We're right in the middle of fall with the trees in full color. The seriously cold weather is staying away for now, so we'll get another week or two of crops from the field before we need to focus on hoop house and storage crops. Another wave of broccoli is just about ready, and all this nice moderate weather is doing wonders to size up our fall root crops. Carrots are looking great and piling up for the rest of fall and for the winter share. The same is true for turnips and radishes. Even the rutabaga is looking good. Only our beets are challenged for size, but this week they're predicting a little warmer weather, so there's hope there too.
This week's box has our only potatoes of the year, and in small quantities. Those of you who have followed my weekly newsletters know that potatoes have been our most significant crop failure this season. We'll take what we've learned from that into next year, with every intention of having potatoes earlier, more often, and with enough in storage to include them in the following season's winter share. If you're new to watermelon radishes, don't judge this book by its cover! This ugly duckling packs a fun surprise inside. Just cut it open and have fun with its bright pink interior. Refer back to this week's sneak peek for some recipes and ideas.
Our main focus lately at the farm has been figuring out how to structure our new Winter share, which will run from mid-January through the end of March. Now that we've got a winter share, we've got a year round CSA, and that feels pretty different. This had led us to evaluate everything we're doing--and why--as we figure out how to structure things going forward.
Watch your email this week for signup information about 2013. We'll have a 4 season CSA, with Spring, Summer, and Fall being 12 weeks each, delivered every week, and a 6 week Winter share delivered every other week. We'll offer our current 4 sizes in Spring, Summer, and Fall, but will omit the solo share in Winter as the box is delivered only once every 2 weeks and that would be too much messing around for too little food.
Each season is a little different. Spring is heavy on greens and roots. Summer gives way to tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and the warm loving crops. Fall gets back to greens, lots of broccoli/cabbage family and root crops, and eventually to our cold weather spinach, arguably our best crop on the farm. The Winter share will feature stored root crops, our jarred whole roasted tomatoes, and the sweetest spinach of the year. As you might guess, there will be a little more variety in the Summer and early Fall when crops are most plentiful, and a little less in the Winter and early Spring when it's cold and we've run out of storage/root crops. We'll embellish the Winter box with winter squash that we roasted and froze in quart bags, and even some frozen raspberries. We didn't have a chance to do as much of that sort of 'putting up' as we wanted this year, but we did manage to make 4 pallets worth of our whole roasted tomatoes which we plan to put in to box most weeks in winter. When we're challenged from time to time for fresh produce in the off season, we'll fall back on these beautiful jarred tomatoes. Ironically, our Winter box, with carrots, turnips, jarred tomatoes, and extra sweet spinach will be our sweetest boxes of the year. Even the watermelon radishes we'll have are sweet and spicy.
The other big area of consideration for us is how to structure payments, installments, winter delivery, and discounts. Our prices are all staying the same for produce and delivery. We are offering discounts for people signing up for at least two seasons and paying in full up front. The discounts will be 4% for 2 seasons, 6% for 3 seasons, and 10% for a full year. The idea here goes back to the original idea of a CSA, shares, and investing in something. We want to give people about the same return they'd get investing in the stock market, and 10% is a darn good average return there. Our discounts equate to a rate of return just under 10% for people signing up for 2-3 seasons, and just over 10% for those investing in a full year. We're borrowing money we need from you and you should be compensated. You get a solid return on your money, great local food and ideas to use it, great customer service, and the satisfaction that you're supporting your local economy. If you're not in a position to invest in that way, we'll still allow for installment payments and signing up a season at a time to help you manage and budget your money as needed. The discounts won't apply, but you'll have the use of your money longer.
Now that we've got a Winter share, we're signing up people for next year a little earlier than usual and offering an additional discount for those signing up by November 15. We typically do most of our planning and spending around year's end, around the holidays, when things are slowest at the farm and we're not delivering anything, and so we're getting our finances and priorities straight and in order. So, anyone signing up for a full year (4 seasons) and paying in full by November 15 will receive a 12% discount.
It's exciting for us to be able to spread our efforts and deliveries over a full season. It keeps our cash flow going, keeps key employees busy and not looking for another job, and works toward filling in more of the cracks in local food production and supply. Increasing local food production to 10% of food consumption represents billions of dollars of in Chicago alone. We're doing all we can to increase the supply of high quality food, and with some of the best customer service around.