By now you probably have seen a commercial for a meal kit service. You know...Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and I am sure many many many more. According to some stats I found, 1 in 4 of the people reading this (internet users) have tried one of these services or are using them on a regular basis. It's one of the fastest growing ecommerce sectors out there.
I will admit that this past summer I had to check it out for myself so I ordered a box from Hello Fresh. I was feeling like the home delivery meal kit craze must be why we are seeing a decrease in members among CSA farms locally and regionally. Right? Maybe. Maybe not. Here at Park Ridge we recently saw our first decrease in member sign ups ever: 275 members in 2017 down from 290 in 2016. So I just had to find out for myself what this meal kit thing was all about.
My Hello Fresh box with 3 meals in it cost me $59.95. When the box arrived I was excited. Yup excited. Just like our members are each week when they come to share pickup! As I dug through the box I did start to feel immense sadness in regards to the waste I was creating. Cardboard box with another piece of cardboard, two huge plastic ice packs, some paper fluff for padding....it was SO much packaging waste. And I hadn't even started to unwrap the food packaging. I quickly put everything back in the box and hid it in the farm cooler until I was able to find the time to prepare the meals. I definitely didn't need anyone seeing that I had ordered a meal kit from Hello Fresh. What kind of farmer would they think I am!
When I got to making the meals, I realized that it was...super easy! Oh oh. This was not the results I was looking for in my secret research. The recipe card was fun to follow and straightforward. I felt like a chef! The meals were healthy and overall good in flavor. My biggest hang ups were that NO ingredients were organic and I had no idea who the farmer was that grew the vegetables or fruit. Interesting since these companies promote themselves as "supporting the local farmers". What farmers? The ones in California?
So as I munched on my meatless tacos (which by the way were delicious but all the meals left me hungry) I had a moment of clarity. I don't think that meal kit services are totally to blame for CSA decline but they are playing a BIG role in it. Why? Because they make cooking EASY and they minimize food waste. They provide you with just the right amount of ingredients so that you are not left with any leftovers to manage. They remind people that cooking can be fun and simple. Cooking food brings people together and meals are meant to be shared with others.
As I pondered our share program and what it is that makes us different from a meal kit service, it became clear to me that our shares have MUCH more to offer than a meal kit on so many levels.
And when it comes down to the cooking part of the picture, a farm share has more heart and soul than any meal kit could ever have! When you gather in the kitchen with your family to prepare and eat a meal together what would you rather talk about, the unknown farm OR your farm. The one with familiar farmer faces and people you can trust to grow and handle your food.
Soooo in the end...farm share WINS! At least in my opinion anyways :)
Over and out!
Happy New Year Everyone!
I heard today on the news that over 60% of people had a new year resolution involving better eating and a healthier lifestyle. Let's face it, we all want to be healthier. Right?
As a veggie farmer people assume that I eat healthy. They must think I live like a rabbit and chomp on greens and raw food all day. WRONG! I am not a very healthy eater. I always have an excuse. It used to be "I work 12+ hours a day (in the hot sun and cold rain!) for 9 months out of the season...I am too tired to make healthy food. Peanut butter toast and cereal will have to do." Now I have come up with a new line of excuses: "I have a baby to take care of. I have to make sure she is eating good food. It's just easier to snack on pretzels and sour cream (yum!) and make a pizza or pasta drenched with butter!". The excuses are getting old. On a side note: I do eat locally made pasta from Dalla Terra with Park Ridge veggies and locally made pizza with locally sourced ingredient pizzas from Poco Pizza also with Park Ridge veggies. I feel like this makes these 2 favorite foods AT LEAST 50% healthier:) It's all about moderation right? A salad before the pizza or pasta would be so much smarter!
So how come I can't bring myself to eat my greens? To chomp on raw veggies like a rabbit!? I am sure going to work on getting better at it in 2018. I am going to heed my own advice and devote more time to prepping veggies during the season so I am more likely to eat them. I will make an oath to eat at least one salad a day (or at least every other!). And for sure I am going to remember that Frances (our baby girl) is going to start to notice what I am eating so this isn't just about me anymore. I want her to love food. Good food. Especially food grown right here on our farm.
So cheers to 2018! If you haven't committed to healthy eating in 2018 maybe you should. By signing up for a Vegetable Share Share you are going to eat better. It's prepaid, fresh, organic, in-season produce that you will be more likely to eat than if you had to go buy produce every week from a store or market. We hear it again and again from our members. By committing to your vegetables, you are more likely to eat healthier. Click the button below for more info.
Happy New Year to All!
The first snowfall is always such treat. The smell, the sight and even the sound of it can instantly pull us into winter memories of years past. At least for me it does. The photo here is NOT from this year. I hope we will get this much snow and yes, I do hope it gets really really cold! To a farmer, winter is a very important season. We need cold temps to kill off overwintering pests and we need lots of snow to add moisture to our soils. A good deep freeze helps to build soil structure and improve overall soil health. Sure it would be nice to not have to brace for the cold temps that make it hard to breathe but the facts are, we need a good cold snowy winter. So come on Old Man Winter...bring it on!
Winter time to a vegetable farmers is also a time for creative rejuvenation. A time to ponder and plan the season to come. This early winter I have been spending most of my time promoting our new new customized share options. They surely seem to be a hit with 100 members already signed up for the 2018 season! The early bird discount prices end December 15th so if you are thinking about signing up, now is the time to save some $. You get more of what you love by setting your vegetable preferences for the season and having the ability to use a virtual swap box each week to manage your share contents. There is a VERY friendly payment option (only 25% down and the rest paid weekly during the season- June through October). And payment is hassle free with credit or debit card payment.
Brad, Becky, Frances and myself just returned for the Midwest Community Supported Agriculture Conference in Wisconsin Dells where were heard from many farmers and members that customization of vegetable shares is definitely gaining in popularity and trending in our overall food system. The days of loading members up with items they really didn't like just because it was a good year for those crops are over. The number one reason people leave the CSA model is because they received too much food from their farmer. Or too much of the veggies they didn't like. Our new share options are going to solve both of those problem and ultimately work better for the member and the farm. By knowing what people really want, we can become more efficient in our field production by not wasting valuable space on crops folks really just don't want. By freeing up that space to grow more of the desired crops, we can be a more financially stable business by increasing members and overall produce sales. More sales means higher wages for our workers and more investment going back into the farm (like maybe a new tractor someday!).
So although our winter season seems to be making a later than normal appearance, it will show up right?
I sure hope so.
Happy nesting to you and yours,
Our new website...tada! I must say that it was time for us to fancy it up a bit. As I took a few hours (that's right only a few hours!) to make the change in our website it left me scrolling through years of photos of the farm, trying to find just the right ones for the new website. I had many laughs along the way! From eggplant-a-phones (see the contact page!) to smiling farm crews I really enjoyed the "scroll" down memory lane.
The new website coincides with the launch of our new shares options for 2018. In a few days we will open sign up for our share program and we are excited to be offering customized shares. Based on vegetable preferences that each member sets before the start of the season, their share will be customized for them. Why the cha cha cha change? Why not! There is nothing about this new system that we see as a disadvantage to the member. If you have been a member and loved things just the way they were, great! All you need to do then is sign up for your share like always and do nothing after that. Your share contents will be determined by the farm like it has been for the past 10 seasons. But if you are ready for a change, the new system will ensure that you don't get items you don't like.
Change is scary but we have decided to turn and face it! We hope you are as excited as we are about the seasons to come.
Over and out-
Robyn the Farmer