Tag Archives: community supported agriculture

Alderley Grange Goody Box 2014

Today’s post is a guest post by my lovely daughter and hard-working CSA/Goody Box coordinator, Dani…

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

What the Heck is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture programs, often known as CSAs, are becoming increasingly popular for farmers and their customers, but many who haven’t been exposed to them before aren’t quite sure what they entail.

While there are as many options as there are CSAs, the general principle of all of these ‘box’ programs is the same. During the early spring months, members of the community sign up for the program, essentially making a commitment to purchase a certain amount of product from a farm in the upcoming year. The commitment they make is a financial one as well: shares are pre-purchased at the time of sign up, even though products don’t start arriving for up to five or six months.

Why the delay? For farmers, some of our highest costs come early in the spring. This is when we are building needed infrastructure, purchasing seeds, putting in amendments, buying or breeding livestock, and generally preparing for the year ahead. Unfortunately, it’s also when income opportunities are lowest, as there is generally very little available to sell at that time. By buying in to a CSA, customers provide invaluable capital for farmers to start the season. Customers have pre-paid during the months when we have the most product available, and when our costs also happen to be lower.

If a CSA is a large percentage of a farm’s sales, as it will be for the Alderley Grange this year, then knowing how many shares have been sold before it is time to plant, order, and plan is also extremely important and helps us to provide our customers with the best-possible products over the course of the season.

Goody Box Contents - SampleOn the other hand, customers go into the summer knowing they will receive local, in-season produce all season, and that they will have the opportunity to get to know their farmers and food producers well. It’s a great chance to learn what is in season at any given time and to learn some new flavours and recipes. CSAs tend to provide the classics—carrots and potatoes—and the unusual—lovage and edible flowers—which lends itself to a varied experience from week to week.

The average CSA tends to provide a box of vegetables each week. Sometimes these come with a recipe, and sometimes you have the chance to add something like a dozen eggs. Some larger farms, such as Essex Farm in New York State, are able to provide fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains, maple syrup, and more to over 200 members, while others offer far more limited choices designed to supplement your weekly trip to the store.

At the Alderley Grange, we fall somewhere in between, and are also passionate about making our Goody Boxes a fantastic—and unique—experience for our customers.

Our popular Lifestyle Box, the flagship offering in our CSA program, offers members six veggie items, a fruit item, a dozen eggs or a package of sausages on alternating weeks, a specialty item (in 2013 this included a cook book, herb scissors, goat’s milk soap, and more), a recipe, 10% off all additional items purchased at the Grange, and more.  ($37 week; $740 season)

Other options include our Veggie-only box ($24/week; $480/season), and based on popular demand, an ‘everything-else box’ for members who grow their own vegetable gardens but want to enjoy local protein and goodies ($27/week; $540/ season).

We are also excited to be starting a monthly protein box this year, which will run from June–December and includes 12–13 pounds of meat each month, as well as a whole turkey for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Members of this box can expect to enjoy pork, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and some more unusual meats like bison or venison, knowing that everything they are consuming has been pasture-raised on organic feed, without any added hormones or antibiotics by small-scale growers here on the Island. ($160/month; $960/season).

Goody Box Alderley Grange

As much as possible, all box products come from us here at the Alderley Grange on the Saanich peninsula, but when we need to supplement from another farm, we make sure it is local, organic, ethical, and farmed with love. The bottom line is that our CSA customers get some of the best produce around, and have the opportunity to form a relationship with the source of some of their family’s food at the same time.

Registration is now open, so consider supporting local food and guaranteeing your weekly or monthly share of some truly amazing food and goodies!

Visit us on Facebook to find out more and sign up here: www.tinyurl.com/alderleygrangeorderform

[Note from Nikki: I will add a new CSA page here, too – check back in the next day or two to see if the link is up there at the top of the website… Also, if you are confused about the Alderley Grange vs Dark Creek Farm – Dark Creek Farm is the name of the farm and the Alderley Grange is the name of the farm stand. Corporate branding experts would no doubt be horrified that we have two names going on, but our customers are smart cookies and figure it out pretty quickly….]

Day 21 – Getting the Word Out

Vancouver Island Direct Farm Market Association AGM is being held at the Saanich Fairgrounds, tonight (November 21) at 7pm: doors open at 6:30, cookies and coffee will be served. If you have a farm in the area, consider coming to the meeting and becoming a member. You’ll get to connect with a great group of farmers, hear about current issues affecting all of us, and learn about how effective it is to band together to let consumers know where to find local farm products. 

Small farms use all kinds of strategies to get their produce into the hands of consumers - farmers' markets, box programs, and farm gate sales... What works best for you?

Small farms use all kinds of strategies to get their produce into the hands of consumers – farmers’ markets, box programs, and farm gate sales… What works best for you?

The DFMA has certainly been a fantastic marketing tool for us – we are listed in the annual Farm Fresh Guide as the Alderley Grange (the name of our farm stand) and that one listing alone has sent all sorts of customers our way. We do not have the benefit of a lot of drive by traffic, so it’s not that easy for people to find us. But, find us they do – either online (check out the Farm Fresh website if you are looking for any kind of local produce, eggs, meat… ), through the Farm Fresh Facebook page, or at the annual Farmer’s Market Area at the Saanich Fair. We also attend local farmers’ markets and have been very happy with the success of our subscription box program (more on how that will look for the 2014 season in a future post).

Local marketing groups are not only invaluable in terms of bringing farmers and customers together, they also help bring farmers together - no small feat given that getting farmers together is a bit like herding cats.

Local marketing groups are not only invaluable in terms of bringing farmers and customers together, they also help bring farmers together – no small feat given that getting farmers together is a bit like herding cats.

If you farm elsewhere, would you mind posting a link to your local/regional marketing resources? (add the link in the comments section…) Do you have a regional co-op? Something similar to the DFMA? A fantastic farmers’ market that does a great job of promoting local products? And, if you like to shop local, how do you connect with farmers in your area? I’m always interested to see how other farmers are connecting with their customers and how customers find their farmers…

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about all month long? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!