What happened with our CSA this year

Alternative title: learn from my mistakes. This past weekend was to be the Harvest Gathering at Hauk Farms CSA. It didn’t happen. In fact, most of what I expected (and paid for) didn’t happen. In short, I got burned by a bad year with an uncommunicative farmer.

half share from Rocky GardensYou see, we were spoiled by our first CSA experience. The good folks at Rocky Gardens CSA, before their retirement, were superb farmers, and we were happy members for several years. Their distributions were so lush that we scaled back to a half-share. (Yes, that’s a photo of one week of a half-share distribution. Look at all those tomatoes!) 

Hauk boxNow the folks at Hauk Farms gave us food in only three weeks, as opposed to the 18 weeks we paid for. Distributions were always scanty, and while we phoned and emailed with questions, answers never came. At left is shown the distribution from week 3 – and this box holds two half-shares. Compare it to the abundance above: our half-share was 6 potatoes, 2 peppers, 3 zucchini, 1 head garlic, and 1 small moldy cauliflower. More than disappointing, this made us angry. We considered Small Claims Court.

And then the email came in from our farmer. He told us that the CSA program proved unsustainable, registration was down, the costs were not covered by receipts, and almost all the crops in one location had been flooded out. It wasn’t only the farmer: Mother Nature did a number on us all, some fields having standing water for almost two months.

And so we were out the money we paid for the CSA subscription. Be warned: in a bad year, that can happen! Look for another post from me this coming week about how to choose a CSA – but the very best research and due diligence on your part can’t stop rain for 34 straight days, if that’s what the weather hands out. If your farmer’s fields get flooded, you won’t be getting big boxes of food.

That’s the big tradeoff with a CSA: in a good year, you’ll get much more than your money would pay for at the market. In a bad year, like the one we just endured, you’ll get almost nothing, and be angry, bitter, and hungry.

at the farmers marketThank goodness for the local farmers market! While it didn’t give us the surprise box of food each week, we did get to choose fresh, local food. If you have a good farmers market nearby, and are risk averse or don’t want a box each week, that may be your best alternative. Get to know local growers and what they offer.

For us, that meant getting up early on Saturday mornings (groan!) to find the best selection and the freshest stuff. While it wasn’t the joyful communal experience we had with our first CSA Rocky Gardens, it sure was better than this year’s food drought with Hauk Farms.

Good luck with your food supply! I wish abundance for us all.


One Comment

  1. Diane Franklin

    So sorry to hear you didn’t get what you paid for. I am always leery of recommending a CSA because I hear of this often; from many different CSAs. What a shame, CSA is a good concept if run by diligent growers and good organizers. There are a few good ones out there, always ask about previous years and get referrals. This can’t prevent bad growing years though, it was a tough year. Although I must admit, we had our private gardens this year and we had plenty. But our gardens don’t get flooded, even with continuous rain.

    Our move to Costa Rica, the reason we shut down Rocky Gardens CSA, is on track and we hope to sell the house soon. Once we have closing we are off to our new adventure.

    Sorry we left so many of you without your favorite produce. I do wish more CSAs would have model of CSA with required member participation, like Rocky Gardens. It sure does make for a nice community of like minded eaters and the extra work hours results in an abundance of produce.

    Best to all of you looking for healthy produce.
    Diane Franklin
    owner of Rocky Gardens

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I’m Maurita Plouff, and I write about cooking and preserving the local harvest in Southeast Michigan. Any recipe you find here is something I have cooked myself, and enjoyed, and think you might like too. I invite you to try the recipes, and leave comments.

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