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CSA INFO

[NOTE: this page relates only to people that have been in our CSA prior to Thanksgiving 2017. If you're on the website looking to participate in ordering our produce online as a new customer, this information doesn't apply, and joining the CSA now is not an option.]

What's going on? What's happening to the CSA?
To put it simply, things weren't working out as we'd imagined they would. Two things that stand out are:

  • Bookkeeping. We could never use the store's bookkeeping function alone for accounts, as it would not allow negative balances, which we wanted to allow. Thus Chris had to keep a completely separate set of accounts, then transfer balances to the store's accounting system so you could see them. And she had to enter all the at-the-truck "signings" to come out of the account, again in two separate programs. It was too much.
  • Stale or underutilized accounts. When we created our CSA model, allowing people to order only when they wanted, we imagined people ordering perhaps every-other-time, or 3 out of 4 times, then maybe not for a month when they went on vacation. We never imagined people joining, ordering twice, then just disappearing, sometimes for 6 weeks, or 6 months, or over a year. We also realized that, perhaps because of our "never-ending" memberships --not tied to any one season or year, and everyone re-upping on a different schedule-- that the overall total of membership money we were holding never went down. That seemed nice at first, until we realized that it was actually a sort of debt that we owed our members (in produce, of course) but the weight of it grew to a point that we were no longer comfortable being under such a load with no obvious way to pay it off. What we needed was an "exit strategy" from the debt load. The conversion to "pay-as-you-go" is what we came up with. Not all will like it, yet others have told us they think it sounds great. Either way, we hope you will continue ordering and use up your balance, and continue to be a customer if you feel you can. And we sincerely thank you all for your support over the years!

Change is never easy, and this change certainly isn't. It is clearly awkward trying to shift our business model from one method to another while there are people still operating under the previous system.  For your information, we are including here some of the info from the old (prepaid CSA) method that is still relevant for those of you with credit remaining. If you have further questions or your question isn't answered here, please call or email us. Thanks!

Is this still a CSA or not?
Good question. For years prior to our online CSA we ran a 'traditional' CSA with prepayment, no-choice boxes of produce every week of the summer. The model we ran in Adams Morgan from 2007 until the end of 2017 was not actually what most would call a CSA, but we did anyway as we felt with the prepayment and the level of customer interaction we thought we had, we could get away with it. Once we dropped the prepayment and are just running an online store, about all we have left is the relationship with our many wonderful members, and while we cherish and hope to maintain that, it doesn't seem realistic to still call it a CSA.

In fact, CSA has been suffering an across-the-country decline for several years now. There is much discussion about it at the conferences we attend and in farm papers we receive. Partly it is felt to be due to the "amalgamaters" that are running online businesses to deliver "farm-fresh" produce to customers wanting more choice and convenience than most CSAs offer. Some would have put us in that same --amalgamater-- light (though we of course would disagree).

Strangely, what the more "die-hard" CSA advocates are coming to realize is that, to continue to have CSA stay relevant, it's going to have to change with the times and start paying more attention to what people want: choice & convenience. And thus many are advocating models exactly like what ours has been for 10 years now. But guess what!? Our CSA has experienced the same decline that the rest have, in spite of offering what we thought people wanted! When I talk of having nearly 500 members, that says nothing of how many 'participate' on any regular level. When we bought our new truck 4 years ago, we got a bigger one because we wanted to be able to handle more orders. Instead, we have seen our total order numbers decline for 5 straight years (in spite of more than doubling our membership --and debt-- in that time period. Go figure!

Anyway, we decided we needed to make a change to address those two main issues. Having members use up their balances and then switch to online payment (no unused balances weighing on us; no or minimal accounting for us) was the best we could come up with. Hope you will stay with us under this new model, and give us a little break for making the change, based on what we've given as reasons. Thank you. Now, on to the details...

Is my CSA balance still usable?
Yes, of course, provided you still have one! Just enter the order you want, and the store credit will automatically be assigned to pay all or part of your order, depending on whether your balance was sufficient to cover it. If it doesn't completely cover the order, you'll be prompted to pay the difference by credit card or via PayPal. If you don't like that option, you can adjust your cart contents down to the amount of the order and check out for the last time. You can check your balance any time you log into the store (when it's open), or at the bottom of the page when it's not.

How long does my CSA account balance last if I haven't been using it?
We have a "one order per year" minimum requirement that we try to enforce, but with only mixed success. We are hoping to have all account balances zeroed out at some point in 2018, but the exact date hasn't been determined yet.

I'm moving away or ready to be done with my membership, but there is still a balance left. Can I get a refund?
No. That was clearly stated when people joined, although many have forgotten. If you are going to close your account, here are our suggestions:

  • Place one or a few big orders any use up the balance
  • Order a bunch of non-perishables (jars of cider, honey, syrup, relish) and take them with you or give them to friends as gifts.
  • Make arrangements to transfer your balance to an existing --that is, still ordering with a balance-- CSA member you know for them to use up. If you choose this option, you make the arrangements with them, then let us know.

Further questions we didn't answer? Please call or email. We're sorry this is so awkward, but we're doing what we can to try to keep on farming and selling in the District, and what we were doing just wasn't working on our end. Thanks.   :)

 

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