Friday, March 21, 2014


When we begin marketing our CSA shares each spring, we re-evaluate pricing by calculating the real value of our CSA (what we actually distributed the year before); We set target membership numbers for Summer and Fall shares; we contact our collaborators, Appleton Creamery and Out on a Limb to make sure they are on board for another year of offering their cheese and apple shares to our membership; we fluff the website, make a new brochure, get out and hang posters.

This spring, we are adding a new piece of data to our marketing pitch. (I am only sorry I didn't include it in our brochure!) Let me tell you more about the who and how of this data before giving you the juicy nugget of a finding.

Prentice's parents, Sally and Tony, have been CSA shareholders since our very first year. We have put up with their compliments and gratitude for the food because we thought it was just because they were relatives, you know? Well, they are that, and they are also smart consumers. Sally and Tony have been saying for at least a few years that they thought our CSA shares seemed like "great deals."

And so last year, in 2013, they decided to put some data behind their hunch. Each week of our 17 week Summer CSA share season, these two intrepid Village Farm lovers traipsed into Hannaford's (one of the China, Camden or Belfast stores) and recorded prices for the "same" produce they received in their Village Farm CSA share that week. The thing is, the only thing that was the "same" was the name of the vegetable. The vegetables in Hannaford were:
  • not organic,
  • not looking too good (droopy and bruised, not handled carefully),
  • not likely as fresh (3 days old, at least?)
  • not likely as nutritious (see this article)
Sally and Tony kept track all season long and in the end. . .
. . .Drumroll. . .
The Village Farm, organic, local, picked that day, fresh as a mountain mist, carefully handled and flavorful vegetables cost (only) 7% more than the "same" Hannaford's non-organic, tired, traveled, dehydrated and none-too-pretty vegetables.

This is something to talk about!
Thank you, of course, goes to Sally and Tony, authors of this small but specific study comparing cost and quality of our fresh vegetables vs. the supermarket options.

We grow vegetables because we love good and fresh food. We love to be outside. We love working with plants, animals and the living soil.

We don't exactly love marketing our vegetables. You know, making the pitch, the sales pitch. It is the car salesman stereotype. . .we don't want to be pushy. But with this new data bit, selling CSA shares seems a whole lot easier all of a sudden!

So come on, folks, step right up and get your 2014 CSA shares!!! (Details and link to sign up form here.) Call or email us if you have questions. We would love to hear from you.

Our best wishes from around the sap fire,
Polly, Prentice and the boys.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Winter Retrospective

Spring is right around the corner by the calendar, but wow! we are still knee deep in winter cold here at Village Farm! In early December we moved the laying flock into its winter abode, one of the hoophouses.

Prentice suffered a serious shiner after tripping over some fence and landing face first in a frozen kale stalk. How is that for a farm injury? At first we thought he needed a more 'colorful' story to go with the shiner but then quickly realized that the frozen kale stalk was actually just the thing.

The ice storm of December 2013 was certainly remarkable in its beauty and its harsh reality.

We were lucky enough to have only last power for a few hours (I know!) but we made up for that luck by the near constant work of freeing the many hoophouses from the weight of the snow and ice.I only punched one hole in the plastic "skin" of one of the houses and felt like Rocky Balboa away at arctic training camp as I punched and slammed a janitor's broom into the frozen plastic (overhead).

Village Farm sprouted yet another building this fall in the form of a barn for the cows. When we bought the land in 2001, the only building on the place was a (then) dilapidated pole barn south of where our house now sits. (I petitioned the town in that first year of paying taxes to value the building at $0 and was successful.)
We moved our herd of cows in there and for 12 years spent every winter morning chopping a hole in a nearby pond's ice to water the animals. The barn was sub-rustic. It was scary, but it served us well. This new barn has a frost free hydrant for watering, electricity (for a radio) and tons of space for hay storage, hay fort building and calving stalls for spring's bounty of wee bovine folk.

An awesome crew of carpenters built it with Prentice pitching in as the farm responsibilities would allow. Prentice has built doors and stalls, stairs to the loft and readied the building for shingles this winter. It is by no means complete but it is so delightful. We love our new barn. It will be treasured for many, many years of morning chores, and hopefully generations, to come.

I will have more to say about spring, seeds and the CSA soon, I promise.
Our best to one and all,
Polly and Prentice.