Fresh Earth Farms - CSA

Farm Lanes

Over-wintered hot pepper plant

The usual announcements: Spread the word, buy more stuff, pay your bill.

Farm News

I find the whole vegetable business fascinating. It seems like farmers are always looking for ways to increase their sales. And I feel like they do it to the detriment of their business.

I was recently reminded of this as we’ve been selling shares to new customers. In a few instances the customers are coming to us after their previous CSA farm abandoned their share sales and reverted back to their previous business model — or perhaps yet another business model (the “out of business” model?). In the early 2010s I saw quite a few large, wholesale or farmers market style farms get into the CSA business. I imagine their thinking is something along the lines of “You mean we can get retail prices for our veggies and people pay up front. Sign me up baby!” Seems like a win-win for the wholesale farmer.

Baby hot pepper plant

But then reality hits and after struggling to make it work they realize delivering diverse shares of produce to a large number of customers on a weekly basis is far more difficult than they ever imagined. For the first couple of years they felt they just needed to get the processes in place then all that sweet, sweet profit will start flowing in. But the processes were far different than they were used to. No longer did they have the ability to pack the produce in the field and never have to touch it again. No, they had to get it fit for human consumption and divide it among all the shares they sold. This extra level of effort proved to be greater than they expected.

In addition, they had to decide who got the really great looking stuff and who got the lesser quality produce. Do you put the beautiful broccoli in the CSA shares or do you keep them for your farmers market this weekend? Do you grow produce that keeps well for your retail grocery store customers or do you grow the extremely tasty yet fragile heirloom tomatoes that won’t survive sitting on a shelf for several days? Wholesale, farmers market and CSA are far different animals (plants?).

More onions

We here at Fresh Earth Farms picked a lane back in 2007 or so. Our lane is CSA and only CSA. CSA is a difficult business to excel at. Providing a diverse selection of produce week after week is quite challenging. Growing forty or so different crops with 150 different varieties is not for the faint of heart, but that is what you need to do to provide fabulous shares to your members every week. And this doesn’t even take into account growing successions of crops to provide multiple weeks of that crop. It is a very exacting business to say the least. With over 20 years of experience running our CSA we feel we are finally getting close to figuring it all out. Now if Mother Nature would only follow our directions we’d have it perfected!

I think the whole veggie farming industry would be far better off if each of us stayed in our lane. Have a lot of cheap land and want the simplicity of selling wholesale? Then sell wholesale. If you are a smaller farm that has the ability to juggle a lot of intricacies? Be a CSA farm. Prefer to grow seven different things and therefore invest in the tools and equipment to efficiently grow only those seven things? Maybe sell at a farmers market. But where we fail is when we try to do all things: farmers market, CSA, wholesale to grocery stores, wholesale to restaurants, farm stands, etc. Each of these business models has processes and procedures specific to the model and the costs associated with each. Trying to be the jack of all trades makes you the master of none and the loser in many. And of course the people who lose the most are those who invested in a given farm by buying a share upfront only to have the farm skimp on their share so they could have enough to sell at the farmers market. So I say to my fellow farmers, stay in your lane — or maybe more appropriately, stay in your row! We’d all be better off.

Baby broccoli plant

Joke of the Week

Here is a joke from one of our members. If more people submitted more jokes we wouldn’t have to read my lame jokes.

After robbing the bank, what did the broccoli say to the cauliflower in the getaway car?

Floret!

As always, send in jokes, brain teasers, riddles, share orders and final payments — in that order.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!