What are we changing this season?
Thank you to all of our returning members who have already signed up for this season!! It’s incredible how much of a response we’ve had thus far this winter, thank you!! I was telling Ben, if we continue to sell shares at this rate, I will be spending more time in the office this winter as opposed to this spring. Which means I’ll be able to help him a lot more during planting season!!
I think this is a perfect time to touch briefly on CSA Shares as a model of produce distribution.. We are a small farm; husband and wife team. We don’t have the workforce or labor to support a lot of farmers markets, we don’t have the growing capacity to sell wholesale to distributors (also requires more land, more labor to sell at wholesale price), so the CSA model is really the only, the perfect, fit for Ben & I. As two people who are managing a program and farm like this, our jobs are full time during the summer.
That’s one reason the CSA is paid for in advance of the season- it allows me to stay out of the office during the middle of the summer. I do spend one day a week in the office planning harvests, calendars, doing payroll etc, but if we were selling something every day or week, we would need to hire another person just to process the office paperwork. CSA’s are also great because it’s allowing us to specialize our farm for you- we plan our whole season around the CSAs and what we want to harvest and when. Allowing us to reflect your preferences… which rolls into my next segment perfectly.
We got your survey results, and we’re listening!!!
Thank you to everyone who took the time to send us a survey. We’ve been combing through the results more and have been humbled. Your responses to many of the questions were pure compliments, please know that there is nothing better than seeing your satisfaction with our CSA. We love what we’re doing and we’re happy to share that with you too, thank you for your support!
Diving deeper into the survey results, I had focused on a handful of the multiple choice & write-in questions. The answers to the questions about 1. What to add to the CSAs or 2. What to take out of the CSAs was really interesting!
WHAT TO ADD TO THE CSA:
From over 40 unique answers, I started recognizing the most commonly noted. I ended up tallying the responses and some of the most common requests were: more fruit, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, root crops, & more lettuces.
**We will be doubling the Brussel sprouts. As many of you know, this season they were stunted by the heat the first 2 weeks they were planted- even though we had irrigation on them- so by the time the end of the CSA season came around they weren’t even big enough to harvest them. Last year, we all had to go without sprouts unfortunately. This year, we’re going to double the quantity we plant. We will split it into two separate seeding dates, about a week apart, so that we can hopefully account for the potential for them to take longer to get to the harvest date & if they don’t take longer, that means they’ll be ready a little earlier than usual which is not a bad thing either.
**We will be adding the purple cauliflower back to our spring planting list. This past season we had it as a part of our fall crop list and had several hundred in the ground which were planted right next to the sprouts- and were also stunted. The plants were so stressed after those couple of weeks that it took them a while to catch up, and by the end of the season they weren’t heading yet. So, this season we’re switching them to the first planting of cauliflower/broccoli so we should be able to share those beauties this summer!! :D
**We have had some issues sourcing fruits. As many of you know, we have several hundred people in our CSA program. When looking to source fruits, one problem we encounter is that there aren’t fruit producers nearby that are big enough to sell to us. Another problem we encountered was storage because up until this year we never had a walk in cooler. Now that we have a Coolbot, we can regulate the cooler for the berries which keeps them so nice and fresh!
We usually plan for a week of strawberries, blueberries and honey crisps. If we can’t get one or the other of these varieties we will be replacing that with some other kind of fruit. I’m already in contact with a strawberry farmer, a blueberry farmer and an apple orchard. If everything goes as planned we will be able to provide all 3 of those varieties. If it doesn’t, you’ll still get your value through us buying additional fruits from other farms to supplement the shares. So we’ll still plan on at least 3 weeks of us buying in fruit (*all from central MN farmers).
WHAT TO REMOVE FROM THE CSA:
From the responses to what we should remove from the CSAs, the most popular responses that I tallied were: hot peppers, collards, eggplant and herbs.
**Some were obvious- I knew I would see eggplant on that list because it’s one of those varieties that the majority of people don’t use on a regular basis. We try to include those types of produce once or twice a season as a challenge to help you explore new things. We also provide recipes and tips for how to use them so that we’re hopefully making it easier to experiment in the kitchen a little bit. In the idea of a CSA, we do need to have the variety but we can be very mindful of the frequency of which each variety is given in the shares.we will continue to grow & offer eggplant- but we will be mindful of the frequency 😊
Another good example of this is kale, some people love it and some people…don’t. haha. We try to keep out kale at 3-4 times per season (even though it grows constantly and we could harvest it every other week).
**Another one that stood out on the list of crops to remove from our Shares was collard greens. Alright, done. That was one that we grew in previous years, took some time off, grew it last year, and now maybe it’s time to take some time off… I’ve been bouncing around the idea of an every other type of concept with Ben, for these varieties that we don’t want to shy away from forever, but ones we don’t want as a staple to the program.
No. More. Collards.
**Herbs was also something that came up. One problematic herb I can think of is chives. They’re fun to use every once in a while, but I see green onions as a more versatile and heartier option than chives. Now that we moved to the new house and left our old beds of established chives (they’re a perennial), we won’t be starting any new beds. I’ll be removing chives from our list of produce we grow.
WHAT WE LEARNED:
We’ve been enjoying going over your feedback about the program. We learned SO much more about you!! This is a big part of what makes a CSA so special in my opinion. We are able to reflect what you want to see in your boxes, what you want to eat, and hopefully what you want is what we grow for you (or don’t grow for you in some cases) haha!!
Friendly reminder to sign up for your CSA Share. As returning members you have the next week to sign up before anyone else can. Then starting Feb 1st, our Membership is open to everyone who was on the waiting list from last season, then it opens to the public on the 15th. I'm not saying we're going to sell out by that time, but it's first come first serve when we put it back on our website (not a hidden page). If you aren't going to sign up right now but want to reserve your share, please shoot me a message and I'll hold one for you! :)
Thank you for your support- if you've gotten all the way to the end here I can tell that you're just as committed to this as we are. It's so fun for all of us to be a part of the decision making like this- thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us!! <3
Cheers to a big year ahead!!
~The Farmer's Wife