Showing posts with label Guest bloggers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest bloggers. Show all posts

Monday, November 23, 2009

Think Before Giving the Gift of CSA

This post is a gentle warning to well meaning relatives and friends of locavores.

Do not buy a CSA share/membership for your locavore as a holiday or birthday gift unless you are really sure that this will be a welcome thing. I have had a few of experiences as a CSA grower where this has happened. Once it turned out well because the buyer was (and is) one of the pillars of the international locavore community and was positive the recipients got the whole CSA idea. And these people had been members of a CSA in Iowa where they lived before moving to Ohio.

The other two gifts did not turn out well. In both cases the giftees had never been a CSA member before and simply did not get the whole concept. Fortunately for Boulder belt Eco-Farm we sell monthly memberships and in both cases where the experience was less than good the gift was for a one month membership. One giftee did not want to drive to the farm so asked if she could do all 4 weeks at once. I told her no but I could do 2 weeks at a time. She was amazed at the amount of food she got the one time she picked up and almost understood why I would not make a 4 week share for her (almost). She flaked out on the second pick-up which was not good for her but a nice donation to our farm. the other giftee I believe picked up one time (and this was at a time we had delivery points) and we did not see that person ever again.

I feel that buying a CSA membership for someone is a bit like buying a puppy for another person. it seems like a great idea at the time but in the case of a puppy, if the person is not a competent dog person the end result could be disastrous (think "Marley and Me").

Okay, I do not believe that there is any way being a member of a CSA farm could ever be disastrous. For one the food is inanimate and will not try to destroy your home or year. But joining a CSA means the member must have cooking skills and know how to deal with raw whole foods, many of which will not be familiar. the member better be into the local foods movement as well and already sourcing a good % of their food needs locally via farmers markets, farm stands, etc.. And by this I mean the person is a very regular (weekly) attendee of at least one farmers market. Casual locavores should not be given such gifts as a CSA share.

What I believe happens to the giftee (remember I am a farmer and have never been a CSA member so I am going on what I have observed over the past 13 or so years I have run CSA farms) is they get overwhelmed with the food, especially if they are not a good cook. And the feeling of being overwhelmed gets worse as the season goes on. They are struggling to use the food and find they cannot use up all the food in a share in a week. So now they start throwing out food and that leads to food guilt. Members also tend to get burned out after months and months of CSA shares (even the long term member can feel this way).

So what one ends up with is a person who feels really guilty they are not using the fresh whole food well and they may quietly drop out (this is fairly common with CSA's everywhere and not just with members who joined because they received a gift membership). This is not good for the member who may have in the future become a great CSA member but needed more time to become comfortable with their locavoreness and now may never ever join a CSA again because they had a bad experience. The giftee may avoid the with the gifter over this whole thing because they do not want to talk about the gift because it is a disappointment for them. And the giftee is likely not to communicate with the farmer well over the issues they are having which always leads to hard feelings and a less than good experience (and with communication most things can be remedied).

So think long and hard before signing a dear friend or relation up for a CSA share at one of the many wonderful local CSA farms in the area and by no means make this surprise gift. If you feel you really have to do this talk about it with the giftee.

If your intended giftee is a member of a CSA already than to buy them a share in the CSA that they have been a member of for years is a horse of a different color. That would be a welcome gift.

So do not give a CSA membership this Holiday season unless the recipient already is a CSA member and intends on doing so in 2010 than go right ahead and buy a membership for that person.

Now if you are still set on giving a locavore a locavore gift it is much much safer to find out which farmers market(s) they attend regularly and buy them some gift certificates for that market. A gift like that will be welcomed and not turn into a food guilt fest.

Lucy Goodman
Boulder Belt Eco-Farm, Eaton OH

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Winter Farm

Val has asked my to contribute to the Cincy Locavore blog from the farmers point of view so periodically I will post things here about the life of one small farmer (that would be me) and her sustainable farm. To learn more about my farm visit my blog

Winter is here-it is cold, snowy and most everything that is not we covered is dead. This means things have slowed way down for us (yay!) It is nice to be able to kick back for a month or so before the 80 hour a week grinds starts again.

People want to know what we farmers do in the off season. For us, we spend a lot of November cleaning up stuff like the store, the garden beds, popcorn, catnip, onions. Crunching numbers on the various produce items we grow so we have an idea as to what is selling and what is not selling so we know what seeds to plant for the coming season. Eugene does not do much on the computer so it is me who keeps the blog and website updated and that can be time consuming, especially this year since it looks like Boulder Belt is back in the CSA biz and that means at some point I need to design an informative CSA page for the Boulder Belt Website.

December is too often spent removing snow from hoop houses and driveways. It is also the time we put in our main seed order with Johnny's Selected Seeds (our favorite seed house). In the past we have waited until after Christmas to put in our order but there are rumors that there will be seed shortages this year so I believe I will get at least part of the order in in early Dec. or even late November. December is usually the Month that we start the onions and leeks indoors, though this year I believe the onions will be started today or tomorrow (that would be mid November). The reason for moving up the date is due to the fact we have quite a few Copra onion seeds left over from last year and We decided that those should be planted to see if they have strong germination. If they do than we do not need to order more seed. If they do not than we will know by Dec 1st if the seeds are working or not and can get an order into Johnny's early enough to avoid the dreaded back order that can set one back several months.

If December, January and February are mild (which is the NOAA prediction for us this winter, but I will believe that when I see it) than the crops in the hoop houses will continue to produce pretty much all winter and someone has to go and harvest and package the crops periodically (weekly-as growth slows way down in the winter even if it is relatively warm and sunny). We than sell the greens, leeks, etc., at the Oxford Monthly Winter market and this year the CSA gets their share as well. We also sell through the store via email appointment and occasionally to a restaurant or Miami University.

If the winter months are cold with a lot of precip, than most things quit growing until Late Feb and cannot be harvested, the exception to this are the leeks and scallions. Than we sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting on the greens to come back to life. Okay, we don't spend much time thumb twiddling (but we do start craving greens in a big way and are delighted when things are harvestable again). If it is a snowy winter than we are spending lots of time removing snow from the hoop houses, otherwise they get flattened and are unuseable and have to be repaired or replaced. this has happened a couple of times to us and incredibly the crops under all the snow and plastic are generally unharmed and producing very well when we finally get to them

What we are doing by Feb is starting seriously seeds indoors. This starts out slowly with around 15 pots of onions and leeks planted in Dec/Jan. Those are followed by the brassicas-kale, broccoli, cabbages, etc., and lettuces in mid to late Feb. Those crops are repeatedly seeded indoors through April/May so we have a continual harvest April through June/July. By late March we are also starting early tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and melons to be planted in mid April in hoop houses. In April the main crops of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, celery, celeriac, parsley, flowers, etc., are started which fills up the grow room along with cold frames and hoop houses with thousands of seedlings.

Once the seeds are started we are tied to the farm. The seeds need daily tending-watering, fertilizing, pricking (this means to re pot into a larger container), making soil (we make our own soil mix for seed starting as we have a hard time finding soiless mixes that don't contain petroleum products or chemical fertilizers. Add to that, we start seeds in soil blocks and we make our own soil blocks so the soiless mix has to be just so for it to work for us. Making our own soil blocks means we use very little plastic when starting our seedlings. It probably saves us around a thousand bucks a year as well (of course it increases our work load by at least 100 hours as we have to make a lot of soil and a lot of soil blocks.)

So you can see that we small sustainable farmers really don't have much down time at all. Some day, perhaps, we will quit this idea of winter growing and marketing and will shut the farm down in November and go to the Caribbean for 4 months.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Urban Locavore: But where do you buy groceries?

Guest blogging on CincinnatiLocavore today is Brianne Fahey, who lives downtown and blogs at LiveGreenCincinnati about green building, energy efficiency, and environmental lifestyles in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Downtown Cincinnati has been a great place to work for years. Over the past decade a revitalizing Cincinnati has started trending toward becoming a real livable new urbanist neighborhood. New residential developments have increased the population in both the Central Business District and Over the Rhine. When I tell people that I live downtown, the number one question I am asked is “But where do you buy groceries?”

My answer? The same way people in Cincinnati bought groceries 100 years ago.

During the week when I am in a bit more of a rush, I stop on Court Street at lunch to visit the butcher store for a fresh cut of something tasty and hit the bakery for some rolls or a baguette. I buy fresh and stop regularly because I can only carry one small bag home with me on foot before I have to get back to my office. After work, if the corner store on my block is still open, I can stop in for some cereal and toilet paper. If I’m feeling under the weather, I can walk an extra 2 blocks to the pharmacist.

On the weekends I have time to walk or take my bicycle up to the local farmers' market where there is a lot more to choose from. I can meal-plan for the week and stay on budget when I buy just enough from each vendor. Once my backpack is full, I’m finished shopping and I can say hi to the neighbors and enjoy some fresh air on my 10-minute trek home.

When I learned to adapt to my neighborhood and rely on the local businesses for my needs, I became a member of the community. As a side effect, I also became a locavore, an urbanist, an alternative transportation advocate, a budgeter, and an avid walker. I’m healthier, less-stressed, within my budget, and enjoying knowing my neighbors.