This week, my sister-in-law, V, and I got an email from Rachel Landis at Landisdale Farms to let us know that the farm was considering discontinuing their stand at the Piazza Farmers’ Market because profits have been continuously low. Consequently, our weekly CSA pick-up location was doomed.
Rachel shared alternate pick-up locations, dates and times in the city. While V and I mulled it over through email, Rachel offered to have someone drop off the CSA to my house on Saturday if they decided to discontinue. Wow, I thought, talk about customer service. Asking me if I’d like a big, heaping box of organic, fresh produce delivered directly to my door step is like asking me if I’d like a free trip to the Bahamas (well, almost) – yes, please!
Saturday morning, I received a courtesy call from Rachel to let me know that Riccardo was a half-hour away. When he arrived, I thanked him profusely as he handed over the CSA full share box right outside my door step. I asked him if they had finalized the decision to discontinue their participation at the Piazza and he told me that it was likely, that the market keeps adding vendors each week increasing competition and reducing earnings.
I remember the cold, blustery Piazza market days in January and February, the handful of dedicated growers serving a few dozen people – Landisdale Farms was one of them. The market has grown significantly since then. Each vendor nuzzles close to the next, local farms and growers line the perimeter of 2nd Street and Germantown Avenue; a t-shirt vendor, smoothie stand, and local jewelry maker help to flood the market square. Shoppers, while increasing in number, are likely overwhelmed with the selection, carefully staking out best prices, quality, and selection. Many may just be browsing after brunch at one of the many nearby restaurants.
I’m disappointed. A grower that has helped opened my eyes to seasonal, organic produce (not to mention grass-fed beef) was soon to be absent from my Saturday shopping routine. To add insult to injury, Piazza Farmers’ Market tweeted this week, “Unfortunately many of our great farmers at Piazza Farmers market are struggling financially.” No kidding! I also read at The Philly Food Feed blog that Savoie Farms is moving their stand to a “grower’s only” market. What’s going on, Piazza?
The USDA identified this exact phenomenon in their report, “Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues,” I recently wrote about. Oftentimes there is so much competition at farmers’ markets that it makes it difficult for smallish growers to increase profit margins and grow their market share. But farmers’ markets are an important part of the sustainable food system equation, helping family farms stay in business, protect land and ensure consumers receive fresh food that does not travel far.
This past week’s CSA dislocation drama exemplifies the integrity of a family farm’s mission to provide nourishing, quality food. Door-to-door service and a willingness to work with their customers to maintain their business. There seems to be some best practices here for farmers’ markets moving forward: market managers should spend time to ensure that their customers, the farms themselves, are happy, healthy and thriving, just as the farms strive to do for us.
Week 2: Full Share CSA
- sugar snap peas
- summer zucchini
- bag of arugula
- bag of organic lettuce mix
- large bunch of romaine
- 2 bunches of kale
- sweet onions