The New Market Share
CSA has been the lifeblood of our farm since the very beginning. In 2008 when Lucas and I were living out of a tent and building our farm from a hayfield we dreamed of feeding our community. All around the country we saw monocropping and the prolific use of toxic sprays, and we knew that our people needed a better option. We wanted to give our community the chance to feed their families food grown naturally without pesticides and herbicides, and we wanted to nourish the small plot of Earth that we were lucky enough to have under our stewardship. We worked each day to plow the land, add healthy nutrients, and build the infrastructure that would allow us to make our vision a reality. That year 35 hopeful families took a leap of faith and signed up for our CSA, before we had even started the first vegetables seedlings.
It was just the two of working the land in those days, and we put every ounce of energy and love we had into 3 acres of earth. By the grace of the land and sky we were able to grow enough food to feed those 35 families with pre-packed CSA shares in cedar boxes branded with the Crow logo. Long days of work followed by longer nights of planning saw results in the form of a flourishing, albeit tiny, agricultural ecosystem and happy people enjoying what they reported to be some of the most beautiful and flavorful vegetables they had ever eaten. Fledging Crow was taking flight.
After two seasons of pre-packed shares we started to hear feedback from our CSA members that they wanted to choose which vegetables they took home each week. Some loved greens and were not so keen on beets, while others wanted all carrots and tomatoes. The farm expanded to 6 acres and the CSA grew to 65 members.
At that point we had the idea that our CSA members could come to the farmers’ markets and pick out their own share each week, and the “free choice CSA” was born. We knew that our CSA was made up of some singles, some couples, and some larger families, so a one-size-fits-all share would not be an option, so we offered a half share and a full share. To distinguish the two share sizes, we brought chalk-boards to the market and laid out some guidelines that would create a distinction between the share sizes while still allowing members to create their own shares. By 2012 we had 113 CSA members, and everyone LOVED the free choice CSA.
We’ve continued to expand our farms’ acreage since then, and now in 2015 we are the grateful stewards of 35 beautiful acres of farmland. We are now feeding hundreds of families Certified Organic vegetables. With our larger operation and the continued support of our CSA members, we really feel like we are feeding our community, and we have never had to turn down a family who wanted to join the CSA.
Although the free choice CSA model has been working really well for most of our members, we keep hearing about families who cannot make it to their pick up every week. In our member survey last year, we learned that 92% of the CSA members miss 3-4 pick-ups each summer. Our members feel like they have “missed out” if they miss a week, and we get countless emails asking to switch pickup locations. We also hear from half share members who say that they love the CSA, but that it is “just too much food.” After letting this feedback soak in, we’ve come up with a new system that we think you are going to love.
Our solution is a new model called a “Market Share.” Shareholders will still pay upfront allowing us to make the necessary investments in seeds, equipment, and field prep for the upcoming season. It also still allows our members access to the freshest produce around on a consistent basis. The big difference is that instead of asking you to visit us at the same location every week and packing your crow bags with the options listed on the chalk-board, we are going to give you a Crow Card that is loaded with veggie credit. Your Market Share will cost $300 upfront, which buys you $400 worth of veggie credit loaded on a Crow Card. You can purchase veggies with your Crow Card anytime, anywhere, so you are not tethered to any particular pick-up site. We will also offer some member-only specials, allowing you to reap the benefits of any bumper crops that we harvest. So to sum it all up, instead of getting a standard weekly share, you can now spend down your Market Share credit over the course of the growing season. You can always add more credit to your Crow Card in $150 increments ($150 buys you $200 in credit).
We also recognize that some of our Full Share members eat a TON of vegetables and truly take advantage of the Free Choice CSA Model. To continue to honor our Full Share members, we will still offer a Full Share. As always, full share members can come to our stand and grab all the veggies their hearts desire. We are raising the price of the Full Share from $725 to $850, and we have calculated that the $850 investment buys close to $1300 in vegetables for the season for the average full share member. For the folks who take advantage of the Full Share option, it is an incredible value. We hope that between the Market Share and the Full Share, everyone will find an option that works for their family.
As always, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support of our farming business. We are honored to have your confidence and trust, and as they say in Ecuador, buen provecho.