Monday, February 24, 2014

A New Model for CSA

Any farmers' cooperative or CSA coalition will tell you that coordinating a CSA with several farmers, over 50 members, and multiple distribution sites can be quite an ordeal. But add to that mix different cultural preferences and language barriers and you've got a whole new set of challenges!

We're constantly reevaluating our program here at New Roots, working on ways to improve our CSA model so that our farmers are exposed to alternative models of selling while delivering high quality produce to their CSA customers. Cultural and linguistic differences present unique challenges, and our goal as New Roots staff is to work with our farmers on how they can overcome those challenges. We practice English with our farmers, talk with them about the differences between the taste preferences of people from their home culture and those of many US-born citizens. But unlike the plants that grow at Juniper Gardens from seed to fruit in just a few months, English skills and understanding of cultural preferences don't develop as fast- especially with other jobs, family, school, and community commitments all taking up farmers' limited time. The "growing" that we're working towards doesn't occur in just a year.

A lot of the suggestions we get about our CSA involve having more choice, improving communication between New Roots staff, farmers, and CSA Friends, and making more options for share sizes. So we're trying something new this year.

At the beginning of the season, CSA Friends will be given a booklet of 18 vouchers, equal to one season’s CSA share. On each voucher will be:
1. The name of your farmer
2. A number indicating how many items you can select from your farmers table when you pick up your share
3. A number 1-18 indicating which week of the season the voucher is good for
      The idea is that each week, you bring your voucher for that week to the market, hand it to your farmer, and select the number of veggies you paid for from their selection. This way, you can buy a smaller share if desired, you can pick the veggies you want, and you can easily have someone else pick up your share on any given week. 

 Hate scallions? You won't have to worry about pawning them off on a friend anymore! Obsessed with cherry tomatoes? Don't stress about not having enough in your bag this week- take 3 pint boxes and it counts as 3 of your items! Going out of town but don't know how to explain to your farmer that your friend Sarah is coming to get the share next week? Just give Sarah the voucher, and your farmer will know she's there to get your share!

 We're looking forward to trying this system in 2014, and our farmers were equally as excited when we asked their thoughts. We'll do another evaluation at the end of this season, and while we know there will still be things to improve on, we hope the voucher booklet will address many of the suggestions we tend to get. 

 For those who have bought CSAs in the past, thank you for your support! We hope you'll stick around while we work to get you the freshest produce from some of the happiest & hardest-working people we know!

     If you're interested in buying a CSA share this year, check out the "Markets and CSA" page of the blog for even more details, including prices and what to expect from your CSA experience. Then you can let us know you want to buy one by filling out the 2014 New Roots CSA Interest Survey here or on the "Markets and CSA" tab. If you have questions that aren't answered on that page, contact Meredith Walrafen at or 913-906-8930.

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