Please take a moment to read this CSA wrapup newsletter, it's a summary of how we tried to improve this year and what our successes and failures were! We will be sending out the CSA signup letter for 2019 very soon, which includes our new Winter Share from January to Mid March! Stay Tuned!
In this Newsletter:
Summary of highs and lows of the 2018 CSA
Thanks to our members!
Detailed crop analysis with pictures
Farmigo and Vacation Credits
The 2019 Crew
Extreme weather and our climate change strategies
WENDELL BERRY QUOTE!
What a Year!
Every year at this time we send a letter summarizing what was in the baskets and the survey results. We also share what we felt we did well and what we are doing to improve the CSA experience. So here it goes:
Quick Summary: Season Highs:
Great crop production this year
Eggplants! Red Peppers! Squash! Tomatoes!
Better CSA outreach with photos and Facebook group
Choose your own root crop started in September
Happy farm team
Systems are stabilizing
Tarnished plant bug
Cauliflower, melons, head lettuce
Spring drought, Summer deluge (weather!)
Lost our bridge for 2 months!
Farmers markets. . .
Farmigo system. . . !!
Read on for more details.
First of all, Thank you!!
Thank you so so much for your support. We could not do this farming thing without all of you believing in the local-organic food system! Running a farm is tough, with unpredictable weather and tight margins, but having a predictable market in our CSA makes us confident to hire our staff on a permanent basis (at least 5 of us, anyway!), and it helps us remain motivated that we serve such a dedicated and lovely group of people. Thanks!
Highlights for Us We had a really great farm team this year. We put a lot more effort into communication (morning meetings, performance reviews, and regular followups), and we worked harder on work life balance. Our crew enjoyed a coffee break on harvest mornings (that took us 9 years to implement!) and our managers spent less time doing markets and CSA deliveries (we all have babies!). At the same time, the farm systems are starting to work very well, and our soil on this farm is simply amazing, if a tiny bit heavy. After returning to a previously used field for the first time, we have confirmation that our farming practices and the quality of the soil are really pretty good! We're also very excited about the changes we made to the CSA pickups which you may have noticed!
CSA Changes - more choice is better! We made some changes to our CSA, the biggest one being the free choice of roots. We did something similar for last year's Fall Share, and this year it went into effect in September! We hope you enjoyed being able to take more of what you like and less of what you don’t. All the feedback we've gotten has been very positive. Next year we are planning on doing free choice with more things like zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, fennel…the more ‘gourmet’ veggies. We will also try to offer free choice roots a little earlier than last year.
More Outreach - CSA Facebook Group Jess spearheaded this initiative to try and create more of a community around the preparation and cooking of our veggies. We were very pleasantly surprised at how popular the group was and how engaged the members were! It was so exciting to see folks posting their great recipes and ideas, and heartwarming to see our members helping out folks who didn't know what to do with a particular veggie or a deluge of kale. More Variety: We added eggplants, celeriac (fall share only) and cauliflower to our growing list this year. Cauliflower wasn’t great but eggplants and celeriac worked out. We didn’t have enough eggplant as the second flush of flowers were aborted due to tarnish plant bug damage (more on that below). Even so, we gave a good amount of eggplant and will continue to grow them in the future. More Acres: We grew more vegetables than we ever have. We expanded our fields to have more squash and carrots. And our fertility was excellent so (most) of our yields were also outstanding. Our cold rooms are full for the winter and it feels good. We will be scaling back slightly next year for various reasons, but will still be growing a lot of food and storing lots for the winter.
Survey Results Thanks to everyone who filled out our survey (177 of you!). These are super helpful in making our CSA better. Things we learnt from this years survey:95% found the CSA overall "excellent" or "very good" 3% found it merely "good"1.2% found it disappointing (sob)We need to keep offering more choiceeveryone wants more beans, fruit, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflowerSome of the pickups are in awkward places We probably need more locations to make it easier for people94.4% thought the taste and freshness was excellent3% thought the taste and freshness was disappointing87% said the amount of veggies was just right7.3% said too little5.6% said too muchCSA Value in 2018
This year the half-share got a 8% discount, based on our market prices. The full- share got a 12% discount. We broke down the weekly shares and values here
Tomatoes and Peppers We were super happy with our tomato and pepper yields this year. Kielan's has been doing a fantastic job managing the greenhouses and the yields have increased and taste improved! We gave tomatoes 10 times and a few weeks we were giving 2 quarts/week!! The eggplants were also super until the tarnished plant bug got them.
Last year (2017) we had a great broccoli year (by our standards). Our plantings we're very successful and the heads were big and beautiful. This year we got a little cocky and thought "Hey if we can do broccoli, we can do cauliflower too!" The result was that the broccoli was less good this year, and the cauliflower almost a complete failure. The weather and bugs played a BIG ROLE in that. Our strategy this year is to learn from our mistakes - we're going to plant more broccoli and no cauliflower in 2019, and we will focus on pest management, watering, and fertility. We're getting there!
First of all, a big shoutout to our awesome pickup coordinators. They have really improved the CSA experience. We will be putting more time in this winter to train our coordinators and make sure they are armed with all they need to make sure the pickup experience is as good as possible! That includes more choice for you all when you get to the pickup!
Farmigo and Vacation Credits We recognize that the system we had in place for receiving credit for vacations was not great. Some of you had to contact us multiple times to get your Farmigo credit. Starting in 2019, any vacations taken will automatically be credited to members accounts. You will also be credited the full amount that you paid for the share, without any admin fee on our part. This credit can be used on the farm store or transferred to another season. No more emailing us and waiting for us to manually put it in. Hooray!! Our farm store will offer more items next year to make ordering more interesting!
Tarnish plant bug was a new pest for us this year. Well, not entirely new- it has visited before, but not with such intensity. It thrives in dry weather and grass. So after the first cut of hay in the field around us they descended on our veggies, ruining and severely damaging the chard, eggplants, beans, and beet greens! We may stop having our fields hayed, which should work as a catch crop for the tarnish plant bug and also a habitat for endangered birds, beneficials, pollinators and butterflies. But we may need to start using the same pest control strategies we use on other (much more annoying) crops like Broccoli - extensive use of row cover or insect netting, keeping the paths and roads very clean of grass and weeds, and, in the very worst case, using certified organic pest sprays.
Our Team for 2019
This winter Kielan and Tim (pictured) are working full time, though we frequently have later starts or earlier stops in the winter! Amelia and Melissa are helping out part time. We'll be washing and packing for the Winter CSA and for our markets, and taking care of all the admin and planning that comes with a growing farm!
We will also be taking some courses and attending workshops.
The crew is heading to the Northeast Organic Farming Associations annual conference in Saratoga Springs in January. Jess is taking some business management courses, and Tim is taking a small engine repair workshop at Algonquin. Kielan will be busy with crop planning and seed orders. We try to have a balance of farm and office work that folks can do from their own home!
Next year, Amelia will be playing a bigger role in the pack shed, and Robin will be back in the fields more (if and) when we find an Office Admin Manager. We're really excited about streamlining our production and defining some of the roles. It's become evident that we need a dedicated Driver and a dedicated Market Manager so that our full time staff can maintain a regular workweek.
This year the spring/early summer was extremely dry. We have irrigation but there is only so much we can irrigate. The drought came at a critical time when everything was germinating, so the irrigation was running 24/7. The potatoes got neglected, and so our potato yields were not great this year.
The winter came extra early this year. It was OK- we managed to get everything out of the field this year. Unlike last year we got our garlic planted in time!
We have had a record something every.single.year we have farmed (since 2010). It is scary. We hope we are resilient enough to continue to survive what the climate throws at us.
Goals for the future (CLIMATE CHANGE)
We have always been conscious of the environment and climate change; it is part of the reason why we started farming. But the most recent IPCC Climate Change report has had a great effect on us. We feel a huge responsibility to reduce our impact on the environment. We are small players in a big world, but we truly believe that collective action can make an impact. We also need to do something within our realm of influence in order to feel (somewhat) OK about the future.
We will be sending out a more comprehensive newsletter in the new year to discuss our farm’s Carbon Neutral Goals. In summary, it will include reducing plastic use, converting to electric vehicles and planting more trees. We cannot do this without your support so we hope you’ll help us in the this challenge!
Summary of our goals for 2019 More Broccoli, Eggplant, Beans, and Head Lettuce
Even more choice at pickup locations, and continuing the root crop extravaganza from 2018
Automatic Farmigo credit system to use with the farm store
Addition of a few very convenient pickup locations
One less farmers market
More defined roles and predictable schedules for permanent employees
Creation and implementation of a 10 year carbon neutral/positive plan!!!
So that is that. I will leave you with this lovely quote by Wendell Berry: Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in a mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” pg. 85, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry
Happy Holidays from everyone here on the farm!