There are two trends in the CSA farm share movement that have been dominating the scene the last several years. The first is that CSA farms are going belly up, all over the country. CSA farms struggle to compete with big box stores that have taken over the same marketing language that CSA farms used to use. Local, sustainable, organic and fresh used to be real words used to describe real food like the vegetables we grow for our farm’s members. Our own vegetables are still among the healthiest and most responsibly grown, but the language surrounding what we grow is getting a bit stale and wilted. Unable to compete with the convenience and never-ending selection of a large store, many small farms have had to call it quits. For the first time in 11 seasons, Old Plank Farm is struggling to fill all it’s membership spaces for the upcoming year. But we are a long way from beaten, and so we are among the lucky ones.
The other trend on small farms is to offer customization of CSA shares for farm members. We think this is a GREAT idea! That’s why the last few years we have been adding customization options for our farm member’s weekly vegetable boxes. This year we’ve got a great system in place. After several years of asking for member feedback, we’ve been able to categorize all the vegetables we grow into three groups.
The 1st group, STAPLE CROPS, are what we plan to pack into every member’s box each week that they are available (4+ of these crops each week). Most of these are available regularly during the season. Old Plank Farm staple crops are onions, green onions, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash, salad mix, lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and winter squash.
The 2nd group, SEASONAL FAVORITES, will also be put into every member’s box when they are in season, which is usually only a few times during the year, or a shorter window of harvest than the STAPLE crops have. (1-2 of these favorites on most weeks). Old Plank Farm seasonal favorites are watermelon, cantaloupe, sugar snap peas, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, and basil.
The 3rd group, CONTENTIOUS VEGGIES, are the “love ‘em or hate ‘em” crops. Mixed CHOICE BOXES of these crops will be sent to each pick-up site every week, and as a member you get to pick 1-3 of the items you find and add them to your own box. (You’ll be invited to do our survey to rank your favorite/least favorite vegetables before the season begins, to help fine tune our Choice Boxes). Old Plank Farm contentious veggies are beets, spinach, leeks, radishes, chard, bok choi, eggplant, turnips, fennel, kohlrabi, herbs, and arugula.
Finally, an EXCHANGE BOX at your pick-up site is a place where you can leave any unwanted item from your box. This way, you never have to take home something that you know you won’t eat. And if you see something in the exchange box that you want, you can swap it with whatever you decided to get rid of.
If you don’t like vegetables, then no amount of customization will help make you a happy farm member. But if you like most staple vegetables, and want some choice of what you take home each week in your box, then our CSA may be just the right place for you. As an Old Plank Farm member, you’ll be sure you never have to take a box full of kohlrabi home. But if you like kohlrabi, you’ll have the option to take one on any or all of the weeks that we have them available for harvest!
Stephanie Bartel, May 1 2019