Yesterday I suspended my Full Circle Farm orders. Full Circle Farm is an organic farm and produce delivery service, and for a long time I’ve been a big supporter of its business model. FCF began as a traditional CSA, but it has morphed into hybrid model that bills itself as a “farmers’ market in a box.”
Here’s what I’ve liked about FCF:
- Most of the produce has been exceptionally delicious
- I get a wide variety of produce
- I like supporting a business that supplies quality organic produce to places like Nome and Kotzebue
- FCF’s swap-out options allow me to work around my partner’s allergy to lettuce
- Anything that keeps me out of the big box stores is good for my budget, and fits my shopping goals
- FCF’s customer service has been excellent; anytime I’ve had trouble with an item, I get a refund, or an extra item in the next delivery
That’s a lot to like. I thought about using our “local” CSA box option, Glacier Valley Farm, but they don’t offer FCF’s flexibility, and almost every box content listing I’ve seen includes lettuce. Also, during the long Alaskan 0ff-season, the produce is significantly less local.
There are people out there who don’t like Full Circle Farm because they think it’s too much like “Big Organic” (where sheer size begins to look a whole lot like conventional agriculture). That’s not my problem. I’m not a purist. I believe in making the best choice for my partner and me, among the options available.
So why did I quit FCF? Because I got tired of the one or two disappointments in every box. First there was the aphid infestation in the cauliflower. Then the sweet corn that was not sweet; picked while the kernels were immature, it tasted like field corn. One whole batch of green beans tasted like twigs. Several times the avocados have gone from rock-hard to rotten without stopping at ripe.
The box of FCF fruits and veggies is expensive. It bothers me to have to throw away something a farmer worked hard to produce, and we worked hard to purchase.
I also find that I miss the process of carefully selecting produce. At a real farmers’ market–as opposed to a farmers’ market in a box–I would have a chance to smell the peaches, feel the plump firmness of the ears of corn, inspect the tomatoes for bruises. Even at the grocery store I can approximate that process, even though the quality doesn’t measure up to what’s available at most farmers’ markets.
I don’t know what “just right” organic looks like. So far, for me, it’s been a constant process of adjustment. FCF for a while. Arctic Organics CSA for two summers. Then FCF again.
Now it’s a new season in my hunting and gathering. I’ll have to push myself to look for more variety in the grocery store, and try to pay attention to which stores have the best quality produce. Maybe I’ll start shopping more frequently at smaller stores like Natural Pantry and New Sagaya/City Market.
And that will have to be good enough, for now.