed automatically, let us know.  We have been offering this option for awhile and have set it up so that it is still easy for you to opt out if you ever wish to do so.

• Many of you would like to be able to add-on eggs to your CSA box. We will keep that in mind.  We don’t currently have a big enough hen population!  Also note that our eggs are seasonal, just like the produce.  Those pastured hens are living outside and they respond to the seasons.

• We have a recipe archive as part of our web site.  Just click on the type of vegetable and you will get a list of recipes to browse.

• Even if you get your box delivered directly to your home, you can still add-on to the produce, choosing from our pantry items like nuts, jams, bone broth, and tomato sauce!

• If you pay for 48 boxes in advance, you CAN make adjustments in your schedule, just like everyone else.  We used to be unable to accommodate this — but that changed a while ago.

One of the questions we asked was if our members would like the option to exclude particular fruits and vegetables.  36% of you would love that, 49% said it was not important and 15% said it was not a good idea.  We are aware that this is an option in some CSA programs and we also know that people sometimes have sensitivities to particular items, or get tired of the same item week after week.  We asked this question to gauge how much of an issue it is for our members.  While we can consider it, it is true that allowing exclusions would be expensive for us to manage.

Possibly more attainable would be the option to have more than one box size to choose from.  51% of our members said that they would be interested in this, but in the group of members who wanted a different size, it was pretty-much a split — half wanted a bigger box and half wanted a smaller box!  We will be mulling this over during our winter planning sessions, but we are very likely to have bad dreams when we think of color coded boxes, of different sizes, and people taking home the wrong colored box from their pick-up sites.

Thank you very much to everyone who responded to the survey.  We appreciate your input all year round — if you have any questions at any time, don’t hesitate to send us an email or call us up.  We benefit from your involvement!

— Judith Redmond

“I find the CSA box much more convenient than on-line grocery shopping because I don’t have to think about what fruits and veggies I want.”

“I love understanding the rhythms of the seasons and cooking accordingly.”

“I think we’re on week four of eggplant and three of squash. No zucchini or green beans for a long time.”

“I love how the box forces me to get creative and try new recipes. It has hands-down made me a better cook! I often use the recipe of the week as a starting point, and then make tweaks based on my own preferences.”

“The online account works fine. Could it be improved? Yes, but you are a farm and I would prefer you spend your time on food rather than making your online account system slick.”

“The box has had a huge impact on my cooking. We have been getting it for most of the last 20 years. At first we ended up composting quite a few things that we didn’t like or know how to cook, but little by little we have developed recipes we like for almost everything you give us. I love the fact that the box helps me plan my meals for the week. Instead of having to plan a menu from scratch, I can take a look at the box contents to get me started. My family definitely eats a wider variety of veggies than we would without the box.”

Green Garlic is on the way!