Last November, TC Farm announced we were going to be starting a Produce CSA in the spring of 2021. Our goal was to be able to have:
*We tried, but logistically couldn't get everyone weekly service - if you are out of our weekly delivery area and are able to recruit a group of neighbors, reach out and we will see what we can do to upgrade you to weekly service at the discounted delivery cost.
We've been hard at work throughout the winter into spring and we're going to be launching the Produce CSA for everyone in the coming weeks. We're do excited to let you know what we've been up to. We'll share more soon, but we wanted to let you know:
(Feel free to use the links. Skip around. Read what you are interested in!)
We will have a lot more specific detail in the coming weeks!
But we didn't want you wonder too much about what was going on or worry that we'd forgotten about this!
We invited members to register. Rather than ask them (you) to pre-paying for the whole season like other veggie CSAs do, we asked for a deposit to help us secure the seeds with local farmers so we could get this started. We limited access for this season to 400 members. You're one of them!
A traditional CSA requires each individual farmer to grow 40 or 50 varieties of crops on their land. The harvest for all of these is different. The care required is different too. Almost nobody has land that is ideally suited for potatoes and broccoli since they thrive best in opposite soil types.
By working with many different farmers and farms who can focus on raising more specific crops (and with a guaranteed market for those crops) we can be more effective AND raise higher quality food. If one farm's land isn't ideal for potatoes, we won't have them raise mediocre potatoes when other farms might be ideally suited for the crop!
We've been purposeful in reaching out to women and BIPOC farmers to support under represented groups as part of our CSA. Some of our farms are well established and others are newer and we've been working with them since last year getting ready for this. We look forward to featuring all those making this possible throughout the season.
We've worked to curate all the staples you'd expect. But we've also got fun things to try like different berries, specialty veggies and other treats.
Not everything our members eat can come from Minnesota. In order to provide a well rounded produce share and avoid overloading anyone with loads of radishes and greens in the spring and mountains of squash in the fall, we are also selecting out of state produce a different points. This will especially be the case for fruits... but you'll find some really special MN grown fruits in your package this season as well!
Weekly home deliveries and delivering produce is different than delivering frozen meats once a month!
Starting in late January, we invited a few dozen people who lived near each other to be on an "Early Access Route" so we could get this all ready. We nailed down a whole bunch of logistics. Stuff like building weekly delivery routes, getting delivery trucks and drivers ready to go. (And learning what to do when a brand new truck breaks down on Washington Avenue. That was an exciting afternoon!)
Even stuff like figuring out how to minimize our use of plastic while packaging and presenting produce the best way. Oh and all those software upgrades to program? How to get the member portal ready for weekly deliveries? Wow - there were a lot of pieces we had to get in place to have this ready to go!
We started with deliveries every other week. We had a nice mix of produce we were able to share with our early access members. Each delivery, we asked them what they thought about the items delivered. Freshness, selection, amount delivered. We got some terrific (and honest!) feedback along the way and really got a lot better!!
Once we nailed down the logistics of that one truck route, we did it again. We invited more members who lived clustered together to be on a second truck route and we did it again. Deliveries on both Wednesdays and Thursdays. Two different routes. Then we added a third. And we went from every other week to every week.
Not gonna lie: Figuring out how to do this -- how to do this right and how to do this well -- all while continuing to pick and deliver orders for all of our other members getting deliveries each month through the winter and spring? It was a LOT of work!
Josh, Eli, George, Angela and Casey were all ROCK STARS figuring out a way to pull this all off all while keeping everything else running smoothly too!
We did 6 early access deliveries on the every-other-week schedule. Starting in April, we have moved to an every week delivery schedule. We will be doing another couple of these weekly deliveries to make sure that everything is running smoothly.
Even with all that prep work, we know jumping to 400 weekly orders is going to be a bit of an adjustment. Please keep us in the loop if there are things we still need to improve, especially when the big June harvest starts! That honest feedback is how we get things better.
If you wanted to check out the Early Access Blog to read about those early deliveries, it is now public on the main page under 'blog/produce' -- you can also read the blog here.
The full CSA program is open to everyone starting the week of June 7th.
The produce CSA will run every week from the growing season, June through October.
The biggest thing for us is that by planning ahead, we get super fresh produce.
In the early season, we will still bring in some organic produce from out of state to avoid your produce box being full of only raddish and salad greens. (This is Minnesota and some produce takes longer to grow!) Later in the season, nearly all veggies will be local and then in the winter transition back into more from out of state (but keeping the winter produce local where possible).
Part of how we were able to get this to work was that we have food coming every week for every produce member. We know that there might be weeks when you will be out of town where you simply can't get a delivery, but the expectation / agreement is to allow three skips between June and October’s regular season. (Skipping more than three produce packages will be reflected in the produce credit received for the month.)
If you paid a $299 deposit to secure your spot in the produce CSA, that deposit will be credited back to your account each month throughout the season. So: $59.80 per month will be applied from June through October.
For members who signed up on the produce waitlist (and had a smaller deposit), your deposit will be applied to the June deliveries.
As a reminder: For now there will be two sizes that you can order - a smaller share and a larger share.
We are asking that everyone take their weekly produce orders, regardless of size. You may find that we lower the amount included in the shares a bit over time. Based on our experience with the early access program, we are still adjusting those sizes.
When we launch, the customization you can choose will be the size (smaller vs. larger).
We are working on ways to let people make other customizations. For June, our focus is going to be making sure everyone has fresh food every week. But, keep reading the blog each week and look for some additional customizations popping up in the portal and blog posts.
Since you will be getting weekly deliveries, members will be able to add any TC Farm items along with their weekly produce share. No more waiting a whole month to get more whole ground beef or pork chops!
The deliveries themselves will be based on where in the metro area you live:
A good rule of thumb:
Northwest Metro: Tuesdays
Southwest Metro: Wednesdays
NorthEast, East and South: Thursdays.
You can skip any delivery just like TC Farm orders.
With fresh produce, we do need to ask that everyone in the full program limits to three skips per season.
Most CSAs require you pay for every week of the year upfront, we wanted to be more flexible, but we also can't have good food go to waste.
If you skip more than three times per season, it will be reflected in the monthly produce credit you receive.
You can still get other TC Farm items and remove the produce delivery in any given week. Keep in mind that your delivery cost has been discounted as part of this inaugural produce season, so if you don't have a produce item, your delivery will be charged at the regular cost.
Yes! Please feel free to order any item to your cart when it is available.
Since we've retooled our system to allow for weekly orders, there might be some items which aren't available in the week you order them. If so, we will just move them to the following week's order for you.
Weekly deliveries are awesome!
With weekly deliveries, your changes are now due weekly (not on the last day of the month). The last day to make changes depends on the day of your delivery:
Tuesday deliveries = Thursday is last day to make changes for the coming week
Wednesday deliveries = Sunday is the last day to make changes for the coming week
Thursday deliveries = Sunday is the last day to make changes for the coming week
We always update the produce blog with we expect in following week's produce share by Thursday afternoon.
Your cart and any account balance will be charged each week the day after your cut off. So either Fridays or Mondays.
You will still receive a monthly recommendation from TC Farm. So nothing changes there. The big improvement is that you now will have more time to adjust that order or move recommended items to any week of the month. Look for those recommendations to be stacked up in the future on your portal and edit anytime.
We're looking to offer a well rounded produce CSA and we have a lot of MN grown organic fruit scheduled this season! However, many fruits come from out of state, so plan on those being from as local of farms as possible without sacrificing quality of environmental standards. One of the first customizations we will offer is to give members more control over the fruit included.
Plan on the Memorial Day and Labor Day week deliveries being shifted, watch the portal for details.
Fourth of July is on a Sunday this year and won't impact our schedule.
You'll just keep on keeping on with weekly deliveries.
Beginning in June, we will begin to apply $59.80 each month from your deposit to your account (since you will now be part of the Full Produce CSA like everyone else)!
We're pretty sure there will be other questions you have.
Let us know in the comments below!
For sure we will be letting you know more throughout the month of May!
We were just too excited to wait. We wanted to share a bunch of what we knew now!
Happy spring everyone!