We are hearing from many members with summer travel plans and questions regarding our makeup policy. For our farm the commitment we receive from our members during the winter months is what provides us the resources to cover our startup costs and keep the lights on too. Our CSA revenues level our cash flow and make paying mortgages, salaries, equipment loans and insurance premiums more manageable. We are very appreciative for our members’ support and want to do what we can to make our CSA Program more flexible regardless its fixed schedule and seasonal nature.
From a logistical standpoint, knowing how many members and shares to distribute each week allows us to plan our crop schedules accordingly. It helps us figure out not just how much to harvest but how many seeds to purchase, plant and how frequently to sow them. It informs us how to staff and schedule tasks such as planting, staking and harvesting. Fresh produce is perishable. Attendance and consistency helps us to minimize waste.
This year we began offering a very flexible Week-to-Week CSA Program to accommodate those unable to commit to the entire season, it seems to be working well, however it is our committed 28 Week Members which provide us the stability to allow this. In other words, without our 28 Week Members there is no Week-to-Week CSA. We attempt to reward and incentivize our 28-Week Members with substantial discounts for joining prior to the season. The earlier you join the bigger the discount or incentive. However even with these discounts and incentives built into our marketing plan, I have concerns that unless we can figure out how to be more flexible and accommodating to our 28 Week Members regarding our makeup policy that it may be difficult to sustain. After taking into account factors such as our improved inventory systems and our extended year round season, we’ve decided to try out the following changes:
35 Weeks to Claim 28 Shares. Although our schedule abbreviates to just weekends after 28 Weeks, we do continue to offer CSA Pickups and Pop-Up Markets thru November & December which provide ample opportunity for members to claim any missed shares.
Up To Three Weeks of Gift Card Credit. If our Winter Schedule doesn’t work for you we will issue up to three weeks of credit upon request on a Norman’s Gift Card to redeem thru online purchases, shopping at the stands, or to purchase additional items at the CSA. Gift Cards must be requested via email rather than in person. Don’t lose your gift card. We do not have the capability to track or store gift cards. Lost cards will not be refunded or reissued. CSA Discounts do not apply when shopping with gift cards issued as a makeup.
Flexible Pickup Options. We have always been very flexible about members picking up at any CSA location without having to notify us. We are now offering the opportunity to pick up multiple times in one week. So if you were away for several weeks you can get caught up upon return or even preemptively. If you love summer produce and want to complete your 28 Shares early, then go for it. You can always join our Week-to-Week Program to keep going.
Making Up Shares at the Stands. We are going to give it a go, but will have to monitor how this impacts our business. It will be the exception not the rule. The stands operate independently of the CSA. Our stands crew changes frequently and is primarily composed of students working for the summer that may not be very familiar with how our CSA works. Also, the stands are an important component of our revenue stream. The produce we pack for the stands is based on what we expect to sell not provide to our CSA Members. But we will try to accommodate CSA Members that missed their pickup and this is the most convenient option. Keep in mind we do not carry eggs on a regular basis at the stands. If you missed your egg share you would need to substitute for something of equivalent value or make other arrangements.
Making Up Shares by Doubling. We will continue to discourage doubling or picking up two shares as a make up policy, however will make exceptions as long as we have enough produce to do so. Typically we won’t know this until the end of the Pickup. To request a double share please arrive in the final 30 minutes.
We hope these “go with the flow” modifications to our makeup policy express our gratitude for your support and willingness to accommodate our members’ needs. As always our operations are a work in progress and may need some fine tuning, but I think these policy changes represent some good solutions aimed at improving the CSA experience for our members.