Sunday, October 16, 2011

Comments From You

From the Commets/Questions/Suggestions Box:
“More Carrots, Rainbow!” - Red/purple and yellow carrots were just harvested for the first time this season for Friday’s pick up. They will be in Tuesdays’s pick up next week. I’m glad to hear they are popular. I’ll plant more, earlier in the season next year.

“Maybe plant more fennel next year.” - This can be arranged. At the end of the season I will send out a survey for people to comment on what they want more or less of. More fennel means less of something else since we have a finite amount of space to grow on. I’ll happily consider changing the ratio of fennel to some other less popular item, based on the survey at the end of the year.

"Extremely disappointed”- I’m sorry to hear this. If you would like to follow up with more details about what specifically you are disappointed in I’m interested in your feedback in the hope that I could make positive changes for next year.
“I love you guys- and I support the ideology of CSA…but…$700 is a lot for what we’ve been getting this year. I want you to address this!” - I’m glad to hear you love us and like supporting CSAs. That is a great place to start. However, I think there might be a misunderstanding here about the ideology of CSAs. The ideololgy of a CSA is that sometimes you get a lot of vegetables, and sometimes you get a little. The very theory of a CSA is in fact that shareholders share the risks (and benefits) of agriculture, in good years and in bad. This is an alternative model to the traditional farming system where the difficulties of a hard season fall solely on the shoulders of the farmer. The CSA model is supposed to spread the costs of operating a farm among the shareholders so that the farmer doesn’t go in debt and can remain in a sustainable business. At this point the $400 and $710 shares at Henry Got Crops actually are not even covering the costs of your weekly vegetables, as we are still operating in debt. So if you look at the true costs of operating an urban, 2.5 acre, non-certified organic farm, you’ll find at this point $710 is actually not even enough to pay for the vegetables you are getting. Because we are part of the Weavers Way Co-op we are being financially sustained and we are not going into debt even though we are operating in the red. With the co-op we have the understanding that after a few years our systems will be more efficient, our land will be more productive and we will break even and then turn a profit. To be honest this year will be excitingly close to that point and I look forward to calculating total income and expenses at the end of the year. It may seem like $710 is a lot for the vegetables you are getting in some weeks, but don’t forget about those weeks with over 5 lbs of tomatoes. At $4/lb that is a $20 value in one of your items alone! If you feel like you might be getting more vegetables for a comparable price at a farmers market where the product is comparable (as opposed to a super market), remember that CSAs are in fact different from a farmers market. Even in a bad year, a farmer at a farmers market can only raise the price of tomatoes slightly if at all to compensate for lower production. If the price is raised too much, the tomatoes still won’t sell, for example. This is the built-in resilience of the CSA model which is so useful for farmers. One of our working share members is currently calculating the value of the share at this point in the season, based on farmers market prices to shed light on the financial ups and downs of this season. I think what your comment is saying is that you wish you had more vegetables. I wish we did too! I agree, the share is smaller right now and I am appreciative for everyone’s upfront support for this farm in the winter when you purchased your share. I feel grateful that this year will not be as financially difficult for us at Henry Got Crops as it will be for most market farmers, thanks to you! Odds are next year will be better and instead of sharing the risks of agriculture, we’ll be sharing the bounty!

“Larger quantity of U-pick beans- it’s so little its almost not worth it.” – Great feedback. More beans means less of something else (see comment about the fennel). I’ll gladly increase the quantity of beans and reduce the quantity of another U-pick item if that seems to be the popular vote. For instance, I’m already sure that I will plant less basil next year!

“Veggies I’d like to see next year: bok choi and baby bok choi (truckloads of it! Also related Asian greens!), more radishes, more carrots, more summer squash (yellow, green, baby paty pans), spaghetti squash, love the scallions!” - Great feedback, thanks. Many of these items are still coming but are late this year because of the weather. For instance, I just planted 120 feet of bok choi, and 120 feet of tat soi, and 120 feet of hons tsai tai, all Asian greens. Fall radishes just started to come in, and we had a lull in the carrots due to weed pressure over the summer. The summer squash season was shorter this year due to the overwhelming squash beetle pressure. I’ve never grown spaghetti squash and would be happy to try it next year. Glad to hear you like the scallions! This year I planted a new variety called White Spear which I am particularly pleased with.

From the Pick Up Tables (paraphrased):

“I love staffing the pick-up. I get to meet so many interesting people!”
In the Field (paraphrased):
“In your newsletter you sound apologetic. You have nothing to apologize for. Of course I am also disappointed to that the share feels small, but that is what I signed up for! You never know what the season will bring.”
“Things look neat as a pin down there, I can tell the students are back in school and really helping out.”
“My son just harvested for the first time! I explained to him how to choose the red raspberries and he picked one perfectly!” (A mother about her infant.)
“I like to bring my kids to the farm because it’s the only time they will eat their vegetables. They will eat them here, but not on the dinner plate!”

“I have had a really tough summer …but I have managed most days to stay positive. Coming up to Saul every week has help me stay connected and positive in more ways than you can imagine....I just love being part of the CSA!!! After I pick up the bounty every week, I come home and dream up ways to cook, if needed, everything. I hardly eat meat any more. I think next year I am gonna buy a full share....STUFF ME WITH VEGGIES!!!!!! The quality of the produce is WAY beyond a grocery store.....and when I say this it includes Whole Foods.......Well Done Nina!!!”

“Why I Love the CSA: Last year I traveled to and from the farm several times with a friend who was going around the same time as me. When we got in the car together the first week I said, "So, how do you like the CSA?"I was totally unprepared for her denigrating it as never having much food and how disappointed she was that she didn't get various foods she wanted. I couldn't disagree more. I love getting weird and different foods I've never seen before (ground cherries, tat soi) and don't yet know how to cook. Sometimes I find that I don't like the food I've never had (dandelion greens) or there's something I'm allergic to (bell peppers) but I just swap it at the swap box and maybe have 4 cucumbers instead of 2. I've stretched my cooking repertoire a lot by figuring out how to use large quantities of things I used to just put into a salad or eat as a snack. Some weeks the share is huge. The week before I went on vacation the large shares got 11 pounds of tomatoes. Sometimes the share is small, but that just means I've helped the farm out by sharing in the weeks that didn't produce as much as well as benefiting during the weeks when there is a bumper crop. I always save my vegetable shopping till after I stop at the CSA so I will know what I need to add. It helps me feel like I'm part of the cycle of the farm knowing that some weeks there's less than other weeks, just like having certain vegetables available at certain times of the year makes me feel that way. In the old days when everyone grew their own food, I'd have had less those same weeks.”

Around the Co-op (paraphrased):
“I read your article last week. Hang in there, it has been a hard season. My garden has been suffering too!”

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