katie on April 1st, 2015

Just a quick update – still room in the 2015 Cool Beans CSA, but it’s possible that there will be a cutoff on egg shares in another week or so if the current demand continues. I’ll post something here if that’s the case, so if you don’t see a post above this one indicating that egg shares are sold out, you can still add eggs.

It’s finally looking a little ‘springy out there and the beautiful wonderful BCS walk-behind tractor has been fitted with the tiller attachment and is starting to turn soil. I feel like an artist with a huge canvas when I look at this field, which is only one of the places in which Cool Beans veg will be growing this summer!

Dear Beans and Potential Beans:

It’s time to sign up for the 2015 season!  24 weeks of farm fresh produce delivered to convenient pickup locations in the greater Harrisburg area.  All produce is grown sustainably / organically.  Interested in signing up?

If you’re a returning Bean – yay! I love you! – go to the top of the page, print the contract…..you know the routine.  Note the price increase (but discount for early payment which will negate the increase) and an additional pickup location on a different day of the week – most pickups are still on a Tuesday, with this one exception.

If you’re a New Bean – yay! I’m going to love you! – please read All the Stuff, so you know what you’re getting into.  Start at the top of the home page with the link for “About Cool Beans CSA 2015″.  Look over the contract, the link for which is also at the top of the page.  Skim through the posts here, check out the Facebook page.  Check out my ‘competitors’, all of whom are actually good friends, and see if their CSA might be a better fit for you.  If everything looks good, print out the  contract and mail it in.

love from your farmer,

katie

katie on February 4th, 2015

CSA stands for community supported agriculture.  In its earliest inception and truest practice, members pay a proportionate share of the farm’s entire operating expenses for one year and in return receive an equivalent proportion of everything produced on the farm, and often are required to contribute work hours.  Very few CSA operations follow those guidelines strictly – none in this area that I’m aware of.  For most of the central PA CSA programs, it’s more like buying a magazine subscription – you pay up front for a weekly delivery.  (We don’t require work hours here – my insurance agent did not like that idea in the least!)

FULL and SMALL shares:  Cool Beans offers two share sizes.  A full share is a good choice for a family or for a couple who eats a lot of vegetables (or wants motivation to do so.)  A small share is not exactly half of a full share.  Some weeks the small share may contain fewer items, and some weeks it may contain smaller amounts of the same items, or a combination of both.  The best value – by far – is the full share.  I recommend splitting a full share with friends if at all possible.  That way you can alternate pickup weeks,or meet each week to split the bag.

WHAT’S IN YOUR BAGS AND WHEN WILL YOU KNOW THAT:  produce is seasonal (see next) and is only sent if the quality is high.  So I might have ten things that are ‘ready’ but only seven or eight make the cut.   I’m getting better at knowing a few days ahead what’s going to be in your bag but honestly some days we look at the ‘x’ item we thought we’d be harvesting and it’s not quite ready, or had somehow gotten past its prime since the day before.  So there’s a bit of a mystery to this each week.  I post on the Facebook page ahead of time when I can.  I’m getting better at this part of it every year.

QUANTITIES will vary from week to week.  There’s a bell curve to the season; your first bags will not have a lot of weight to them, and will have a lot of salad greens.  Strawberries and asparagus, peas, potatoes, beans and so on – they all follow in sequence.  I am careful not to overwhelm you with massive quantities of anything because none of us wants to waste food.

SEASONAL PRODUCE:  every vegetable and fruit that grows in central PA has a season.  I can extend some of them with low tunnels and hoophouse production, and I do.  But I cannot give you sweet corn in April, and lettuce gets bitter when the temps get to a certain high, and asparagus will not grow in the fall.  Seasonal eating means celebrating the food at its peak.

PICKUP DATE:  Pickups are on Tuesday, with a new twist this year:  I have the option of adding a Friday pickup at the Harvest stand at the Broad St. Market in Harrisburg.  Bags would be there by 11 am.  Here’s the problem:  I can’t do it unless I get at least eight members who want to pick up there.  So it’s included as an option, but I’m asking anyone who signs up for a Friday pickup at Broad St. to indicate if you have a second choice for a Tuesday pickup location, or if you cannot do Tuesday at all.  I’ll let you know ASAP.

WHAT IF YOU CAN’T PICK UP?  The huge advantage of a small CSA is that communication is really easy.  You can text my phone or email me if you’re going to be on vacation, or if you have a flat tire on pickup day, or whatever.  We’ll figure it out.

PICKUP OPTIONS:  Honestly, I wish you’d all pick up here at the farm, because if I had a few more people doing so I could offer a market-style pickup where you’d choose more items each week.  And I have a cold room that allows me to keep your bags at the perfect temperature.   But I realize it’s a long drive for many of you.  I have a pickup spot in Penbrook, about a block from the Wendy’s on Progress Ave.  There’s one in New Cumberland close to downtown, one in downtown Mechanicsburg, and one at a home in Camp Hill near the Fredericksen Library.  And this year, hopefully, at the Broad St. Market (that’s on Friday, the rest are on Tuesday.)  Pickup is also available at the town band rehearsal in New Cumberland on Tuesday nights; you’ll need a second choice location for weeks when there’s no rehearsal.

OKAY – WHAT’S THIS COST AND HOW DO I JOIN?  there’s a price increase from last year BUT if you pay in full by Mar 31 – which most of you usually do – there’s a discount which means you’re still paying the 2014 price.  Full shares are $550 (500 by Mar 31), small shares are $325 (300 by Mar 31)..  A dozen eggs each week is an additional $86, and a half-dozen each week is $50.  Click on the link at the top of the page for the 2015 contract, print it out, and mail it to the address listed on it with your check.  you can split the cost into two payments if you wish, but please indicate when you send in your contract what your plan is.   There’s no administrative staff here.  Please help reduce office time so I can spend all my work hours actually growing your food!  Just let me know when to expect the rest of your payment, and keep track of it.

Prices will be $550 and $325 for any members who join after Mar 31, or who are not paid in full by that date.

ANY OTHER QUESTIONS?  Contact me at katie@komta.com.

katie on February 4th, 2015

Full disclosure:  I believe every word of this.  But there are also reasons not to join a CSA, so I’ve written a second post, which follows this one.  Please read them both before you make a decision about Cool Beans or any other CSA.

A CSA is an excellent choice for you if you want to expand your culinary horizons and try new and different vegetables.  I try to have the widest possible range represented through the season.  Sometimes that means I’ve grown a vegetable I’ve never eaten myself, and we get to learn about it together!  If you find yourself in a rut of buying the same thing week after week at the supermarket, a CSA can be a great way to break out of that habit.

Almost everything you receive will have been grown close to your home, at my farm just north of Harrisburg.  The exceptions are a few items I don’t grow here, like tree fruit and sweet corn, which I purchase from trusted friends who have similar growing practices. Sometimes I have opportunities to add something really awesome – last year we feasted on fresh fiddlehead ferns from Maine because a friend made a trip up there at exactly the right time.  A retired friend supplements his income by selling blueberries from his backyard patch every year, so I buy from him.  I’ll always let you know if I didn’t grow something, and I’ll tell you about the person who did.

The Cool Beans community has a growing presence on Facebook and more and more members are starting to share tips and recipes.  If something is new to you and the newsletter in the bag isn’t enough help, you can reach out to other Beans for ideas.

If you’re in a CSA – and I include all the local ones, because they’re all run by really good, honest, hardworking people – you are getting the freshest possible produce, often harvested the same day you pick up your bag.  (When it’s something that will store in our climate-controlled cold room safely, it’s picked the day before.  Harvesting one week’s worth of bags can take as many as 40 man-hours, and that can’t be done on pickup days.  We also have to plan around inclement weather, because picking some crops during rain can be very damaging to the plants.)

Your produce will have as few miles on it as possible – it will not have been trucked across the country.

My practices are completely transparent – I will answer any questions you have about procedures here.

I pay my helpers a fair wage – currently, more than I pay myself – and make sure they have frequent breaks and comfortable working conditions.

Membership in Cool Beans helps support charitable donations of food to local food banks and organizations that help the needy.  That doesn’t mean I’m overcharging you for what you’re getting.  It just means I can keep things going here  so that I can also offer that (in the name of the Cool Beans community) to people in need.

And Cool Beans is a journey that we can take together.  I”m not going to stand on a pedestal and preach to you about nutrition and exercise, because I’m new at this stuff myself.  Folks, I’m 56 years old and overweight. Since I started farming full time a few years ago, I’ve made major changes in my life, changes that have given me a new lease on life. I’ve gotten older but less overweight.  :)  I figure we’re in this together, and we can help each other out.

 

katie on February 4th, 2015

Great marketing approach, right – trying to talk you out of joining Cool Beans?

Well, I’m all about transparency here.  And honestly – I’ll sell all my shares.  At some point I will reach the maximum enrollment for the year and turn away people who are interested.  So it’s better that they’d sold to people who are truly a good fit for Cool Beans.  Are you considering joining a (or my) CSA?  Take a minute and read through this.  It might help you decide.  We have great producer’s-only markets around here.  You have a lot of options if your goal is to get safe, pesticide-free fresh food for your family.

A CSA is NOT for you if you can’t or won’t pick up your bag in a timely manner.  This seems so obvious, but it’s a problem every year for a few members.  You need to be able to make a commitment to get your bag; you’re a partner with me in this process.  Think about your schedule.  Think about your transportation, your family commitments.  Can you get to the pickup site to get your bag on time?  Because here’s the deal.  First, your produce will be of maximum awesomeness when it leaves the farm.  And I’m very careful about how things are handled at the drop sites.  But it’s a perishable product and it will be compromised by staying outside too long.  Also, it’s not the responsibility of your site host to make extreme or frequent efforts to protect your bag if you’re late.  (We all realize emergencies happen, and do our best to accommodate those.)  But you can’t expect your site host to disassemble your bag and try to find fridge room for the contents so you can pick it up in a day or two.  So let’s start with that one – think about your schedule.  (If you’re unable to pick up your bag you can always send a surrogate to do so.)

Don’t join a CSA is you don’t understand that the underlying concept is that you’re buying a share, for good or bad, in the annual farm production.  I get better at this every year, but no farmer, ever, will claim that things will go according to plan.  We may have a lot of beets this year, and terrible cucumbers, or vice versa.  I hope it comes out evenly, but Mother Nature bats last, and she can knock it out of the park or give the batter a concussion, either one.  Does that sound like adventure?  You’re probably going to be okay.  Does it sound too risky?  Go to the farmer’s markets instead.  Seriously.

Don’t join Cool Beans if you want a customized bag each week.  There is one local CSA (Everblossom) which is experimenting with customized bags.  Everblossom is more expensive than Cool Beans, and probably worth every penny.  Look into it if you want the option of making weekly choices.  (I do offer some choices from the Bonus Box, which goes out once production hits its stride.  In those weeks, your regular bag might contain seven or eight items, and you’ll get to choose one or two more from the assortment in the Bonus Box.)

Do not join Cool Beans if you want to know exactly what will be in your bag three months from now.  Spiral Path is great at that; Mike and Terra have been at this for way longer than me, and they’re pros.  They also have the luxury of having multiple sales outlets and a lot of land and a big staff.  It’s seat of the well-worn pants here, juggling everything around to fit in a small space, and it’s just me plus a few helpers who come in one day a week.  If that sounds like an opportunity to support a small local farmer, stick with me.  If it sounds like too much uncertainty…..stick to that farmer’s market.

Don’t join Cool Beans if you require that all produce be picture perfect.  I work hard at what I do.  I give the CSA the best produce and take the rest to market, when there’s surplus of something.  But I can’t make it all look flawless without spraying the bejesus out of it with toxins, and I won’t do that.  The cucumbers won’t be encased in wax.You will sometimes have to clean your greens, because for the price I charge for a membership, I can’t always give you both fresh and clean, and when I have to choose, I’ll choose fresh.

Do NOT join Cool Beans if you operate with a sense of entitlement and intend to see your farmer – me – or your site hosts as ‘the little people’ who exist to cater to your whims.  I know I sound awful saying that.  But last year…….last year we had this awful situation where one Cool Bean (nearly immediately a FORMER Cool Bean, because this was intolerable) went on a rant to a site host when the unleashed dog she brought with her her to the pickup had a confrontation with the dog who actually LIVED there.  You’re picking up your bag at someone’s HOME.  Be cool about that, or don’t join my CSA.

If you’ve been in six local CSAs already and found something wrong with each of them, you won’t like mine either.  I know almost everyone who operates a CSA around here and I think the world of every one of them.  If something about their CSA didn’t work for you, other than two factors which I’ll specify in the next sentence, then the odds are good you’ll be unhappy in mine.  The exceptions?  Perhaps their pickup date or location didn’t work for you, and mine will, or perhaps you felt you were wasting food with too big a share – Cool Beans has a slightly lower than average local price but a correspondingly slightly smaller than average local weekly share size.

I realize I sound grouchy.  I’m truly not like that in real life!  But I am at the point where I’m getting too old to dance around these important issues with subtle, carefully crafted, guaranteed-not-to-offend PR statements.  I would much rather be perfectly clear about these things and have you join another CSA or not join one at all than find yourself uncomfortable in mine.  I’m doing another post which will be right above this one with all sorts of cheerful positive reasons to join a CSA, and they’re all true.  There is no contradiction in the two posts; it’s just two sides of the picture.  Read both, and then join if you think you’re a good fit for Cool Beans.

katie on October 11th, 2014

Regular season members have had their shot at the early spots, and there’s several left for the 2014-2015 winter season!  Here’s what you need to know.

All deliveries are on Tuesdays.  The first one is Tues. Nov 23, two days before Thanksgiving, and then every two weeks after that.  Ten deliveries in total.

Pickup locations are in Dauphin at the farm (3 pm), Penbrook (near the Wendy’s on Progress) at 3:00 pm, Camp Hill (near the library) at 3:30 pm, Mechanicsburg (close to downtown) at 4:30 pm, New Cumberland (close to downtown) at 5:30 pm.  If you can’t pick up your bag within a few hours of the drop…….don’t sign up for a CSA, please.  I can’t ensure the quality of your bag after a certain point.  Our site hosts are not responsible for your bags if you don’t get them before 8 pm.

The cost is $350 for the full winter season.  there are no small or full shares for the winter season – just the one size.  You’ll need to pay in full (by check) before the start of the season.

Want in?  Email me at katie@komta.com to reserve your spot, and I’ll send you payment information.  Let me know which pickup spot you prefer, and I’ll give you the exact address.  Any other questions, get in touch with me.  Thanks!

katie on October 6th, 2014

Toying with the idea of earning some income by producing food on your land, or just interested in maximizing the potential to grow nutritious food for your own family? Want to find your inner farmer and connect with like-minded people? How about joining us for the first series of “Third Thursday” classes at Stoney Creek Valley Farm?

Let’s skip the fluffy PR terms and get right to it. I used the phrase ‘maximizing potential’ above and that’s about as trite and cheesy as I want to get. And that ‘finding your inner farmer’ soundbite is pretty awful, isn’t it? Although I will add some pretty photos here because they always catch my attention.

Here’s what’s really going on: after several years of farming full time I still don’t know what I’m doing. So I’m calling in some fantastic people to anchor a once-a-month class to bail me out. And I figure it sounds like an excuse for a party. So I’m inviting you, too!

Third Thursday of each month. The first three are planned, there will be a minimum of six, and after that we’ll see how it’s going. You belong here if you’re interested in growing food, maybe raising animals, preparing and preserving food, working towards a culture where raising food is respected……heck, if you EAT, I think you’ll find it interesting. You belong here is you have five acres, an urban backyard, or you just hope to have some land someday. The only people who don’t belong in this class are those who already think they have all the answers, okay?

First class is Thurs Oct 16, and our speaker is a soil agronomist from Fertrell who will get us started from the ground up, so to speak. Because it doesn’t matter what variety of seed you purchase if your soil can’t support it. Dan will give us enough good info to get our planting areas prepared for next season. Future speakers include a fruit grower who will help us salvage a neglected apple tree in a hands-on workshop, and a butcher who will talk about both raising healthy animals and how to buy meat directly from a farmer. (First time I did that and the butcher asked me how I wanted it cut, I just said “Huh?” because I didn’t even know what the options were.

I have an almost unlimited supply of really smart friends, and I’ve made a definitely unlimited amount of stupid mistakes. This is where I get my act together, bringing in the cavalry to take Stoney Creek Valley Farm to a whole new level. Why make your own mistakes? Why not just learn from mine?

But wait, there’s more. The ‘class’ will run from 7-9 pm. But festivities will start each month at 5:30 with an optional potluck, so if you want to come early and hang out and talk and solve some problems, you’re welcome. Or just show up at 6:50 and find a seat at the big table.

Also, you can hang out afterwards for beer or wine. Sometimes the best parts of these things happens in the unscheduled time, so I’m making sure there’s plenty of that. I want to have some structure to this, but at the same time, make sure that whatever questions you have can be heard and answered.

If I were independently wealthy, this would be free, but I’m not, so it isn’t. I’m asking for a $12 donation per person. It’s going to provide a gratuity for the speakers, will cover the cost of the snacks that I provide, and will offset taking me out of the work force here for a few hours. And honestly, I’d like to transition Stoney Creek Valley Farm into a teaching farm as I get older, and this is a way to test the waters.
Bring your questions, your ideas, your dreams, your frustrations (oh, and twelve bucks, and a potluck thingie if you’re coming early for dinner) and let’s make some magic happen. RSVP’s are required so the speakers can prepare take-home materials. First class THURSDAY OCT 16!

(In case this link gets passed around, here’s some background info: Stoney Creek Valley Farm is in Dauphin, PA, about ten minutes north of Harrisburg. Katie has a plant nursery license and a certified home kitchen (still in progress), and earns farm-based income running the 50-member Cool Beans CSA, including a winter CSA; selling produce at markets and to a local chef, selling tall bearded iris as Stoney Creek Iris on the internet and at plant shows, and selling vegetable and flower seedlings in the spring.)

katie on April 11th, 2014

We are expanding by a few shares this year and there is still room in Cool Beans for the 2014 regular season, which will begin Tuesday, May 20……and that’s not too far away! Please click the links at the top of the page for more information and the signup sheet, and contact me if you have any additional questions.

katie on January 16th, 2014

It might still be winter on the calendar, but it’s spring in your farmer’s heart.  Time to get this show on the road!

There are multiple steps involved in updating the website each season, and I’m fitting them in between outdoor chores today.  If you read this before the links at the top of the page are changed from 2013 to 2014, you’ve caught me in mid-process.  If you’re concerned about reserving a spot in the Cool Beans CSA for the 2014 season, an email or a message sent through this site will get your name on the list.

I have two choices here;  I can write in detail and answer all the questions I anticipate, or I can just crank out the dates and numbers.  I suspect the latter approach is the most efficient, but it goes against my nature to not use lots of words…..so here’s the compromise.  This post has the nitty-gritty details.  If you have questions or want further explanations, I’ll write a few more posts today, each focusing on one part of the CSA process.  If I miss something of importance to you, email or send a message through this site and I’ll take care of it as soon as I can.

Simply contacting me will get your name on the list, but I will need the information that’s requested on the contract and your payment to actually confirm your spot.  You’ll want to print out that contract by following the link at the top of the page, but please hold on until you see that it’s been updated for 2014.

Cool Beans Main Season 2014

Dates:  Every Tuesday from May 20 until October 28 inclusive.

Cost:  Full share $500, Small share $300.  Optional egg share:  $86 for one dozen each week, $50 for a half dozen.

Delivery locations and times:

Stoney Creek Valley Farm in Dauphin:  after 3 pm.

Penbrook, about two blocks from the Wendy’s on Progress Ave, after 3:30 pm.

Camp Hill, across from the Fredericksen Library in 19th St, after 4:00 pm

Mechanicsburg, Locust St close to downtown, after 4:30 pm.

New Cumberland, 2nd St, after 7 pm, or at the Town Band rehearsal; band members should choose an alternate location for those when we do not rehearse.

Payment due dates:  Sorry……I need to use a lot of words for this one:  I am pulling together financing for a huge on-farm project, and if it’s possible to pay your share in full as soon as you sign up, I would be very, very, very grateful.  But, I also know that’s a lot to ask.  If you can’t do that, a $50 deposit will hold your spot, and I will ask that you pay at least half of the remainder by the end of February, and the balance by the end of April.  (Most years, that’s been our practice, and I will of course honor that for all of you for this year as well.  But if you can manage it earlier, it would be helpful for this year.)

 

katie on October 18th, 2013

Time to sign up for the Cool Beans Winter CSA! Shares are $350, and are all one size. There are ten deliveries, all on Tuesdays, spaced two weeks apart with the exception of the gap between the first and second, which spans the Christmas holidays. The first delivery is December 17.

I’ll be delivering to the same locations we’re using for the regular season: Harrisburg (Penbrook area), Camp Hill, Mechicsburg, New Cumberland, and of course here at the farm in Dauphin.

This is a significantly higher price than last year’s winter CSA, but is still less than or the same as other local winter programs. The difference between last year and this year is that I did not take a salary at all last winter, since it was the startup year and I knew it was a bit of a gamble. In order to make it sustainable, the $350 is the price that will work.

Contact me if you need any more details!