Need a quick reference on how to store your farm share veggies? Look no further! Download this resource and stick it on the fridge to get the most out of your farm share!
By Mike Cuccaro, Harvie Development Crew
It’s Father’s Day so I got a chance to do one of my favorite things: cook! I love doing bulk cooking on Sundays with what I’ve gotten in my Harvie share from Rivendale Farms and had doubled up my order of pearl onions and chard this week to cook a big pot of beans. That’s the best thing for me about Harvie. The meal-planning aspect! Instead of figuring out what to do with 9 different things, I’ll narrow my choices to fit my narrow window of opportunity. So, let’s set to it.
First thing I did was cut up those pearl onions. But they were so beautiful whole, I couldn’t bring myself to chop them fine. Instead I figured I’d try quartering them. Because they’re going to get slow cooked and pearl onions taste good boiled whole I figured this could be a good compromise. Then, I got to the chard. One reason why I often swap kale for chard is that I don’t have any use for the kale stems but chard stems make a great soup base. I rip the leaves from the stems and then chop the stems up fine. At this point I get out the crock pot and fill the bottom with olive oil. Then I throw in the onions and chard stems to coat and get the flavor started.
While that’s going on, I go down to the pantry to select a bag of beans. We make regular orders to Rancho Gordo in California. I know it’s not local but these beans are amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had even a single bad bean, much less a batch. I picked out some Goat’s Eye beans which are one of my standbys. You still have to rinse them up but I never presoak them. They are so good they don’t need it. Then, partly because it saves on counter space and partly because I enjoy the act, I rip up the chard leaves with my hands rather than chopping.
Next, I pour the soaked beans into the crockpot and mix them around with the savory veggies. I pour enough water over top to cover by about 2 inches. I never measure how much this is. Sorry. This is also the point where any bad beans will float up to the top and say, “I’m a bad bean. Get me out.” None floated up of course.
Last, I take the torn chard leaves and pile them on top. These are great for weighing down the beans and keeping them submerged so they’ll cook well. Then, just lid it and quit it! “Hey, where’s the salt, dude?” you might ask. That’s the trick to good dried beans. NO SALT until the very end. Otherwise they’ll harden on the outside.
After maybe half an hour after the chard has steamed down to a manageable pile I’ll submerge the leaves around the edge of the crockpot so they’re not burning to the sides of the crock pot. After a few hours I’ll check the level of the water but otherwise just leave everything alone. In maybe another hour more I’ll test a bean. If it’s tender, then at this point I’ll add some salt and turn the beans down to warm until dinner time. We might serve with rice or bread or pasta. Meals for the week!
This particular day my wife had reminded me that we had some vegan chorizo that should have been eaten a few days earlier. So instead of spicing up the beans, I just browned the chorizo and let the beans mellow out the flavor and serve with chips.
I’d like to say I then enjoyed my Father’s Day gifts of the new release of the Who Live at the Fillmore East with some Dewars on the rocks after I got the kids to sleep but instead just passed out myself as soon as they were down. Real talk, right??
By Simon Huntley Founder and CEO, Harvie
Good morning fellow eaters!
Buying a farm share from a Harvie farmer is a great first step to culinary adventures and eating healthier, but now you need to take that beautiful, farm-fresh produce out of the box or bag and put it to good use in your kitchen!
Our philosophy at Harvie is that cooking is not about intimidating recipes and elaborate meals. Our obsessions with food TV like “Iron Chef” and “Chopped” make us feel like only the professionals can make food taste good. False. You can do this. Any chef knows that the ingredients make the dish – whether it’s a simple omelette or beef wellington. The point is, the quality of ingredients matter more than the number of ingredients and in your Harvie farm share you have the best ingredients!
Each week Harvie provides recipes and cooking ideas (look at the bottom of your emails) based on what your farmer grew for you that week. However, even more important is to get in the right mindset.
Here is Harvie’s Cooking Philosophy:
Fresh, high-quality ingredients from your local farmer is a great start for a simple and healthy meal
Every great meal, no matter how simple or complex, starts with high-quality ingredients. I find the joy of cooking is turning simple foods into something incredible. A simple omelette using farm-fresh eggs, spring asparagus and local goat cheese isn’t out of your reach: it’s exactly the way nature intended us to eat.
Back to Basics
Food should not be complicated. Taking a minimalist approach to preparations and recipes not only saves you time and your sanity, it allows the taste of the food to shine through. Don’t worry about making an Indian curry with 9 different spices (unless you want to!).
For example, with my first farm share of the season from Rivendale Farm in the Pittsburgh, PA area, I cooked up my kale as a simple stir fry and served it over rice noodles.
Helpful hint: Stir-fry of any kind is a simple way to use up veggies you have on hand. The right sauce makes the dish. Here is a staff favorite for homemade stir-fry sauce.
Learning how to substitute different vegetables or make variations of the same recipes to achieve different results is a way to keep your taste buds happy and your food waste low. In the stir-fry example, you could substitute swiss chard or spinach for the kale, and swap out rice noodles for cauliflower rice, brown rice, or soba noodles.
Learn techniques over recipes
As you start cooking more, you’ll become more comfortable with going off the script of a recipe. Learn some simple preparations and techniques like how to make a salad dressing or how to make vegetable soup, then these techniques can be applied to anything you have in your refrigerator. Be creative, it’s OK to fail.
Helpful Hint: Coming in July, Harvie is teaming up with Cook With What You Have to bring you a monthly lesson in basic kitchen techniques.
Embrace leftovers, cook ahead
Cook, wash, and prepare in bulk when you have time and put the leftovers in the refrigerator. For example, when I get my lettuce home from my farm share, I immediately wash a big bowl of lettuce and put that in my refrigerator and then every time it is time for a meal, I have lettuce ready to eat. This means I eat a lot more lettuce because it is convenient and ready to go.
Helpful Hint: Use this “How to Store Your Farm Share” PDF print out to help you organize and store your share!
Enjoy the process of cooking
Slow down and enjoy the physical act of cooking. So many of us work in front of computers all day moving around 1s and 0s in digital space, but with cooking we have an opportunity to feel the food, to hear the sizzle of an onion, and the percussive pleasure of chopping a carrot. Take a little time to reflect on that carrot: it was grown in a particular field, on your farmer’s farm, weeded, watered, harvested, and washed by a person and delivered to you. Each carrot ties us to the land and the farm and the earth. Cooking is a moment to slow down and enjoy these connections and the timeless art of nourishing our bodies. It’s not a chore, it is one of life’s pleasures.
If you really don’t like something, don’t get it
For me, it’s beets. I want to like to beets, I really do. And everyone tells me that I will love them if I just figure out how to cook them. I’ve tried everything and I still don’t like beets. That’s OK, I simply mark my beets as a “0” in my preferences in Harvie and I’ll get more of something else I do like.
So, get out there and cook!
Are you having trouble with a particular item in your share? Send me an email back and I’ll try to help!
Did you cook something delicious with your Harvie farm share? Post your photo on social media tagged with #harviefarms or @harviefarms and send me a link!
In the coming weeks, we will open a Harvie member community on Facebook to allow you to share your creations and help you when you are stuck, so look out for an email on that soon.
Simple Kale Chips by Calien Fisher, Developer Crew at Harvie
This week was our first Rivendale share delivery here at Harvie headquarters, and the only thing cooler than seeing our system in action first hand was getting the fantastic fresh produce!
Everything in my Rivendale box was generously portioned, perfectly fresh and bundled, and all around awesome.
The first thing I made with my share was simple kale chips. My elder son (who is my hardest case when it comes to veggies) walked in while I was prepping them and said “are those kale chips?!”
They might not look like much, but they are easy and delicious!
Simple Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
1/2 tbsp olive oil (approx.)
seasonings of choice
Cut the kale down from the top with kitchen scissors until the stem starts getting thick, then rip off any leaf remaining on the stalk.
Kale from Rivendale Farm
Place cut kale in a mixing bowl, add enough olive oil to very lightly coat the kale.
Add seasoning of choice (I just used salt, pepper, and garlic powder).
Toss/mix like you would a salad.
Arrange seasoned kale on a baking sheet (I used parchment paper to make clean up easier!).
Bake at 280 for 18 – 24 minutes, depending on how crispy you want your chips to be.
1547 Rockton Road, Caledonia, IL 61011-9572
Description: Angelic Organics is a certified organic farm that also used biodynamic farming practices. They were one of the first CSA’s in the Chicago area and have been offering their CSA for almost a quarter century. Angelic has over 1600 members and has a season beginning in mid-June and running through late-October.
CSA Cost: Full share (20 weeks) = $720, Bi-weekly share = $380
Features: weekly, bi-weekly, flex-share, extended-season, fruit, home-delivery,
Neighborhoods: on-farm, beloit, crystal-lake, lisle, naperville, rockford, wheaton, bucktown, deerfield, evanston-north, evanston-south, highland-park, lincolnshire, north-shore, oak-park-north, oak-park-south, ravenswood, pilsen, wilmette, winetka, arlington-heights, downers-grove, oak-brook, edison-park, park-ridge, elgin, elmhurst, la-grange, norwood-park, andersonville, edgewater, beverly, hyde-park-north, hyde-park-south, irving-park, lakeview, lincoln-park, logan-square, rogers-park, st-benedicts, uptown, wicker-park
King’s Hill Farm
19370 County Road G, Mineral Point, WI 53565
Description: Certified Organic family farm in Mineral Point, WI offering a traditional CSA. They offer both full and half-size vegetable shares as well as an add-on cheese share. Their main season runs from early-June to late-October.
CSA Cost: Full share (20 weeks) = $600, Half-size share (20 weeks) = $300, Chicago Botanic share (9 deliveries, bi-weekly) = $270
Features: traditional, organic, bi-weekly, cheese,
Neighborhoods: downtown, oak-park, north-branch, greencity, chicago-botanic-garden
Lake Breeze Organics
3522 Pier Road, Benton Harbor, MI 49002
Description: Lake Breeze Organics is a family-run, certified organic farm located near the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. Their CSA includes a combination of vegetables, herbs and fruits. They offer Large and Small shares and have an egg add-on option
CSA Cost: Large share = $550, Small share = $300
Features: traditional, eggs, organic,
Neighborhoods: ravenswood, downtown, evanston, north-side, north-center
17551 Frazier Road, Sandwich, IL 60548
Description: Montalbano Farms is a small family farm that is currently Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified, uses organic growing practices and is working towards organic certification. Their 25-week CSA offers both traditional and customizable shares.
CSA Cost: Custom = start at $325, Large traditional = $1185, Medium = $645, Small = $325
Description: organic, custom, traditional, payment-plan, online-signup, online-payment
Neighborhoods: aurora, berwyn, lakeview, lincoln-square, logan-square-west, rogers-park, lincoln-park, dekalb, ukrainian-village, forest-park, geneva, township, lombard, oak-park, oswego, on-farm, sycamore, villa-park, wheaton, yorkville
Radical Root Farm
Description: A small family farm in Libertyville, IL growing organic vegetables and raising pastured animals. They offer traditional CSA shares in Spring, Summer and Fall seasons, as well as an add-on egg share
CSA Cost: Summer Share (18 weeks) = $605, Bi-weekly Summer = $360
Features: organic, traditional, eggs, bi-weekly
Neighborhoods: on-farm, libertyville, grayslake, logan-square
Tempel Farms Organics
17000 W. Wadsworth Road, Old Mill Creek, Illinois 60083
Description: Diversified farm located in Old Mill Creek, IL. Although not certified-organic, they grow all crops according to organic methods. Their pasture grown animals are raised on organic corn and soy based vegetarian feeds with no antibiotics or medications and enjoy plenty of fresh air. They offer a traditional CSA with add-ons such as fruit, flowers and turkey.
CSA Cost: Summer share, Large = $615, Bi-weekly = $375
Features: organic, traditional, bi-weekly, online-signup, online-payment
Neighborhoods: on-farm, gurnee, lake-bluff, mount-prospect, logan-square
The Gentleman Farmer
Description: The Gentleman Farmer provide an organically-grown traditional CSA. The summer season is 20-weeks and offers both full and bi-weekly shares.
CSA Cost: Full = $595, Bi-weekly = $325
Features: traditional, organic, online-signup
Neighborhoods: on-farm, barrington, logan-square
N7720 Sandy Hook Road, Brooklyn, WI 53521
Description: Certified-organic farm in Brooklyn, WI offering home delivery of their traditional-style CSA
CSA Cost: Large = $540, Medium = $360, Small = $240, Solo = $165
Features: traditional, organic, home-delivery
Willow Ridge Organic Farm
P.O. Box 323, Wauzeka, WI 5382
Description: A 40-year old organic farm offering an 18-20 week CSA.
CSA Cost: Full = $550, Partial = $400, Mini = $250
Tags: organic, traditional
Neighborhoods: arlington-heights, portage-park, elgin, old-irving, logan-square
Cherry Valley Organics
518 Joffre Cherry Valley Road, Burgettstown, PA 15021
Description: Cherry Valley Organics is a certified organic producer of a wide variety of agricultural products, and is located in Cherry Valley (between the towns of Hickory and Burgettstown), Washington County, Pennsylvania, only 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.
CSA Cost: $750 for 30 weeks, customizable box
Features: organic, customizable, payment-plan, flexible-schedule, recipe-help
Neighborhoods: mt-lebanon, squirrel-hill, canonsburg, southpointe, upper-st-clair, crafton-heights, oakdale, sewickley, new-brighton, burgettstown, columbiana(oh)
1357 Valleyview Road, Bulger, PA 15019
Description: Rivendale Farms is a newly operational diversified farm growing with organic practices in Robinson Township, PA, approximately 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. The farm consists of approximately 8 acres in mixed vegetables, wheat, herbs, and flowers. The farm also includes Jersey dairy cows, sheep, and a flock of free-range laying hens as well as mushrooms, honey, and maple syrup production. Rivendale prioritizes a diverse mixture of high quality organically grown produce.
CSA Cost: $500 for a 20-week season
Features: organic, customizable, payment-plan, flexible-schedule, recipe-help
Neighborhoods: northside, morningside, more-TBD
Sign up for a Rivendale Farm customizable share with
Who Cooks For You
383 Mill Seat Run Rd. New Bethlehem, PA 16242
Description: Certified Naturally Grown Farm with 3 CSA Styles Available.
Farmers Market Choice CSA: A very popular ‘you choose’ flexible style CSA in Pittsburgh at East Liberty, Squirrel Hill and Bloomfield Farmers Markets. 29-weeks Begins and Ends with the Farmers Markets listed. Traditional Delivery CSA delivers 25-weeks of super fresh produce from early June to the end of October. Three share sizes; Joyride (Small), Nuts n Bolts (Medium), Gusto (Large).
Harvie Choice Delivery CSA: Curate your own box! We deliver 25-weeks of super fresh produce of your choice from early June to the end of October.
Winter CSA: At a time when it’s difficult to find local produce, we help pull you through December and January offering 5 deliveries of produce. Can’t beat fresh greens and local roots at this time of year!
Features: certified-naturally-grown, market-style, payment-plan, customizable, flexible-schedule, recipe-help
Neighborhoods: highland-park, oakland, lawrenceville, northside, regent-square, squirrel-hill, strip-district, east-liberty, sewickley, ford-city, downtown, morningside, greenfield, new-bethlehem, on-farm
Sign up for a Who Cooks For You customizable share with
Blackberry Meadows Farm
7115 Ridge Rd, Natrona Heights, PA 15065
Description: Certified Organic farm offering Summer, Fall and Winter shares that run from June through December in three sizes (half, basic, plus). Provides a grow-your-own option for DIY or limited income families called the Garden Share. Discounted prices for on-farm pickup.
CSA Cost: Delivered prices for Summer Shares: Half = $259, Basic = $525, Plus = $970, Garden Share = $150
Features: organic, workshare, payment-plan, coffee, meat, eggs, bi-weekly, winter, newsletter,
Neighborhoods: on-farm, natrona-heights, oakland, fox-chapel,
Brenckle’s Organic Farm and Greenhouse
768 Glen Eden Rd, Zelienople, Pa 16063
Description: Certified-organic, 23-week CSA that comes in three sizes. Any of the sizes can be purchased as a bi-weekly share as well. Reduced sugar/starch shares also available
CSA Cost: Weekly share prices: Small=$495, Medium=$633, Large=$725
Features: organic, traditional, bi-weekly, low-sugar
Neighborhoods: on-farm, ambridge, oakland, sewickley, chippewa, cranberry-township, harmony, zelienople, north-hills, strip-district, wexford, point-breeze, lawrenceville, regent-square, squirrel-hill, northside
Edible Earth Farm
Description: Certified Organic farm offering a 20-Week Summer CSA as well as a Winter CSA. Summer CSA products include a Choice CSA and Traditional CSA. Members have access to a private, online webstore where they can purchase additional products like: chicken, pork, eggs, cheese, honey, maple syrup, bulk produce, fruit, mushrooms, coffee and canned goods
CSA Cost: Non-Choice CSA Price = Small $425, Large $550. Choice CSA Price = Small $490, Large $625
Features: organic, winter, choice
Neighborhoods: tionesta, oil-city, cranberry-township, wexford, franklin-park, carnegie, greentree, mt-lebanon, south-hills, dormont, southside, downtown, lawrenceville, millvale, oakmont, fox-chapel, clarion, mt-washington, regent-square, point-breeze, squirrel-hill, oakland, shadyside, friendship, bloomfield, highland-park, morningside
Harvest Valley Farm
125 Ida Lane, Valencia, PA 16059
Description: A ‘choose what you want’ CSA with weekly add-ons of fruit, eggs and grass-fed beef. Add-on shares include cheese and coffee. Weekly newsletter and very flexible payment schedule. The only pickup sites are: the farm (125 Ida Lane, Valencia, PA) or RAW Training (2330 Wildwood Road, Gibsonia, PA)
CSA Cost: Regular = $550, Large = $610, Bi-weekly = $285
Features: choice, coffee, cheese, fruit, beef, eggs, payment-plan,
Neighborhoods: valencia, gibsonia, on-farm,
257 Zeigler Rd., Rochester, PA 15074
Description: Certified organic since before there was organic. Widest variety of vegetables plus apples, berries and other fruit all part of the CSA. Summer season CSA, 25 weeks starts in early-June and ends Thanksgiving. Winter season starts December. 3-sizes of vegetable/fruit CSA. Add-on shares for coffee, mushrooms, cheese and chicken. Bulk ordering for preserving too. Weekly personal newsletter with news and farm tested recipes. We also keep track of your personal preferences. Through our ASC (Agriculture Supported Community) we also support those who struggle to keep good food on the table.
CSA Cost: $625– Standard Share, $750–Plus Share,$500–Light Share
Features: organic, vegetables, fruit, coffee, mushrooms, cheese, chicken, payment-plan
Neighborhoods: squirrel-hill, regent-square, east-end, fox-chapel, franklin-park, gibsonia, penn-hills, mcKnight-road, ingomar, oakmont, point-breeze, thompson-run, greenfield, highland-park, lawrenceville, oakland, shadyside, morningside, friendship, aliquippa, hopewell, ben-avon, beaver, brighton-heights, baldwin, carnegie, crafton, churchill, moon-township, mt-washington, northside, rochester, westview, sewickley, bradford-woods, bridgeville, cranberry-township, harmony, dormont, castle-shannon, mt-lebanon, mars, uppe-st-claire, warrendale, wexford, wilkinsburg, mcknight-road, center-township, new-sewickley, seven-fields, zelienople
Penns Corner Farm Alliance
150 54th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Description: Description: Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance is a cooperative of 30+ farmers that provides CSA options year-round. In addition to the regular fruits and vegetables, boxes regularly include honey, cheese, eggs, grains, value added products, etc. Vegan and gluten-free share options are available. PCFA also offers separate egg, cheese and flower shares. Not 100% organic but several of the 30 member farms are Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown.
CSA Cost: CSA Cost: 8-week spring share = $230, 24-week summer share = $630, 32-week summer share = $830, 9-delivery winter share = $375 Biweekly shares are available.
Features: multi-farm, eggs, vegan, online-payment, payment-plan
Neighborhoods: bradford-woods, bridgeville, chatham-university, churchill, cranberry, cranberry-township, dormont, downtown, east-liberty, waterfront, fox-chapel, franklin-park, friendship, greentree, greenfield, highland-park, monroeville, morningside, mt-lebanon, north-side, oakland, point-breeze, regent-square, ross-township, schenley-farms, scott-township, sewickley, shadyside, southside, squirrel-hill, strip-district, whitehall
Sarver’s Hill Farm & CSA
438 Old State Route 66, Greensburg, PA 15601
Description: Single-farm CSA offering 20 and 24 week traditional shares over the summer season.
CSA Cost: 20 week share = $510, 24 week share = $59
Features: traditional csa
Neighborhoods: on-farm, latrobe, murrysville, fayette-city, elizabeth
Seasonal Food Ideas: Making Chive Blossom Vinegar
By Julie Inman, Harvie Sales and Implementation Specialist
If you are growing chives or getting them in your farm share or CSA in the spring, you will start to see these beautiful, purple, ball-shaped flowers emerge from the middle of the plant called chive blossoms. Ever wonder what you can do with them? One great idea is to infuse them to create a tangy, onion flavored vinegar!
The ingredients are simple! All you need is:
1 1/2 cups champagne or white wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups chive blossoms, snipped right beneath the head
Glass pint jar
Lets get started!
Plunge the flowers in a bowl of cold water and gently swirl them around to shake off any dirt and bugs that may have found their way deep into the blossom. Toss them into a colander and shake off the excess water.
Heat the vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat until just warm, but don’t let it boil. The warm vinegar will coach the subtle flavor out of the blossoms.
Stuff the pint jar with the blooms.
Pour the warm vinegar into the jar to submerge the blossoms. Push the blooms down until they soak up all the vinegar and don’t float to the top.
Let the vinegar cool. If you have a pint jar with a glass hinged lid, then seal the jar. If you have a metal lid, place a piece of parchment paper in between the jar opening and the lid and then seal it. That way, the vinegar won’t erode the metal lid.
Allow the vinegar to steep in a dark, cool spot for about 1 – 2 weeks.
Taste the brew to see if you are satisfied with the flavor. When you are ready, strain the blossoms and toss them. Pour the vinegar into your favorite, glass bottle with a rubber stopper and display prominently. Enjoy the beauty too!
UPDATE: Here is a picture of the finished product!
Be sure to stay tuned to our blog for many more features on seasonal food ideas!
What is Harvie? It’s an online platform that connects local consumers to local farmers through a customer-friendly CSA / farm share model, including customized shares, payment plans, a Cooking Suggestion Engine and more! We want you to love your farm so your farmer can build a thriving business that takes care of the farm family, their employees, and their land. It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point: the story of why I created Harvie started almost 13 years ago.
In 2005, I helped a fruit farmer in western Colorado start a CSA / farm share program.
(CSA or Community Supported Agriculture refers to a model where local consumers buy a membership in a local farm and get deliveries of produce from that farm throughout the growing season. Harvie is based on the CSA model. For the rest of this article, I will refer to this concept as “farm share.”)
Thomas, the farm owner, was inspired at the Tierra Madre conference in Italy to start a farm share. With some good local connections, we got a story in the newspaper and the local TV station came out to do a segment. In a few weeks, we had over 100 families in the area signed up and we were up and running!
The community was hungry for fresh, local, and tasty fruits and vegetables. The appeal is obvious: get just-picked fruits and vegetables directly from a local farmer who you know and trust. There is no better way to eat seasonally and ensure that your kitchen is always stocked with high-quality delicious food.
For me, as an aspiring farmer, the appeal was obvious too.
I grew up on a small farm in southwestern Pennsylvania and all the farmers I knew had off-farm jobs as coal miners or teachers. It was clear to me as I learned more about sustainable agriculture that it is not a part-time job. To really steward the land and grow a thriving farm business takes 100% commitment which is difficult while juggling off-farm employment. In farm share, I saw a path for farmers to be full-time farmers.
In 2006, after two seasons spent on the farm in western Colorado, I started my company, Small Farm Central, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania joining my passion for developing technology products with my passion and experience in agriculture. In the intervening 12 years, we have served 1000s of farmers with our technology products that help farms directly connect with their customers.
In those years, farm share programs grew dramatically across the US and Canada. In 2015, there were an estimated 5,000-7,000 CSA farms in the United States alone. This model was becoming an integral part of keeping small and medium-scale farms in business.
Everything looked rosy through 2012 and 2013. Farms were able to grow their membership and replace the members they lost. However, around that time I started to hear rumblings of trouble from certain farms that never had trouble filling their membership and growing each year — they were losing members year-over-year. We released a report based on farms using our software that showed the retention rates of farm share programs was 50%.
Clearly there was a problem. Members were joining their local farm and then not sticking with it. Why were members leaving? In 2015, I started to take the problem seriously because I realized if I didn’t figure out a solution to the problems my farmers were facing, I was going to be out of business too!
First off, the food buying landscape had really changed since I worked at Rancho Durazno in the mid 2000s. The consumer demand for local food had changed the marketplace. There were a lot more farmers markets than ever before. Whole Foods had stores around the country. Local grocery stores were touting their local produce. Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh were big news. Smartphones and apps had become ubiquitous. Two day shipping from Amazon Prime was becoming the expectation.
I spent time with the research papers on farm shares that came out of universities, I did large scale surveys with current and former farm share members, and had 1-on-1 long form interviews with members. I talk about my findings in-dept in “CSA: We Have a Path Forward”, if you are interested in more detail from the farmer perspective.
I was trying to find solutions. My idea was that to help the farmers I work with, farm shares had to better fit into people’s lives.
In my research, some common barriers to farm share membership came up repeatedly:
Too much food / wrong kinds of food / food waste
Almost all farm share programs use a standard share model where each member gets the same items in their box. However, none of us are “standard”. We all have likes and dislikes. If you don’t like beets (for example) and you get beets in your share, then you are either forcing yourself to eat the beets, giving them away to a friend, or throwing them away. All of these are bad experiences and I don’t blame you for leaving a farm share program because of this!
Shares from Harvie farms are customized based on your preferences and even allows you to swap items in and out of your box and purchase extras if you like! We have developed a system that makes this easy on the farmer, in the past this providing customized boxes was too logistically complicated to be viable.
Many farm share programs require paying the seasonal balance of the share up-front because this gives the farm capital to buy seeds, start field work, and get through the months before harvest actually starts. However, this high up-front payment is difficult for many families to afford.
Harvie allows you to purchase a share for 25% down and the rest of the cost is spread out over the season to keep the up-front commitment as low as possible. This a good compromise between giving the farmer some capital to start the season and member budgeting needs.
Figuring out what to cook is challenging
Cooking should be fun and simple, but we live in this fast-paced world with long hours at work, hectic child activity schedules, and everyone is begging for more of our time. It is difficult to carve out the time to focus on cooking and if you buy a farm share, you will need to do a little cooking!
Harvie’s Cooking Suggestion Engine provides storage tips, simple preparation techniques, and easy-to-cook recipes delivered by email based on the contents of your share each week so you can cook with confidence! The great news is with fresh, delicious ingredients that start with, it’s easy to be a good cook.
Changes expectations around technology
Members expect to sign up online, pay with a credit card, get regular emails related to their share, maybe even use a mobile app to communicate their preferences with their farmer.
Harvie farms sign-up is online, accepts credit cards and more is coming in the future. For example, we’ll send you a text message when your share is delivered and a native mobile app for Android and iOS is coming this year.
Vacations / schedules
When members go on vacation or cannot pick up their share for any reason, in a classic farm share program the member simply misses out on that week. That is not a good member experience and many people leave or do not join because they cannot commit to be at the pickup site each week.
Harvie allows members to move their delivery schedule around vacations or place shares on hold. Also more complex delivery schedules like every-other-week are available for members who travel more often or don’t need as much food.
With these barriers in mind, my team and I started development of Harvie in late 2016.
In the 2017 growing season, Harvie farmers delivered 7,000 shares. In 2018, we are growing quickly with over 100,000 deliveries scheduled and it is only May! Our farmers are selling out of shares early and increasing their retention rates. This keeps them in business so they can steward their land, take care of their employees, take care of their families, and keep growing food for you.
Clearly, there is still a hunger for accessing fresh and local food and I believe that farm share is the best way to do that for both farmers and consumers. Harvie aims to make it easier to be in one of these programs, we want you to love your farm share.
In addition, when you buy a share from a Harvie farmer you can be sure you are buying from a real local farmer (at least 75% of the share must be grown on the farm) and the farmer has the experience and infrastructure to deliver a quality share to you each delivery of the growing season. If you ever have any issues with your share, reach out to Harvie support or your farmer and we’ll make it right.
Not only are you getting the highest quality local food in your kitchen each delivery, this is a purchase you can feel good about. The USDA just released their most recent “Farmer’s Share of Dollar” report which looks at the amount a farmer is paid for each $1 spent at a grocery store. It reached an all-time low this month of 7.8 cents of each dollar. With Harvie, 100% of your dollar goes directly to the farm.
Our mission at Harvie is two-fold: to bring you local food as conveniently as possible so you continue to buy from your local farm. Your purchases help us fulfill our second mission, to keep small and medium scale local farms in business.
Not yet a member? Find your Harvie farmer: http://harvie.farm/farms
I always welcome your feedback on how we can improve. Please be in touch and tell me why you choose to support your local farm!
P.S. You might be wondering why the service is named Harvie.. It is a play off the word “harvest”!
Welcome to our first ever Harvie blog post! To kick it off, we wanted to offer something extra special for all of you.
Enter to win this incredible prize of:
A farm share from your local farmer (up to a $500 value)*
Bounty from the Box Cookbook ($35 value)
Cook With What You Have Menu Planning Service 1-year Subscription ($35 value)
Custom Harvie Cutting Board ($35 value)
Harvie T-shirt ($20 value)
Harvie Coffee Mug ($10 value)
Contest closes on May 8th with the winner being announced on May 9th!
Don’t forget to let your friends and family in on how great farm shares/CSA’s can be – share with them and you’ll get extra entries for yourself!