Friday, November 21, 2008

My CSA Experience 2008

Wrapping up my first year with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Indianapolis, I've realized I've learned a lot about the CSA process and local eating.

First, you learn you're at the mercy of the weather. You may not completely realize this when visiting a farm stand or farmers market, but when you participate in a CSA, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. I was scheduled to start getting weekly shares of locally produced produce at the beginning of May - about a month before many farmers markets are open here - but weather derailed the aggressive plans.

Second, you may - or may not - get a more variety with a CSA plan than if you went to the farmers market. I signed up for the program with one of more established CSA programs in the greater Indianapolis area because of the wide variety of produce promised, and much of it didn't happen. I felt like I got a lot of expensive tomatoes, lettuce and green peppers, when I could have simply got those at the local farmers markets instead (organic and at a much cheaper price).

Third, quality can still be an issue. Unlike with farmers markets or shopping in a store, you get what you get with a CSA and can't pick or choose produce that looks better. And sometimes, you end up with unusable stuff. My husband commented again this weekend that "There's more produce we can't use, again," when tossing out some unripe tomatoes that couldn't be eaten. We've also had several weeks where I've had to toss produce before eating it because it was bad when delivered.

Fourth, cost can be a detractor. You do need to pay for the season up front, which can be cost-prohibitive to many families. You sign up in the winter and do not see a "return" until late spring/early summer.

Participating in a CSA was interesting. I did try some new foods and new recipes, with varying results. If you're adventurous in your eating or what to support local producers, it's certainly something to consider.

{ EDITED JANUARY 28, 2009 TO REMOVE THIS CSA'S SURVEY QUESTIONS. I do not agree with this from a First Amendment standpoint, Removal of these questions does not imply I included false, misleading or damaging statements about the company in my responses to the survey, as wrongly claimed in the comments by representatives of this organic CSA on my blog and via e-mail. May these person(s) never have their personal right to free speech or any other right guaranteed by the Constitution threatened!!! These are my comments, documentation and opinions about my experiences, both positive and negative, about the CSA. You may read a summary of my experiences with throughout the 2008 season here. }

[ Edited Jan. 30, 2009, to remove the link to the offending CSA. If you would like to have the names of OTHER CSAs in Indianapolis and Bloomington, follow this link.]

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Anonymous said...

Please consider removing this blog from your site. I understand we may have not met your needs for the CSA, but for many returning members it is exactly what they wanted and understand. Note: Organic produce is generally not what is found at the Indianapolis Markets. Please list any that you are aware of as this was a poor comparison. Your statements are false, misleading and most imprtantly damaging to our business. Our Survey was not intended for this and our business is just trying to get established. I lost thousands last year while investing in our busienss not to mention the years I have volunteered in the heat and cold to bring good food to Indinapolis. We had troubles last year and we are trying to correct this. Please give us this opportunity.

Robbie said...

Thank you, anonymous, for your post. I respectfully disagree with your comments, particularly in that you believe that I am being false or misleading. This was my family's perception of the value of the Natures Harvest Organics CSA during the 2008 season.

I know that many markets do not offer organic produce (Traders Point, Bloomington, Broad Ripple and the Indy Winter market being four exceptions that do offer organics. I seem to recall from my Hamilton County days that Carmel does as well.), but I also know that the bulk of what I received I could have grown at home (ie tomatoes/lettuce) or purchased at a farm stand elsewhere.

I do not hold the weather against anyone. In fact, if you read my previous posts about the CSA experience, which I blogged about the entire season, I often commented on the variety and the challenges/creativity in making new dishes and exposing my family to new foods.

I am glad that you are working to correct any issues that your business has identified and wish you luck for the future.

Anonymous said...

Going Green Mama,
If you can find what you want at Farmer's Market that is fine and understandable. We basically say this in our literature, but markets are also not for everyone. Only 3 certified organic produce farms exist in Indianapolis, the rest if they claim organic are in violation of federal law and are degrading the system organic farmers worked so hard for when creating certified organics or the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. This was to provide a reasonable standard for crops that deserved an extra premium for their care. Trusting farmers to do the right thing on their own word is how 90% of our soy is GMO in 2008, 98% are heavily sprayed and kids are full of pesticides. Just saying you are organic creates consumer confusion and leaves a real gap for problems as organic production goes beyond "I don't spray". So which organic farms were those again? Being forced to compete with chemical farming at markets is a slippery slope that degrades even the price of the minimal organic produce found there. They are not equivalent and we cannot compete with the entire market as a whole. As a previous market vendor it is clear these vendors have far less overhead and provide far less services. We say in our literature some items may change and become unavailble. You signed you understood this in your shareholder agreement. Of the 110 varieties we grew, you focus on a few we could not. 4 types of beans, 3 types of cabbage, 6 types of lettuce and 15 types of tomaotes etc. is not easy and add up quick and require differnt attention and micro management. You did get kale and arugula yet the going green mama did not check her email for the Greens identifier nor recognize these common greens. You got them maybe 3 or 4 weeks EACH, yet the hubby probably chucked em throughout the season I am sure. The other few crop failures were explained and a pint of okra is what you would buy at Market, and green tomatoes are found at market a week or two throughout the season too. I thought your Blog may have expressesed your opinions which you are entitled to when they are true when mentionimg publically. Our survey is for us to improve and provide a better product for Indy in the future. How rude and inconsiderate to use this tool against us. You joined very likely to help local agriculture yet your false attempts to damage our business do the opposite. They directly and negatively effect several organic farms in the indy area trying to better our local food system. It's not easy and our members of 4-5 years understand this small risk for a week or two yet bask in sun of abundance quite often. Somehow you easily forgot about the really full weeks (5-6) where you could not have found our produce for under $25 at the store, yet we sell it for $19.50. How about the shitakes, apples and pears we added but never "promised". Your spite toward a succesful CSA of 16 years shows you are truly green to going green and are in need of further education on the challenges of what just 2 farms providing such "wide variety" truly face. The occasional market shopper who has it all figured out that might even show up at the end of market to get a better deal huh? Every vendor knows about the bargain shoppers. As far as quality that is not true either. We tell anyone to contact us immediatley so we can refund or try to make right. To attack us publically first I think is very unfair and likely untrue. I wish you could see the rest of our surveys to see how differnet your opinion is. We feel you go beyond opinions and cross into slander since you or your husband cannot verify your claims. We have employees, records, a vendor and pleased members who can verify many claims are purely false. I can also verify damage from potential CSA customers you have caused from your statements. Unless you can verify you have evidence of your claims our attorney has notified us this may be considered slander and you may be held liable for libelous statements posted on your blog that cause documented damage. Please accept we did not meet your needs and move on. Regardless of your efforts to forewarn people about your perceived shortcommings we are just a small farm trying to make it.
This us our final entry and request you remove this blog entry.

Robbie said...

I find it disturbing that Nature's Harvest Organics is threatening a former client with slander because they posted opinions, positive and negative, about their experiences with their organization.

Keep in mind I have documentation as well that promised that Nature's Harvest Organics would deliver 25 amount of weeks and you would also provide a refund of undelivered weeks in 2-3 weeks of Nov. 10, yet it took reminder e-mails for me to finally receive my money in this week. I think it's dishonest that you didn't provide communication with your customers that there were any kind of payment delays, particularly in this bad economy. Yes, I still have your e-mail communications from Nature's Harvest Organics. I read every one, and when they provided guidance as to what greens were in the box beyond a listing, I used them.

To suggest that you did not deliver and that I am a dishonest person and that "the hubby probably chucked em throughout the season I am sure" is equally as slanderous.

Do I profess to know everything about organic living? No I do not: Hence the name "Going Green..." If you'd like to educate me, fine. I am open to learning. For instance, I learned from a reader that I can put the unripe tomatoes in a paper bag to help ripen that.

I cannot speak for the quality of legality of any other farm stand or vendor at a farmers market. If they are positioning themselves as organic, as a consumer I have no way to verify that information based on a visit to a farmers market.

Did I acknowledge in my posts addition of shitake? Yes. Yes I received an apple and a few pears, which made some wonderful pearsauce.

If you read my posts throughout the season you would have seen that I had many, many positive statements as well as some negatives.

May I remind you that 50,000 Hoosiers lost their jobs this week? Unemployment last month was 8.2 percent. Perhaps the problem is not so much one person's experience with a CSA as the economy.

Robbie said...

To clarify, as I cannot edit a comment in response:
266,469 Hoosiers were unemployed in December
50,000 Americans received pink slips on Monday

Sources: The Indianapolis Star

Anonymous said...

That dude Zeis is a lying con man.

I have never met a more rude and dishonest person. The guy is a fast talking flim flam man more than a organic farmer.

I feel sorry for all of you who put faith in Zeis and Drury. You'd be better off getting your veggies elsewhere in the future.