Thanks to everyone who sent in a response to last week’s newsletter. One thing I didn’t mention last week was that while our CSA box numbers have dropped a bit since their peak, they have been holding steady since and we still believe that our customers are the best thing we have going. For those who expressed concern about my tone, know this : Next year will be the 20th anniversary of our CSA, and we fully expect to celebrate it and many after it — we are just experiencing some angst and I was sharing it with you all.
I got several suggestions subscriber emails about ways in which we could share some of the burdens we’ve been experiencing. These include direct loans, a price increase, or adopting more flexibility in what your weekly boxes contain depending on the season and weather.
We aren’t considering a price increase right now, but if gas prices stay high and cause a spike in inflation, we may need to in the future. In the past, we have looked to subscribers to help provide loans when we needed them, and we may do so in the future again.
But it is the last idea that is most interesting. Our web-based software allows us to change the amount that is deducted from our subscribers accounts each week. So where we currently put the same dollar value of produce in your boxes every week, we could instead change the total value at certain times of year — higher in the summer and fall, lower in the winter.
We already shift the value of individual items up and down given seasonal considerations — for example, early ripening tomatoes are less abundant and more expensive to produce, so we assign them a higher value than tomatoes harvested during the main season.
Of course, neither of these options helps us much if — when — we lose an entire crop that we have planted for you — something that has happened at least 6 times in the last three years. And while most of the subscribers who emailed me reassuringly told me they would be willing to pay for the crop even if they didn’t receive any that year, the reality from our side looks very different.
Many, if not most of our customers, have high expectations for the volume and quality they receive in their TFF boxes — and are quick to ask for credits if they feel they are not up to snuff. After all, there are dozens of farms offering CSA boxes in the Bay Area now. And more importantly, there are even more “produce delivery services” who share none of the risk that actual CSA farmers do.
For the time being we are going to focus on trying to do a better job at balancing our income and expenses. One big change we are making is to have Hector Melendez take over management of our CSA packing operation. Hector has many years of experience delivering your CSA boxes and knows many of you personally. And as an owner of the business, we hope he will bring a new eye to this very important role. If you are a drop-site host and you see Hector every week, you will notice someone else doing deliveries starting next week.