Release Date: March 15, 2013
Application Deadline: March 31, 2013
All information can be found at this link:
Release Date: March 15, 2013
Application Deadline: March 31, 2013
All information can be found at this link:
all it took was weeks of tracking down seed receipts, doing soil and water testing, getting a prior land use declaration signed by our landlord and a statement from the horse ranch owner who gave us manure. then there were the crop rotation plans, land use strategies, and inspections of our rented land and greenhouse space, as well as a few dozen emails with our certifier and other experts. just when we felt like we couldn’t look at one more form, we earned the certification, and could breathe easy. at least until the next round, that is.
one of the most interesting aspects of becoming certified is that it wasn’t a path we’d intended to go down initially. for the first six months of the farm’s existence — which is half its life, really, since we’ve only been in operation for a year — we were steadfast in believing that we wouldn’t go for certification because we’d be forging direct relationships with our customers instead. in a csa program, our shareholders would get to know us and how we farm; we use organic and sustainable methods, and we felt that explaining these strategies was sufficient.
if we’d become a csa-only farm, most likely we would have been satisfied with having those conversations and being non-certified instead. but when we began selling a few items at our local co-op, we encountered what we called the orange tag syndrome.
our rented farmland
at our co-op, like many others, organic produce is separated from conventionally grown produce through color-coded tags. organic gets green, and the conventional stuff gets orange. although we’ve always grown on non-sprayed land and used organic methods (we prefer to skip even the organic pest controls, although the potato bugs are testing us), the co-op’s policy is that if you’re not certified, then you get the orange tag. they did list our produce as “naturally grown without pesticides,” but still, we were an orange dot in a field of green.
the situation made us think. it would have been far too much work to get certification simply to earn a green tag, but we began to consider how the farm would be perceived in other situations, too. what about farmers markets? already, we had customers there who asked us about certification and were happy to listen to our explanations about our farming practices, but i wondered about the people who didn’t step up to ask in the first place. also, some local chefs were touting the inclusion of organic produce on their menus, and I noticed that they leaned heavily toward those farms with organic certifications.
the last consideration was the upcoming changeover of the farm bill. in its current iteration, there’s significant reimbursement for certification expenses, and we knew that if that feature got yanked, there would be a chance we’d have to pay out of our own pockets instead.
so, we gave it a shot. the whole process was made much easier by our certification agency, midwest organic services association, and the willingness of the staff to patiently answer our kajillion questions.
my partner, karla, filled out the paperwork and although the forms note that it should take about eight hours, it ended up taking her three days to fill in all the necessary fields. we’d really gone for a diverse crop for our first year, and every single seed had to be tracked and noted. as i dug around in the files to find receipts and notes, she worked to articulate our farm’s layout, philosophies, and crop arrangement.
some transplants waiting for their chance to be bossy
when the certifier visited the farm, karla got a chance to show off her farm ninja skills during the interview process, which was intensive in terms of material. the certifier wanted to make certain that we knew what we were doing, and not just looking for a label we could slap onto our website.
in the end, the certification was just like anything else that requires an array of paperwork and the time to fill it out (think of it as a shorter grad school thesis, or maybe getting an estate settled through probate). true, we now earned the green tag, but we feel that the certification is broader than meeting that smaller goal. It gives an assurance to the customers we can’t meet, and lets them know that we value organic and sustainable practices — it starts conversations about how we manage the land, and how we see our farm in the agricultural landscape.
here’s her first/latest entry:
a few weekends ago, at minneapolis’ always busy mill city farmers market, our bossy acres booth was located just opposite two very established and respected growers and for about the millionth time this spring, i had to take a deep breath and trust that, somehow, everything would work out fine.
our presence at this very robust and well-known market had been months in the making, and thankfully, was made smoother by some “practice” at winter farmers markets that helped us iron out the many kinks that come with setup, product selection, customer acquisition, and even tiny details like weighting a tent and buying the right size tables.
for our very first market ever, done last november in the week just before thanksgiving, we worked all night on harvesting and packaging, and tweaked our table’s look by setting everything up in our living room. at about 3am, we started making up silly songs about the farm, and by 5am, with everything done, we enjoyed an entire half hour of sleep before loading it all into my mom’s suv.
setting up at that market, surrounded by growers i knew from shopping at their farmers market booths, i felt so new, like it was my first day of school. everyone seemed to have their systems down for speedy setup, while we tried to remember how nicely things had looked at home. since we live in minnesota, the market was held inside at a community center gym, which enhanced that new-girl feeling and made me briefly flash on some sour gym class memories. (ff you’re reading this, middle school gym teachers: please discontinue square dancing lessons.)
as the market began, we quickly discovered that we’d made a poor choice of packaging. offering mainly pea shoots and hoophouse-grown baby greens, we’d opted for biodegradable plastic bags. although this was a lovely eco-friendly choice, the small amounts of gourmet greens looked a bit minimal in the opaque bags.
still, we ended up selling out an hour before the market ended, and despite our newbie status, we felt like it had been a major success. we’d launched bossy acres to the general public, handed out tons of csa flyers, and talked with customers who have ended up following our adventures and coming back again and again.
after the holidays, we signed up for several other winter markets and each one helped us to see what worked and what didn’t. now, with the summer season approaching, we’ve just started our first regular market and have acted as fill-in vendors at other high-profile markets like mill city.
the profusion of markets that we’re taking on now—and the ability to do winter markets at all—was made possible in large part by karla’s foresight in growing hoophouse-friendly greens like pea shoots, sunflower shoots, and especially, microgreens.
our microgreen mix includes 20 different varieties, including beet greens (the red pop of color is very enticing to customers), radish, mustard, and other spicy varieties. e charge $9 for a densely-packed mason pint jar and offer samples at the booth. the latter is essential: i’ve seen those little sample cups turn a non-believer into a steady customer many times. plus, we let them know that the microgreens keep for about two weeks in the fridge in the glass container, and kapow, suddenly we’re making change from a $20 bill.
when we first started growing microgreens, it was just a fun winter activity to keep karla from getting more restless as the seed catalogs kept arriving. but now, in the early part of the season, they’ve become a major specialty product for bossy acres. at every farmers market, we sell out of them by 10am, and we’ve had people show up to the market as soon as it opened because they wanted to make sure they bought a jar. seriously, nothing beats seeing a customer make a beeline for your booth as you’re still laying out the tablecloth.
another significant plus for us in these early farmers markets has been a formidable social media campaign. karla is extremely adept at twitter (she has about 13,000 tweets, and i have less than 100), and the booth is regularly visited by her twitter friends. we also heavily promote the markets on our facebook page, and comment like crazy on the pages of other farmers, our customers, and the market’s main page.
but with all that said, it’s not like we don’t get nervous, especially me. a few days before each market, i look around our humble, rented greenhouse space—with its leaky roof, weedy dirt floor, and hand-crank windows—and i think, “well, this can’t possibly be enough for market…we’ll never make it…” in other words, i’m the piglet farmer, always fretting and fussing, while karla is the zen-like pooh, always finding more honey at the bottom of a seemingly empty pot.
so, at mill city, after taking that deep breath and having faith that our jars of microgreens and heirloom tomato starts would sell, i began chatting with customers, and an amazing thing happened: everything worked out fine.
after rocking it out at the greenhouse and getting our seeds started in that lovely hippie grow cave, we’ve finally been moving some transplants out to the main fields.
it’s a little nerve wracking to make the transfer, we’ve found. we can deal with the re-introduction of muscles deep in the glutes that come from so much squatting (we’re calling it “bossy butt”), and it’s been hugely satisfying to plant a row of cabbage or lettuces and see that tidy little line just waiting for a chance to get bigger.
but the weather has proven to be a challenge with such a famine-to-feast spring. we started with drought conditions, so the soil was hard and crumbly, but then the rains came and turned the beds to mud. we managed to get the tiller into some of the beds in the time between crumble and muck, but it was still a little anxiety producing to see standing water on part of the field yesterday.
maybe our csa members would be okay with us turning our operation to grains and then we could turn the whole shebang into a rice paddy?
another challenging element is to put the starts into the field on their own—it’s like sending kids off to kindergarten. in the greenhouse, the plants are cozied up with each other and look so lush in the trays. in the field, they get separated and placed into their own spots and maybe it’s a bit of anthropomorphizing, but they seem smaller and more wistful that way. when it comes time for harvesting, we’re sure that they’ll be hearty and abundant, but for now, we just act like encouraging parents and hope for the best.
beyond the challenges, though, it feels amazing to finally be out in the field. digging in the soil, being on our knees, planning out the rows—all of it isn’t just the culmination of a winter spent dreaming, but of years spent wishing to get to this exact point.
in may, alone, we’ve already done seven farmers markets – ranging from fulton farmers’ market to mill city farmers’ market to kingfield farmers’ market. plus, coming up this friday we’ll have our very first csa delivery and on sunday, we’ll be adding the new linden hills farmers market to the list!
it seems like everything is going at double speed, so it’s delicious to sit back and look across the fields in the midst of planting.
this is where we want to be, and despite the bossy butt, it’s an awesome feeling.
on saturday, about 40 of our csa members gathered for the bossy season kickoff, and to say it was awesome is an understatement.
a packed house with standing room only!
connecting on twitter and facebook are lively in their own ways, but there’s something particularly delicious and nutritious about meeting face-to-face. we’re very passionate about what we do, and being able to communicate that to a group of kickass supporters and fellow food lovers was a stellar way to start the season off right.
steeped in the goodness of the blue ox coffee company, we were able to zip through the logistics of dropsite pickups and csa add-ons, and riff on our views about farming and the community.
it won’t come as a surprise to any of you, but we’re all about food as medicine — the preventative kind that nourishes and delights. in a very similar way, our community sustains and supports us. seeing so many people voicing their agreement with these principles made our bossy hearts melt a little.
we sure do love you guys.
also during the meeting, we were also able to articulate some ways that we aim to stand out: with our “no waste pledge,” weed n’ feed wednesdays, dirty thursdays, farm fresh fridays, and csa member events during the season.
as a bonus, you don’t have to be part of the csa program to be a member in our farm community. everyone is welcome to come out and weed and get dirty and help us pack up vegetables.
or just come visit us at the fulton farmers market on saturdays, starting on may 19. we’ll be there with the same zesty enthusiasm for making this a bossy season indeed.
the csa kickoff reminded us of why we started a farm in the first place: to feel connected. to each other, to ourselves, to our food and our land. but also connected to others.
(*big thanks to our csa members for these photos)
thanks to the warm weather, we’ve been able to get a jump on planting, and like many other eager farmers, we started seeding for transplants. for the past few months, we’ve been happily growing our micro greens, pea shoots, and sunflower shoots, but there’s a different feeling to seeding for our main farmland.
it’s exciting to think that a tiny orange seed about the size of a freckle will become a thai green eggplant at some point. then, it will become a delicious ingredient in a dinner crafted by our food-loving csa members and farmers market customers (we’re thinking now of curries and coconut milk and the mind reels with possibilities).
the space in our “hippie grow cave” at grow! twin cities feels luxurious after some limited growing in raised beds last year, and we’re filling it fast with all sorts of starter plants. in february, we planted onions, leeks, celery, and celeriac. more recently, we’ve seeded broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, chives, parsley, oregano, some flowers, miscellaneous salad greens (arugula, mustard, various asian greens) and even some poppies.
there’s something zesty and awesome about emptying a seed packet carefully into some rich soil. along with those little wannabe vegetables, we’re also planting our hopes for an abundant, kickass season.
a few weeks ago, i was reading an article about a csa (community supported agriculture), and the writer described the term as a “subscription service for vegetables.”
while that is somewhat true, it’s inaccurate in many ways as well. a subscription service offers a guaranteed product, at an agreed upon time — a “jam of the month club,” for example, promises to send a new jar of jam, without fail, at a specified time.
but a csa is different in that it asks its members to assume the risks of a farm, and those can be quite formidable: weather, pests, water issues, soil problems, and the myriad other issues that keep farmers feeling anxious.
by signing up for a csa, you’re shouldering part of that worry, you’re providing support and emphasizing to farmers that they’re not alone when it comes to facing the hazards. and to do that, you’re taking a risk. most of the time, that risk turns into reward, but there are plenty of stories where that risk turns into loss.
if that happens, though, a farmer won’t get crushed beneath the financial weight of crop loss, because those supports will be there to help him or her bounce back. it can be chalked up as a tough year, and everyone can move on to the next.
because of the assumption of risk, csa members have a level of bravery that i find commendable. to be willing to share in the difficulties as well as the bounty — often for farmers you’ve only just met, or maybe haven’t yet — is the true definition of support.
then, too, there’s the community aspect of a csa. i doubt that you’d get to know any other members of that monthly jam delivery service, and maybe you wouldn’t want to if you had the chance. but a csa creates a community of people who can meet at farm events, work alongside each other in the fields if they choose, or chat at weekly dropsites or farmers markets.
we draw our members from the community, but we also create a deeper sense of community within that group.
at the bossy, we’re especially keen on boosting this aspect of our csa, because we think our members are all quite kickass, and that if they get a chance to talk with one another, they’ll find some compelling intersections.
for instance, one of our members is an amazing yoga teacher (shout out to jessie seehof carlson!), and another member has been interested in doing more yoga. why shouldn’t they tap into the bossy bond to find each other?
we’ll be hosting events — like an initial gathering slated for the end of march — that let us all enjoy the feeling that we’re in this together, that this is a shared adventure, not just two farmers and a few dozen of their customers.
and we think there’s a big difference. we want to blur the line between us and you, because we’re all bossy, and that’s the way it should be.
we know it’s been a couple months since we updated this blog, and seriously, a lot can happen in that much bossy time. so, we promise to give you weekly updates from here on out, because things with the bossy are moving and shaking!
in the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve been doing lately:
- sold out our csa. we’d set a ridiculously ambitious goal of selling out before the start of 2012, and our last spot filled at 9:00pm on december 31st. the power of visualization, baby! but more importantly: the power of community-minded, farmer-lovin’, kickass supporters. we’re super excited about our group of members because, of course, they rock. and if you didn’t manage to get one but are yearning to get bossy, email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’d be happy to add you to the waiting list.
- started selling at farmers markets. although we don’t know yet which market we’ll be at this summer (oh, the application process…at least they don’t require essays and test scores), we’ve done some indoor markets and plan to do more over the next couple months. check out our markets page so you can stop by and say howdy to us in person.
- found shelf space. our pea shoots and sunflower shoots are now nestled into the produce section of the linden hills co-op, right below the packaged herbs. we’ve also been selling micro greens and pea shoots at local d’lish, one of the indoor market locations we’ve been attending. so you can get your bossy fix anytime.
- got some mentors. through our great farm beginnings program — an educational series done by land stewardship project — we now have mentors for our adventure. the well-established and awe-inspiring loon organics will be there through our first season to lend us advice and support. we can’t wait to learn from your insights, laura and adam!
- forged some exciting partnerships. our csa members will have unique add-ons available, thanks to barkley’s bistro dog treats, moonshine coffee, and beez kneez bicycle delivered honey. more on these later, as well as some exciting partnership announcements to come.
- found greenhouse space through grow! twin cities. since we’re currently growing pea shoots, sunflower shoots, and micro greens, and will soon be needing room to start our farm’s transplants, greenhouse space was vital. fortunately, we found some and joined a fabulously knowledgeable growing community in the process. check out this fantastic article (written by csa member meleah maynard) in the line.
oh, the bossy…always on the move. watch this space for more developments. next up: more on our new worm bins!
need a gift idea for your favorite foodie?
how about a season’s worth of healthy, organic veggies, herbs, and wildflowers?
bossy csa shares are a wonderful gift for the foodie in your life.
learn more by visiting the csa page and selecting which option best fits.
simply complete the online form or contact us directly at email@example.com / 616-915-9027.
we’d be happy to send a gift certificate directly to them or, if you prefer, to you so that you can personalize it and do whatcha do!
give the gift of health!