It's February, and even though it's raining outside, snowing occasionally, and cold generally, the wheels are already turning to put another season of farming into action. Sunday, Chris and I sat down with our seed catalogues, giant wall calendar, and crop planning spreadsheet and proceeded to plan for the next 8-12 hours what our season is going to be like. Earlier radishes and lettuces and kale, new varieties of things like corn, melons, and peppers, less eggplant. From arugula to zinnias, alphabetically, we filled in our information, block by block. Rainbow Lacinato kale, Carolina Wonder peppers, Sunny Goliath tomatoes, Sorbet Swirl watermelons . . . we were elbow deep in what one of my friends likes to call "veggie porn" with all the glossy photos and fancy names, luring us in, sweet talking us into thinking, yeah, we can grow that. With our old favorites and these new additions, all in all, I think it's going to be a beautiful, delicious season.
New varieties of veggies to grow aren't the only new things going on this year. Also new: we're starting our season 2 weeks earlier than ever before. We're going to begin April 12th and run a short, 3-week April CSA with a limited number of folks. Last year, we stretched our season later into the fall, this year, we're stretching it earlier into the spring--it just gets longer and longer. April is strawberry season. We should just call it the strawberry CSA. See that photo up there? That's an April basket from last year--yum! Nitty gritty details: $62 for 3 weeks, pickups on-farm here at Roots on Tuesdays from 4-7 pm. Looking for around 25 members, and we've got about 10 as of today.
Also new: we're taking payments online this year. Whoa! Yep, we've finally branched out into the realm of internet shopping to make our CSA memberships available online. There's a service called "Member Assembler" through a business called Small Farm Central that is designed specifically to help farmers get their CSA memberships together. Pretty cool. I've been hesitant to put it to use since I already had a system that worked, but Chris persuaded me to give this system a try, and so far, I have to say that I'm impressed. We can take payments online, it records lots of info for me--really it's automated my work in processing our memberships quite nicely. I hope I continue to be satisfied with it. In the meantime, payments roll in via PayPal, and the checks begin to appear. What details have I overlooked that are going to bite me in the booty later? I don't know yet, but hopefully it won't hurt much.
Also new, we're offering an in-town pickup this season for our Summer CSA members. We got a lot of feedback last year that driving all the way out to the farm was challenging for folks at the end of a workday, so we're seeing what we can do about that. We're still in the process of figuring out exactly where that drop off will be, but the aim is somewhere near downtown Athens. What's making it possible is that we're building a walk-in cooler. Up until now, we haven't had the cold space to pack boxes in advance and then deliver them to a drop-off. But with a walk-in, we can do that. It's a used one that we bought off of another farmer in town and it's currently sitting in a pile of pieces in the driveway. We spent most of Tuesday fetching it and piecing it together to get an idea of its exact dimensions. Now we have to excavate some space for it, pour a concrete slab, cut some custom panels, install it, wire it, and keep our fingers crossed that it works. Not a cheap investment, but needed. We had 5 refrigerators maxed out and were still shuffling veggies in coolers. No more! Giant cold space, here we come! Maybe our next investment should be a delivery van . . . until then, I've got a good friend who may do some food-trade with us in exchange for the use of his. In-town Roots veggies--yay!
So yeah--our main season is going to be 18 weeks, $315 for a Half Share, $575 for Full Shares. All the details are laid out on our website. We're looking for around 60 members, and we've got about 15 so far. We're also on the lookout for working members--folks who want to do work-trade for a CSA share. Those details are available on the website as well. I've already got a few lined up who worked with me last year, which is AWESOME. And I've had lots of interest already this season from new folks who want to begin coming out now, which is also AWESOME. And, I think we're getting one of our old farmers returning as a working member this season, which totally kicks ass. In conclusion, AWESOME. Makes me think this year is gonna be all right.