The End of the CSA Saga

July 7, 2008

Okay Faithful Readers, I finally did it! I sat down and took the time this morning to compose an email about the baskets we’ve been getting from the CSA to send to the people running it.

Following is most of the email – I’m not going to repeat all the comments that were included in it that were posted to this blog, except to say to be fair, I put in all the positive comments too. Oh, and here also, I did NOT include anyone’s name.

“I signed up for the CSA baskets because I wanted some excellent fresh produce, and as an experiment to be able to talk from direct experience about CSAs on both my farm & country blog and my health food blog. I was hoping to be able to brag about CSAs and really push them as a way of helping your local farmer and getting great produce.I did, however, take pictures and post them of the 3rd basket. Here are some of the comments… each * asterisk below represents a comment from a different person, so as you can see, there are several people’s opinions represented here:

* comment
* comment.

And that’s the end of my letter. It didn’t take long to receive a reply, and that one has me shaking my head. It was very polite, and among other things, the owner said, I am sorry that you have dissatisfaction with your basket. Fortunately my other customers do not share this dissatisfaction, nor do the restaurants.”

Was I really the only person to ever complain? And was I so far off the mark, and the produce really WAS good?? I mean, that not only other people think it’s great, but so do restaurants?

I posted pictures of some of the baskets I received from ***** Farms on one of my blogs, and gave brief descriptions of what the contents were (types of greens, etc.). I thought you might be interested to read some of the comments from other people, a lot of them also being farmers and/or familiar with CSA. I didn’t put up pictures of all the baskets, especially the first couple. With late delivery, most of the time the greens had turned to slime from being in the bags too long and were inedible. I waited, hoping for better things.

 From me – Perhaps you aren’t aware, but the pods of snow peas are supposed to be “flat and thin with the bulge of the tiny seed barely visible at prime eating stage.” The ones in the basket looked like shelling peas. Once they are that big, they are no longer tender.

I put up pictures again by the 6th basket, along with mentioning
“We get an email each week from these people doing the CSA and they are always sooooooo enthusiastic about what’s in the basket.”
and here a couple of the comments on it:

* comment
* Enthusiasm does not make up for poor quality merchandise. If you’re unhappy, you can BET they have many other unhappy customers, too.

And I put up pictures again of last week’s basket, the 8th, and here are some of the comments on it:

* From someone else who does a sort of CSA
* comment
* comment
* comment
* comment
* I am a consumer as well and am in my own CSA again this year. We had a pretty similar experience the first time we had a CSA. We purchased thru a farm that we didn’t really get any references from and it ended up being not so good. We had to eventually talk to the farmer and let her know how disappointed we were in the share. We felt like, even tho we understood that when engaging in a CSA you take the good and the bad that this was mostly bad. Other farmers in the area were delivering much better items, so we were quite confused as to the problem. We let her know our feelings and that we really didn’t have many good things about the share to pass along to other people. It was hard to do, but we felt we needed to.

The last comment hits the nail on the head… it is very hard to have to give negative feedback. I wanted to be able to give rave reviews about your CSA and recommend it to other people, and later buy half a beef. As it stands, I did not mention the **** farm name on my blogs so you wouldn’t be associated with so much negative feedback from people commenting.

I have included all the positive comments I got as well… the main problem is most of the produce is picked too late. (e.g. Yellow squash is best when small – “Because summer squash develop very rapidly after pollination, they are often picked when they are too large and overmature. They should be harvested when small and tender for best quality.” Once they’re big, the skin gets tough and there are unappetizing large seeds.)

Myself and 3 other local people compared produce at two different Farmer’s Markets and the organic produce in Publix, and the produce there was not only smaller, more tender, fresher… all around better looking than most in the CSA baskets, but if the same items were put together in a basket, they would have been cheaper as well. (Taking the cost of the CSA basket and dividing it by number of weeks it would be delivered)

I cannot afford to continue with this, as too much of my basket’s contents end up feeding the peafowl or dogs here. For instance, though the meat is high quality, the sausage was so hot we couldn’t eat more than a few bites, and my husband enjoys eating hot food like jalapenos. It’s a shame to have to waste so much stuff.

We wish to discontinue our membership in this CSA. Please do not send any more baskets for us. I simply cannot afford to continue throwing away so much money. I included the comments in this letter so you would understand *why* we wished to discontinue, and try to do it in as non-confrontational a way as possible, while letting you know the problems.

No, I know there is better stuff at the Farmer’s Markets around here, and even at Publix So why is everyone else so impressed? What am I missing here? How could a high class restaurant be happy with less than excellent produce? (Okay, they didn’t say *what kind* of restaurant.)

She also said, “I do wish you would have told me much sooner let me know how unhappy or confused you were with the varieties of vegetables/herbs.”

Okay, she’s right and and a bunch of you can say, “I told you so.” I wrote back and apologized for not contacting her sooner, but also added I kept waiting for improvements after the late deliveries of the first few weeks, then figuring the garden would be really gearing up and good stuff forthcoming.

But I wasn’t confused about the varieties of vegetables and herbs. Their emails said what was in the basket, so if they said snow peas for instance, I expected the peas in there to be just that, even though they looked like shelling peas.

I still think CSAs are a very good thing. And evidently a lot of people disagree with me and think even this particular CSA is a good thing. But I think produce from one should look more like the veggies Frugal Mom got from her CSA.

There are good CSAs out there. It’s a fantastic concept, and should be a positive thing for both the farmer and consumer.

We just didn’t pick the right one for us I guess.

CSA Basket of The Week

July 2, 2008

Well, I leave it to you experts out there (if you buy food, you’re an expert, right?), what do you think of this basket of food?

I don’t usually leave pictures full sized, but if you click on this, it’ll bring up a huge picture so you can get pretty good detail on this week’s items.

There is a nice basket of berries there in front I need to clean. To the right is a package of sausage, hot. And I do mean hot. Last time I cooked some of this, it was so hot we couldn’t eat it, and The Farmer loves to pile jalapeno peppers on salads or sandwiches. I have to wonder if they put it in the baskets because nobody else wants it.

As you can see in the basket, there’s 3 yellow squash, a cucumber, 6 little tomatoes, 3 onions, and a few sprigs of herbs. Oh, and a box of mixed beans that are decent.

Now, research by myself and a friend at the local Publix and Farmer’s Market would suggest the following prices (and I tried to err on the generous side):

  • $4.50 Beans (selling .42/ounce for organically grown beans at Publix)
  • $4.99 Berries (per quart at Farmer’s Market; guessing that’s right size)
  • $-.50 Cucumber (2 for $1 at Farmer’s Market)
  • $2.50 Herbs ($2.50 for bag with about 12 sprigs at Publix)
  • $-.45 Onions (10 for $1.49 at Farmer’s Market)
  • $6.00 Sausage (for 1 1/2 pounds as advertised on CSA site)
  • $1.99 Squash (8 or 9 for $1.99 of young squash at Farmer’s Market)
  • $2.10 Tomatoes (10 for $3.50 at Farmer’s Market)
    $23.03 Total

We started the second week of May, and run through the first week of October. As near as I can tell, that’s 21 weeks for $650, or $30.95 a week. If I’m wrong and there’s another week in there, it’d only be $29.54 a week, but I think it’s 21 weeks and the higher price.

I know they have to buy baskets and boxes, but then, the people at the Farmer’s Market and Publix had to package their goods also, so I don’t really think it’s fair to add anything on the cost for that.

I would also hope that as their garden produces more, we’d get more in the basket. But leaving quantity aside, which I realize would vary with what the garden is producing, there’s the issue of quality. Maybe it’s just me, but the squash are way too big – they’re supposed to be young and small so there are few seeds. The cucumber is also too old, and several veggies in the past have been the same, like the snowpeas and broccoli.

The sausage is excellent quality meat, but so hot we can’t eat it. The Farmer suggested I mix it with some unseasoned pork to tone down the heat, so that might work. I’d hate to feed another $6 worth of meat to the dogs.

I went into this hoping for some high quality food and a great experience to write about. I just know CSA is a good thing, and I wanted to be able to brag about how great the one was I joined. I figured, hey, I could write them up and they get some free advertisment! But you notice I’ve been careful not to mention the name, and even ‘erased’ their stamp off the sausage package.

Cause unless I’m missing something, I don’t think they’ve earned bragging rights.

——————————————————————-

P.S. I finally figured out what form the email should take I send to the people running this particular CSA (trying to be as non-confrontational as possible). I think I will let them know I’ve been putting pictures of the produce on my blog, and gotten several comments, and thought they might be interested in reading some of them… then make a list of some I’ve gotten over the last 8 weeks, along with a comment or two of my own at the end. I’ll wait for people to comment on this post, then send them an email tomorrow.

Cost of CSA Baskets

June 18, 2008

Actually, these baskets costs more than $25 each week. I was thinking about paying the $100 a month, but I forgot to take into account the deposit we had to make.

The total cost for this CSA season is $650, and it is supposed to run from the first week in May until the last week in September. Looks like about 21 weeks to me, in which case, the baskets of food cost about $30.95 each.

I keep waiting to see if this gets better, but right now I’m thinking I’ll either try a different CSA next year if I can find one, or just forget the whole thing, which I really hate. I really, really wanted to be able to support CSA’s and write great things about them. But I was looking for really good, better than I could buy in the grocery store kinds of veggies. For the most part, that isn’t happening.

Maybe it’ll get better. Maybe we’ll get some huge baskets of food as the garden really gears up in a few weeks.

Maybe.

This Week’s CSA Basket

June 18, 2008

Okay, the quality of food is better than the first few baskets, and by the 4th week, delivery was on time.

Here’s what the veggies looked like this week:


That’s Romana Italian flat green beans in the little greenish box. As you can see, there are also decent looking tomatoes. Also included are 3 straightneck yellow squash, onions, and a few sprigs of oregano. That’s kale in one of the gallon baggies and collards in the other.

We also got another dozen dirty eggs. Two were cracked and I immediately fed those to the dogs. How do I know what bacteria seeped into the eggs?

We also discovered one of the other eggs was bad when Young Son tried to make scrambled eggs this morning. He dropped it in with the other eggs before he noticed it, and the yuck spread throughout the mixture so thoroughly we had to throw the whole batch away. He now knows to crack them singly into a smaller bowl first to check their freshness. He’s spoiled because with our own eggs, if I don’t know for sure they’re freshly laid, I don’t put them in the fridge. They’re immediate dog food.

We get an email each week from these people doing the CSA and they are always sooooooo enthusiastic about what’s in the basket. Maybe I’m just too picky, but while some of it is looking decent this time, other things I think they’ve waited too long to pick. The Farmer wonders if this is their first year gardening. The people where he works make fun of the food in the basket. It’s not turning out quite as I’d hoped.

But there you have it, another $25 worth of eggs and vegetables.

Last Week’s CSA Produce

June 1, 2008

We finally got our produce from our CSA on Thursday. I took a bunch of pictures so you could see what we got. It comes in what I think is a half-bushel basket:
Peeking inside, you see the eggs and veggies. The first week we got some sausage, and last week there was some pork, but this week there was no meat included.
I spread out the vegetables to make it easier to see what was included. Besides the eggs, there was broccoli, radishes, 3 onions, a couple little boxes of sugar snap peas, a gallon baggie with kale, and another with lettuce.
Oh, and there were a couple of sprigs of some herb also.

As you can see, the lettuce didn’t fare too well being kept closed up in a bag and no refrigeration for 2 or 3 days. I threw it out for the peafowl to munch on.

The kale looked a little better, and the sugar snap peas were so-so.

The broccoli fascinated me, however. I don’t believe I’ve ever dealt with such limp broccoli before. The picture doesn’t really do it justice. You had to see it wobbling around, all flopped over, held upright only so far as the more rigid center stalk would keep it.

So there you have it, my $25 worth of veggies. Hopefully next week they’ll arrive on time and in better condition.