Our Grain CSA is a bit of a strange duck, so there’s usually a lot of questions from people who are new to the concept. Always feel free to shoot me an email if your question is unanswered, but i’ll try to cover the basics here.
Q: Where and when will I get my grain bundle?
A: Each year varies a bit, but usually the pick-up day will be a Saturday in mid-January at a Winnipeg warehouse (January 22nd seems like a likely bet this year). All of the food in your bundle will be picked up at the same time, unlike veggie CSA’s which have multiple pick-up times throughout a season. Grains are remarkably shelf-stable, and will last for months (if not years…) in your pantry. There will also be an option for home delivery, and for pick-ups in Brandon.
Q: I love lots of the grains offered, but can’t eat certain items. Do you have a mix-and-match option, or can I request swaps?
A: Unfortunately, we often can’t accommodate most swap requests because one of the main ways that we keep the costs low is by making the CSA as efficient and streamlined as possible. But there are a few ways to get around this. If possible, find a friend or neighbour who is also interested in eating local grains, but who can trade with you for items that you can’t use. Joining our facebook group “Winter Grain CSA” is a wonderful way to connect with like-minded eaters. Every year there are a few posts there with requests like “I don’t use oil, does anyone want to swap with me? I’d take an extra portion of beans or flour in exchange for my oil”. It’s a fun way to build community too 🙂 If you’ve exhausted all other options, you can get in touch with me and I can work something out.
A second option is to wait until after our CSA is over. After the dust settles, i’ll see which items we have leftovers of, and those items will be available as individual products on our website. We do home deliveries throughout the year for individual product orders, and we always have oats, and usually a selection of lentils, beans, cornmeal and flax. Products from other on-farm-processors (like the oils, wheat flours, hemp seeds, quinoa, millet, etc.) can usually be ordered directly from the other farms as well. Send me a quick email once the CSA is over (or sometimes a google search will find them as well) and I can get you in touch with each farmer directly.
Q: Do you have any gluten-free options?
A: Yeppers! Our oat mill is dedicated to milling gluten-free oats, so we’re keenly aware of the difficulties that people face in finding gluten free options. Each year we compile an alternative bundle which contains just the products that are safe for those with celiacs or gluten-intolerance. In addition to omitting the wheat flours and swapping them for extra buckwheat flour or oats, we also leave out some products that are almost entirely gluten free, but which could have a slight chance of contamination with wheat. Sometimes the french green lentils or millet falls into this category, and we swap them out for safer items. The GF grain bundle is available here.
Q: I would love to join your CSA, but I just don’t know if I can afford it. Are there any options for me?
A: Yes! Our regular pricing is always based on the cost that we pay to farmers for each product, adding on our time/labour for cleaning/milling/packaging, and a little bit extra to pay for repairs, the loan for our milling equipment, utilities, etc. We do everything we can to keep these costs within market norms, and better when possible! If the grain bundle is something that you’re interested in, but you’re not sure if you can afford it, there are a few different options that we can offer.
The simplest option is deferred payment. Sending a few post-dated cheques or making e-transfers spread out over a few months is always fine, just write a note with your order explaining what your payment schedule will look like. For more options, please see our page on “Sliding Scale Pricing” for details about our reduced rate grain bundles.
Q: COVID-19 seems to have changed everything. Will the CSA run regardless of the pandemic?
A: Yup. Life seems a whole lot different than it did 2 years ago! The CSA will continue, but with a few changes. One of the original ambitions behind the CSA was to bring local organic grains to people in a way that bypassed packaging waste, but with safety protocols in mind, and knowing that we relied on a lot of farmer/volunteers to help weigh and portion products into re-used containers, this just isn’t an option (again) this year. Each product will be individual packaged (in paper or glass) for the pick-up day. Packaging all of the products is weeks and weeks of work for us, so it’s not something that I can risk saving until the last minute.
Two years ago, we were also able to offer workshops, activities, snacks, and kids crafts that highlighted some of the grains. It was a pile of fun!!! We *might* try resurrecting this event again this year, but only if it’s permissible under farmers market regulations, and it’s probably still too early to make any definite plans. However, we are assured by the fact that grocery stores and similar food-distribution settings have at times had capacity limits and social distancing requirements over the past year, but no further restrictions have been mandated. We are confident that we will be able to operate in a way that is both inclusive and safe.