Dear Norman’s Community,
It’s hard to believe we are nearing the end of our market season. Wow it flew by. This is absolutely one for the books. I have to admit to feeling a huge sigh of relief. Looking back to mid-March when the pandemic was taking hold along with the anxiety and sleepless nights of not knowing how to proceed or even if we would be permitted to. I confess I had no idea how we would pull it off. Everything we did required double the work and three times the thought. We pivoted and plowed ahead. We accepted our role as essential workers, measured safety concerns, sought advice from experts and took our responsibilities to workers and patrons very seriously. We flipped our modus operandi on its head, designing systems to preserve our core principles while figuring out how to socially distance ourselves and keep everyone safe. We transformed our self-serve market style CSA into a pre-order contactless drive thru and found a way to grow for the increased demand. Soon fewer than a handful of us will have packed about 40,000 customized CSA shares this season.
At the stands we made lots of modifications as well. We embraced new technologies to go virtual and offer curbside pickup and delivery. We drastically rearranged floor plans to a one-way flow for customers and separate zones for workers. We pre-portioned everything and favored electronic payment to minimize handling and quicken the pace at checkout. We required masks and 6’ distancing. With the stand’s season drawing to a close, I can now take a deep breath. We did it.
I’d like to especially thank our workers, who rose above and beyond what I thought possible. Whose commitment and willingness to work until the job was done, to forego days off, and constantly find ways to improve operations was a godsend. For many that would have been travelling abroad, or participating in internships or going back to school, working at the stands became your summer vacation. I very much enjoyed the sense of pride I witnessed at the farm, the packing house, the CSA and at the stands every day. From those that helped brainstorm new ways to those that helped execute them and turn my hair-brained ideas into a reality. Thank you.
I would also like to thank our members and patrons for the support. Your appreciation and encouragement gave us purpose and helped keep us going. Your patience and understanding as we tweaked and fine-tuned our systems helped us pivot and move forward during this trying time and was key to our success. Thank you.
For next season we have some exciting new changes as well as some heartfelt farewells to a few longtime team members. In particular, this season is Anne’s swansong. Anne, who has been with us since 2008, establishing stands, painting signs, driving trucks, distributing shares and making us laugh, will be joining her family in Montana to begin a new chapter. We will miss her very much and acknowledge that it’s difficult to imagine Norman’s without her.
Looking ahead to next season, we hope to build upon this year’s innovations of online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery while we may need to simplify other aspects of our CSA Program as we rebuild our team, and shift toward a new membership managing platform. Following are some key changes for 2021:
CSA Farm Share 2021. Whether you are new to Norman’s and now considering the local leap or a returning member, our CSA Program is a great way to insure yourself a bumper crop next harvest, save money and support our farm. For this upcoming season we will be offering a 28 Week Program. Our members will continue to customize shares weekly either in person or virtually. Our schedule will be abbreviated next season to include four weekly pickups rather than the current six. Unfortunately, at this time we do not anticipate being able to accommodate our Wednesday and Friday morning pickups. We hope our Timberlawn and Kol Shalom members will be able to join another location or consider delivery which we plan on continuing next season.
Also our CSA Program will be initially offered to those able to commit to the full 28 week season which runs May through early November. If notified in advance, missing weeks may be exchanged for “market bucks” to be redeemed online or at the stand. At this time we do not yet know if we will be pre-packing shares and distributing by contactless drive-thru or if we will return to our regular program of pack-your-own market style. Realistically I don’t think we will be making a decision until next spring. If this doesn’t affect your decision then we encourage you to sign up early and reap the rewards of bigger discounts. If you are only interested in either contactless or market style then you may wish to wait until we make a final decision. Another option may be to check out our new pilot program, CSA 2.0 Flexible Plan.
CSA 2.0- Flexible Plan (Pilot Program). One thing that worked quite well this season was our online store. At a certain point, rather than encouraging new member sign-ups in our CSA I began recommending the online store. The online store seems to offer an interesting solution for those that want more freedom to select when, what and how much versus the more conventional CSA Model of portioned shares and weekly pickup schedules. It also grants the personal and sensual experience of the market which many missed this season. I started envisioning a new CSA Model, a sort of fusion where the stand meets the CSA. One which provides financial support to the farm during our off season while providing savings and value to our members. The idea is simple, to sell market dollars in advance at a discounted rate which could be redeemed online or in person at the stands. In fact we are currently devising a plan to keep our online store open through the winter so one could start enjoying benefits almost immediately.
Norman’s Gourmet. We anticipate, many of you will be doing a lot of cooking this winter and want to make your home as delicious and nourishing as possible. We are currently exploring new products of exceptional quality which we plan on offering soon. Many of our contacts in the restaurant industry have had to adapt to changing conditions as well. Fortunately, our friend, Frederic Carliez, has teamed up with Norman’s to begin offering the same top quality products and ingredients typically reserved for the area’s finest restaurants. Some of Norman’s customers can already attest to the premium smoky flavor and buttery texture of our smoked salmon. Expect to find a greater selection of products which may include dairy, cheeses, citrus, seafood, meats, baked items and more. In fact, we are about to begin offering an excellent brioche, smoked fish and more, so stay tuned.
Firewood. There is nothing like cozying up to a nice warm crackling fire at home or enjoying the outdoors with neighbors and friends around a patio firepit. We anticipate this being a big season for firewood. My entrepreneurial nephew, Gavin Norman, has taken it upon himself to find the area’s best seasoned hardwood mix. Whether you would like a half or full cord delivered and stacked, or just need a trunk load, we are about to start taking orders.
New Winter Home Delivery Subscription. Jan-April (16 Weeks). Since we are planning on winterizing our barn and offering a new line of products, it seems like the right time to extend Norman’s to a year round business is now. We are currently developing our own winter delivery subscription which will emphasize local produce, dairy and specialty products. In addition, subscription members will be able to shop a la carte items through our online store. We are planning on offering weekly billing so placing memberships on hold or cancelling altogether should be simple enough to alleviate any fear of commitment.
As you can see there are lots of wheels turning and irons in the fire. We are soon to be launching our 2021 Season and would love to invite you to join us for another trip around the sun.