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Covid-19 Farm Market Updates

It’s Easter Sunday and today Eris & I decided to visit the local farmers’ market to check on how they are dealing with the changing landscape of operating under Covid-19. Local businesses are having to reinvent themselves this year in the interest of everyone’s safety and it is a challenge to say the least. Small, family-owned essential businesses are having to figure out some sort of pre-order with curbside pickup. If they have the resources then delivery is ideal. Farmers are packing pre-orders on the farm to minimize risks and help shoppers move through the market at a quicker pace. Outside of the farmers’ markets, larger businesses that typically wholesale to restaurants are modifying as well and selling directly to consumers. Home delivery for groceries has exploded and overwhelmed those which provide it. Even Amazon is not taking new customers. Food shopping at supermarkets has taken on an air of uncertainty with bare shelves and looks of nervousness from behind masks and social distancing.

For the first time Norman’s has had to start a CSA waitlist so we can implement our own modifications, observe new safety regulations, and fulfill commitments to our standing members. So if you had intended to join this season but currently on the waitlist, don’t worry, this is not a no, it’s a not yet.  We wanted to keep everyone informed on how Covid-19 will impact there CSA experience this year. I want to assure everyone that we are taking all the recommended and required measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 very seriously. We are also taking our commitment to CSA members just as seriously. In order to achieve both of these objectives we are having to modify our policies. Nothing is written in stone and I foresee each week we may have to keep changing or fine tuning. Here I will outline our current plan and how this will affect our CSA Policies.

Pre-Packing Shares at the Farm. Packing everyone’s share in the safety of the farm with our tight knit, efficient crew seems like the safest way to proceed this season although the logistics and labor required make it feel like it will be a herculean task. We realize one of the most appealing attributes of our CSA Program is our members ability to customize their shares each week. We intend to maintain that custom. We will send out the choices 3 days before pickup to give members the opportunity to select their recommendations via Google Forms. We will need all responses at least 24 hours in advance preferably sooner. There will also be the option to select “Farmer’s Choice”. Anyone who doesn’t respond to the form will receive the “Farmer’s Choice” Pack and won’t have the ability to customize at pickup. It will be a huge challenge to guaranty that everyone will get exactly what they picked because farming is not an exact science and various factors are constantly impacting our supply and availability. But we will certainly do our best. We are counting on the responsiveness of our members to complete their form. We will be launching a couple “test runs” a week or two before pick ups and appreciate everyone’s participation.

Covid-19 Surcharge of $3/Week. Because we will have to pre-pack all shares at the farm in advance we are asking our members to help us absorb the additional costs. Whereas typically members would bring their own bags and pack their own shares at pickup, now we are having to purchase boxes, as well as other materials, supplies and equipment and increase our labor. These costs we estimate at about $3000 per week which is not sustainable for our business. In order for us to implement these new safety measures we need your help. We will send everyone an invoice reflecting this surcharge. It is unfortunate and we really don’t like having to do this but I don’t see any other way. We appreciate your understanding. If there is a point this season where it is no longer necessary to pre-pack we will refund the difference.

Scheduling Your Pickup. It is imperative that we limit the number of members picking up their shares to 10 at a time. To keep the pickups flowing and prevent bottlenecking, we are emailing out a Sign-Up Genius each week for members to schedule their block of time. We will pack the truck based upon this schedule. In the past we have allowed members the flexibility to pickup from any location during the week. Because we are custom packing at the farm and the products are perishable we will need to be more strict and insist that everyone picks up from their designated time and place.

Name Displayed on Dashboard. Please Stay in Your Car. Please print your first and last name largely so we can read when you arrive at pickup.  We are encouraging everyone to stay in their cars and to open their trunks. We will bring and load your box for you. It will be very helpful if our “look out” person can identify you and your vehicle quickly and bring your share.  We actually have a lot of members who share a last name, that is why we would like first name as well.

Delivery Program. We will launch a delivery program this season. We will deliver to the front door or front desk, ring the doorbell and go. Initially we will offer delivery to our 28 & 34 Week Members so we can create our routes. Then we hope to offer it to everyone. Currently deliveries will cost $5/week and coincide with your pick-up. Example, if you are a Sunday, NCC person, you will receive your delivery on Sunday. If you are a Tuesday, Ohr Kodesh you will receive delivery on Tuesdays. We will set up the delivery option on our website and contact all CSA members who are interested. We are planning on having the capacity for up to 240 deliveries per week. We need to fill these slots to keep our pickups from being too crowded so if delivery is appealing, please sign up.

Donation of Shares. We will donate all unclaimed shares each week as not to let them go to waste. There will be many families in need this year that will appreciate and be able to use the produce.  You can also let us know in advance if you would like to donate your share.  We partner with Manna and Nourish Now whose mission it is to end hunger through food recovery.

No Make-ups. We will not be able to offer make up shares this season. Currently we don’t have a mechanism in place to offer members to place their shares on hold, so our plan is to pack a box for everyone. The CSA Membership is a subscription program not a guarantee for a certain number of shares. Produce is perishable and when someone doesn’t claim their share it doesn’t keep for them to pick up later. It is up to our members to pick up. When things get back to normal we can offer “make-ups” once again.

Changes to Subscription Freeze. We will be very limited on modifying or updating member’s accounts at least temporarily until we streamline our systems. At this time we are unable to process changes including size of share, location, and add-ons. We have locked in shares as they are so we can shift our focus on finalizing lists, merging data, printing labels, mapping routes and planning systems. Unless it is absolutely imperative that you need to make a change please abstain from further requests so we can focus on the task at hand. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and look forward to nourishing you with the taste of summer beginning in just a couple weeks.

Sincerely yours,

John Norman

 

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