Welcome to 2020's
CSA Order Page
A new year, a new model
Coming full circle: a brief look back
(At Lillklobb Permaculture, I believe that full disclosure is important, so please take the time to read this page and if you have any questions, get in touch!)
Perhaps it because I’m an American, but four year cycles seem to be found everywhere. The four years before heading to kindergarten, four years in high school, four years to a bachelor’s degree, four year presidential terms. There are four seasons in a year, four points on the compass, and four stages in a vegetables life (seedling, vegetative growth, flowering, seed production).
As I come around to my fourth growing season, let’s take a look at what the past few years have seen me offer:
2017 was my first growing season and like I wrote last year, there were a few intrepid individuals who supported my “Pilot CSA” model before I even had a single garden made. Members ordered at most 50€ and it was their responsibility to pick up that value in produce before the season ended in October. Starting the farm from scratch overwhelmed the best of intentions and, although I did produce quite a fair bit of food, the other aspects of the Pilot program fell by the wayside. I didn’t want to do that again.
In 2018, I scaled back my ambition and created a “preorder” system where there were a set number of shares, but what was in each veggie set was entirely dependent upon what the gardens were producing at the time. Of course, there was a crop plan, but as life goes on a young farm, that plan didn’t work too well. There was food, but some things never materialized and others were overabundant. Still, the program grew and a lot of people were happy with it. No one wanted to see chard again and neither did I!
For last season, 2019, I worked with two friends to develop a rather robust model. With 18 weeks of production arranged into three distinct seasons with their own theme and a judicious approach to balancing shares between raw, cooking, and multifunctional vegetables, the program was a hit and I reached my funding target of 10,000 €. Last summer with a good team and group of interns, we provided over fifty families and individuals an enormous amount of exceptional produce from the end of May through the last week of September. Early on I noticed that my ambitions were to great once again and I had to discard some plans for on farm events in favor of focusing on producing the sheer quantity of food that both the CSA, REKO, and restaurants were ordering.
I don’t remember exactly when, but I think I burned out in mid-June then struggled to maintain a working spirit through multiple set backs and family challenges to finish the season. After all, the season starts full time for the farmer in March- two months before the first harvest. One thing came abundantly clear: the need for the farmer to take a real break. I had offered (as in years past) the option for CSA members to take a 2 week vacation from shares, but never thought about giving myself any real time off.
With 2020’s season fast approaching, I am looking to offer yet another model that builds on this past experience and puts my own needs on the table.
Learning from the Past
This year I’m going to merge lessons from all three seasons to, hopefully, create the conditions for an enjoyable year of farming.
Lesson #1: Taking time off. My plan is to greatly reduce production during July when most people are out of town or otherwise enjoying vacation. This will give me and my interns time to rest in addition to facilitating the garlic harvest and tending the plants for the busy time in August. I also plan to take regular three day weekends during the other months to have time with my family and to see other farmers. Family and self-care first.
Lesson #2: Focus on what works. Last year I packed over 30 different vegetables, herbs, and even some edible flowers into the shares. That kind of diversity on a farm the size of mine is admirable, but creates a lot of complexity. This year I will plant only about half of that, with perhaps some special things here and there. My farm does some things well and others not so well and it is time to focus on what I do best.
Lesson #3: Grow what you can sell. Last year we harvested over 3,000 kilograms of produce from ±1000m2. A lot more never got harvested for one reason or another (rabbits harvested a couple hundred kilos of lettuce). The total value of what was harvested was approximately 2x what I managed to sell. In some ways, this overproduction is a good thing. It provides some flexibility and demonstrates that these methods really do work. On the other hand, there is no reason to produce so much food if it isn’t going to people to eat. Planting about half as much as last season will reduce food waste, allow me to pursue soil building goals, and spend less time farming.
Lesson #4: Sell as locally as possible. My primary goal is going to be selling the majority of food on the farm in Espoo. I will maintain some restaurant clients, but otherwise, selling away from the farm will be done in conjunction with partners. More on that later.
Lesson #5: Do what excites you. For good reason, I spent 2018 trying to follow the best practices of well established, experienced market gardeners. In 2019 I began to tweak their systems. Now, in 2020, I want to push further ahead with my own ideas from the secure foundation their knowledge helped me build. Polycultures, cover crops, relay planting- these are all things that make me want to farm. The Market Gardens were always supposed to be part of a broader plan, a tool, not an end in themselves. This year they will transition into that role I foresaw for them.
Introducing 2020’s CSA
- The “Early Bird Discount” on the Vegetable Sets which you can then apply to any other vegetable, herb, or flower ordered separately
- Special pick-your-own privileges. The details on this are TBD, but I’m looking at being on the farm most Saturdays for direct sales and overseeing self-pick of certain veggies. My current conception is that Members will have an exclusive right to certain vegetables, special hours, or perhaps a combination of the two.
- Special farm tour hours.
Veggies You Can Trust
If there has been one constant through the past three seasons, it has been the exceptional quality of the produce. By focusing on soil health and the agroecosystem at large, I’ve been able to create conditions for the vegetables, herbs, and flowers to access the communities and nutrients they need to grow as robustly as possible. When plants grow in a living, minimal disturbance (“no” dig/till) environment, they can produce primary, secondary, and tertiary compounds which are essential for the development of complex flavor, aroma, and nutrient density. That also translates to shelf-life. It isn’t unheard of for well stored lettuce to last up to two weeks in our customer’s fridges.
It isn’t that we as the farmers make this happen, but rather we foster relationships that have been built over millennia from start to finish by introducing our plants to diverse living systems from the moment the seed makes contact with compost.
I don’t use any artificial chemicals on the farm either. The inputs are compost(s), a very light amount of certified organic fertilizers that feed soil biology, not the plants, mycorrhizal inoculants, wood chips, and water. And attention by the farmers of course. Taken together, the plants are very clean and mostly disease free. The farm received top scores in every category last year during our health inspection.
We do have pests, of course, but cultural techniques (primarily barriers) help protect the plants to the best of our ability. Our produce isn’t perfect, but it shouldn’t be perfect either!
Unique Vegetables with Unique Timing
Through permaculture design, the farm has been put together in a way that the vegetable gardens (market gardens) are sited in a warm microclimate. I start planting just days after the last snow melts and we begin harvesting in mid to late May from outdoor rows. Although the plants get some frost protection, these are not exclusively greenhouse grown vegetables. This early production brings diversity to the table early in the season and, through careful cultivar selection, I am able to harvest crops such as cabbage much earlier than many other farms. I also grow atypical vegetables that do well in Finland, but aren’t so common. These unique vegetables, like radicchio, escarole, rapini, and bok choy thrive in our environment and open new worlds of recipes.
Good-bye “Shares,” Hello Vegetable Sets!
“Share” is a strange word. In the business world, it basically refers to equity in the company and implies partial ownership. In our personal lives, to “share” something usually means that there is more or less equal responsibility for the object or task. In a CSA, a “share” usually refers to both equity in the farm as well as the “produce package” one receives in return for the investment of capital and time.
This year, I am ditching the word “share” in favor of “Vegetable Set.” I have never nor currently have any plans to raise equity in my company through the selling of shares. If you decide to join this year’s CSA, you will be preordering a certain number of Vegetable Sets through the purchase of your annual Membership.
What is in a Vegetable Set?
First: like last season, this year’s vegetable sets are not intended to replace your shopping needs. I do not grow potatoes and many other storage crops. Check the list of produce to help decide if you’d like to join.
I’ve reduced the price of the vegetable sets in part to reflect the dropping of some things from last years list (beans, peas, broccoli/cauliflower). I will also not be growing nearly as many baby greens to ease my workload and meet customer wishes.
Second: this season I will be taking a step back from the precision we used last season in the creation of vegetable sets. My criteria were in most instances too strict: we composted a lot of perfectly good vegetables due to a high benchmark for perfection. We also spent an inordinate amount of time weighing each and every single bunch to a tight margin of error. I intend to return to field bunching (that is, bunching as the product is harvested) to a target size that has been weighed, but we will reduce the double handling and double checking of bunches to a minimum.
Third: the sets will be made from what I think is best each week. While there will be a plan, members will need to trust my judgement after three years of farming. Unless you have a food allergy or a very serious objection to a certain vegetable, exceptions will not be made. Every effort will be made to prevent overloading of one or another vegetable, but there are going to be some staple crops.
Flexible Farm Season
The farm season is scheduled to look something like this:
Spring (mid May - end of June): up to 6 weeks of produce. The weather determines when the first harvests occur. Midsummer (week 25) will have a special market. Season’s Focus: fresh greens, fast growing root vegetables, fresh herbs.
There will be no regular sets in July. I will send out an email saying what is available from the farm if you want to order separately. See Lesson #1 above!
Summer (August - early September): up to 6 weeks of produce. Season’s Focus: zucchini and cooking vegetables and some raw types as well. Note: there will be no “regular” sets during July.
Fall (mid September - mid October): up to 6 weeks of produce. Season’s Focus: cooking greens, seasonal specialties like fennel, perhaps even some dried herbs.
Theoretically, there are up to 18 weeks of production like last year.
However, I will only be selling the Spring and Summer seasons up front for a total of 12 sets.
The “Fall” season will be billed separately in August. The total number of sets available, duration, and their make up will be TBD until then. Why? The answer is pretty simple: I don’t want to be in the position where there isn’t enough produce to make great sets for the final third of the year. As a Member for 2020, your Early Bird Discount will apply to any Fall sets purchased.
Please note that the crop plan has not been finalized and is subject to change!
Simplified Order Options
Last season I offered ten different price points. Offering a lot of flexibility up front is nice, but the flexibility needs to work for the farmer as well.
This year the ordering process will be much more simple.
I’ve decided to continue offering two sizes:
a 15€ “Essential” set and
a 30€ “Bumper” set.
The price has changed for the “Essential” or base option. This helps reflect the more focused crop plan.
The larger, “Bumper” set is now back at 2x the base option to make portioning food much easier than last summer’s odd choice of 1.5X base. The Bumper set is equal to two Essential sets. Previously, there was a "hidden" discount in the larger size set which has now been removed.
Everyone gets the same vegetables, but the larger one has twice as much.
Everyone who joins during the open season from now until May 1 will receive the 10% Early Bird Discount applied to their total.
If complete payment for the annual membership is financially burdensome, please indicate that in the order form and we can discuss payment in two installments. The first half will be due before the Spring season begins and the second half will be due in June/July to pay for the Summer season.
If you join on installments, your contract will include the whole 12 week period and is legally binding; it is not a trial membership.
Pick Up Frequency
Like last year, you can choose biweekly or weekly options. That means you will either choose 12 or 6 vegetable sets to comprise your membership.
Since I will be selling the Fall season separately in August, you can change your choice then if you'd like to.
With the reduction in size of the base option, you may decide that moving from a biweekly option to a weekly option is the best route to keep eating fresh veggies all summer long.
Pick Up Locations
There are some big changes here so read carefully!
My primary goal is for as many people to pick up their sets directly from the farm. The critical piece of infrastructure, on farm cold storage, is nearing the final phase of planning and will be keystone to making everything work this year. All “On Farm” members will receive an additional 5% discount on their order.
I am looking to sell more often at the farm this season on Saturdays. The details need to be arranged with my family first, but in this way I may be “closed” on Monday and work Tuesday-Saturday. This is when the additional bonus for picking your own would come in to play.
I will no longer provide regular service to REKO markets. While REKO has been an incredible experience, I have found that the admin time on Facebook, competition between growers, and nights away from my family to be too much to make it worthwhile.
I am actively developing other distribution options for folks living in Helsinki.
I may participate in a few REKO markets in the spring or autumn when or if I have something special, but regular attendance is no longer a viable option for me.
I'd like to thank everyone who has supported me through the local REKO rings over the years!
Off Farm Pick Ups
If either of these options interest you, please use the same Google Form linked below and scroll down to the Off Farm Pick Ups section to indicate this. Knowing how many folks are interested in this idea will help the development of these channels!
A) Food Hub. I am currently working with the Food Hub (Uudenmaanruoka) on sharing the distribution of vegetable sets from Lillklobb. There is a possibility that the sets will be available at all of the pick up points in the network. All purchases through the Food Hub will entail the 19% Food Hub markup.
If the terms of the agreement with the Food Hub do not change, then the pricing looks like this (including the Early Bird Discount):
Each Essential set will cost 18.30€: 13€ to the farm; 3.05€ to Food Hub; 2.25€ to taxes.
Each Bumper set will cost 36.60€: 26€ to the farm; 6.10€ to Food Hub; 4.50€ to taxes.
B) Decentralized Distribution
If you have access to a car and would like to offer your home as a distribution node, please contact me. I haven’t decided the details, but the idea would be that if you decide to drive to the farm and pick up your set as well as a number of other members at the same time (say, 5 others), then I might be able to arrange an additional discount to your order for facilitation.
Small, but important
If you are a member and refer a friend, you will receive your choice of either 1 x 300g jar of honey from last season (a 7.50€ value) or the equivalent value in extra vegetables during the Summer season. Maximum 3 referrals per person, while supplies last.
There will be no vacation option this year because there are no regular sets for July.
If your vacation falls outside of July, then please arrange with a friend, family member, or coworker to pick up your share or tell me in advance that no one will pick up the share.
Food Allergies and Preferences
From the previous section: “…sets will be made from what I think is best each week. While there will be a plan, members will need to trust my judgement after three years of farming. Unless you have a food allergy or a very serious objection to a certain vegetable, exceptions will not be made. Every effort will be made to prevent overloading of one or another vegetable, but there are going to be some staple crops.”
Please inform me during the ordering process if you or someone who will be regularly consuming the produce has a food allergy.
Missed Pick Ups
Since this season there will be cold storage on the farm, you will have a lot of flexibility to choose when to pick up your share. Still, if you know you will miss a week's pick up, you must inform me at least two business days (Monday-Friday) in advance so I don’t pack it and have to throw it away.
You can choose to donate your share to another person if you coordinate it with me at least one business day in advance.
If you do not inform me of your absence, that week's vegetable set will be forfeited.
Full Terms and Conditions
A little clunky, but the EU will be happy you gave your consent!
2 This link will take you to a Google Form hosted on Lillklobb Permaculture’s Google Drive. Clicking the link will take you outside of LillklobbPermaculture.com so open it in a new tab
3 Please keep this page open to consult the price sheet
4 Complete the Google Form. No payment information is collected by the form. The only personal information I will collect will be your First and Last Name(s), Phone Number, and Email Address which are all necessary for me to run this service
5 I will send a confirmation email which asks for both your confirmation that the information I have is correct and asks you to consent one more time to the Terms & Conditions
6 Upon receipt of your consent, I will send a PDF Invoice to you in reply. Payment is by bank transfer or cash by arrangement.
7 Upon receipt of payment, you will receive a confirmation email welcoming you to the CSA