New CSA Program for 2020
For the last seven years we have offered a vegetable CSA program (CSA stands Community Supported Agriculture) for our customers, and in 2015 we were one of the first farms in Illinois to offer a "Full Diet CSA" share that included raw milk, eggs, and our pasture-raised chicken, beef, and pork as well as the vegetables. See picture from one of our boxes last season which included the raw milk and eggs (but not the meat portions of the Full Diet share)...
Over the years since we launched our CSA, we have seen a significant change in consumer buying preferences for local food. The original concept of the CSA was a shared-risk partnership between farmer and consumer, where the consumer would purchase a share of the farm's production for the year, typically paying for the share early in the season to help the farmer finance their production expenses. Each weekly or bi-weekly share would include whatever products the farm harvested during the week. If it was a difficult season or poor harvest, the boxes might be a little skimpy. The shared risk was part of the agreement.
As consumer preferences for more choice and more convenience have evolved. the farmers that focused on the CSA distribution model have also tried to adapt, with many shifting to a "customized" share model and home delivery, and often supplementing production from their own farm with products sourced from other local farms. Sadly, many farms that relied mostly on the CSA model to support their farm are no longer in business due to the shifting consumer preferences.
We are fortunate that our CSA program has always accounted for only about 10% of our business, with the onsite farm store serving as our primary distribution outlet. However, we like to make our CSA plan an attractive option for our long time customers, and so we have tried to evolve with the consumer tastes.
So in 2019, we decided to try a new system called Harvie that would enable us to offer our CSA members a customized box each week. The technology was interesting, as each member would input their preferences for every conceivable product we might include in the boxes (i.e. 5 stars for strawberries, 1 start for Kale), and then Harvie would automatically adjust the content of each member's box based on those preferences. As a final review the members could see what the system was putting in their boxes and manually adjust the contents.
The concept seemed great, but the system was expensive, the administrative work involved in setting up and customizing the list of items available each week was time consuming, and it was a huge pain in the @$S to accurately fill all those customized boxes every week. Not to mention the challenge of locating each members individually labeled box from the cooler and freezer on pickup day.
So for 2020 we are going with a much simpler but even more customized solution - a FREE CHOICE CSA where the members simply purchase a prepaid farmshare card online or in the store, and then come to the farm store every week (or every other week, or whenever they want) and pick exactly which items they want for their box from everything on our store shelves. What could be easier and more flexible?
CSA members who choose the prepaid card will receive a weekly email with a listing of all the fresh produce and new products we will have available in the store each week, usually on Wednesday evenings. For the 2020 growing season we will have Karolina (now retired from the farm store) and Anna growing fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs on our farm, and we will also be partnering with Kyle Dionne of VDB Organic Farms in nearby Marengo to supplement with sweet corn, melons, and a variety of other organic produce.
Our prepaid farmshare card is now available for purchase on our website in three different denominations, and the physical card can be picked up beginning the week of January 20th in the store. The cards can be reloaded at any time, but the early season discounts will not always be available. The farmshare card can be used anytime of year to purchase any product in the farm store, but will not work for online purchases.
CSA members who choose the prepaid card will receive a weekly email with a listing of all the fresh produce we will have available in the store once the growing season starts, usually on Wednesday evenings. And of course some fresh new recipes to try out every week.
For the 2020 growing season we will have Karolina of Blacksmith Acres Farm and Anna growing fresh herbs and vegetables at our location, and we will also be partnering with Kyle Dionne of VDB Organic Farms in nearby Marengo to supplement our onsite production with certified organic sweet corn, melons, and a variety of other organic produce.
Please feel free to call the farm store at 847-852-7081 with any questions about the new farmshare program, or reply to this email with questions.
Cliff, Anna, and the Farm Team