Everyone loves Terra Firma carrots. For years they have been far and away our most popular winter vegetable, and we’ve never quite managed to keep up with the demand for them. Back in the days when we sold at farmers markets, there were weekends when we could have sold a thousand bunches if we had been able to harvest that many.
You’ve probably noticed we put Carrots in your CSA boxes every week in the winter: you, as our most important customers, get first dibs on the carrots. Our other customers (stores and restaurants) often order more than we have time to harvest, and end up getting shorted.
We grow lots of labor-intensive crops here, but carrots may be at the top of the list. To start, they are simply demanding to grow, requiring sandy soil and lots of irrigation. Then, they must be hand-weeded meticulously as they are slow-growing, weak seedlings that don’t compete with weeds.
But the carrots we grow — French fresh market varieties — are also labor intensive to harvest and wash, especially during the wet winter months. The crisp and tender flesh that makes them so special to eat also makes them extremely delicate, requiring lots of TLC to avoid breakage. This is why so few farmers grow them. Standard supermarket carrots are bred to be harvested and washed by machines rather than for flavor and eating quality.
In the past, we harvested most of our carrots in bunches — the greens wrapped with a twist-tie and the roots with a rubber band. But while this is convenient from a packing perspective, it actually takes considerably longer to harvest — especially in the winter. We have to remove the mud from each carrot by hand, as well as removing any yellow or brown leaves, before bunching. And once the carrots are bunched, we have to take extra care when washing them to ensure we get as much soil as possible out from in between the roots.
For these reasons, we often put loose, bagged carrots into your CSA boxes. They are identical to the carrots we use in bunches, but they are faster to harvest and wash. Packing them in bags takes less time then bunching. And if any of the carrots breaks during transit, the pieces will remain inside the bag, rather than rolling out the side of your CSA boxes.
Beginning next week, we are going to start offering subscribers the option of getting an additional bag (or bags) of carrots in your boxes — every week, or just when you choose. These additional bags will be packed in a heat-sealed plastic bag, in units of 1 lb., that we are now offering to our retail customers. Currently we only have larger amounts of bulk carrots available as an add-on through the web store.
Some customers have also noticed that we have also started sending you your cooking greens (Kale and Chard) in plastic bags as well. The reason is the same as the one I listed above: this is a much faster way for us to harvest and pack the greens than using twist-ties to bunch them. It also gets our crews out of the weather faster on rainy days.
We understand your concerns about plastic usage. As always, we use paper bags whenever possible for bagging. And beginning this spring, we hope to make the switch to biodegradable plastic — at least for some items. As always, we are trying to do our best to balance environmental and economic concerns with our desire to provide you with the best-tasting and highest quality produce.