Saturday, August 21, 2010

Logistics of the Pick-Up

By Nina Berryman

It’s exactly half way through our 26-week season with the CSA. My how times flies! As all organizations, we are constantly learning and growing together as a group of people. We have chosen to come together over the common interest of local, healthy food, and we are half-way through that seasonal journey. I thought I would take this mid-season perspective as an opportunity to review and respond to questions and concerns I have received recently.
I would like to reiterate how we are all really a community, working together to make local agriculture work. We as farmers appreciate your support in making this type of agricultural business viable; and you as eaters (hopefully!) appreciate the opportunity we are creating for you to eat local, healthy food. Our interactions with each other are not your typical producer/consumer relationship found in almost all other aspects of our capitalist society. Instead, it is one based on trust (paying in advance for a product), respect (for each other and the land), and a common goal (supporting local agriculture). Unlike a supermarket, a farmers market or a restaurant, customers can’t choose whatever they want from a set of options. While we of course have a few options to choose from (e.g. chard or kale), for the most part we determine what vegetables go home with you every week. That being said, we know everyone likes diversity and we work very hard to offer as many different vegetables as possible to keep your dinner tables and diet diverse. This brings me to the main point am I interested in up. When you are at the pick up and you see one item run out and another one replace it, please keep in mind a few points. The first is that an extremely large amount of time and consideration goes into thinking about what to plant, how much to plant, and what vegetables get paired during a pick-up. Even when you plant 100 eggplant all on the same day they will not all be ready at the same time.Also, because of environmental variability, all those 100 eggplant will not continue to produce at the same rate all season. If we were to plant enough eggplant as to ensure that all 130 families all got eggplant on a given week, we would have to more than double the size of our planting! That in turn would mean we wouldn’t have room for other crops, like the onions for example. These are the type of very complicated, multi-faceted considerations we take into consideration during the winter when planning the upcoming season. “What, how much, and when?” are like a three-dimensional puzzle we have to squeeze into the area of the field and the time constraints of the season.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are less than happy about a sub-in, is that if we are continuously pairing eggplant and peppers for example, we will try to rotate which goes out first from week to week to accommodate people who can only ever come to the farm at a certain time because of their personal schedules.
Please also keep in mind the fact that the people staffing the pick-up are your fellow share-holders. They are paying for the vegetables just like you and are putting additional time into the CSA to help make it run smoothly. They restock things as needed and replace things as we, the farmers, request. Because of their hard work, the vegetables are kept as cool and fresh as possible given our facilities. Imagine how much harder your pick-up would be if you had to walk down into the field to find a farmer every time the kale ran out! The shareholders staffing the pick-up are not responsible for the harvest but are happy to answer your questions about it. If they don’t know the answer they can always direct you to a farmer in the field. The pick-up staffers are not waiting on you, they are working with you to help make this farm run smoothly. Everyone’s contribution, whether it is monetary or labor, helps keep the farm functioning.
On another note, I am sure you have all noticed the U-Pick has increased in these last few weeks. We are excited to be seeing more share members in the field, creating more opportunity to meet each other and speak with one another, farmer to eater. We hope you all enjoy the opportunity to become even more familiar with the land and the people that produce your food. The U-Pick is created as another way of increasing the diversity of food that is available to you, as well as to provide another, fun way to become closer to where your food comes from. The U-Pick items tend to be ones that are popular yet labor-intensive to harvest. If we did not offer green beans as U-Pick, we simply wouldn’t be able to offer them at all as we would never have enough time to harvest green beans for 130 families every week! In my ideal world everyone would harvest all of their own food at least at one point in their life to gain an appreciation of where it comes from and the joy and work that goes into growing it. Of course, this is unrealistic, but I hope our small U-pick option fosters that awareness and joy.
130 families is a lot and while I am excited about our ability to expand as a farm, I am saddened by my inability to get to know all of you and hear your feedback on your farm experience. Those of you who I have spoken with about your positive and negative experience, I appreciate your input. My hope is that this article has clarified any questions or concerns people may still have at this point in the season. I look forward to more dialogue with you all as the remainder of the season unfolds!

No comments:

Post a Comment