Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Bouquets; Windmill Farm CSA (Community Supportive Ag) How We Pack Boxes


What a hot and busy farming week.  A lot of people continue to ask us what is it exactly that we are doing at our farm.  Our CSA business is a membership farm, a certain number that we can handle ourselves.  We grow, weed, water, care for vegetables, herbs, flowers and have heritage breed, free ranging chickens and sell their eggs.  Once the produce is ready, we deliver whatever is ripe, put it into a certain size box (price and sizes vary) and off it goes to our members, every other week.  

This week seems like every fruit tree has something ripe which needs to be picked and the vegetable garden tomatoes are a sea of red.
I put all our baskets out on a table; line them with a special open air plastic liners and then we start out with putting items that are firm on the bottom that can't be damaged, and start layering after that with produce.  Squash, cucumbers, onions, garlic, egg plant are normally at the bottom and work our layers up from there.

We also have special flower, jam, and egg orders to go along with our CSA baskets.  All produce  items have to be picked, washed, sorted with the damage and imperfections culled out before we start packing.  Some boxes are  labeled by member's names (only for those that have special requests or changes); when finished packing with the most fragile on top, like berries or figs; the boxes are placed in the cooler by delivery dates.
Tuesday night we put out a few boxes after 5:30 pm for the members that work and can not come by Wednesday morning to pick up of their boxes.  Then Wednesday morning, I put out more boxes out at my roadside stand for my members that live outside our delivery zone.  We have several families that have friends that are members too, so one person will pick up several boxes to deliver to some far off homes even up in Bangor and Palermo.  The van gets loaded up with our local members here in Gridley and they get their boxes delivered to their door steps.
Interesting event happened last year, I put the Wednesday morning boxes out early, on our roadside stand.  None had names on them because there were no special orders.  When I drove by to deliver to my Gridley people, I noticed several boxes had their plastic liners up and items put on the table.  Some passer byer had come by and thought the boxes, with the contents were available for sale and picked through the produce and took what they wanted.  There were a couple dollars in the $$$ slot, but they took much more than they left in money.  I had to take all the boxes back and re-pack.  Since then, I leave a note on the stand and have the member's names on them.When the van is empty, we come back home and re-load up and head out to our Oroville and Paradise member home/offices.  It is a big relief when the last box is in the hands of the member, our farming job is done!  All the flowers, eggs, jams, watermelons, boxes are gone; matched up with the right sized boxes; the right number of members.
I pick and prepare my flowers after packing all the boxes, normally later in the day when it gets cooler, Tuesday evening. It is a nice time to unwind, let the creative juices flow with whatever I pick in the flower gardens. They get packed into the van along with the produce to match up with CSA members or additional clients. The van is normally a sea of boxes, flowers, watermelon, eggs.  Thank goodness I have my handy delivery list and Frank as my navigator.  It does take a bit of organization, if anyone is ever interested in doing a CSA farm.  1/2 of what I do is marketing; keeping financial track; emailing and keeping records of who wants what in their box next delivery; or the number on locked gates; who has coolers to leave the boxes; one member has the box delivered to her husband's business which is upstairs in a complex.  I text them and someone comes down to greet us so we don't have to cart these 20+lbs of produce + a watermelon up flights of stairs.  
I am sure the members must think I look weird delivering with a sweater on during these hot days.  I want to tell you, inside the van, the air conditioner is on maximum to keep all the produce and flowers as cool as possible.  When the boxes leave our care, we have done our very best to deliver the freshest, most perfect fruits, veggies and flowers our little farm is able to do.
Even Bella was tired on Wednesday as she lays on the cool floor of our sorting shed. Hard life.

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