Today, we’re talking about CSA’s.
We have Jessica Washkowiak on the show to talk about managing CSA’s, keeping customers satisfied, and competing with other farms in a crowded CSA market under the umbrella of COVID-19.
How did COVID-19 change your farm? (01:25)
We’ve been running a pretty awesome CSA for the last decade. We used to have a lot of social interaction, but there’s none of that anymore. We’re working to balance out bringing products to customers.
Orders have also filled up a little faster, and we’ve also expanded, but just a little bit because I felt like people were just reacting and impulse buying. We actually shut down registration for a week and waited for things to calm down because I wanted to make sure people knew they were buying raw fruit and vegetables.
What does your CSA model look like? (05:50)
We have pre-determined boxes but we also have customizable options for customers who would prefer to switch up the items a bit. But, a lot of our customers like having a surprise every week, so they opt for the default option.
What would you tell someone who is a little hesitant to start being a CSA farm? (09:15)
To be a great CSA farm, I think you need to offer a diverse selection of produce like winter squash, watermelons, and cantaloupe. People get tired of having kale and radish every single week.
If you are a small farm, I think it would be challenging to run a CSA especially if you’ll diversify crop section in a small space.
You have a hundred CSA customers. Do you have a gut sense of how many customers are there because of brand loyalty? (15:30)
When we started, I think about 80-90% wanted to support us because we were one of the first CSA farms in our area. Now, we have customers who have been subscribed to us for ten years and have invested maybe $5,000 to $6,000 into the farm in the form of CSA membership.
How do you think about the finances surrounding one individual crop? (23:45)
I’m a big pen-to-paper person, so I plan it out on paper.
I think about how long it has to be on the ground, how early I need it to get started, how it’s going to be picked, how much people I’m going to need help from, and how much maintenance it’ll need.
I write everything down, and I figure out exactly how much it’ll cost me to grow that crop.
What advice do you have for brand-new farmers who have never farmed on their own? (26:15)
I really love seeing the salad CSA shares that a lot of farms are doing, and it makes a lot of sense during the first two years of farming. You can grow really beautiful lettuce in a short time and have fun with it. I think you should also learn how to grow radish and kale really, really well to make it part of your arsenal.
How do you compete against other CSA’s? (30:25)
In my area, there are only about a thousand people interested in CSA’s, and there are only four or five CSA farms. I think farm size will dictate how many members they can take.
Also, it may not seem important, but a lot of people really like knowing that we’re certified organic. I think timeliness is important as well. It would be good if you’re first to market certain crops like tomatoes, lettuce, or cucumbers.
You also have to have a competitive nature. I think you really have to get yourself out there and talk to people.
Coming out of the pandemic, is there anything you changed or will change with the farm operations? (41:10)
We’ve upgraded all of our tables into stainless steel. The farm stand used to be off to the side where people had to walk in, and now we’re moving it to the very front of our farm so there’s less exposure.
The really big thing for us is that it helped us slow down, take our time, and really enjoy the farm. I stopped caring about competing against other farms. Now, I just want to grow good food and take care of the people around me the same way they take care of me.
The whole pandemic is also a lesson about how short life is, and that where you put your efforts is really important. Enjoy the time you spend with the people you care about.
Field to Fork Farm
Check out Jessica and her CSA farm over on Instagram! Interested in becoming a CSA member? Hop on over to FieldtoFork-Farm.com for details!
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Diego: How do you manage a big CSA satisfy customers and compete with others in a crowded CSA marketplace, all under the umbrella of COVID-19. That's what we're talking about today. Coming up. Thanks for listening to the show today. I'm your host Diego Dai ego. And today it's all about CSA. As I'm joined by farmer Jessica wash quack from Palisade, Colorado.
[00:00:29] Today Jessica is going to be talking in depth about field, the fork farms, CSA program. How do they manage it? How much variety do they offer? What flexibility do they give customers? How do they plan for it? How do they handle all that variety in the field and how do they advertise it and try and compete in a crowded marketplace?
[00:00:47] So a lot of stuff around CSH today, Jessica is going to get into all those little CSA details with how they've been dealing with COVID-19, how it's affected their farm. In their business and what changes that they're making to adapt going forward. So let's jump right into it. It's CSA talk with Jessica wish kayak of field, the fork.
[00:01:14] So Jessica, it feels like we're pass the midway point here of the whole COVID situation. And it's really turned the whole world on its head for you all as a small farm in Colorado. How did it change your farm?
[00:01:30] Jessica: Well, you know, we, we have been running a pretty awesome CSA for the last 10 years on our farm, and we've really built a lot of social, interaction on our farm with our customers.
[00:01:46] And they love coming out here and connecting with the, you know, seeing the growth each year that we take on. And so I think that's been. A huge thing for us is just that we will not have that social interaction this year on our farm. And, it's, it's interesting to try to figure out, you know, what the boundaries are there of allowing people to come and pick up their vegetables.
[00:02:13] And, through, because we grow, we also grow quite a bit of fruit on our farm and, and we have a real diverse product lines. So. You know, our CSA is really great. We have a lot of different items all the time. and just trying to balance how we're going to get the products to the customers now.
[00:02:33] Diego: Yeah, the old COVID-19 situation has brought about a lot of changes and forced adaptation for farms.
[00:02:40] You had saw farms that were restaurant centric, see sales switched off overnight, and you saw farms like yours that are CSA based where a lot of times demand goes up, woos the response in your community when this hit. For the CSA program compared to previous years,
[00:03:00]Jessica: we definitely filled up a little bit faster than we normally would.
[00:03:04]and then I expanded our CSA program a little bit more, but I didn't want to do very much because I felt like a lot of people were just reacting, just kind of impulse buying a little bit. And so. I sort of shut down our registration for about a week and just kind of let things calm down a little bit before I really started bringing people into our CSA program and making sure that they understood that they were buying raw product and that, it was seasonal and that it was from, you know, our farm and we don't buy anything in, we do make some value added products and, and different things throughout the year.
[00:03:47] But. for the most part, we really encourage cooking at home and, eating in season and eating fresh, and eating organic. And so we just really wanted to make sure that when the people were buying, that they were understanding this was what they were getting into. And I started calling people and talking with them over the phone and making sure that they really understood that, that they were buying, you know, fruits and vegetables, whole like whole fruits and vegetables.
[00:04:16] Diego: With it filling up faster. Was that people renewing faster or did you gain a lot of new customers as
[00:04:22] Jessica: well? I think we gained, a lot of, a lot of return customers, sign up earlier in the year because we offer some, early options for people to join. So we have a pretty decent return rate, but we had a lot of new people.
[00:04:40] Because we did start offering home delivery within the last year as well. And that was already picking up. So, I mean, we've had a lot of transition in offering more custom services and home delivery. And we have been moving towards that for about a year before all of this, which I'm very grateful that we were already beginning because.
[00:05:02] I would, it would be really hard right now to just like switch and start offering home delivery and custom pack shares. I think people were very interested in our services that we offered home delivery, and it was a lot of new people that are online shoppers
[00:05:20] Diego: for your CSA to give some context to the people, listening to this.
[00:05:24] There's a few different models out there you have on one end of the spectrum. Straight up fix box. This is what you get every week. We decided as the farm buyer, you're taking this on the other end, you have kind of like a booth credits type model where you get so much credits and you can spend those one week or all in one week, if you want and customize anything you want.
[00:05:49] And then in between you have all sorts of hybrids of weekly customizable, too. Some items are fixed. Some items are optional. What is your CSA program look like?
[00:05:58]Jessica: we really focus on seasonality of the farm. And so right now we're beginning, you know, we're in our leaf production stage of the farm, which is a lot of different leafy greens.
[00:06:10] And then we have greenhouses. And so we're able to plant a lot of things a little bit earlier. So for example, this week in our CSA shares, I have, beets. A bunch of beets, a bunch of carrots, a bunch of green onions, Japanese turnips salad, Nova heads, salad, Nova salad, blend, mizuna, kale mix. I have full mature rainbow chard, full mature, dinosaur, kale, and red, Russian kale.
[00:06:40] And then we have some little things like micro greens and herbs available. And then we also offer fresh bread. So weekly, you can kind of choose a variety and selection of all those different items,
[00:06:55] Diego: like a based on a dollar amount, you can choose X dollars worth of those things. Or are you predetermining what they're actually getting?
[00:07:03] Jessica: Yeah, we do have, just a basic kind of box that we choose. If people do not want to customize. And a lot of our customers actually really do like the surprise every week that when they open up their box or we actually use bags, cause they're a little bit better on the environment. They love opening up that bag and seeing what we packed for them.
[00:07:26] And they really do enjoy the surprises, the little things that we put in there. And then we do have some customers that just do it, not like beets or they've had enough. Carrots or they've had enough zucchini, you know, and then they're able to kind of switch things out if they don't want it that week,
[00:07:44] Diego: you give users some free choice within that CSA program if they want.
[00:07:48] But it sounds like most people are going the farmer select.
[00:07:52] Jessica: Yeah. it's about 50, 50 to the, if people choose the default option, Or if they want to customize their box and then they can also put their membership on hold at any point in time and continue and they can keep them credits. So that's also really nice that if they are just feeling a little overwhelmed and they're, the lettuce is piling up, they can put it on hold for a week and sort of work it down.
[00:08:17] And then. By the next week, there's probably going to be a lot of different items anyway. So it's always, it's always really fun and exciting. I mean, every week we have new product that we're sharing with them and introducing, you know, so many wonderful gourmet greens that you normally couldn't find if you went to the grocery store.
[00:08:38] So it is a pretty special membership too. I believe. When
[00:08:44] Diego: you think about farming on a smaller scale, and you think about a CSA model for people that might initially dismiss the CSA model as too difficult, too rigid, not a fit. What has been your experience over the past 10 years? And what would you tell somebody of.
[00:09:04] Maybe stop for a second and really think about these things as real big benefits to being a CSA based farm.
[00:09:11] Jessica: You know, I really feel to be a great CSA farm. You really need to be very diverse and be able to bring a lot of produce to the market, you know, to your market. if that, if that is your, if CSA is your market, you really need to.
[00:09:31] Be able to grow winter squash and be able to grow some crops on a little bit larger scale, like be able to grow some watermelons and cantaloupes. Because people really like those and they get tired of kale and radish every week. And when we first started, we were very small and we definitely were the kale and radish CSA.
[00:09:54] And it was kind of a joke with CSA is, you know, and, and we hear it a lot from our friends who have joined CSCs around the country where they they're just like, Oh my gosh, I wish I could join your CSA. It looks so great. Because we've really focused on that diversity and having, you know, 10 to 20 items available every single week for our members.
[00:10:14] And so really focusing on that for a CSA, I think is very important. And, if you are a small, small farm yeah. It's, it is just so hard to operate a CSA when you are really small,
[00:10:29] Diego: because you just can't grow all those crops on that land base.
[00:10:32] Jessica: Yeah. You really have to pick your battles. it's it is just a really big challenge to have, you know, that many crops growing in a small space.
[00:10:42] It is possible. You can do it. I'm not, it's just, you might not, your yields might not be as much as you want them to be. And then once you started looking at. Oh, my gosh, I make this much per bed on this crop. And then I made this much per bed on that crop. You know, that kind of starts to play with your head a little bit.
[00:11:01] And then you think, Oh, this is such a waste. And then there's a lot of internal battles that can go on when you're farming like that. And so it, it, it is a challenge, to grow some crops on small scale, on a small scale, and it really is not worth it.
[00:11:18] Diego: What's been your experience in. Balancing diversity, how much diversity is too much.
[00:11:25] Jessica: I have not found a balance. I, you know, and I think it's funny, you used the word trout because there are many years that Scott and I, my husband and I, we have said that we were in a bit of a CSA trap and that we couldn't really get out of it. And so there really is. That would trap in the model. And I think, you know, when I was seeing young farmers start farming and not start CSA farms right away, I thought that is so awesome.
[00:11:54] Some, you know, because when I first started farming, it was kind of the model to turn to and, I just, I loved the mission and the movement of CSA and everything that it stands for. But when after your fifth, six year, you start really scratching your head sometimes because you are growing so many different crops and it is so diverse.
[00:12:16] And you start thinking, you know, is this really the right model that I want to do for the rest of my, my farming career? and you kinda just get trapped in, because it can end up becoming your, you know, your operations startup, and it really does help not take out loans or have debt. And so there really does start to play a lot in how you operate your farm through when you are running a CSA.
[00:12:46] And then you're continuously wanting to expand your acreage. And so you can grow some of those crops that people just really love, like sweet corn, you know, and even though it might not be the most profitable crop, it returns customers and you create friends. So you kind of play that out a little bit.
[00:13:07] And, it's the balance. Some of it, some years we don't grow sweet corn. Some years we don't grow broccoli. It's just kind of a given and take that. We'd choose if we want that to expand our lettuce crop, or if we want to expand our heirloom tomatoes, you know, and we fight our battles way. And our CSA has always been very supportive when we have decided to make that choice of, you know, we're just not going to grow sweet corn this year because we don't feel like spraying it.
[00:13:39] And we would much rather grow more lettuce or we're really dialing in our carrots this year. And we bought a bunch of equipment to grow carrot, to grow carrots. We really need to focus on our carrots. And typically our customers are very happy that we made those choices because I think that they see that those are the crops that we grow really well.
[00:14:00] And being part of the CSA is also supporting the farm and the farmer. And knowing that you're helping them develop as a farmer.
[00:14:10] Diego: How many people are in your CSA program?
[00:14:12] Jessica: Right now we have a hundred members and we can do up to 200. But I really like to get to know my members and be able to see them and say their name when they come to my farm, or if they call me on the phone, I like to be really personable with them.
[00:14:28] So I try not to sell more than a hundred because I don't think I can. I just don't have the, until capacity to give that good of customer service to over that many customers. When you
[00:14:43] Diego: have that many customers, a hundred customers, let's say, and you said, you know, one big thing about a CSA is they want to support the farm.
[00:14:51] Do you have a, any sort of gut sense in terms of how many people are in the CSA? Because they want to support you guys. The produce is kindness, secondary versus. I want the produce. Like there's things by where, and I just need it. Like gasoline, you go to the store or gas station, you got to get gas. You're probably not that brand loyal where there's other products you go out and like, you may pay more.
[00:15:19] You may go out of your way to go to one restaurant or buy one type of beer or something else because you really want to support that brand and what they stand for. Based on your experience now, and over the past 10 years, how much of it your business do you think is really them wanting to support you with the bonus of getting vegetables?
[00:15:43] Jessica: I think when we first started, it was probably like, you know, 80 to 90%, the people really wanted to support us because we were one of the first CSA farms in our area. And. Now over the investment of the time. I mean, some of these members have been buying CSA shares from us for 10 years. So, you know, just one, one family who, you know, has spent five to $600 with us is, is now in the $5,006,000 investment range on our farm.
[00:16:23] And. They are reaping the benefits because we have 20,000 square feet of greenhouses. We have, you know, we use your amazing tool, the paper pot, most planner, you know, we, we have our systems really set and dialed now where we are cranking out so much produce for basically two person team. I mean, we have help, but for the most part, it's just my husband and I, and, We are the ones dedicated to this farm and, and the health that we've had through the years has been amazing.
[00:16:57] But the main help we've had through the years has been from the economic investment that our CSA members have made with us.
[00:17:05] Diego: We're in an interesting time now with everything happening with COVID-19. Because it's very opportunistic for farms that maybe do want to do CSS. And I don't mean an opportunistic in an exploitive way, but there's this rekindled interest in buying American buying local, being healthier in general.
[00:17:27] And I think if farms are going to push a CSA program now or sell it to potential customers, that's the main, those are the main selling points. And going back again to that diversity angle, you're selling to a hundred CSA customers and you're having 15 to 20 ish items in each box a week.
[00:17:54] Jessica: No, so we have 15 to 20 items available for them to choose from.
[00:18:00] Diego: So you have 15 to 20 items available to choose from each week. How many total crops does that mean you're growing in a given year?
[00:18:09] Jessica: Yeah, on my skews, in my, for my sales, I have over a hundred different skews of product and some of them are, you know, because of packaging. So, I might sell a 10 pound flat of, of tomatoes or a 25 pound box of tomatoes.
[00:18:25] And then I'll have cherry tomatoes or heirloom heirloom tomatoes or Roma tomatoes. And then I, we also grow red slicer tomatoes. So, you know, right there, there's, a few different skews and then. When it comes to, salad mixes, we, we sell those in a few different quantities as well. And it's always like a little different of how we're selling everything.
[00:18:50] So it ends up being quite a lot of different, different products. There are some things that we will not grow.
[00:18:56] Diego: So you even have 50 unique crops in there when you factor in all the different quantities and in bundles, how many of those are. Loss leaders they're in there for the variety, because one thing you stressed in, in the email that you sent me was, you know, it's important to develop and make sure you have an enterprise labor budget for every crop that you're growing.
[00:19:22] If you have 50 crops inherently, they are all not 90% profit margin. You're going to rank them. There's going to be some sort of bell curve. And there's going to be some that are just on the low end of the bell curve. What thought process is going ahead in your, go through your guys' heads there when you're planning, what crops you're
[00:19:40] Jessica: going to grow.
[00:19:42] Yeah, so we do have like our top five and then, those, those carry the farm. It's probably 90% of the farm. Profit or, you know, just any it's the top of what we're growing. And then we'll have about 10% of random crops that we just want to kind of grow for fun and also see, get feedback on them to see if they could be a winner.
[00:20:07] And also we will, you know, it does add that weekly variety, you know, we'll grow some artichokes. One year we grew like two acres of artichokes, which was. Completely ridiculous. We had so many and people got, I don't know. I think we lost customers for that one. So we still will grow some things that are a little unique, a little different, but we just won't go.
[00:20:32]we won't focus on them as we're very focused on our lettuce and our tomatoes and cucumbers because people just want those every single week, as well as like carrots, you know? There are some things that I think need to be there every week, like beets, but not everybody loves beets. It's definitely a 50 50 give and take.
[00:20:54] So I will kind of back off on some of that. And then as well, there's also with kale, kale, people get mad when you don't have it. But then when you have it, they don't want it. And so it's kind of a tricky crop there too. Like you want to have it every week because when you don't people, everyone asks, but then as soon as you have it, like, people are upset that they they're like getting tails.
[00:21:20] So you just have to know that you're never going to make everybody happy, but you just kind of have to have it there.
[00:21:27] Diego: I mean, from afar, I kind of see it like this. Our main crops, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, they carry the farm. They pay for the farm. Then we're going to grow other crops to keep things exciting for us to keep things exciting for customers.
[00:21:43] They just can't kill the farm mentally, physically ecologically in terms of space and how much they're taking up. And really financially, like if they're not stellar, That's okay, because we're paying for it on every, you know, the main four or five and the others just more or less needed to pull their weight.
[00:22:04] And we can't hate them. And customers can't hate them. Is that, is that kind of it in a nutshell?
[00:22:09] Jessica: Yeah. It's when you go to the grocery store and you're shopping on the shelf, you want to see everything there. And I feel the same way with our program. We. People might not want it every single week, but we still want it there in case they do want it.
[00:22:24] And that's why we've allowed so much customizing. And we're very, very flexible with what people want every week. And if, if they don't want. Beets, you know, we will give an extra bunch of carrots or an extra cucumber, and we do grow a lot of fruit. And so there's always extra fruit that we can definitely make people happy with.
[00:22:43] Like if they are feeling a little overwhelmed with greens or vegetables, it's like, Oh, well here's a extra little, here's an extra bag of peaches this week. And, that usually tends to make up for any dislikes.
[00:22:57] Diego: When you look at budgeting and planning for a crop that you grow. What's your thought process behind you all determining, you know, is this crop a go or is it not?
[00:23:09] How do you think about the financial side of things of one individual crop?
[00:23:13] Jessica: Plan it out on paper. I'm a big pen to the paper type of person and really think about how long is this going to be in the ground? How early do I need to get it started? And. How is it going to be picking it? And how many people am I going to need help from and how, which maintenance does it need?
[00:23:37] How much fertility does it need? And I just, I write everything down and I figure out exactly how much it's going to cost me to grow that crop. And if I, if I come out and I say, Oh, wow, like one artichoke plant could give me three artichokes and I can sell each artichoke for $5. You know, that's a $15 plant and then I can also get a cut flower production out of it for, you know, some bouquets at the farmer's market.
[00:24:05] Maybe this isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, or with cherry tomatoes, same thing, you know? Okay. I'm going to plant an idea or of cherry tomatoes and I'll, I'll just completely when we are harvesting them. And when you get your real numbers is, is when you're growing it. And you get to the crop.
[00:24:26] You're standing in front of it and you start picking, you have to time yourself and see how long it takes you to pick a 10 pound box. And then you can say, okay, I'm going to charge $6 a pound for this. So this is a $60 box and it took me 20 minutes. Wow. Maybe this is a much better crop than I thought it was going to be.
[00:24:46] And so once you start getting your numbers like that, and it takes a few years, it doesn't happen overnight and you can do only do so much internet research before you're actually taking that crop. And if you have a good harvest, then you can really see what your numbers could be. And the potential that that crop might have.
[00:25:05] And so it's really hard to just go in on your first or second year and say, Oh, I'm going to make this much money, you know, until you're actually doing it. That's when your numbers start to really show. So there's definitely a huge risk in figuring it out. But I think that the reward is also really wonderful when you're sharing beautiful food with your, with people around you.
[00:25:32] Diego: What advice would you have to a brand new farmer, like never farmed before on their own, on their own farm. And they want to start a CSA program. Do you do what you guys did? The kale and radish CSA, and you start their small, knowing that everybody's not going to love it. You might not sell a hundred shares of it, but at least you can manage it and deliver on it.
[00:25:54] Jessica: From when we started, you know, salad, Nova lettuce was even available. you too, we didn't have smartphones, you know, so, so much has happened in technology as well as like crops have gotten a lot more advanced too, for them, the fresh market grower. So. I really love seeing the salad CSA shares that a lot of farms are doing.
[00:26:16] I think that makes a lot of sense within your first two years, because you can grow some really beautiful lettuces that, I mean, Lettuce is amazing. It's it has, it's so complex, so many different kinds. They're beautiful. They look like flowers. they're really fun to grow. They're rewarding because they're fast.
[00:26:35] And so you can quickly, plant something behind it if you, you want to. But I think just starting now. That would probably be the route I would take right now and yeah. Grow, really learn how to grow radish really well, you know, and really learn how to grow kale, like really, really well. So you have that in your pocket because it's all about that toolbox, you know, and you want to be able to reach into that toolbox and pull out whatever you want whenever you need it.
[00:27:08] And you don't really want to, to not focus on those things just because maybe you don't like it. Other people really do.
[00:27:17] Diego: Huh? How do you guys approach crop planning? Now there's obviously like a textbook way that you do at, Hey, we're going to have this and then you just backtrack in a spreadsheet and you lay everything out.
[00:27:29] But you know, weather changes. Life changes, crops, fail. What advice would you have around starting crop planning? When things get really complex, when you start having this many crops,
[00:27:43] Jessica: I like to break it up into seasons. And so we have like our spring, summer and fall, and then we have, we do winter also. And I think that's the best way is just to break it up into four month blocks.
[00:27:56] And. No, your balance of your, of your CSA shares that you want to, provide. And so, you know, there's only so many things you can grow in the winter. There's only so many things you can grow in the spring, summer and fall. You can really expand on that and have a lot more offering. And then knowing that probably the end of the season, or, you know, you're mid planting.
[00:28:25] Yeah. When you're going into your fall, into your winter, you really want to prepare for, if you want any storage crops or not. And so just breaking it up into, into seasons and writing out each week. If I was a C and put yourself in your member's shoes, if I was a CSA member, what would I want every week?
[00:28:47] And really think about what do I like to eat, you know, and listen to your body too, because there are cravings that are in our DNA. And right now I think a lot of people, a lot of our customers, because it's April are craving lettuce and, and greens, and they're wanting to cleanse from the winter. And then I think that listening to your body and allowing what the, what the.
[00:29:15] Seasons can provide for us in our natural climates, because if you're just starting out, you probably don't have greenhouses. and you, you might not have row covers. And so maybe you're just going to focus on summer for your first year and just keep your options open to what people like to eat during summer.
[00:29:41] Diego: How do you compete against other CSA is how would you go about
[00:29:45] Jessica: that? It is it, there are not very many people who are really interested in the CSA model. And so the demograph, you know, it's in my community. And I think even in the United States, it's about 1%. So, you know, there's, let's say a hundred thousand people here.
[00:30:03] The 1% of that is like a thousand people. So there's only a thousand CSA members. In my community. And if you know, there's four or five CSA farms, we're all going to have to, it'll all divide up on its own. And so I think farm size will dictate how many members like a farm could take. And then, yeah, there's just kind of also we're certified organic.
[00:30:29] And so a lot of people really like that we're certified organic and. You know, it might not seem important, but a lot of people really do, like knowing that we are just certified organic and it's that simple, you know, there's no, Oh, well we grow organic, but blah, blah. Blood is, it's just, Nope. We're we are certified.
[00:30:51] And that is that, you know, we see, we get audited every single year and then there's other people who are hydroponic or aquaponic or, different growing styles. And so, you know, the consumer will kind of go around that, those options and they'll just come to you. And so you can't really force yours over another person's and I think timeliness is also important.
[00:31:21] Like if you are first to market on tomatoes, or if you are a first to market with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, you will probably. When the marketplace. And so then there's, then maybe there's two of you or, or three of you that are all kind of competing because maybe you all have greenhouses and you're able to sorta, gain those customers a little bit quicker, but yeah, it's not easy.
[00:31:49] It's definitely not easy. And it is very competitive. And so you have to have a competitive nature. And like I said, just really get yourself out there and talk to people
[00:32:03] Diego: with a large push of farms, moving to go online, both with CSS and selling all a cart. Have you guys thought about just doing a LA carte sales to the community outside of a CSA, like literally straight up online store for your farm?
[00:32:19] Jessica: Yeah, and we probably will. just because we don't know for, we're probably we're really on the fence for attending any farmers markets this year. And so we always attended farmer's markets for our customers that don't want a full CSA share. And we have a lot of retirees in our community. I live alone and are widowed.
[00:32:39] And so, you know, they don't really want much, but they do want to eat good food. And so we always did the farmer's markets. And, people would make a huge effort to come down to our booth and visit with us and see what we had to offer each week. Hmm. This year we're really on the fence of if we want to even do them at all.
[00:33:02] One reason being that we've, we don't know if we feel comfortable asking our customers to come out in public to see us. And so, and to buy produce, we feel it's a little bit insensitive and we. Do have an on farm farm Stan. And so we probably will direct more people to order online and pick up at the farm or do Depot drops around, our small city of grand junction and people will be able to pick up whatever they ordered online at those pickup sites.
[00:33:34] So I I'm sure, you know, we will offer some kind of online ordering and then we will also have our on farm. Farmstand and other places for people to come. And so we've always kind of done that anyway, and it's not like we're adding too much on to our workload. It's just changing.
[00:33:58] Diego: What are potential concerns you'd have about selling online?
[00:34:02] Jessica: Then I mess up the order. it's hard to do all the management. It's just a lot of time spent on the computer. You know, last night I was up til eight, o'clock making sure I was getting all of our orders in and organizing everything to make sure that we were going to harvest enough produce today to fill our orders.
[00:34:24] And so as the season progresses, and if we get up to the 200 to 220 potential customers weekly ordering online, that, that I know we could serve. It's just a lot of computer time and also the, then executing that to our staff and making sure that they're not working more working harder than what they also need to be working because I'm the type of grower where I will only harvest exactly what we need.
[00:34:56] And I don't really like having a lot of extra stuff sitting around because it usually can live on the plant a little bit longer. Then if we harvest it and it's sitting in the cooler and then it goes bad, you know, that's just kind of a lot of wasted time, energy effort. And so I really try to make sure that we have all our numbers every week when we're harvesting and then we do sell to some grocery stores.
[00:35:23] And so I also factor them into our weekly harvest and. And that's our other option is, is to tell people they can shop at the grocery store. But then once again, I, I feel it's a little insensitive to tell people to go out in public to buy our produce. So we're very torn of exactly how to sell our produce this year.
[00:35:47]because we do so much direct channeling and direct sales, and we really do talk to our customers of where to find our product every week. And. This year. a lot of people want to come to the farm and pick up, but then again, I'm feeling as though I might have too many people around me
[00:36:08] Diego: about the logistics and of getting the orders fill.
[00:36:11] Then it just becomes smooth. You solve the computer time issue. Maybe somebody else does that. Maybe the time is split the social distancing things. Eventually this is going to relax and this goes away. So the. Close proximity. Isn't a concern. I see. A lot of this is a new wave in small scale farming of this online ordering of local produce with there's obviously work involved.
[00:36:39] Believe me, I get it is a shipping business. I totally get all the work that goes into it, but I see the potential to open up. A larger market in a local community for farms that were otherwise, it's just selling as a straight up CSA or just as a farmer's market by going online.
[00:36:57] Jessica: Yeah. And I completely agree with you because we have been wanting more online for years and we have been trying to get people to order online for a week.
[00:37:07] Since we've had a website, we've had a web store and I started. Putting things on putting our products on and trying to sell our little salsa boxes or peach, but peach cases, cases of peaches and apples. And I would put them online, even with restaurants. You know, I tried to do shopping cards with them and, get them ordering online and nobody wanted to do it.
[00:37:31] They all, you know, texts, Steen and, email. You know, that was even a stretch sometimes. So hopefully, because this is really can streamline your production and you can delegate this to somebody else. Like I, I already have, I'm a CSA coordinator who helps me every week to make sure that I'm not missing anything.
[00:37:57] And she is a volunteer, who's a CSA member who wants to help and she can do this from home. And so we can just talk on the phone and, and I can say, Hey, did I miss something and blah, blah, blah. And, you know, it's, it's awesome. You know, that she can work out her CSA share by helping me do all my Excel sheets.
[00:38:16] That I am not very good at it because I'm a good farmer. I'm not a really good computer. you know, I'm not really great with computers. So that's, you know, I need to put my efforts where I'm good and. She is, she majored in statistics in college. And so she is like so good at numbers that she can learn the numbers and look at them once.
[00:38:39] And then come back to me and tell me if I miss something, you know, within minutes. So definitely this is exciting. I am super pumped that. We are going to see this shift. And this is, I have been wanting this to happen. And for a lot of years, it's really too bad that a pandemic is making this. Happen, because, like I said, we also do live in a retirement community and it's really hard to get some of the older community to go online and to shop online.
[00:39:13] They're very nervous. they're very nervous to put their credit card information, you know, through the internet. And I don't blame them. You know, I think when computers first came out, there was a lot of theft, a lot of problems. And I think that they got very scared to use, online form of payment. So hopefully this, this can help people feel more comfortable with shopping online.
[00:39:39] And also like Ray Tyler was saying he was looking for people to who is buying organic produce. And, he found them online and I think. Us leading into this. We were starting our home delivery and doing more online. And we were finding new people that were interested in organic, who are online shoppers as well.
[00:40:01] So, you know, it, it is really exciting that now it's not just like these, this certain group of people it's everyone.
[00:40:10] Diego: Would this be in one of the potential changes coming out of the pandemic? Is there anything else that you've already either changed with how your farm operates or, or you all have realized you do need to change because of what's happened over the past few weeks in months, knowing that maybe not this exact situation could present itself again, but something could happen again and you felt a little exposed or not set up exactly how you wanted
[00:40:42] Jessica: to be.
[00:40:43] We there, there are some, things on the farm that we'd like to change. We have upgraded all of our tables, like in, and mostly they were, but everything now is stainless steel. And then there are a few other things that we're changing. We're putting our farm stand, we're moving it to the very front of our farm, where it used to kind of be off to the side and people had to walk in.
[00:41:07] And so now we're going to make it so people just. Don't really come, come in to the farm, which I think will be nice for a lot of people. and then the really big thing for us is just that this has helped us kind of slow down a little bit and really enjoy our farm and sitting and harvesting and taking and our time and not feeling rushed to get something in, you know, To market or, Oh, we, I want to be that farm.
[00:41:42] I want this, I want this out before them, you know, I don't care about any of that anymore. I just want to grow good food for the people that are around me. And I want to take care of them the way that they take care of me. And, and so we are able to continue operating. And I just think this, this has been really great lesson in that.
[00:42:07] Life is short and where you put your efforts, it's really important. And to just enjoy it and enjoy like enjoying working with my husband and more enjoying, I mean, having my son with me to collect eggs from the chickens every single day, we go out and do it together and it just feels really nice. It just feels really, really nice to be together.
[00:42:33] Diego: That's great to hear. And, you know, I followed you guys a long time on Instagram. You have a great farm set where you're at for people that. Want to see how you're running your CSA, how your farm evolves throughout the seasons as you adapt your crops, where's the best place to go
[00:42:51] Jessica: Instagram? it's just field to fork farm.
[00:42:53] We also, have Facebook. I'm not as active on Facebook, but we do different. We kind of have two different, social media pages that work, and then also our website dot com. You can find us there as well.
[00:43:12] Diego: There you have it. Jessica wish quack of field to fork farm from Colorado. If you want to follow along with everything that they're doing, be sure to follow them on Instagram.
[00:43:21] I've linked to that below. And if you enjoyed this episode, please let me know what you thought. Hit me up on Instagram at Diego footer. I'll always love hearing from listeners and what they enjoyed, or maybe didn't enjoy about any given episode. So hit me up there on IgG. Thanks for listening until next time.
[00:43:42] Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.
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