May 2021 - 16

on pickup days, which are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. As the
spring rush subsides, the CSA extends our plant season also.
Jack Pahl, Pahl's Market, Apple Valley, Minnesota: Our
program has been set up since 2014. We first started seeing
demand when there were several programs around the metro
around 2010. We weighed our options and decided that this
would be a good fit for Pahl Farms. We grow just over 800
acres in produce each year and we figured this program could
help us diversify into a little niche market.
You also are getting some cash flow in months where you
wouldn't otherwise because the members pay in advance, and
everything costs money such as seed, tilling, harvesting, etc.
That's a lot of cash going out before any starts coming in.
L&GR: What types of goods do you typically offer in a share?
Harvey: In our CSA program, we offer a seasonal variety of
our own, naturally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Miller: We offer a full line of vegetables and fruits. Sweet
corn is one of our specialties. Tomatoes, peppers, onions,
watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, squash, sweet potatoes,
white potatoes, beets, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower
and more. Peaches, strawberries, plums, apples and even
portabella mushrooms. There are also add-ons to the general
share - free-range eggs, local Amish-made cheese and our
own cut flower bouquet option.
Pahl: That list might be a little too large to fit into one
paragraph, but we like to try and aim for about 60 different
varieties of fruits and vegetables. Some of your staples are
sweet corn, green beans, and bell peppers, and some might be
things that people aren't used to cooking with such as kohlrabi.
The nice thing about our program is we also have add-ons
from other companies that we partner with. We have teamed
up with Von Hanson's Meats, which you receive meat from
them once a month; Great Harvest Bread, where you receive
a loaf of bread once a month; Forest to Fork, which you can
pay an additional $80 and receive mushrooms bi-weekly
(highly recommend). Last, we have partnered with Brand
Farms, where you can purchase an egg share to receive a
dozen eggs a month!
L&GR: Where does the food come from?
Harvey: The produce is grown right on-site on our farm,
is harvested by hand and transported by foot or electric golf
cart to our farm stand.
Miller: It is no secret that there are items that we do not
grow. I don't grow green beans, white potatoes, strawberries
or any tree fruit; I source these items from local farmers that
I know and trust. There is a misconception that if you offer
a CSA that all the products must come from your farm. My
shareholders don't mind at all that I source from other farms
because it gives them the variety that they like.
Pahl: 95% of the food comes from Pahl Farms, which we
grow right in the Rosemount/Coates area. With our CSA
program, members are able to come out for six " Harvest
Events, " where they can actually pick their own food and
learn where exactly we are growing it. The other 5% comes
from other local farmers around the area that follow our
same practices.
" Some of our most dedicated
customers are CSA shareholders. "
- David Miller
L&GR: How was the CSA different in 2020 with the COVID-19
pandemic compared to other years?
Harvey: The biggest difference with our 2020 season was
the exponential increase in demand for our program. We had
already had people signing up as early as fall 2019 for the 2020
season, or shortly after the new year - people who were
interested in a CSA program pre-pandemic. Then between
mid-to-late March and April, we had so many more signups as a
response to failures in the mass food chain of supermarkets and
online shopping streams. Consumers were fearful of not having
access to a trusted, reliable food source, so they turned to us.
Miller: During 2020 we saw an uptick in numbers. It is
possible that people avoided, to some degree, large stores
in order to limit exposure to crowds. Miller Plant Farm had
to change our procedures to make our shareholders, and
customers in general, feel safe. This included curbside pickup.
Pahl: Pahl Farms is USDA GAP Harmonized Certified.
This requires us to follow fairly strict practices when we
are handling produce. So with that, the only real difference
for us was that we needed to wear masks and maintain our
social distancing.
L&GR: What is the biggest advantage of offering a CSA?
Harvey: It really helps us plan our farm production and supply
needs for the season, knowing we have a certain number of
weekly shares committed to a 22-week program ahead of time.
When it comes to purchasing seeds and soils, and scheduling
staff and operational hours, this information is greatly helpful.
A great result of the weekly CSA share pickups is to have
these customers a guaranteed " visit " each week throughout
what can be quieter traffic times in a garden center. Usually
when plant sales start to slow down, the momentum of
harvest season is really picking up and it's great having
repeat customers - the shareholders - week after week
throughout the season.
Miller: There are many advantages. The three best are:
1) Cash flow
2) Guaranteed store traffic
3) Establish relationships within the community. Some of
our most dedicated customers are CSA shareholders.
Pahl: Feeding people. There is nothing more rewarding
when the consumer appreciates the work that goes into
providing them fresh vegetables and fruits.
L&GR: How does the CSA complement your garden center?
Harvey: We've been a farm, garden center and gift barn
operating as one business for decades. It's really a special thing
that we get to share with our farm community that these are
the plants that we grow in our own garden (our farm) and we

May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of May 2021

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