Blog

Jan 14, 2013

We Are Hiring for Farmer Support

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We are hiring a Pittsburgh-based farmer support person to help during our winter/spring busy season. This is a temporary position with an option to continue to a permanent position.

Read all about it.

Jan 7, 2013

Large CSA Farm Files for Bankruptcy

Posted by: Small Farm Central

The Coloradoan reports that Grant Family Farms has filed for bankruptcy. This farm has been in business for 61 years and serves 3,500 CSA members (along with an extensive wholesale produce business) in the Denver region and was Colorado's first organically certified farm. At 3,500 members, it is one of the larger CSAs in the country so in that light, I thought this news may interest readers of this blog.

The farm cited crop damage and financial hardships as the reason for the bankruptcy. Of course a farm that employs 300+ employees at the height of the summer season is quite different than a CSA that serves a couple hundred families. It is not clear from the article what percentage of sales of the farm relate to CSA customers vs. the wholesale business. The article suggests that Andy Grant, owner of Grant Family Farms, feels that the CSA is one of the strongest parts of his farm operation and it sounds like they plan to continue running that part of the farm after they emerge from bankruptcy.

It will be interesting to watch how Grant Family Farms re-prioritizes their business and how they can lean on their 3,500+ member base to plan a more secure financial future.

Read the full article.

Jan 7, 2013

Updated Link to Find Legal Documents for CSAs

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I was discussing legal documents for CSAs with Rachel Armstrong at Farm Commons. This is the organization that posted the sample member agreements for CSAs and ran the webinars which I have posted about on this blog over the past couple of months. Farm Commons is a non-profit helping direct marketing small-scale growers with legal questions and has put together some really nice sample documents that CSA farmers can use.

She wanted to make sure that I distributed the most relevant link for the sample legal documents which is farmcommons.org/csa-operations. The link I posted before was more Illinois specific and she wanted to make sure that our farmers were not confused, so thank you for the updated information, Rachel!

Just to give you a bit of teaser: Rachel and I were discussing the up-coming online CSA conference that Small Farm Central is organizing in conjunction with PASA. More on that later, but mark your calendar for March 15th, 2013.

Jan 2, 2013

Sauteed Pork Chop with Sage Cream Sauce

Posted by: lauren

Staff Member: Lauren Seiple

I am currently obsessed with sage. It's soft, fragrant, has an ancient culinary and medicinal history..but mostly it just makes me happy because it still looks great in my garden while everything else has fallen away. I think that winter is the perfect time to cook with sage, since it goes well with hearty winter foods like squash, pasta, stuffing, and meat.

This recipe features sage in the cream sauce, but also includes some of my other favorite things: farm fresh pork and cooking in my cast iron skillet. Unfortunately I haven't reached a point in my cooking experience where I can put my own name to a recipe, so I have to give credit to Alexis Touchet at Gourmet.com for coming up with the original idea.


Sauteed Pork Chop with Sage Cream Sauce

    2 (1-inch-thick) rib pork chops
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
    2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    1/2 cup water
    1/4 cup heavy cream
    1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
    1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley

I don't cook meat very often and their aren't many ingredients in this recipe, so when I make this I don't substitute anything. I say: go with heavy cream & fresh herbs or go home. Also, I've found that the recipe works just as well with 2 chops as with one. As long as they are not too big, there is plenty of sauce to share.


Pat your pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an 8- to 10-inch cast iron skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chops, turning over once, 5 to 6 minutes total. Transfer with tongs to a plate.
Pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet and reduce heat to moderate, then cook shallot, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Add vinegar and boil until liquid is evaporated, about 3 seconds.


Return chops to skillet along with any juices accumulated on plate, then add water, cream, and sage and simmer, covered, without turning, 5 to 6 minutes. (If you have a meat thermometer, it should  register at 150°F when inserted horizontally into center of chop)
Transfer chops to a clean plate, then simmer sauce, uncovered, stirring, until liquid is reduced to about 4 tablespoons, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over chop.


To complete the meal, I use the leftover heavy cream when making horseradish mashed potatoes. I also like to include a green vegetable; usually roasted Brussels sprouts, steamed broccoli, or sauteed spinach. It doesn't take long to cook the pork, so get these side dished going first. Enjoy!

Dec 21, 2012

Holiday Support Schedule

Posted by: Small Farm Central

To save up some stores of energy as we go into our busy season, the Small Farm Central team will be taking a light week between Christmas and New Years. This means that we will continue our 24/7 monitoring of the servers and the health of the service including major bug fixes, but we will not be scheduling sales phone calls and support will be limited to email. Please bear with us as we we'll have reduced staff watching the support email inbox. You may find your answer in the comprehensive knowledge base.

If you are interested in Member Assembler, sign up for one of our weekly online demonstrations that we run each Wednesday (starting again on Jan 2nd).

It has been a really great year here at Small Farm Central and we have some really big initiatives to announce to you in early 2013, so stay up to do date by subscribing to the blog if you don't do that already.

I feel honored to work for so many talented and good-hearted farmers. I hope that you get some time to spend with family and friends as well as some time to relax and recharge the batteries. We'll try to do the same here.

-Simon & the rest of the Small Farm Central team.

Dec 19, 2012

New Pickup Page in Member Assembler

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We spent some time working on the Member Assembler public pickup page with 3 goals:

  1. Allow searching of pickup locations by closest geographically to member
  2. Streamline the look
  3. Allow 'second choice' options, in case the first choice of the pickup location gets cancelled.

Welcome to the pickup page that we quietly released about two weeks ago! The member can now type in their zip code or address and get a list of the 10 closest locations to them as well as the distance from their address to the location (see red circles in image above).

Also, notice that the full address in never shown to the customer until they have joined this pickup (see blue circles in image above).

Customers may be given an option to select a 'second choice' pickup location when registering with your CSA. You can this feature on or off under Member Assembler / configure / display settings.

Dec 11, 2012

Mike's Desperation Carrot Sauce

Posted by: mikecuccaro

I know it's the time of year where people try to impress one another with their culinary expertise for pot-lucks, parties, and food blogs. I'm not above such self-aggrandizing (I roasted and served an acorn squash stew inside a pumpkin last week) but in choosing a staff recipe, I decided upon a different take: the slacker chef approach.

One winter, I found myself hungry and in no mood to go outside the house (or shower, likely). All I could scrounge around was the remains of a large bag of carrots of which I had probably only needed a couple for a previous recipe and an onion. As an Italian, I always have pasta in the house, but I had no sauce or tomatoes. I did have a can of cheap condensed tomato soup, however. So I conceived of the idea of roasting the carrots and onions and then blending them with the soup. How bad could it be? Turned out it was crazy delicious and my friends now request it all the time.

Ingredients:
10 Large Carrots
1 Onion, preferably Vidalia
1 10.75 oz. can of Condensed Tomato Soup
olive oil
garlic salt
dried oregano
dried basil.

Directions:
Chop the carrots and onion, but not too small. No reason to over-extend yourself.

Turn the oven to bake at 350 degrees. Toss the vegetables with enough olive oil to coat and some garlic salt. Arrange the vegetables flattish on a baking pan. Roast in oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15. Put roasted vegetables in a bowl and add the can of soup (the more generic the brand the better) along with the basil and oregano. You may want to add a half a can of water. Make sure not to add too much. Blend the mixture COARSELY, until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. A hand blender works best. I would use a hand masher before a regular blender. Pureeing will make it too liquidy! Don't do it.
This goes great tossed with pasta drained over frozen peas, or as a dip with pita or fried ravioli, or as a spread for sandwiches, or just right out of the bowl! Served hot or cold, it's orangenious!

As an added bonus, and if you're into the surreal, I cooked this recipe on television once when I worked for the local PBS station and it's pretty mind-blowing, if I do say so myself:

Dec 11, 2012

Webinar on CSA Legal Issues on December 18th

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Last month, I posted an entry about some superb sample member agreements that an agricultural law professor from the University of Illinois put together.

This group is now holding some webinars covering these issues. I joined the one that was held last night and found it to be very insightful. They covered member agreements, volunteer agreements, how to handle intern payment, and many other pertinent legal issues. Luckily, the organizers decided to run another webinar on Decemeber 18th due to the high demand for the first sesson (over 200 farmers registered).

Register for the next CSA Legal issues webinar here.

As Brian admitted during the webinar, this is not an enjoyable part of the CSA enterprise for most farmers, but an important aspect to get right during the winter when you have time to think about it!

Dec 6, 2012

Save Online Transaction Fees with Dwolla

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We are excited to announce the launch of our newest checkout option for Member Assembler: Dwolla. This is exciting because Dwolla works with ACH transactions between the member's bank and the farmer's bank and bypasses the whole credit card industry. Due to this, it only costs $0.25 per transaction with no percentage. This is essentially free as compared to credit card transactions which normally costs between 2-3% of the transaction plus per transaction fees.

Dwolla has been around for several years, but they have just launched a new featured called guest checkout that allows someone who does not have a Dwolla account to make a purchase on a merchant's site. Members who pay with Dwolla will need to enter their bank account number and routing number to make a payment, but if you explain how this saves your farm on fees, members will be happy to keep more money in their farmer's hands!

Read more on this new feature from Dwolla. We need a 3-5 early adopters to work with us to set up Dwolla on their Member Assembler sites, so please email us and we'll be in touch with next steps. After we have worked through the process of creating a new Dwolla account and connecting it with Member Assembler, we will create some comprehensive help documents with screenshots and open Dwolla up to everyone.

So, please let us know if you want to be the first to use this exciting new payment option!

Dec 3, 2012

CSA Conference in Wisconsin, January 2013

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We're proud to be sponsors of the Midwest CSA conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, January 10th & 11th. This is the only conference that I know of to focus specifically on CSA and I'm excited to be a part of it!

If you are going to there, be sure to stop by our table and say hi!

There is a great line-up of topics:

  • Is CSA Right for Me? Things to Consider for Starting a CSA.
  • Production Basics for Beginners - Key systems that CSA farmers have in place to ensure production.
  • Filling your box: Figuring out how to plan, provide and price a full season of CSA shares.
  • Pick-up Site Logistics - Lessons from on-farm, farmer's market, workplace, and neighborhood pickup sites.
  • Planting to packing - On-farm logistics, efficiencies, tricks, and equipment to get the work done and the boxes filled.
  • What's in your box: A moderated round-table discussion of farmers of various sizes about what and how much and how often some common items are in their boxes.
  • Mulch systems and weed control for CSA farms.
  • Member involvement-Best practices from farm events, field days, and celebrations.
  • Incorporating low-income members in your CSA farm - Recipes for success.
  • Communicating with members, Websites, newsletters, social media, and blogs.
  • Guerilla Marketing your CSA business.
  • Measuring the financial success of your CSA I: What indicators should you measure to understand if your CSA's is heading toward the point of profitability? 
  • Measuring the financial success of your CSA II - Diversification of your CSA and the CSA model.
  • Legalities for CSA farms: Liability, employment and taxes.
  • Strategies for Sustainable Growth of your CSA: Rightsizing your CSA farm.

Hope to see some of you there!

Twitter

  • If I had a diet plan, it would be: 1) cook for yourself 2) eat whatever you want at mealtimes, but cut the snacks 3) cut the desserts&sugars
    1 year 45 weeks ago
  • @AmyinOregon oh, neat. Glad you like them.. more coming soon!
    1 year 45 weeks ago