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Muddy Springs Farm CSA Moscow Idaho FAQ

Muddy Springs Farm

Seasonal               Local               Sustainable

-  FAQ  -

How are you handling COVID-19?

Our standard best practices for growing, harvesting, cleaning, packing, and delivering our products are aligned with the experience and knowledge of local, regional, and national experts in food safety and public health. For the past several years, we have attended professional workshops and hands-on training related to avoiding and eliminating food borne contamination and disease, and have already integrated these practices into a formal food safety plan.  In light of the current pandemic, we continue to recommend that you carefully open, thoroughly clean, and properly store any food products you purchase. Fortunately, our home delivery service fits well with current guidelines for social distancing. As usual, we will provide a rough time frame for delivery (e.g., early evening of a particular day).  If you have any questions, please contact us directly. Thank you and please stay safe!  

Who are you and why haven't we heard about your farm?

We moved to Moscow in 2006 so that Chris could take a postdoctoral position as a biologist at the University of Idaho. At the same time, Jessica established a consulting business working with charitable foundations and other philanthropic organizations across the country. After falling in love with the Inland Northwest, especially the tight-knit community of Moscow, we decided to stay here and pursue our long-time goal of owning and running a small farm. We purchased 40 acres outside of Viola in 2012, and have grown the farm gradually since then, in pace with our ability to balance the number of customers with weekly production. Even though most of our regular customers do have some sort of connection through friends, school, or work, you don't need to know us personally to sign up as a member. There is no fee to register, and no commitment to purchase anything unless you want to.


Why did you choose the name "Muddy Springs Farm"?

Although spring on the Palouse is almost universally muddy, the name was inspired by a number of natural and developed springs at our farm located on the side of a granite ridge near Moscow Mountain. These include muddy seeps that dry up in the summer, a 15+ foot deep concrete spring box that is piped to various locations for livestock, and a classic year-round bathtub spring behind the barn.

Is your farm organic?

This is a common question but hard to answer, because we never know exactly what someone means by the word "organic." In the sense of being "USDA certified organic" the short response is no. At our small scale, the expense and administrative overhead of USDA certification is prohibitive, and without being certified, we cannot legally market our products as organic. The long answer is that we would rather describe our sustainable farm practices and let you decide whether they are a good match for you. Our view is that official certification would unnecessarily increase the price of our shares, without making a difference in how we run the farm. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact us and schedule a visit to see exactly what goes into growing your food.

Can I call or send an email to place an order?

You are always welcome to contact us directly with any questions! However, all orders are on a first-come, first-serve basis and need to be placed through the purchase page on the website.  Having orders placed online keeps our prices lower for everyone. And if you want to place an order while you're on the go, you can always use the web browser on your cell phone to access the mobile version of the website. Just remember to pull over to the side of the road.

Can I pay in cash or send you a check?

We do not accept cash or checks. In addition to reducing our administrative overhead, online purchasing eliminates the problem of missing or late payments, kids raiding the coin drawer, and keeps our overall prices lower.  

Can I buy your products at the farmers market or food co-op? 

A common question from strangers at the airport, hardware store, or local pachinko parlor is something along the lines of "You're a small farmer? So you sell at the farmers market, right?" We actually don't sell our products at the farmers market. Our priority is serving customers who purchase directly from us and appreciate home delivery of week-to-week farm shares. 

Can I buy produce from someone else if I sign up to purchase shares from your farm?

Of course! The Moscow/Pullman area is fortunate to have a growing number of local producers for vegetables, fruit, eggs, honey, meat, and more. In addition to the excellent local farmers markets, there is a wide range of small farms with different CSA plans in the area, and many grocery stores and restaurants have local products. Take a look at our resources page for some of the many options in this region. We encourage everyone to look around and find what works for your budget and needs. Our farm is set up to be flexible, so you can place an order whenever the time, price, and contents of our shares are right for you, regardless of where you usually buy your food.

I can't login to purchase products. How do I sign up to become a member?

To receive our weekly email notifications and place orders, you'll need to register for access to the purchase page. It only takes a couple of steps! Just navigate to the contact page and follow the instructions for setting up a password and sending us your contact information. Be sure to read about our week-to-week farm shares and skim through the FAQ before you sign up.  Come to think of it, you're already reading the FAQ, so you're halfway there!

Why do I have to register? It seems like an extra hassle.

It can be challenging to balance our farm operations with the number of shares available to purchase on a weekly basis. If we simply opened it to anyone with an internet connection and web browser, we would risk shutting out our regular and loyal customers. Furthermore, we don't want to waste time and money processing refunds to some guy in Australia who thought it would be funny to order produce and eggs from Idaho with free delivery for his outback barbecue next Thursday. Our solution was to set up a password protected purchase page. Plus it's really not that hard.

The login/signup page won't close. How do I get back to your website?

If you entered your information to login or sign up, then clicked the "GO" button, it might take a second or two. If instead you get cold feet and want to leave without entering anything, the tab to close the login page is only clickable (on some web browsers) if you hover over the top left corner of the "X" icon. The login system is designed and controlled by our web hosting service, so there isn't anything we can do about this. Unfortunately, if you're stuck on the login page, you probably aren't reading this anyway. We trust that you'll figure it out eventually!

The "site administrator" approved my request and I'm registered. What happens now?

Go ahead and buy some eggs if you're feeling adventurous! During the offseason, we'll send occasional email reminders and post updates to our Facebook page , or you can ignore those and find a good book to read while you're waiting for the growing and harvest season to kick into gear. Once things start happening (usually late April or early May), we'll send a weekly email listing what is available and the price, along with a direct link to our website.

Can you set up the checkout page so it will store my credit card info?

The short answer is that we can't do that right now without changing our web hosting service and rebuilding the website. The long answer is that our website does not store or handle financially sensitive data like your credit card account. That's all handled by a secure third-party credit card processor. Our web hosting service uses proprietary code for transmitting encryption keys, so we can't just insert a bit of our own HTML code into the checkout page that would allow us to securely link your Muddy Springs login account to a credit card account. Basically, we can't modify how the two services talk to each other using encryption. Unless the hosting service upgrades its level of integration with the credit card processor, our options are limited. For some customers, decoupling the site login and credit card information is a net positive, since in theory it is more secure. For other customers, it can be an inconvenience. We plan to stick with our current e-commerce provider for now, but will re-evaluate our options based on customer feedback after the season.

When and where are you going to drop off the produce box?

Delivery is usually scheduled for Thursday, although the exact drop off time varies with the weather and our harvest schedule. We usually aim to have everything delivered by mid-afternoon, around the time most people get home from work, but during the summer when produce can rapidly wilt in the hot sun, we often wait until early evening. Your front porch is our location of choice, but if there is a better place sheltered from the sun and rain, let us know. In the meantime, we are experimenting with an automated email to let you know that boxes are out for delivery. We're not quite Amazon or UPS, so if your box isn't there when you get home, be patient.

What about egg delivery?

Orders for eggs are accepted at any time and are usually delivered within a day or two of purchase. (If we're short-handed during the busy growing season, we'll post a note on the checkout page letting you know that egg drop-offs will be scheduled to coincide with our regular Thursday produce box deliveries.) Our all-time record is one hour!  We were headed into town for errands when we saw the order, grabbed the eggs, and bumped into the customer at the checkout lane in the hardware store, before we could even make it to their house. It's part of what we like about living in a small town.

Do you deliver to locations other than Moscow?

We only deliver to residential addresses in the general vicinity of Moscow, Idaho. If you're wondering whether you live in our delivery area, contact us and we can let you know if it works. 

Can you deliver to my office or work?

Unfortunately, we do not deliver to offices or workplaces. When we tried this option in the past, there were always snafus: parking can be a huge hassle, secretaries don't know what to do with the boxes, everyone was out to lunch, our customers had already left for the day, etc.  Plus we often drop off boxes outside of normal work hours. Home delivery really works much better.

Can I reserve orders in advance?

In general, we want to stick with the "first come, first serve" roots of our week-to-week CSA model, since it gives everyone an equal chance at placing an order. However, if you are a registered member and are certain that you want to reserve a box for a particular date, contact us. At our discretion and for an additional $5 processing fee, you will be committed to one box at a price to be determined. We will send you an email invoice when we send out the regular email notification for that week. The invoice will include a secure link for online credit card payment (no cash or checks). Invoices unpaid a week after after delivery will also be charged a late penalty of $5. Please do not use the option to reserve boxes as a way to circumvent the regular ordering process, since it is meant only for exceptional circumstances, maybe a few times per season for any given customer.

Can I be put on a wait list for next week if you are sold out? 

We no longer have a week-to-week wait list. In the past, anyone who missed out on a box the previous week was allowed to commit to a box for the next week. The problem was that it set up a vicious cycle by tying up the number of boxes available the following week, which led to a longer wait list, which tied up boxes the following week, and so on. If you missed out on a box because we sold out, contact us and we will consider requests subject to the same conditions and limits outlined for reserved orders (see above). However, there should be plenty of open slots from week to week, if you place your order soon after you receive the email notification. Occasionally, we may have extra boxes after selling out, since our estimates for the initial weekly email notification are fairly conservative. Like so much else on the farm, it depends on the weather. If we do have extra boxes that week, we'll send another email notification and add them to the online store inventory.

But I don't sit at a computer all day! It's not fair if I don't see the email notification in time. 

We sympathize, our rural DSL internet access from Frontier is barely a step above a dial-up modem, even when it is actually working. To help address this problem, we put together a mobile version of the website, so if you have a smart phone and cell reception, you should be good to go! Plus the notification isn't sent out at the same time of day (or even the same day) each week, since the timing of our field assessment depends on many different variables... it could be Sunday evening, Monday morning, etc. On average, everyone should have a chance at ordering a box, and nobody can sit around waiting for an automated message at the tick of the clock. If having guaranteed local produce each week is critical, you might consider joining a season-long subscription CSA or showing up early at the Moscow Farmers Market.

I want to buy more than one box this week, is that ok?

Produce boxes are limited to one per member per week, unless you contact us in advance. We often sell out each week, so we want to make sure that other members have a chance to buy one. If we sold out, but it looks like there will be room for extra boxes on harvest day, we'll send a follow-up email announcement. If you are buying one for someone else, they should sign up for a membership. Note that the online checkout process doesn't allow us to automatically limit purchase quantities, so if you accidentally select multiple boxes, we may need to cancel part of your order and refund the extra balance.

How about eggs? Can I buy a few dozen at a time?

Absolutely! Purchase as many eggs as you want, since there are always more eggs in the pipeline. If it seems like the website is limiting you to only one or two dozen eggs, it's because that's all we have available at the moment. Check back later, since we update the egg inventory every day or two. Sometimes we run a large surplus, other times you might have to wait a few days. It all depends on the hens and how many eggs other people are ordering.

Can I order a whole season of shares in advance?

Several of our members do order on a weekly basis throughout the season, but we can't guarantee that shares will always be available. Our primary customer base is composed of people who might order a box only every other week, or once a month, or three weeks in a row then not for another month, etc. If we set aside blocks of shares for season-long subscriptions, we would risk losing regular buyers who prefer our flexible weekly model and are not served by other growers. There are a number of small farms in the Moscow area that offer a full season of guaranteed  produce (see our resources page for some options), usually for a flat up-front fee. Before we moved to Muddy Springs, we participated in several of these CSA plans and were quite happy with them. The caveats of a subscription CSA are that you share in the unknown risk of growing conditions for that season (too much or too little produce), do not have control over what you end up purchasing, or may find that receiving shares every single week doesn't fit your schedule. 

I missed the Wednesday mid-day deadline to order. Can you squeeze me in? 

Once we start harvesting, processing, and packaging orders, there is no easy way for us to go back and divide items into additional boxes. We suggest that you be patient and order a box the following week, as soon as you receive the email notification. For what it's worth, the contents and pricing tend to be similar from week to week, since most crops have  a "sliding window" for peak harvest that extends across multiple weeks. 

I'll be out of town on Thursday. Can you deliver earlier or later? 

Assessing our weekly prospects, deciding on quantities and prices, receiving orders, then actually harvesting and processing the produce is always a delicate balance. Given these constraints, the delivery schedule needs to be limited to a single day, and even then we can't predict exactly what time it will show up on your porch. Occasionally we may announce a Wednesday or Friday delivery date in the weekly email notification, but that usually involves the weather (e.g., if it will affect peak ripening of sensitive crops) or personal obligations, and applies to the group as a whole. 

Your boxes are too large! Can I just order a half share? 

Although this question comes up often, we've made the decision that trying to figure out a respectable "half share" unnecessarily complicates our harvest workflow, and would probably lead to disappointed customers anyway. Basically, the number of boxes and amount of produce are determined each week by looking at what we have in the field, then building upward from the number of "limiting items" that can be reasonably divided into marketable portions. These limiting items are usually high-value crops (e.g., asparagus, strawberries, sweet corn) that are popular with customers but frequently available only in limited quantities. As we work through the harvest, we divide the remaining crops proportionally among the number of boxes determined by the limiting items. The upshot is that our boxes will typically include lots of staple crops that produce heavily (e.g., peas, beans, salad greens) without skimping on the high-value items, whereas a half share wouldn't include much (if any) of the high-value items that everyone wants. If you find that our boxes are too large for your needs, you can always arrange to split them with a neighbor or friend.  On the farm, we just prepare large meals and enjoy having plenty of leftovers. Another option would be to preserve your produce by canning, freezing, dehydrating, pickling, etc.


Your email said there would be arugula this week, but it wasn't in my box. 

The email notification is our best guess at what will be available and marketable for deliveries later that week. Although a few days doesn't make much of a difference if you're estimating an inventory of soup cans sitting on a shelf, it can be an eternity when you have perishable produce growing in the field. A lot can happen between the initial email and harvest. Sometimes we lose an item because of a sudden outbreak of insect pests (flea beetles on arugula is a good example) or unexpected damaging weather (e.g., wind, hail, hard frost). Other times we need to hold off on an item because it didn't quite mature as rapidly as we expected. The flip side is that we often include bonus items and/or extra quantities whenever we have them. We have never been asked to issue a refund, but if for some reason there is a huge difference between the email list and the actual box, we will contact you directly.


Can I just order asparagus or strawberries or sweet corn? 

Our small farm business model is based on income from a wide variety of crops grown and harvested successionally throughout the entire season, rather than a few high-value crops that only yield a limited harvest period. By building purchases around a weekly baseline box that includes the same items for everyone, we are able to reward our regular customers and keep their overall bill lower, while ensuring that ready-for-harvest products do not go to waste. If you are interested in purchasing local produce on an "a la carte" basis, we encourage you to visit any of the excellent vendors at the Moscow Farmers Market. 

Do you offer a cheaper bulk "u-pick" option at the farm?

We do not offer a u-pick option. On-site supervision of visitors is incredibly time consuming, and our planting schedule is designed to yield a continual and diverse harvest throughout the season, rather than rotating through a few large u-pick crops at a time. If you are looking for bulk quantities of vegetables and fruit for processing, you could try the Moscow Farmers Market or one of the u-pick operations in the Lewiston or Spokane areas.

Should I clean or wash your produce and eggs before I eat them?

Prior to packing, we inspect and clean our vegetables and fruit to the extent possible without incurring damage from excess handling. Eggs are rinsed in warm water after collection, gently scrubbed, and stored below 45 F per health department requirements. A little common sense goes a long way here. If you see some field residue (e.g., mulch, straw, soil) that we missed, clean it off before you store and/or prepare your produce for consumption. Even if something looks clean, it's a good idea to rinse it off before you eat it. We take food safety seriously on the farm, and do not use synthetic pesticides on any of our crops.  If you have questions, please look at our sustainability page, or contact us directly and we will be glad to provide more information about how we grow, harvest and pack the food you purchase.


How should I store your produce and eggs?

There is no single answer to this question, since shelf life and optimum storage conditions will vary considerably depending on what you purchased. We harvest most of our vegetables and fruit at or near peak ripeness, and many items (e.g., tomatoes, sweet corn, strawberries) are best eaten soon after delivery. Leafy greens (e.g., kale, lettuce, spinach) will keep longer if patted dry, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and allowed to breath when placed in the refrigerator.  Other items (e.g., onions, garlic, potatoes, winter squash) will keep for weeks or even months in a dark, cool, well-ventilated space. Rather than provide an exhaustive set of guidelines here, the Moscow Food Co-op has an excellent produce storage guide available online, covering everything from asparagus to zucchini. Eggs should always be stored in the refrigerator. Our eggs are marked with the date laid, and will keep under refrigeration for at least a month or longer. By comparison, commercial supermarket eggs are marked with the "sell by" and/or "use by" date, and can be over a month old when you buy them.

What the heck is kohlrabi or tatsoi or scorzonera and how am I supposed to eat it?

Some of the items we grow on the farm aren't the usual staples you'll find in the average grocery store. When our boxes include something out of the ordinary, we try to include a few suggested uses and/or recipes in the weekly email notification. If you're still wondering what that funny looking thing in your box is, and have no idea what to do with it, contact us and we'll let you know how we use it when making meals for our own family. Better yet, if you have a great recipe for something you made that week, post it on our Facebook page  

Help! One of our eggs had a little blood spot when I cracked it open. Is it safe to eat?

Some eggs will be fertilized, since we keep a handful of roosters in our flock. These eggs are perfectly safe to eat, and are just a sign of the boys and girls doing their natural... um, you know... thing. Our eggs are collected, cleaned, and placed in refrigerated storage daily -  which immediately stops the development process - so they are completely fresh. If you encounter an egg that is especially messy inside (very rare), contact us and we can arrange replacements. Ultimately, our roosters are invaluable guardians for protecting the flock from predators like coyotes and hawks, in addition to providing fertilized eggs for us to hatch out each spring for new chickens.  Amazingly, we have only lost a single hen to predators since we started raising chickens, despite having no electric fencing or other barriers enclosing our free range flock. If an occasional fertilized egg doesn't work for you (e.g., your family keeps kosher), let us know if you have a recommendation for another local farm that delivers unfertilized eggs, and we will post that information here.

Can I return your cardboard boxes, egg cartons, and/or plastic bags for reuse?

We no longer pack our produce and eggs in used boxes or cartons for storage/delivery, as we are tightening our food safety protocols under the guidance of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Essentially, FSMA encourages all producers, distributors and handlers of food products (including small farmers) to take more control of assessing food safety risks, mitigating potential problems, and documenting procedures. It sounds like a bunch of onerous paperwork, but really doesn't require much beyond our existing practices for growing safe food. Avoiding the reuse of packaging for direct to consumer products is one area where we can do more to improve the security of the food supply chain. We do accept returns of our boxes and/or egg cartons for other uses around the farm. We do not accept used packaging from other sources, nor do we accept returns of plastic bags. We try our hardest to minimize the use of plastic bags when packing boxes for delivery, but we have not yet found a functional, cost-effective substitute for keeping many of our perishable products fresh. For nifty ideas on how you can reuse plastic bags around the home, check out what other people have done here,  here, and here.

I'm really sorry I didn't order from you last week. Can we still be friends? 

Don't worry about it! You don't have to buy anything from us. The whole premise of our week-to-week model with "first-come, first-serve" purchasing is that it takes all of the guilt and worry out of the whole process. Orders are filled as they are received, and you only buy what you want. If we do a good job of balancing the size of the membership pool with our farm production, the risk is equally shared: sometimes we can't sell everything we'd like to, but other times we'll sell out when you want to buy something. 

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