February 17, 2016

  • farmerrob 

I know it’s been a while since our last newsletter. A whole lot and a real little has been happening on the farm. Let’s get up to speed on the most important part of the farm first: our CSA program.As I mentioned at the end of last year, the farm faces financial challenges. Although we have created a sustainable farm ecologically, financial sustainability remains elusive. We have been trying (and trying! and trying!) to get new customers into our CSA program. We worked hard to make our CSA the very best in Chicago. We added unlimited vacation days. We created custom shares. We offered three different share sizes. We accommodated payment plans. We added new drop sites. We added the Local Thyme menu planning and recipe service. We lengthened our season. We offered early bird discounts and a “tell a friend” bonus. You voted us Chicago’s “Best Local Farm” not once but twice  (thank you!). Every day and every night I worked and hoped that we would make it. Every year we gave it all to the farm. It was worth it.

But it didn’t work.

Christina and I and the whole crew are committed to organic farming and we’re committed to this organic farm. We believe that we truly have something special out here and we have given everything that we have to make it work. And you have too. Your support has been essential to our success. We now have over 100 certified organic acres. We currently farm on ¼ of 1% of all the organic land in the United States. That’s an impressive number. We did it together.

So it’s on to Plan B. Or maybe it’s Plan M at this stage but whatever….we need a new plan and here it is…

We are ending all delivery site drop-offs as well as our custom shares. We will continue our standard CSA; however it will be on-farm pick up only and we have 1 size. We have a farmers market style CSA. Each week, we put out a variety of fresh, organic produce and CSA members choose what they want. Our CSA members also have the opportunity to harvest their own share, or add items from our fields.I know that we have many long time CSA members who live a distance from the farm and, believe me, nobody wants to bring you fresh produce more than us. We need to cut costs however and that means the truck (and registration and insurance and maintenance and repairs and driver) has to go. We have talked with other farmers who only have on farm CSAs and they have families that pool together, with each family taking a week and picking up the shares for the others. I know that’s not always easy. It is the best solution that I can find. If you’re interested in pooling together with others, send me an email and I’ll help organize.

I can also help you find another CSA that comes to your area. Just write to me. It is important that your support of local and organic farms continues. We know lots of farmers who work as hard as we do to grow and harvest top quality, organic produce.

I want you to know that we do appreciate your business. Many of you have been with us for years, beginning way back in 2006. We hope that you understand our need to be financially sustainable. I am extending a very heartfelt thank you. If it wasn’t for you, we never even would have made it this far.

Of course, please – please – please don’t hesitate to write in (rob@montalbanofarms.com) or telephone (630-882-8008) if you want to talk or hear more about our decision. This was not an easy decision to make and I would be glad to speak with you about the farm’s present and future. We are going to make this work. I’m not sure how but that has absolutely never stopped us before.

One more time: thank you.Rob and Christina and the whole crew at Montalbano Farms