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Experts and beginners work together at CSA Mini-school

I was sitting here brainstorming how I could convey the energy and focus of the CSA Mini-school to the dear, PFI blog-reading faithful, when a super-charged email landed in my inbox. Julia Slocum runs Lacewing Acres, and is gearing up for her second season as a CSA farmer. Her email to CSA members (below) captured what I was looking for and what we hope PFI events can inspire in farmers around the state: a sense of direction, community, possibility, and confidence in your farm’s next steps.

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(Above) Participants and leaders at the PFI CSA Mini-school in Montour, IA on Dec. 13-14. The group spent the two days working with leaders Rebecca Graff (Fair Share Farm), Tim Landgraf (One Step at a Time Gardens), Steve Pincus (Tipi Produce) and each other to enhance their CSA farms and businesses. The CSA Mini-school was free of charge for PFI members.

Julia’s email:

Dear 2013 CSA members,

I hope this finds you warm and ready for a new year! I’m sorry for the delay in getting 2014 CSA info out. I’ve been putting off big decisions until after PFI’s CSA mini school, which I attended this weekend. I’m glad I did! :)  After running the numbers on the 2013 season and many discussions with veteran and beginning CSA farmers, I’ve decided that I need to make some changes to the CSA.

The retail value of the 2013 share was around $450, not including the costs of delivery. I like to factor in a 10% discount due to the fact that you’re a guaranteed market paying in advance, which puts it just above $400. I knew the set price was quite low relative to what I planned to put in the share- and compared to other area CSAs- but I felt all you brave souls were sharing the risk of not only a CSA, but a farmer in her first season! That is huge and meant so much to me, and so I tried to pass on as much of the abundance as I could manage. That being said, my goal is to not only stuff you all to the gills with nourishing food, but also make a living.

So here’s the plan for 2014: 

The base share price will be $375. Expect roughly the same amount of produce as 2013 – with a few changes noted below.
Home deliveries will be available for a fee of $100 which covers the entire 18 week season.
For those not opting for deliveries, there will be a free drop site at Wheatsfield Co-op from 4pm-8pm on Wednesday evenings. I plan to include a “swap box” on site where you can trade for items you prefer in your share. More details will be included in the membership agreement packet.
I’m happy to discuss payment plans and I have set up a Dwolla account for those preferring to pay online.
I’m also happy to help arrange neighborhood drops where members living nearby can have all their boxes delivered to one home and split the delivery fee. Over 1/3 of our 2013 members lived within a few blocks of at least one other member. Something to think about. :) Email me if you’re interested and want to learn more. 

Other changes planned for 2014:

I will try to make strawberries & sweet corn (and possibly other fruit) available at additional bulk or U-pick prices, but have decided not to grow them again myself. 
Jack-o-lantern pumpkins will be available at the Ames Main Street Farmers Market at a discount for CSA members, but will not be included in the share or in home deliveries. Of course, you’re always welcome to come pick them up at the farm. :)

Let me know if you have any questions! & thank you for your patience as I make adjustments from the lessons of 2013!

Send me an email if you’d like me to email you the finalized 2014 CSA Membership Agreement form. I’ll post a link on Facebook & the website when it’s ready to go. :)

Stay warm & Happy Holidays! :)

~Julia.

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