I had a few emails and comments last week about how to best store some of the fresh veggies coming in your shares. A few of you noted that your fresh, crispy bok choy and beet greens wilted almost immediately after being put in the fridge... They'll do that! Your home fridge is designed to keep things relatively dry and cold, meaning that it will zap the life out of any greens not stored in a protective bag, and even wilt veggies like carrots and beets when given the chance!
One way to store greens that arrive loose in your shares is to put them in a plastic bag. I have a few at home and reuse them, or just keep them in the fridge and add veggies as they arrive to my fridge. Those reuseable produce bags would work also, if you have them. It saves us a fair amount of time and cost not having to bag every item in every share, so we appreciate if it can become part of your unpacking process. If you're trying to avoid plastic, Justine suggests dampening a tea towel and wrapping your produce in that.
The asparagus and chives from last week arrived to my house and the ends were immediately trimmed and then I put them in a cup of water in the fridge. I've found this to be the best way to store these sorts of things (leafier herbs like dill and cilantro tend to get slimy this way, and so I still use plastic bags for them).
The tops and roots of many veggies should be separated before storage. Radishes are a good example. Take off the radishes themselves and place in a plastic bag, and then store the tops (for consumption within a day or two) in a separate bag. Hakurei turnips get the same treatment: the turnip greens are delicious, and I often cook them along with sliced turnips also, but they are best stored separately as the roots will last longer than the greens.
Rhubarb will wilt relatively quickly if not stored in a plastic bag. If you are not planning to use your rhubarb within a week , you can wash it, chop it up, and put it in a bag in the freezer, so that you are able to enjoy this tasty spring treat all year long!
By the time you get the root vegetables, like beets, carrots, potatoes, they have been washed, which means that they will be best kept in your fridge. Ideally, if you were planning on storing vegetables in a root cellar or cool basement, they would remain unwashed. On that note, we highly recommend that you wash all of your fresh produce before you use it. Our washing of certain crops is just meant to either cool it (remove the field heat to prolong it's shelf life), or to get off a majority of the dirt, and is not intending to make it so that you can just throw it in the wok. As one member mentioned, there are slugs and other critters in Nova Scotia, and we cannot guarantee that we eliminate all of them in our wash stations, so please rinse your produce carefully at home!
The lettuce mix and asian greens in your shares this week have not been washed. At this time of year when it is still nice and cool in the mornings, dry lettuce will fare better unwashed than if we washed it (this changes later in the year when we need to hydro-cool items like head lettuce). But, we still recommend that you wash it, because the hydro-cooling process is not meant to be a final wash.
Alfalfa sprouts are the only item that you need not wash, because the process that we use is meant to keep that item safe and clean at all times. Pea Shoots, alternately, are grown differently and could use a rinse before consuming.
One final note on your shares: When you get your share home, you can make a strategic plan on how to make the best use of it. I've heard of some CSA members putting lists on the fridge so they know what's in there; you could also arrange items that need to be used first at the front of the fridge, and items that will keep longer at the back. The day you receive your share could be officially be "greens day", where you eat the most perishable of items first. For this week, I would suggest radish tops, turnip greens, and asian greens be at the top of your list. (The day before you receive your share could be "clean out the fridge day", where you eat any of the past week's share that won't keep much longer.).
With the first couple of months gone by in the CSA now, we're a couple of payments in for most of you, and many of you have had some questions about this process. Things have changed a bit this year from other years, in that we have started to use Harvest Hand (the software that runs our website) to keep track of payments. We're doing this so that you will be able to self-serve on a lot of questions, such as how much is owing on your account, and what your monthly payment amount is.
*This will not affect you if you have paid in full, so you can skip it if you are one of those people (thanks!). Otherwise, it's helpful if everyone can read it so we're all on the same page*
In the past we have used only our accounting software (Quickbooks) to keep track of payments. Right now we are doing a blend of both, just to ensure everything is correct for now.
What this means for you as a member:
Being able to log in to your TapRoot account is very important, so that you can check balances and know when payments are due. Your username and password were created when you signed up. Your username is not your email address. If you have forgotten your username, I can retrieve it for you (email@example.com). If you know your username but have forgotten your password, there is a password retrieval function that you can use on the website.
We will NOT be sending you a monthly statement, as this will all be accessible online.
If you have signed up for Monthly or Quarterly online payments, you need to log in to your account when your payment is due and make the payment. We will not send individual reminders about making payments.
Monthly payments are due on the first of every month, from April 1, 2013 - March 1, 2014 (if you signed on mid season your payment schedule will be adjusted).
Quarterly payments are due: March 1, May 1, July 1, and September 1.
The best resource for your payment schedule is the email you received when you signed on, telling you the payment schedule and any amount that was "Due Now". OR, you can check your account each month and it will give you an updated balance.
Post-dated cheques work great for us. How things work here is that Falicia waits until the Friday of the first full week of the month to deposit them. We get charged by the bank to do deposits, which means we try not to do them every time we have a few cheques, but like to wait until after the first week of the month has passed, as some folks do mail cheques each month or give them to the delivery drivers. I can't stress enough how much easier post-dated cheques are for us, so if it's possible for you to send them, that's great.
*Very important: If you have provided us with post dated cheques, when you log in to your account each month you will still see your balance for the month until shortly after the cheque has been deposited. If you are seeing multiple invoices showing as due on your account, do email us and we can sort it out.
If you would like a copy of your statement, or if you have questions about payment, please email Falicia at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will periodically do a check of the system and email folks who have payments outstanding. If you are struggling to keep up with the payment schedule, or need any sort of accommodation, we're happy to help. If something comes up in your life, we can put a hold on depositing your cheque so long as we have AT LEAST 1 week's notice from the date that the cheque is for.
A couple things that have come up over the last week that I wanted to provide some clarification on:
1) Missed Pick-ups
Earlier in the year, we sent out a welcome brochure to the CSA, which stated: "If you miss a pick-up, your share will get donated to the local food bank or a family in need. We'll be there every week with your share and appreciate if you can make it, too!"
Just wanted to remind everyone of this, as there were a high number of missed pick-ups last week. Usually we will do everything that we can to help members out, but please remember that a missed pickup adds work for us, and we have already delivered our part of the bargain (your share) once. Especially in extenuating circumstances (car trouble, bad traffic), we're happy to accommodate, but do know that if you miss, your share goes to a good cause. We donate to the Canning and Kentville food banks, Supportive Housing for Young Mothers (SHYM), and families in need.
(I'm not talking about vacation weeks or pre-arranged weekly location changes, here. Just the times when you forget to pick up and then email after the fact!)
2) Cancelling the CSA
There's been a few people email about cancelling the CSA, and I just want to make clear how this works best from our perspective.
Of course, things happen: people move, finances change, unexpected expenses happen. We understand that not all of you will be able to make the full year-long commitment with us. However, the nature of a CSA is not a subscription service that you can stop and start as you wish. We ask that if something does happen and you are considering cancelling, that you first do us the favour of trying to find a friend, family member, or co-worker to take over your shares.
Even if we have not received all of your payment for the year, one of the benefits of a CSA for the farmers is that we can do some budgeting around the anticipated income that we have coming in, rather than being dependent on the traditional marketplace for all of our income. This is a huge benefit for a farm, the nature of which is to have higher expenses at certain times of year that don't necessarily correspond with the growing season (buying seeds is a big expense in the spring, when there is nothing growing and therefore less income coming in than say, the summer or fall). We are able to anticipate larger purchases and have a cash flow plan to help us make financial decisions.
All of this is centered around the CSA model, which means that your commitment to being a shareholder is very important to us (Thank you!!). So, that means if a bunch of people drop out of the CSA without finding someone to take over their shares, then we come up short of our income expectation for the year. Of course, as we are full, there's the option of adding more shareholders when folks drop out, but that does add unanticipated administration time,(signing up new members, getting them up to speed, and the computer work involved) which is an added cost for the farm.
All of this of course is just to keep you in the loop about how the CSA works in the financial realm. We understand that the CSA may not work for everyone and that some of you may not be able to keep your commitment to the full year. Please do communicate with us about this, and be aware that the best solution for the farm (aside from you staying a member!) is if you are able to find someone to take over your share or even to donate it to a family in need. As a last resort only, we will cancel your share and give you a refund.
Thanks everyone! Email me if you have any questions or comments.
At a lot of our delivery locations, we rely on generous hosts to supply the location where we drop off the boxes, and then we count on members to be able to self-serve to retrieve their boxes. The hosts are just volunteers, so it is important that everyone understand that. They will not be helping you retrieve your shares, nor will they or any of the TapRoot staff know anything about your account (please email Falicia at email@example.com for financial inquiries). Please be friendly and thank our wonderful hosts if you see them!
We try to make things as clear as possible, but I know it can be hard when you're new, so I took a photo of the different shares to help you have an idea of what you're looking for if you're at one of those unmanned locations (examples are Sackville, Bedford, Highland Drive, Windsor, The Loop, Maple Tree Montessori, Noggins)
Here it is:
At the pickup there will be a list. Please cross your name off the list and make sure you collect your shares, as well as any add-ons.
This week has been a particularly hard week. Not only has the rain been a drain on my spirit, but so too has been the feedback from some members. I am so happy to get feedback, good or bad as it helps us to move along, but this week we had a more than usual number of people back out of their CSA. It is so hard for us to make things better when people stop before we have a chance to correct things. Somethings just can’t be fixed by us, but some things can. So here is my latest dilemna. My head has been spinning with it and Josh and I have talked about it. What do you think?
When I list an item on the newsletter – ie. Apples 3 lbs – it is our full intention of providing you with 3lbs. The problem is that unless we weigh each container or bag them and weigh them we are making our best guess at what volume of apples will = 3lbs. What I can see is happening is that some people get a bit more than the 3lbs while others may get a bit less. The other dilemma is the uniformity. We are all use to getting uniform veggies and fruit. But they don’t come uniform, they come in all shapes, sizes, and markings. On the farm we don’t want to waste perfectly good carrots just because they are small. So we include all of the sizes in your boxes, as you well know:)
So what do we do? To weigh out everything will take an investment in scales and in time, as it will take a lot longer to weigh each unit, but then everyone will get the stated amount of product. The same is true for the sorting. To sort for uniformity in size will take extra time and create a great deal of waste. What do you think about this? Would you like to see us invest more time in uniformity and scales??? Please let me know – we are just working through kinks and need to get ideas of ways to move forward.