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Jan 30, 2010 05:52 PM

Stillman Meat CSA - what up in Cambridge today?

Was anyone else there? I got there at 1, waited in line for 45 minutes! Outside! In the 15 degree weather! I can say that the line moved unconscionably slowly. There were maybe 20 pickups ahead of me. I haven't done a lot of winter pickups - does anyone else know if this is the norm or was something wrong, perhaps they were late arriving?

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  1. I was there, too. Was very surprised to see such a line and to have waited so long. From what I heard, this is not the norm, so I'm guessing there were some kinks today that messed things up. Hoping others here have some more input.

    1. I do my pickup in Brookline so I can't comment on yesterday's Cambridge line. But, as much as I love Stillman's meat and as nice as the people are, I find the meat CSA to be incredibly disorganized. Often times, my name isn't on the list or there is one person doing all the handouts and another person just standing around doing nothing. (Seriously? One person can yell to the other person the size share and the standing around person can get it out, v. the one person, looking the name on the list, then walking to the other side of the truck to dig around for the bag.) They can never really tell me when my share ends or the information is incorrect. I don't know why they don't just have a master spreadsheet and do a sort from there. The pickups tend to be worse in the summer at the Brookline location because of the veggie CSA share. While it's significantly warmer (well, anything is warmer than yesterday), the lines are really long because of the double pickup and lack of organization of the staff.

      4 Replies
      1. re: beetlebug

        And by "staff," you mean "volunteers." I can't speak to the winter meat CSA pickups, but Stillman's summer CSA pickups in JP and Brookline are staffed by volunteer CSA members in exchange for extra goodies, not paid staffers.

        Allstonian and I have volunteered in both spots, and I can tell you from personal experience, not all volunteers are worth what they're (not) getting paid. Sometimes you've got people who are on top of what's going on (what goes in what size share, what veggies are running low, what you can offer as freebies and what's being rationed, etc.) and some people apparently just have minds like sieves. It's the luck of the draw, and if you think you can do better, you should volunteer to take over a shift or two next summer. It's actually a lot of fun -- you get to meet people, and hanging out with Glenn and Kate and Aidan is always a good time -- and it feels good to pitch in. The main thing I missed about our choice not to enroll in the CSA last year (we wanted to spread our money around to some of the different markets around town) was that we didn't get to volunteer for a pickup.

        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

          Point taken about the volunteers. I only do the meat share and don't remember any calls for volunteers. But, I'll keep an eye out.

          However, it still doesn't explain, at the Brookline pickup, why it's a crapshoot every month whether or not my name appears on the list. And, looking at their list from afar, I often see at least four other names written on the bottom from people picking up their share. It also doesn't explain why we get inconsistent answers from Kate as to when our share is up. I share the share with another family and we make an effort to keep on top with paying, but it doesn't help that Stillman's doesn't give us accurate answers in a timely manner.

          Again, I love their meat and have been part of the meat CSA for a few years now. But, my experience has always been that the meat CSA has some inherent organizational deficiencies to they system.

        2. re: beetlebug

          Beetlebug, is this the norm at Brookline? I was considering signing up for pickup there. I got a Stillman's turkey and was pleased with it. But when I went to pick it up, in JP it was total chaos. They could have taken care of everyone quickly but it seemed like nobody knew what was going on. I thought maybe Brookline was smaller so they'd be less confused but it sounds like that isn't the case.

          1. re: nightsky

            The longest I've had to wait in Brookline was about 20 minutes. And, that was in the summer when the veggie share is being picked up as well.

            The only issue I've had with the pickup is the name not being on the list. But, really, they just right it in and give you a share. Sometimes, the line may be moving slower because of other people picking up on behalf of other people. They may come unprepared and say stuff like, umm, I'm also picking up for so and so. I think they have X share but they also said they ordered extra stuff but I don't know what it is... Then, the volunteers have to go through all the paperwork and that feels longer than what actually passes.

            I always wonder if the line at Brookline fluctuates with the Clear Flour line. CF will have a longer line and Stillman's will be shorter and vice versa. Or, maybe I just have poor timing.

        3. I was there too, and waited similarly. Totally atypical, so I'm not sure what was going on. I do know that a lot of extra stuff was being bought along with the share pickup, and the one woman handling it all was without a working calculator. Could have been part of it. I wished I had a hat.

          We pick up at the Cambridge location every month, and there are usually just a few people ahead of me in line.

          I've never had a problem with things being disorganized in general. Then again, I keep track of when my share ends and pay up accordingly. But my name has always been on the list with my share info.

          1. I picked up my first share in JP last month and everything went smoothly. Since I'm new to this, I'm just wondering if it's normal to receive a full pound less than what I signed up for (a half share at 10 lbs). Also, while I'm happy with the quality of my items, I'm not sure if it's in line with the half higher end cuts/half lower end cuts promise. I think all I got that could be considered higher end were two packages of pork cutlets, at one pound each. Other than that, I got sausage, a ham steak, and a small chicken. Are my expectations too high? Do some shares contain beef or lamb, or do those come later in the year?

            5 Replies
            1. re: traveler84

              I've never noticed the high v. low cuts. I think it's because I split a share. The other family and I do feel like our share is more than what we signed up for (by a couple of lbs). I think though, if you were short a pound, you can email them and they'll make it up to in in next month's share.

              I've always been more than happy with the quality of meat. This month, we got a small chicken, country style pork ribs, pork chops, lamb chops, fatback, 2 packages of ground beef and something else that I am blanking on. My all time favorites are probably the bone in pork chops.

              1. re: traveler84

                I haven't been able to swing the cost of a Stillman's meat CSA share, but was a farm CSA member for many years, including several years as a Brookline member dealing almost exclusively with Kate and Aidan. If you were shorted, you should DEFINITELY drop Kate an email and let her know - they will make it up to you. See this comment in a thread where several people complained about problems earlier:

                You may feel that you shouldn't have to speak up to get treated fairly, and I can see that point, but I can assure you that any slight was unintentional in the first place and that the Stillman's folks will gladly make things right if you will only let them know.

                1. re: traveler84

                  That happened to me on my first share ever with Stillman's too, so I understand the disappointment. I said something to Kate and they made it up to us the next time. Since then, no problems at all. Re high vs low, I find that some months the bag seems full of lower end cuts and other months we seem to really luck out with more of the higher end stuff. I don't think it's always evenly split each month, but over time it seems to work out to me.

                  1. re: MrsCheese

                    Thanks all for your responses. I actually did email Kate, almost three weeks ago, but haven't heard anything back. I'm sure it was just a fluke, so I'll see how this month goes.

                    1. re: traveler84

                      I suggest emailing her again before your pickup. This way, they can make it up to you in your next pickup.

                      Kate's lack of response doesn't surprise me. It goes towards the inconsistent professional service and disorganization that I've experienced in the past.

                2. Following up - I sent the farm a note detailing my experience on Saturday. I received a heartfelt apology from Kate. Apparently there are staffers at the farm who feel they can do it all themselves, or their own way, and she's been taking them at their word rather than insisting that certain procedures be followed for pickups. Hence, occasional disorganization. The gal there on Saturday never reported back to Kate that there were any problems at all! (I think we were too frozen to actually say anything, I know I was, so maybe she didn't realize?.) Anyway, she thanked me for the info, and said she's going to work harder on paying closer attention to staffing of the pickup sites.