Weekly Email from Steve

Last week we were all happily reunited around the sharing of local (and regional food) after a 2 week break for the holidays.  I used that time to do a lot of review of 2008 and begin planning for 2009. The completed year was an amazing renaissance of the Beneficial CSA, which was officially “closed” by then end of the summer 2007 season, after 13 years due to a confluence of unfortunate and challenging events. 

Winter 2007-8 brought the beginning of its revival, as many members asked me to please reconsider my decision.  I was able to recommit to the CSA in its collaborative approach, but with no winter share to look back on, and an uncertain future, it was not obvious what summer 2008 and winter 2008-9 would bring.

It was mid April before I firmly committed to renew the CSA.  By then it was too late to make any specific arrangements with specific farms for specific crops for the summer season.  Similarly, with no idea what kind of member numbers or revenue we had to work with, we could not make commitments to farmers for the current winter season.

We have concentrated this year on developing improved member communication, and improving distribution methods with the addition of new locations.  We have been creative in sourcing food, supporting 23 different “in region” farms s well as 3 “out of region” farms in 2008.

Going forward with a plan and a vision of the CSA for 2009, we will be able to improve our support of our core group of farms, and we will be able to stabilize our offering of important staple foods and extend the season for our members.

  • We will continue with our year round program.
  • We will provide 49 deliveries (again skipping Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years)
  • The share value will average just $100 per month.  $690 for 6 months in the summer (26 deliveries), and $490 for 6 months in the winter (23 deliveries)
  • Members can join at any time and we will be able to calculate remaining share value for the winter season. 

The summer season will feature a slightly higher share value and in the 6 months from May 1 to October 31, we deliver a share of $680 in value.  This means that renewing or new members, planning to restart or continue with the summer share in 2009 can pay as much of the $680 as they are able, and we will pass as much of that as possible through to our core farmers.  This will secure their commitment to grow crops for the summer program, and to help them make the early season investments that they need to make each year.

In 2009 we will begin member signup for the winter share in earnest in August, in order to be sure that we can support our fall and winter growers with additional prepayments as needed to encourage their commitment to CSA production.

We are discussing the status of “core farmer” for Beneficial CSA with several farms.  We will keep you posted as to the status of these discussions.  We are pleased to announce that Harmony Farm and Shiroz Vineyard will continue along with Mesa Top (the original Beneficial Farm) as core producers for the CSA.

One core value of this CSA, that has been present since our founding in 1994, is the idea that we will be accessible to members who cannot prepay for their seasonal share.  This commitment, along with the collaborative structure, has made it fuzzier to members as to why the prepayment and early payment are important.  To support our farmers we need as much of the year’s membership in advance as possible. Now that we are back to full strength and momentum in the collaborative approach, it is more essential than ever to request maximum prepayment from members who can afford it. These prepayments support our farmers.  They also support fellow CSA members who are living on a budget, and require a monthly payment approach.  We also strive to offer discounts to a limited number of members with disabilities, and these are also supported by prepayments and timely payments from our monthly pay members.

So, as they say, Join early and join often, or at least, tell your friends and maybe they will join too…  Our goal is to generate $15,000 in summer share payment for farmer investment by March 15th.  We hope you will help.

 

Immediate details and projections:

For this week we have limited number of items, and you can expect that pattern to continue for the next month and a half or so.  This is the hardest time of year to source local, and is made more so by the fact that we entered this winter pretty much “on the fly”.  Storage vegetables are limited.  We are running out of Mesa Top butternut.  We did receive one shipment of Gemini Farm rutabaga, which is being divided among the members this week.  It is a fairly large amount of rutabaga per share, but this crop stores well in your refrigerator.  We will be presenting cooking ideas for rutabaga!

We are also dipping into our reserve of frozen items this week, with our first delivery of roasted and frozen Hatch Green Chile.  Next week we will have frozen brown sugar figs, from Shiroz Vineyard, preserved this summer for winter enjoyment.  I have tried a couple and they are good.  We continue to look at ways to preserve fruit and vegetables for later enjoyment.  This process will be more intensive and effective in the coming years, as we build a track record and better projections of member numbers and needs.

We are going to continue featuring some fresh or processed fruit, and you will see a survey prepared by Amy on the blog where se look for your guidance on different choices.  The Rio Star grapefruit and meyer lemons from South Texas Organics are pretty special, and have limited duration, so you can expect to see them continue. We soon hope to see our connections to Southern Arizona organic produce deliver, through New Harvest Organics of Nogales, Az.  New Harvest will also supply us with some tropical fruits such as avocado and mango, that come from small rural farming coops that New Harvest works with, returning profits from North American sales to the communities to support water and electric projects.

The next 4 to 6 weeks will be particularly interesting  (a challenge is also an opportunity!) and then from there we will slowly see an increase in variety and the addition of fresh cooking and salad greens.  Considering that fresh and local are our primary emphasis, we will likely run the share value at lower than average until the variety increases in the early spring.  We will keep asking you about different possibilities.  We do have to make decisions that are not perfect.  We will strive to offer an explanation, as that is how we all learn together about the opportunities and challenges of participating in a healthy local food system.  

Please continue to come forward with your questions and suggestions.  You can post comments at the end of this entry.

Please consider helping us get a jump on summer planning and farmer support with your early membership renewal, and please keep telling your friends. We welcome new members at any time.

Enjoy this week’s CSA share!

Steve W

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2 Comments

Filed under Weekly Distribution

2 responses to “Weekly Email from Steve

  1. Stevie Patterson

    Steve: We have loved being members this summer and winter. We have enjoyed everything – even the poms. I was just wondering if we ever get turnips. Maybe they are not very popular, but we sure love them.
    I hope the CSA continues to grow.
    Thanks,
    Stevie

  2. Steve W

    Stevie,

    local turnips, ecpecially when harvested fresh, are sweet and tasty. In the early years of the CSA, Mesa Top (then called Beneficial Farm) grew alot of them. Early turnips were sweet like an apple, We peeled the skin off them and ate them like fruit.

    They also store well and develop a stronger, mustardy “tang” as they age.

    We offered them a couple of times durign the summr share but were not able to solidify any arrangements with other farmers to grow us storage quantities, so we will be looking forward to early turnips in 2009, and will definately work to develop a suppliy of storage turnips for next winter.

    If we can find them from SOuthern Arizona sources, where we are also looking for earlt carrots and beets, you will see them soonest.

    Thnak you for your suggestion.

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