September 10, 2012

FARMS EVERYWHERE

Share:

Can CSAs be mainstream?

CSA (community supported agriculture) developed in Massachusetts in the 1980s, probably by some hippies. Since then they’ve become one of the major economic forces supporting small-scale farmers and local food systems. If there are some economics students out there this would make a fascinating paper.

The idea is that you give a farmer money when they need it, in the winter. And then they share the bounty of their harvest with you. You end up getting something like $70 in organic produce each week for an up front investment of something like $20. And you learn a ton and support your local farmer.

But there are some qualities of CSAs that may keep the number of participants limited:

  • Pick-ups are typically at the farm, this rules out most of the population.
  • Pick-ups, farm or otherwise (pictured above is a pick-up in the back parking lot of the Harvest Co-op) don’t exactly feel “professional,” sometimes they’re a hassle and inconvenient
  • The sign-up for a CSA share has a definite 1960s feel. Paper, checks, stuff like that. It’s nothing like a retail experience, and generally not electronic at all.
  • The money has to come up front. That can be tough.
  • A CSA pick-up is nothing like going to the grocery store. You get what they are harvesting. That means some stuff you don’t recognize, some stuff you can’t pronounce. And plenty of produce you don’t have any idea how to cook (I’m struggling with Eggplant this season)

When we launched our CSA experimental program we were wondering whether we could address some of the challenges of CSAs to make them more mainstream. “What if it was more like a retail experience? What if you could pick up on a day that fit your schedule, any day of the week? What if we find clever ways to make the financing less up-front?”

But I think I underestimated how much of a challenge the last one is. As one of my friends put it: “Yeah, it may be a lot of vegetables, but they’re not what I would be buying.” So is there a solution for that?

We’re gearing up for season 2 of the CSA. I think in total we brought something like $90,000 to CSAs in 2012 due to our program. I’m hoping to triple that number for 2013. But the real win is going to be getting to the point where 20%+ of the population uses CSAs. We’d all be saving money, cooking better food, and there would be FARMS EVERYWHERE!

Recent Posts

January 26, 2023
The Pizza Friday Box gave us an idea: calzones! Ayr has been making these at his house and texting us photos. They’re big and saucy and so good. Basically a stuffed pizza/turnover situation with origins in 17th century Naples.
January 18, 2023
As you might know, we love feedback. Survey Day is a tradition that harkens back to the first days of the food truck, over 10 years ago. If you got a card in line today at Clover, or if you ordered on the app today, click here to take the survey. Huge thanks for helping us improve.
January 13, 2023
Thanks all who joined for the first public food dev meeting after Covid. Phil did a great job pulling it all together. If you’re a customer, farmer, vendor (or Clover staff member) reading this, you are invited to Food Dev! These happen Thursday afternoons at the HUB and they’re where all new food ideas are born. Just make sure to sign up – spots are limited.
January 5, 2023
House-made carrot lox, hearty vegetable stews with bread and pickles, Tunisian breakfast bowls, a pizza party kit, and a dream of snow, all in one box. Our Snowed In Box is back. This was Greg’s idea back in 2020. He thought it would be cool to make a box that was equally whether eaten after snowboarding or cozied up on the couch watching a movie.
December 21, 2022
We’ve been getting a lot of requests for the ability to gift a friend Clover Meal Boxes. After a lot of late night tech sessions, we have a way to do this! Yay! I’ve been looking and seeing a few of you have started to discover this feature and are starting to gift away. So cool to see.
December 16, 2022
If you’re a weekly meal box subscriber, you may have noticed way fewer plastic containers in your deliveries recently.When we started the program, we were in the pandemic, new to this whole home delivery thing, and a big concern was making sure that nothing spilled inside the boxes. So we relied on post-consumer recycled containers (aka plastic deli containers) for a lot of the items.
December 13, 2022
We’ve been getting back into the merch game. First up: squash shirts. I thought it would be fun to celebrate the diversity of the squash world. Although butternut is probably the squash you see most in the grocery store, there are actually over 100 types of squash, all with their own patterns, colors, and textures.
December 6, 2022
The Bridgewater is back!! This is probably the most requested sandwich on our menu. Michelle who runs our social media says she reliably gets one message per week asking when it will return. In 2015, Paul and Bryan came up with this sandwich as an homage to the jalapeño poppers at The Charlie Horse, a now-closed tavern in their hometown of Bridgewater, MA.
December 6, 2022
I love the holidays. I love the lights, I love the traditions, I love ornaments and pine needles all over the floor.  I love the movies (“Muppet Christmas Carol”) and the books (“A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”) I love the good songs, I love the schlocky songs (if you’ve never heard “Suzy Snowflake” or “Dominic the Donkey”, stop reading right now and click through.)
December 1, 2022
It was inevitable. Our meal box program had to find its way into restaurants at some point. A bunch of you have been asking if we can sell “on demand” meal boxes in our restaurants – for those times when you have last-minute dinner guests or forgot to subscribe by the deadline. So we’ve been easing into the process of combining one part of Clover with another.
November 28, 2022
Brussels Sprouts are extra sweet this time of year, and King Brussels, in his infinite wisdom, has cooked up a Brussels Week in our meal boxes. Every single subscription box will contain a recipe inspired by brussels! This is the first time we’ve explored a seasonal theme across our entire lineup and we’re excited to dive in.
November 19, 2022
This was Jane’s last week at Clover. We’re wishing her the best in her next steps (but also not so secretly hoping she comes back!)