Farmer Donna Weighs in on CSA Box Value

 I received a note from a subscriber today cancelling her subscription, and because she brought up a point that my own brother gleefully pointed out to me, a man with no farming experience who spends his days in an air conditioned office…yet every year beats me to the table with with tomatoes and squash,  I thought I’d share my thoughts. Her point, (and my brother’s is)  paraphrased here:

Thank you. I was very pleased with the quality of the product. It was always excellent. My complaint is with the variety ….when most backyard gardeners in north county have tomatoes, squash, beans, apricots, and other fruits and vegetables, we did not get them in our boxes. 
Here’s my response……
Dear …..

Thanks for your feedback. Not to be argumentative, but I do want to point out we do grow squash, beans and tomatoes. We put two of those items in our boxes from end of June through half the winter.  And tomatoes are on their way! Attached is this week’s harvest ticket.
What is also true is our CSA box is an outstanding organic value, but isn’t for everyone. With 20 acres, we can’t grow everything under the sun. Most backyard growers aren’t growing macadamias, Purslane, beets, avocados, onions, mint, Asian pears, spinach, kales, braising mix,  spring mix….I can go on and on. Forty four bucks a week can’t feed a family, nor can it include every wonderful thing available that any farmer anywhere grows in the summer months, but it goes a long way towards providing lots of local, organic produce that many subscribers choose to augment with things we don’t grow, or don’t grow every month.
Ok, I wince when my suburb living family members joyfully…gleefully… point out their bountiful May/ early June crops that I, the commercial farmer in the family… am weeks away from producing. Backyard growers like my brother, can buzz over to home depot and pick up a few dozen conventionally produced “starts” and have produce by May. Or they can start a few starts in a window sill in January, with the same results. That’s not a commercial, certified organic paradigm.  We have limited green house space, so much of our summer crops don’t arrive until mid-summer. Even our tomatoes that we started in February won’t be in production for weeks. So we may shift forward in the arrival of our summer produce, but it does arrive.
Particularly with the skyrocketing cost of American produce, our CSA box is an outstanding value. As the economy continues to shift downward, (despite the falsified media reports to the contrary) more and more, “organic” production will be coming from third world nations with sketchy pollution and hygiene industry practices. Certified organic, but grown in conditions that no first world farmer would have anything to do with. The reason is it’s cheaper. It’s always cheaper to source produce from the third world. First world, certified organic, micro farmed and local will be more expensive because it costs more to produce; but the value is there. Sheesh, California Certified Organic Farmers, (CCOF) puts their California label on produce they certify out of Mexico. How confusing is that? It comes up here at right around half the California wholesale price, and impacts growers here. Grocery store buyers are hard pressed  NOT to purchase the third world produce, because they can make more profit, and sell the stuff cheaper besides, keeping everyone happy; as long as the consumer doesn’t ask too many questions and become overly informed.
I do very much appreciate your business, which is why I’ve taken the time to thoughtfully respond to your email; and hope as the months go by you will keep an eye on the actual costs of replacing your CSA box contents with domestically produced organic produce  and consider rejoining us.
Farmer Donna

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