I ONLY WANT VISUALLY PERFECT PRODUCE.  SHOULD I JOIN A CSA?

No.

I WANT TO KNOW WHAT WILL BE IN MY BAG EACH WEEK WELL IN ADVANCE.  SHOULD I JOIN COOL BEANS?

No.

I CAN’T COMMIT TO PICKING UP A BAG AT A REGULAR TIME, and I REFUSE TO COMMUNICATE IN ADVANCE WHEN I HAVE A CONFLICT.   BUT I”M GOING TO BE UPSET IF I DON’T GET THE BAG I WON’T BOTHER TO PICK UP.  SHOULD I JOIN A CSA?

No.

^^^ARE YOU KIDDING?  THIS IS A TERRIBLE WAY TO ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS.

I know, right?  I should be much nicer.  There should be more exclamation points, and smiley emoticons, and pictures of kittens.  Actually, those things may be in other posts on this page, because I do have those moments.  But seriously, I’m at the point in my life where I think it’s better to just be honest.  I fill up the CSA every year.  I do not need to talk anyone into joining.  Let’s make sure you’re a good fit – that’s a far better business practice than a shiny webpage or overpromising.

IS COOL BEANS THE BEST CSA IN THE AREA?

Oh, Lord no.  Don’t be silly.  Look, our whole country seems to be screwed up because we’re equating success with being competitive at all times, and with crushing someone else so we can be number one.  Most sustainable farms, thankfully, don’t operate with that mindset.  I know all, or nearly all, of the farmers who operate a CSA in this area.  Without exception they are hardworking, honest, good people who have their customer’s best interest in mind.  I would join any of their CSA programs if I weren’t running one of my own.  Let’s get past that competitive idea and talk about what actually matters:  each CSA is slightly different, and you want the one that fits you best.

WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT COOL BEANS?

Much better question!  I want you to find the CSA that’s right for you, so I will answer as clearly as possible.  Cool Beans is less expensive than many local CSA programs but I believe that everyone around here is giving fair value for the money – let me rephrase that to be totally clear – I do not think anyone is overcharging.  The more expensive CSAs give out more food. Pick what works for you. Other differences are that Cool Beans is more eclectic than most CSAs (detailed in the next para) and includes items grown on other farms (two paras down).  I am growing excellent tasting produce, some newer and some heirloom varieties, using sustainable practices.  That’s like ‘organic’, but it now costs hundreds of dollars every year to be able to use that word legally, and requires a lot of paperwork.  I’m not doing that.  If you have specific questions about practices, contact me.

ECLECTIC?  HOW?

Offerings in recent years have included locally made tofu, fiddlehead ferns brought in from Maine, cheese, quail eggs, baked goods, flower bouquets, pawpaws, mushrooms, and many unusual fruits and vegetables – sometimes I’m eating them for the first time, along with my members.  You’ll get all the ‘normal’ stuff, of course.  But I love finding unusual things to add from time to time.

BUT, BUT….I THOUGHT EVERYTHING HAD TO BE GROWN ON THE HOST FARM IN A CSA.

Yes, well.  That is in fact the traditional business model.  But here’s the thing, friends:  I’m old.  I have a fairly small farm.  I have other interests as well.  This is the business model that works for me:  I grow as much as I possibly can, hiring people at a fair wage to help.  But I also contract out for a number of things that require more land than I can work, like sweet corn, and melons.  I also think the traditional model could use some tweaking, frankly:  if I’m having a banner year for kale and my friend Daniel has a surplus of spinach, does it make sense for my CSA members to be swamped with kale and his to be overrun with spinach?  If our growing practices are the same, it makes more sense to me to do some swapping.  Also, I don’t think you should suffer for my incompetence:  if I make an error and lose my whole year’s worth of cucumbers, I’m going to find some for you.  If you want to join a CSA where everything’s grown on that farm, that’s cool – they’re out there.  Mine isn’t like that.  I grow most of it.  But I have a friend who makes a weekly trip to Maine for his business, and every few years he has space available to bring back fiddleheads – and if I’m going to get some for myself, it just seems rude not to get some for the rest of you.  Same thing with tree fruits – I don’t have the space to grow them, but Three Springs Fruit Farm in Adams county is a vendor at my weekly market, and I can make arrangements with them for apples and pears and peaches.

SO WHAT’S GOING TO BE IN THE BAG?

I’m growing all the things.  I mean, ALL THE THINGS, with the exception of those mentioned above that are contracted out.  I like trying new things every year, and I like messing around with offbeat things like solid purple sweet potatoes, or husk cherries.  There will be plenty of things you recognize, of course, but I really do try to expand all of our horizons each week with one item that’s a little outside of the ordinary. I have a licensed nursery here and I will sometimes give out potted herbs, just because it’s so nice to have them on your kitchen windowsill.  I also have a commercial kitchen, so you might get jam or baked goods or apple leather.  That happens especially when we have, for instance, a solid week of rain that makes field work and harvesting difficult.    (Winter CSA members found a jar of homemade massaman curry sauce in their bags because I just learned how to make it, and honestly it’s as easy to make 24 quarts as it is to make 2.)  Your produce will be seasonal, so there will be more greens in the first few bags, and more root vegetables in later ones, as we work through the season.  The quantity will NOT be the same every week, because, life.  And weather.  And so on.  But I aim for 7-9 different items in the full shares.

WHY CAN’T YOU TELL ME WHAT’S GOING TO BE IN MY BAG EVERY WEEK AHEAD OF TIME?

Because I am not that good.  I can’t control weather, I can’t anticipate all of the possible predators and pests, I can’t predict droughts and floods.  Yes, there are CSA programs that can give you a list right now of what you’ll get all year.  They rock.  I bow to their expertise.  But, they are also growing for multiple farmer’s markets and have a lot more wiggle room than I do.

DO I WANT A SMALL OR FULL SHARE?

Please…..get the full share and split it with a friend.  Alternate pickup weeks, or have a Tuesday night CSA Supper Club, or just meet somewhere for a beer and split the bag each week.  It is a much, much better deal for you.  It is not an overwhelming amount of food.  I hate waste.  I hate facing a 20 pound cabbage with just two of us at home.  I’m not going to do that to you, ever.  The small shares often have fewer items, and will have smaller amounts.  The full share is the way to go.  It’s fine for two people.  (So why even offer a small smare?  Because for a single person, it’s going to be the right amount.)

TELL ME ABOUT THE OPTIONAL EGG SHARES

Once upon a time, every CSA share egg was laid by one of our free range hens.  Then I found someone nearby who needed some extra income, and who used to raise hens and has the skills……….and I thought, it’s like contracting with my Amish friend for your sweet corn.  It just made sense to buy get him set up with a new flock and buy eggs from him, and those make up about half of what you get every week if you choose an egg share, and the rest are from here.   In both cases, the chickens are out on the grass during the day and safely in pens at night.  They get supplemental feed, and it is NOT GMO free. (That’s a whole other discussion, let’s not go there right now.  What’s important is that you know what I’m offering.)

WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE PRODUCE?

I include a newsletter every week.  When I write it, I’m writing for my younger son in the earliest days of his bachelor existence:  I am assuming my reader is intelligent, very busy, and does not necessarily have a lot of experience cooking.  You can also touch base with me on the facebook page if you’re not sure about something.

THAT FIRST COMMENT ABOUT THE VISUALLY PERFECT PRODUCE IS THROWING ME.

Great – let me just loosen the leash on one of my pet peeves so I can explain.  Advertising has taught us that a crooked carrot, or an apple with a small brown spot on it are completely defective.  We’ve all bought into this, just like we’ve bought into the idea that WE are all defective if we don’t match someone else’s standards…..okay, I’m really getting off topic now.  Let me regroup.

This means a lot of food – some industry experts estimate as much as 33% of what’s grown in the field – is wasted.  In a world where children go to bed hungry, that’s not just ridiculous, it’s criminal.  You will not get icky or unhealthy things in your bag.  You will get great tasting food, but at times – occasionally -you’ll see that twisted carrot, or a mutant tomato with a funny looking crease in it.

Also, you’re going to have to rinse your own greens.  I get to sit through a LOT of food safety presentations every year, and as a result of what I’ve learned there I think this is the safest practice.  It’s also going to get the freshest produce to you. And it’s keeping your price down.  It’s really time consuming to send out triple washed ready to eat greens, and I’ve have to make up that cost somehow if I did it for you.  Check into another CSA if this is a deal breaker.

……AND ALONG THOSE LINES, THE COMMENT ABOUT PICKING UP THE BAGS SEEMS KIND OF SNARKY.

That’s because I AM kind of snarky.  But look, we’re doing our best here to put beautiful produce in your bag.  We have wonderful people who host the pickup locations.  Your stuff, the stuff that you paid for, simply won’t be good if you don’t pick the bag up on time.  We can work around your emergency occasionally, but the host family is not your concierge, and it is not their responsibility to track you down, or to put your stuff in their personal fridge until you feel like picking it up.  I have fired CSA members for being rude to to the hosts at the pickup site.  Folks, there will be people on the waiting list who would love your place.  So be honest with yourself, and think about whether the regular pickup is going to work out for you, before you decide to join.  You might be a farmer’s market person and not a CSA person.  That’s cool.

I AM LOOKING FOR A COOL, HIP, PHYSICALLY INSPIRING FARMER TO BE MY ROLE MODEL.

Most of the other local CSA farms are run by that person.  But I’m not it, my friend.  I’m a grandmother, totally devoid of hipness, and I’m overweight.  I celebrate that first part of that, accept the second, and I’m working hard on the last bit.  If you want a partner on the journey to better health,  I can definitely do that.  But you won’t get any judgy looks if a McDonald’s wrapper falls out of your car when you come to pick up your bag, okay?  We’re all works in progress. Maybe we can’t change the whole world – I haven’t entirely given on on that, but I’m getting more realistic as I age.  Maybe we just make out little part of it a better place.  Eating locally grown food can be a part of that.

DESPITE ALL OF THIS HONESTY, I ACTUALLY WANT TO JOIN. WHAT DO I DO?

Click at the top of the page on the “2018 CSA contract” tab, print the page (you might need to copy and paste it in a Word file, it seems to behave differently on different kinds of computers), fill in the requested info, and mail it to me with a check.

YOU’RE KIDDING – YOU CAN’T EVEN TAKE A CREDIT CARD?

I know, it’s pathetic, isn’t it?

 

 

 

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