If you came here hoping to find a fancy-pants, Web 2.0 solution for efficiently managing your CSA distribution, you're a long way from home, buddy-girl. Here on the Homestead we do things with paper and pencil. And highlighter. And, okay, Excel. But like, an older, shittier Excel that barely works with Windows 7. I'm talking about an Office version where Clippy would be all like, "It looks like you're writing a letter...would you like to see some templates?" Shut up, Clippy.
Anyway. Our farm offers a CSA, which I have linked to Wikipedia for those readers who read that and were like, WTF is that? I've also linked to Wikipedia for WTF, for the same reason. I like to make sure readers understand what I'm writing to placate their FOMO.
Our CSA is somewhat-but-not-completely traditional. Subscribers pay at least 25% of an 18 week subscription, or 50% of a 10 week subscription, up front. The 18-weekers are allowed to postpone a weekly veggie dose up to two times during the season. We have always offered home delivery for an extra $2.50 per week. Home delivery is very popular. Each customer can name one item they never want to see in their weekly bag. More on that later.
We have 65 families participating in our CSA. Because of the postponement option and the different subscription lengths, keeping track of who's getting a veggie bag on a given distribution day can be challenging. But not when you use this chart, folks. When you use this chart, you're in Biscuit City. Let's take a gander, shall we?
So: the dates at the top are Wednesdays in 2014, starting with May 28. Wednesdays were my main distribution day for Peachland.
When it's time to plan a given week, each customer gets a dot (underneath the X's, which come later) or a dash. A dot means they get a veggie bag; a dash means they don't. I input this info way ahead of time IF AND ONLY IF customers have sent me a schedule of when they don't want a veggie bag. Otherwise, the default is every week for regular (18 week) subscribers and every other week for 1/2 share (10 week) subscribers, and I input the info each week.
Once I have the week's column filled with dots or dashes, I count the dots to ascertain how many bags I need to fill.
The second column reads either 0.5, 1, or 1.5......0.5 is a half-share. Ten deliveries a season. Default is every other week. 1 is a regular full share. Eighteen deliveries a season. Default is every week. Ditto for 1.5, only that represents a 'Family Size' bag. $10 more per week. I highlight the Family Size customers in orange so that I can quickly ascertain how many of the week's total are of that size.
The third column tells me if the customer has identified an item they don't want to receive. To accommodate them, I bag up two more orders than I have for the week. When I arrive at their house, I swap the unwanted item for an item out of one of the 'extra' bags. This means they get double of something. They know this. They don't mind; that's how much they hate Kale.
The 'X' is written in once I have physically delivered the bag. It's like a checkmark to ensure I don't miss any deliveries. It's also easier to read than a dot, which comes in handy at season's end. Because I allow two weeks of postponment to regular shareholders, which only about half of customers take advantage of, the 'end' of the program is spread out over a few weeks, so I need a quick way to ascertain when a customer is finished for the year. For any given customer, I just count the number of X's they have.
If your impression, having read all that, is that I'm crazy to offer so many options because it makes the distribution process so complicated, well, yeah, but a system like this actually makes it pretty easy. The benefit is that I increase my pool of potential customers. Many people don't like the rigidity of a traditional CSA; over the years, I've added certain minor customizations to be able to attract more people to the program. And, overall, it works fairly well.
Now, concerning bagging, a couple more comments:
I use what are generally called 'Kraft Bags'. They come in many sizes. I buy mine from uline.ca. These ones are approx. 6"x17"x12". They hold up really well unless you're putting something soggy in the bottom. I encourage customers to return them and I get a lot back for re-use. They're easy to stuff, unlike a plastic grocery bag.
I line these suckers up as shown. Every bag gets the same items, since I don't do any minor customization (described above) until I'm at a customer's door.
I use twist ties to communicate special messages to the bagger. Green means: "This is a Family Size bag. You need to stuff an extra $10 worth in here." Yellow means: "This is an extra bag you're taking for on-the-road fuck-ups and for accommodating items that customers have asked not to receive. Strive to make this a standard bag, just in case, but ultimately you can short-change it if you come up short on a given item." Red means "You're very handsome, Jordan." Thank you, veggie bag. I needed that.
Bagging is done one item at a time, heaviest to lightest. These bags are great because I can take up to four in each hand out to the van.