Friday, February 19, 2010

Where Does The Rest of the Food Produced at Henry Got Crops! Go?

By Nicole Sugerman

Although our primary mission is to serve our community shareholders (that’s you!), not 100% of the produce we grow ends up on your tables. There are several reasons for this. In order to succeed in our first season, we sold CSA shares cautiously, estimating how many shares we could fill based on a worst-case scenario. We didn’t want to sell shares too ambitiously and then not have enough food. So, we picked a number that we knew we could exceed in order to satisfy and impress our first-season community. Luckily, our yields are a bit higher than our worst-case predictions, meaning we have more produce than we need to give you all generous shares each week.

Also, we occasionally have bumper crops of a certain item. No matter how much eggplant we gave out this past July, we were inevitably left with a rather large amount. Ditto with greens in the early spring. Calculating how much of a certain crop to plant is a little bit tricky, since productivity varies based on time of the year, time of planting, and climactic conditions each season. So sometimes, we overestimate (or under, in the case of this summer’s much too rare salad greens) a little bit and end up with a bit too much of something.

When we have surplus of something, we distribute it through other means. Every Wednesday, we operate a small farmstand on Henry Avenue. We wanted to provide a venue for the Saul community to eat the produce they helped to grow even if they did not want the commitment of becoming season-long shareholders. Also, Saul has traditionally sold corn on the road in summers past, so we did not want to disappoint those expecting fresh Saul produce.

We also have a stand at the Manayunk Farmers Market on Main Street every Saturday. This is a new market this year, and we were excited to be able to support a new farmers’ market so near to the farm. Since these two farmstands are on Wednesday and Saturday, we conveniently do not have to harvest especially for them; we can use extras that we harvest for share pickups on
Tuesdays and Fridays.

After we satisfy our shareholders first and our markets second, the farm staff takes home vegetables for our own use. Mostly, we take home the slightly gnarly looking stuff, but everyone can take home as much as they can use; our interns and apprentices receive vegetables as a part of their payment. Also, I think it is important for the entire farm staff to eat the vegetables we grow, both as a measure of quality control (are the radishes woody? Are the winter squash ripe enough?), and so that we can knowledgeably answer questions about taste and preparation of each vegetable.

We also donate food to the North Lights Community Center, which runs a food bank twice a week. We donate food because Nina and I are ideologically committed to helping to make fresh, organically produced vegetables accessible to those who are food insecure. We are also required to donate food as part of our participation in the City Harvest program. Run by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, City Harvest is a really exciting, multi-faceted gardening program. Seedlings are grown at a prison in the Northeast, helping prison inmates learn about seedling production and gardening work.

Additional seedlings are grown at a greenhouse shared by Weavers Way Farm, of which our CSA is a part, and PHS, because the participation in the program is so popular that the capacity is now beyond that of the prison greenhouse. These seedlings are distributed throughout the season to community gardens and farms throughout Philadelphia. All of the growers who receive these seedlings donate a portion of their produce to food banks and cupboards. We are proud that the two coordinators of the City Harvest program are shareholders in the Henry Got Crops CSA, as well as a colleague in the Philadelphia Green program at Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. All three are invaluable sources of help to us in our first year!

Established in 1936, North Light Community Center is on Green Lane in Manayunk. In addition to their twice-weekly food cupboard, North Light offers tutoring, summer camp, and afterschool programs for children and teens, technology and job placement programs, neighborhood cultural events, and even grows its own vegetable garden/ entrepreneurial program through the city-wide, recreation-center based Teens For Good program. We are pleased to be working with them this season!

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