Monday, March 7, 2011

Vegetable subscriptions now available!

I'm finally ready to advertise this year's Black Sheep Farm vegetable subscriptions! Thanks to my talented design sister, I now have a lovely brochure with details for this year. I've also created some pages here (see right side bar) with information.


The cost and frequency of the vegetable packages is the same as last year ($40/package, delivered every second week...for a total season's cost of maximum $400). Most of the same vegetables will be grown, with the exception of parsnips and melons, and the addition of sweet corn, edamame, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, fingerling potatoes and sweet potatoes. Of course, there's no guarantee that any of these will succeed, along with the other vegetables on the list (see link in side bar), but I certainly hope they do! I'm also increasing the number of varieties of heirloom tomatoes being grown in the hopes that a larger genetic pool will mean that at least some of the tomatoes will escape blight this year.

As I will be growing 2 acres of vegetables this year (with the help of Jeremy, the farm's first intern!), I need to double subscribership for this year from 40 to 80. So if anyone's interested in a vegetable subscription, please email me at info@justblacksheep.com.

Delivery areas are potentially all around the GTA, depending on where there are clusters of interest (Mississauga, North York, Yonge & Eglinton, Bathurst & St. Clair, etc.), as well as downtown Toronto, where I walk vegetable packages all around the downtown core. I definitely get a workout on my downtown deliveries as I walk the equivalent of 7-10 km to get to my various pick up points throughout the day. So don't be surprised if you see someone dressed in green, brisk walking down University Avenue with a giant cart of vegetables on Wednesdays this year :) My greater GTA deliveries are driven as they can't all be concentrated to within a few kilometre radius...yet! I guess that's something I could aspire to in the future. I've learned all sorts of Toronto driving tricks and short cuts in the past year, thanks to poring over side streets in Google maps. Anything to avoid main thoroughfares, and rush hour in general!

I could save myself some of these delivery logistics if I hadn't decided on a bi-weekly delivery model. But the benefits of having a different delivery group every second week are too valuable to give up. First off...my sanity. Having a different delivery route, one driven, the other mostly walked, every second week gives me variety and also the opportunity to touch base with more people. Second, most of my target market wouldn't be able to finish a full box of vegetables every week given that they eat out occasionally (or often!) and also like to buy some vegetables that I don't grow. So a bi-weekly box gives them farm fresh vegetables, while also allowing them the meal space for other produce and nights out. Third, having a lower subscription price point ($400 for 10 vegetable packages over 20 weeks, versus $800 for 20) makes them somewhat easier to sell.

In terms of vegetable package size, there are enough vegetables in a package for 1-2 people to eat over 2 weeks. Earlier in the season, the packages are lighter, containing mostly greens (salad, beet greens, spinach, bok choy). As the season progresses, they get heavier as summer squash, beans, tomatoes and root crops become harvestable. By the end of the season, it's a good thing I keep increasing upper arm strength, because the addition of winter squash and pumpkins definitely makes the packages much heavier! I dare you all to beat me arm wrestling at the end of October ;P

I'm still debating on whether or not to get a Black Sheep Farm re-useable bag printed for my downtown deliveries. The number that would need to be ordered to make the per bag cost reasonable is quite high, but given that I plan to be growing vegetables for many years, it might be worth it. Both for branding and to cut down on bag losses! I definitely need to get better at getting bags back from people as I went over budget on reuseable shopping bags last year. But then I have a dilemma over what kind of bag to order. I like that the PET bags are made of recycled plastic, but they don't last too long after a few washings. I'd like to get organic cotton canvas bags, but they're quite expensive and aren't made to the same dimensions of the recycled plastic bags I like. If I do decide to get bags made, I definitely have to make that decision soon so that they can be ready in time.

It's kind of crazy how many marketing decisions have to be made on top of figuring out how to grow enough vegetables!

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