We started off our farm with a group of people picking up their food from us. We operated like a regular CSA with zero or minimal customization options -- everyone got nearly the same package each month.
Which was a great way for people to start to try our food. And great if you loved everything that we sent that month.
It wasn't so great if you got something in the delivery that you didn't like. Or something your family couldn't eat. We get it. We're members of veggie CSAs ourselves. We know what it's like that month you get mostly kohlrabi or zucchini. We wanted to find a way to make sure people could get exactly the sorts of things they wanted.
After we'd be running our CSA for a while, we found a way to group types of products together into packages. We had chicken boxes and beef boxes and pork boxes and mixed boxes. And we let people decide what box they wanted to get for the next time. After a while we started to keep track of and learn what different families wanted to make sure what we suggested for their next delivery fit them.
We then started to name the packages. Picnic Platter is a lot easier to remember than "Box 153". And we started to give our new members an easier way of letting us know what kinds of food they even before they had signed up.
Today, I am pretty sure we are the most customizable CSA in the state (certainly the most customizable meat CSA) and also the largest and highest quality meat CSA in the area. But at our core, we are still a CSA and not a grocery store or Amazon. Our members who have been with us through the years have seen that ability to customize grow. For new subscribers, though, it can take a little while to get use to it.
As a collection of small farms, we don't have the scale to custom pick orders.... at least not yet... We hope to have that option in the future.
One thing I've noticed over the years is that members are often surprised how much they enjoy products they never would have purchased if a custom order was available. Last month I was talking with a member who said he kept putting off eating the Jamaican brats in his package because he was sure he'd never enjoy them... but he finally ate them and it turns out they were his favorite of the entire package. I love hearing stories like this and I hope you'll be open to trying some items like the summer sausage that you might not enjoy from the store. We make everything a lot different and mostly from our own custom recipes and I hope you'll enjoy trying our versions and then pick and choose favorites.
One thing we have done to help with ways to customize is to offer a wide range of 'just my favorite' boxes. Some people REALLY like one type of brat or sausage or cut of meat. We have boxes you can request to stock up on favorites. Some members order these as 'extras' to build up a bit of a supply, others just request them as part of their membership.
If you find an item you really like which isn't available in a favorite box, let us know and we can possibly make up a custom box for you the next time that item is made or who knows, it might even become one of our new "Favorites".
Been a TC Farm member for a while? What do you think? Has it been easier for your family to get the types of meats you want?
What about newer member -- what is something that helped it all "click" and start to make sense for you? (We'd love to get better about how we share what we're doing!) Let us know in the comments below.