Welcome to the most difficult business plan I have ever written.
By most measures, last year was a tough one for the business of growing vegetables. The year was made all-the-more difficult because up until the first week in July we were crushing it! Then, a blistering and searing dry heat settled over the farm. It didn’t relent until the first week in October. Soil that wouldn’t germinate, bugs that were prolific, and raised beds that had a relentless thirst left us disappointing customers…week…after…dusty…week.
We hate that. I bet you do (did), too!
We added 3 weeks onto the share program for 2016, bringing the cost per week per customer to $26/week. Not remotely financially sustainable. We couldn’t keep up with our farmers market obligations because there wasn’t enough food. We dropped the Airbnb for half the year because the election process was wigging everyone out and we just needed solitude when we were not working. A big financial Ouchy!
Then, the chickens stopped laying…for 3 months! (Geeze, girls!)
In the midst of this was you…yeah, you know who you are: the people who tipped us at the end of their 10-week share, and the ones who showed up to help weed. The ones who kept asking for reassurance that we weren’t going to give in or give up. Thanks, we needed that!
Every endeavor has a year like our 2016. When obligations are met at the end of the season, one is only left with evaluation and decision-making. Bob has helped me see that we have learned too much, invested too much, and built too many wonderful relationships to quit. So, here I sit on a rainy January morning writing to let you in on our plan and to see who has the stomach to give it another go!
The 10-week Farm Share
By far and away this is our best product. Manageable, flexible, and reliable – asking members to commit for 10 flexible weeks of produce is much less stressful, ensures value, and makes for happier share members all around. This is how we are managing our first full winter share, and this is how we will go forward in 2017.
As a reminder, the 10-week share is made up of these basic agreements and obligations:
· Customers join to receive 10 weeks of produce. The cost for the spring/summer share is $300 if you pick up your share at the farm, and $350 if you wish your share to be delivered. The cost of the fall/winter share is $200 for farm pick up and $250 delivered.
· Customers may pause their share with only 24-hours’ notice. When life becomes complicated, or your fridge is still full of last week’s produce, you can just send a note and pause your share without losing your count.
· This winter we extended that courtesy to ourselves. On weeks when the outdoor production is less than anticipated we have been pausing the share at no penalty to anyone. I should have done this last August, but it didn’t occur to me at the time.
· Members will never lose a share to poor production or weather related emergencies. We just keep counting your shares until our obligation is met.
We will offer the 10-week share to 20 members on a rolling basis throughout 2017. Let us know if you are interested. We’ll gladly hold your place!
Pick-Ups and Deliveries
Here are the share pick-up and delivery details for 2017:
· Beginning with new shares in 2017, farm pick-up days will move to Wednesdays.
· Boonsboro and Brunswick deliveries will be organized once we make decisions about those farmers’ markets.
· Jefferson County deliveries will move to Thursdays.
· Baltimore deliveries will be on Tuesdays, midday. Jack & Zach’s restaurant has asked to be more involved in the farm and use us as a primary supplier in 2017. We couldn’t be more honored by the request. This schedule helps consolidate Baltimore deliveries. Email me for details/arrangements if you are interested.
Farmers’ Markets and Events
We’re cutting the share program in half to bring events back into the business plan. We now have products and that takes much of the risk out of participating in farmers’ markets. They are also a fantastic way to meet people, make friends, and get off the farm. We’re building our calendar and I’m sure you’ll hear about our market/event decisions as they are confirmed.
Boonsboro and Brunswick people: please reply to this email with any thoughts you have about the farmers’ markets and events in your communities. We have loved every single thing about the experience in these Maryland towns. I think it helps with an unexpected homesickness (you may know we’re from Baltimore).
I am also building a schedule of farm-based workshops on food preparation and preservation techniques. Each event will have a capacity of 10 participants and the cost will be kept around $25. Farm share members will be given priority for the more popular events.
Got an idea or request? Just reply to this email…I’m all eyes!
Down Time and Self-care
We will not be offering farm share for the month of August in 2017. We’ve never been able to organize our work schedule to manage both harvest and fall planting demands in August, not to mention the struggles with heat, drought and bugs!
If your 10-week share is not fulfilled by the first week in August, we’ll just carry over your count into September.
If you’ve made it this far down the page, thanks for caring! It means a lot.
You see, being a farm share member, for us, isn’t only about the weekly box of produce…it is about building a business together. We’ve only got a one-sided perspective. On good years that’s fine, I suppose. It just seems easier to remedy the bad years with group think. Again, I invite you to reply to this email with thoughts. Not only am I in a better place to hear them, I NEED to hear them before spending another penny on seeds, investing another minute in the PLAN.
Blessings and gratitude to every person, the oil and the water, and the seeds. Oh, and the chickens!