Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Putting Together a Weekly Summer CSA Delivery

Pete's Greens delivers CSA shares 51 weeks out of the year, taking only Christmas week off from the schedule. Each week, many people at the farm are involved in planning the share; picking, washing and packing vegetables; and getting the bounty out for delivery. This article gives a rough time line of the process of preparing a summer share. The steps involved in putting together shares for late-fall, winter and early spring would be slightly different.

Many months in advance, Pete will decide how many shareholders he thinks that our farm can satisfactorily support. For our Summer 2008 share, we have almost 200 shares. As many people sometimes split a share, we actually have closer to 300 members. Pete and the crew will need to plant enough quantities of vegetables to be able to harvest for those 200 shares each week. Nancy will get the word out to those who may wish to join for the upcoming season.

Heather, who runs the Localvore portion of the share, generally plans her schedule of items 2-3 weeks in advance, sometimes even further. For some special cheeses, she will begin planning with the cheesemaker well in advance to make sure they will have enough of the item for all of our Localvore shareholders. The design of a week's share generally is complete 2 weeks in advance and items are ordered. Heather manages every detail with our local foods suppliers, from scoping out new products, ordering the items, taking delivery, portioning items (if necessary), and sorting the items to go out to our pick-up sites.

Early Monday morning, 2 days before delivery, Pete and Meg will decide which vegetables go into the week's share. They will walk around the fields and greenhouses, seeing how everything is growing and deciding what is ready for harvest. They are looking for vegetables that will be able to provide 200 portions for the share. Sometimes, if we don't have enough of any one vegetable, they will determine that a portion of the shareholders will get one vegetable, and the rest another. For example, this week some folks will get kale and others broccoli. Pete and Meg do their best to make sure that everyone gets an equitable value of veggies in every share.

We will often be asked why on a particular week we have something for sale at the Farmer's Market, but it wasn't in the share. We actually do our best to put the CSA first for veggies, much to the disappointment of some local chefs. However, we can only provide to our shareholders what is ready to pick in significant quantity a day or two before the share. Sometimes, we have much less of a particular vegetable ready for picking. Moreover, what's still maturing on Monday maybe ripe for harvest on Friday.

Once Pete and Meg have decide what should be included in the week's share, the crew will begin picking immediately. It's generally Meg and 4 farmhands doing the picking. It will take them 24 man-hours to harvest and wash the week's bounty. To give you an idea of the scope, every share generally contains a minimum of 7 different vegetable varieties. This week we have 10. With 10 items, they would pick and pull a minimum of 2000 vegetables. That's not taking into account that there might be four beets to a bunch or 6 potatoes to a bag. Once everything is clean, it is stored in totes in the cooler.

Tuesday mornings the crew is busy packing orders for wholesale, many of which will go out on the Black River Produce truck that visits the farm around noon. Some weeks, localvore products will arrive on this same truck. This week, we are expecting plums from Champlain Orchards.

After lunch, the crew will setup their packing stations and pack the CSA Vegetable bags. By the time they get going with this, it's usually about 3pm and the bags are ready to go back in the cooler by 6pm. It is during this time that any shortages or substitutions in the share may surface. While Nancy is busy trying to finish the newsletter for the week, she may get a quick email at 3pm saying that the there wasn't enough arugula to go around, so some shareholders will be receiving mustard greens. Or, there my be an item that doesn't look as good as we would have liked and it's eliminated from the share, only to be replaced by something new. We like to hold the newsletter until we feel that the share is set in stone. That way, the recipes will reflect the share contents and people can reliably do their shopping based on the list. Of course, there is the rare exception and we will sometimes update information with a blast email to all.

Wednesday morning, Tim is up with the birds and begins packing the truck at 4:15 am. The CSA shares will take up about 60% of our refrigerated truck. He will pack orders for stores and restaurants located along the CSA route as well. Tim will make about 30 - 50 stops on his loop from Craftsbury through Hardwick and Montplier, to Middlesex, up around Burlington, back to Waterbury, Stowe and Morrisville. As he makes his CSA and wholesale deliveries, he will pick-up waste vegetable oil for heating the greenhouse, as well as empty coolers from the previous week's CSA delivery and wax boxes we can use again.

At each CSA site, Tim will set out the vegetable bags, coolers, boxes of localvore items, etc., as well as make sure that there is a clipboard and pen with the CSA pick-up instructions and name check-off sheets. We do our best to ensure that the right amounts of all items are delivered to each site and that the instructions are clear enough that each person should take all that they should, but no more. Of course, occasionally we are off on an item or vegetable bag count, or someone mistakenly takes an item not included in their share. In these cases, our members can call or email Nancy to let her know of the problem. If she learns of a problem soon enough, any missed items can go into the pick lists for Monday morning and be delivered with the upcoming Wednesday's share.

Meg Picking Tomatoes in the Greenhouse

Sabina and Elena Picking Radishes in the Fields

Produce is Loaded on the Truck Destined for the Wash House

Carol Bean Waits at the Wash House for the Truck to Arrive

Meg Unloads the Truck

Succoro Washes the Freshly Picked Produce

Deborah and Hanna Clean Onions

Tim Delivers to the CSA Sites. Note, not the
actual delivery truck.

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