2013 Year-End Summary

It’s not too late to respond to your survey! If you were a CSA member in 2013, and you’d like to give us your feedback, please do so here. (If the buttons on the survey aren’t working, read our instructions at the top of the survey to adjust your web browser.)  I've postponed the deadline to January 2, 2014.  

If you would like to see the results of the survey so far, you can find them here.

And if you’d like to look at some of the data about which crops performed best, and how many weeks they were in the share, look at our last blog post here.

Let me begin with a few of my own observations, then I’ll mention some of your notable survey responses, and reply to some of your questions.

I think this was a super year. The weather was especially forgiving. For the first year in a long time, we didn’t have any extended periods of too much or too little rain. It was cooler, later in the spring than normal, which delayed many of our favorite summer crops. But once they kicked in, we felt lucky.

Some of my highlights:
    We harvested 18,827 pounds of tomatoes. And I’m sure there were at least a thousand more that you all picked for yourselves. Everyone who has some of our tomatoes in your pantries and freezers should imagine one of your great great grandmothers patting you on the back right now.
    Potatoes were another winner: 12,724 pounds. In your surveys, about the same number of people commented that you wanted more potatoes as those who wanted fewer, which I found surprising. I thought for sure I would get a hundred comments from members still trying to shovel their way out from under the pile of potatoes spilling out of the drawers in your kitchens.
    We pulled 17,959 pounds of garlic bulbs out of the ground this year. By hand. It all happened over just a few days. I have a vivid memory of throwing the last bulbs onto a heaping wagon as heavy rain started to fall and lightning struck nearby. Get the wagon in the barn! Get the children into the truck! The volunteer group from Elysian Energy deserves a special medal of honor for pushing themselves past the point of exhaustion to help us finish that day.
    Once the garlic was dried and trimmed, it probably only weighed about 5000 pounds. We saved about half of it for planting, which we just did in November. That was about 24,000 bulbs, planted one clove at a time. By hand.
    We donated 35,964 pounds of produce this year to agencies serving the homeless and others in need. A staff person from Horton’s Kids told us a particularly funny story of preparing a salad from our produce with a bunch of kids. They asked her what this word “salad” is, and how it’s spelled. And after they ate it, they were so excited, they ran around the housing project offering people salads. “It’s better than Cheetos!”
    A friend from SHABACH described a pilot project they have initiated because of the produce they get from our farm. They selected 50 low-income senior citizens with high blood pressure who are the heads of their households. SHABACH combines the seniors’ produce pick-up with cooking demonstrations from a nutritionist and check-ups from a nurse, both of whom also make home visits. After several months the seniors had lower blood pressure, better overall health and diets, and were passing those good habits to the others in their families.

The things that stressed me out the most:

    First, lets all play a mournful tune for the asparagus and rhubarb.  Both crops have spent 2013 shrivelling up and dissolving into the ground.  They are both perennials that we planted about a dozen years ago.  So it could be argued that both were getting old and needed to be replanted with new crowns.  We planted new rhubarb crowns this past March and the plants grew well for a while.  But we're thinking perhaps the location was a little too boggy, and at some point in the summer they were dead as doorknobs.  So now we're on the lookout for somewhere new to put them that has "good drainage but consistent moisture," which seems a little picky if you ask me.  We've built up the soil for our new asparagus plot, so it should have lots of rich organic matter to work with for the next dozen years.  The worst part of this story is that it takes 3 years to establish both new crops before we can start harvesting them again.  

Most of the rest of our problems this year can be blamed on animal damage. (Or on me for not preventing the animal damage? Or on civilization for moving into animal territory?) Fortunately for us, we did not have the skunk invasion of 2012. But the deer stopped fearing our electric fences, and it felt like the groundhog population tripled. 

  In the spring, groundhogs and mice kept sneaking into the greenhouse and eating the seedlings. We were able to re-seed most of them, and I don’t think it affected your summer shares too much, but it was discouraging. We tried every manner of trap and repellent (including a plastic owl). The lowest point was when we caught some skinks on a glue trap.  Skinks are a lovely type of lizard that I believe were eating bugs, so they were the one animal resident I was benefitting from.
    We plant a second round of seedlings in summer for harvest in fall.  We thought we had walled off the groundhogs from the seedlings, but one found a way to bust in when the plants were nearly ready to plant in the ground. It ate everything, and it was too late to re-plant. It was also too late to order organic seedlings from someone else. That’s why you didn’t see any broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage or chard this fall, and why we had much less kale and collards than we wanted.
    We also lost most of our late summer plantings of lettuce, spinach, carrots, and mixed greens. By then we had purchased the motion-sensitive camera and adopted two dogs, all of which helped us locate at least 3 groundhog burrows we hadn’t seen, in addition to the two we had seen. The field was surrounded on all sides by groundhog families, and visited regularly by deer. So the electric fence was useless. We replanted it all in the field behind my house (more attention from people and dogs) and surrounded it with a tall mesh fence.  In the end, the quickest-growing greens, radishes and turnips made out OK. But the carrots and spinach were too delayed and didn’t size up enough. And a few deer still made it inside long enough to eat the lettuce.
    Winter squash and sweet potatoes were two crops that were also hit hard by animals. We managed to get a week’s worth from each of those crops, which was about a fifth of what I think we could have harvested if we didn’t have deer.
    We’ve just purchased about $5000 of 8-foot tall deer fencing. That should be enough to surround the sweet potatoes, corn, lettuce, carrots, kale, one succession of beans, and either the winter squash or melons. If there’s no drought, I think the deer will favor the clover over most of the other crops.
    We also surrounded the greenhouse with a 3-foot tall fence of chicken wire (to prevent groundhogs).  And I have a new mouse trap that works like a champ (it’s called ‘the Tin Cat’). So I have my fingers crossed for 2014.

Some survey results so far:
(Remember, you can still add your own responses to the survey. In the meantime, this is what we’ve heard.)
    86% of you are enthusiastically glad you bought a share from us this year. (13% are mostly glad, and one of you is mostly not glad.) And the large majority of you range between very and somewhat satisfied with the amounts, variety and quality of the produce. For those of you with hesitations about the quantity of produce, it seemed to help that you had an option to pick your own produce to supplement, and that you could take a double share and come half as often.

The crops that you wanted more of were:  

  • 1.  Mushrooms, Asparagus (both got 53 votes)
  • 3.  Winter Squash (51)
  • 4.  Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Broccoli (47)
  • 7.  Strawberries, Peas (41)
  • 9.  Beets (40)
  • 10.  Ripe Tomatoes, Bulb Onions and Cucumbers (38)

Strawberries were the only crop that is unanimously loved--it garnered only "more" votes, and no "less" votes.  The crop that people wanted least was turnips, which got 25 votes for "less" and only 9 votes for "more".   

My answers to some of your questions and comments:

"Are the less crazily-shaped potatoes sent to the farmers’ market?"
    No. We don’t attend any farmers’ markets. We sold about 1000 pounds of garlic this year (mostly to MOM’s Organic Market), but did not sell any potatoes. We donated thousands of pounds of potatoes to agencies, but gave them similarly-shaped potatoes as your own. This leads me to wonder, what happens to all the crazily-shaped potatoes from conventional farms that don’t end up in the supermarket? Fed to hogs? Left in the field?

"On potatoes, would you please plant more than one variety?"
    Years ago, when I had a much harder time getting good potato yields, I tried dozens of different varieties. Sangre (the one we grow now) always yielded the best for us, hands down. Since the other varieties did not seem to garner much greater praise for flavor, we decided to hone in on the one that we grow well. I’ve already ordered potato seed for 2014 (we place that order just before Thanksgiving), so you’ll get only Sangre next year. But if our yields stay high, perhaps we’ll go back to trying one or two more varieties in 2015.

"Cherry tomatoes make excellent ingredients in the salads without having to chop them, didn't see any of them, but the variety of tomatoes was incredible this year." 
    Cherry tomatoes take a prohibitively long time to harvest, so we put them all in the you-pick tomato field (this year it was C1, which is in front of the office).

"I wish there were more varieties of peppers, potatoes, and corn, but the variety of tomatoes was fantastic."
    I am glad to get any corn, considering how vulnerable it is to caterpillars, weeds, drought, raccoons, deer, groundhogs, skunks, and who knows what else. Most years I grow 4 varieties, which is about all I have space for. I need a minimum of 4 rows per variety so that they pollinate sufficiently. I choose the 4 varieties based on maturity date, so that I can plant them all at once and spread their harvest over several weeks. Then I plant a second succession of those same varieties about a month later.
    As for peppers, we grew 5 varieties of peppers that are sweet when ripe, and lots of hot chiles. There is a cost to growing too many varieties—I have to keep track of them separately from seedling all the way to the labeled basket you see at the pick-up. And more varieties can lead to higher seed cost. So a new variety has to add something to the collection in terms of performance, flavor or appearance that makes it worth the trouble. With chiles and tomatoes, the variations are wider, and more alluring. With sweet peppers, I don’t see as many differences in what is available, and for many of the varieties I have trialed over the years, I haven’t repeated them because the yield was too low and the appeal to customers was not particularly high (such as with cheese peppers). 

"Please ask folks to bag produce before weighing; otherwise on busy days, scales are monopolized by people going back and forth adding small amounts until reaching the share limit."
    Indeed! I think perhaps some polite signs are in order. Duly noted.

"I know that you've had trouble getting signs in the U-pick areas. How about little chalkboards on wooden stakes? Then you could use them repeatedly, they wouldn't get soggy and could probably be made relatively easily."
    I think the writing on a chalkboard would wash off in the rain. But I like the creative thinking. We’ve made a few steps in the right direction, I believe. We have little red signs in the fields, which we hope to use a little more consistently next year. And we began making wooden signs to label each field.

"I did not understand the U-Pick map."
    The map can be confusing because it doesn’t give a sense of varying terrain. The wooden signs should help orient people on the map so they know if they are going the right way. Anyone have access to a 3D printer? I think it would be really neat to have topographical replica of the farm at the washing station.

"Could there (or is there) an on-line farm map that we can print and keep ourselves - to find u-pick fields?"
    Wish granted: Download Clagett Farm Field Map.

"Also - I know it takes someone to do it - but the cut flowers are beautiful - I just don't know there names - any chance of getting them posted on-line or labeled better?"
    I can’t say it will be our top priority, but we’ll try.

"We loved cutting flowers but of we arrived later they were gone. If there is any unused land maybe more flowers could be planted."
    I do usually toss some flower seed in various places on the farm. For example, I planted sunflowers three times this year, but they were always eaten by deer. Sunflower sprouts are delicious! Other flowers sometimes come up, and sometimes get out-competed by weeds. There was a row of zinnias that bloomed in late summer near the tomatillos and the celery. But I think most people didn’t see them.

"Any chance of partnering with someone to have fresh eggs available for purchase if it's not too much of a logistical issue?"
    I would be willing to consider it. We are not legally permitted to sell anything at the Dupont pick-up. (If you’re thinking about the honey right now, just keep mum.) But if we’re willing to give up the space in the cooler, we could do it at the farm. At the moment, I do not know a local farmer who wishes to sell eggs through us. I’m guessing we’d sell about 15 dozen per week, which is probably not worth the trouble for everyone involved.

"The plastic bags you guys had ripped very easily. I usually brought my own, but if I forgot mine, the ones you had would not hold anything."
    We began the year using up some leftover biodegradable bags that we purchased in 2012. Time was not kind to them, and you’re correct—they ripped way too easily. By mid-season, we purchased some petroleum-based plastic bags that were about one tenth the price of the biodegradable ones and didn’t rip. Definitely the best option is still bringing your own bags. If we find a cheaper source of biodegradable bags, we’ll switch back, and use them up before they degrade on the roll.

Thanks for a great year, everyone. We make a wonderful community, you and I. You inspire me to work hard, enjoy myself, and do a better job of taking care of this land and all the people (and critters) who share our food. Remember that a just sharing of world resources, through our farm, and the other generous, thoughtful things you do, is helping bring a more peaceful world. Have a wonderful, happy new year.
Your farmer,

Wrapping Up the 2013 Season: Will You Take the Member Survey?

I hope you all have had a wonderful Thanksgiving (or Thanksgivukkah).  I spent a week puttering, baking cookies, and otherwise forgetting all about the little nagging tasks that still have to be done to finish the season (such as mulching the garlic and putting an 8-foot-tall fence around the new patch of strawberries).  It feels a little like climbing out from under a pile of sand--I feel much lighter (which is unlikely, given the cookies). 

We have a few things to mention before we say farewell to 2013:


If your family enjoys a trip to a farm to cut your own Christmas tree, go no further than your very own Clagett Farm.  We have all sizes ($40) and some lovely handmade wreaths ($30).  Weekends are best:  10am-2pm.  We have free hayrides,  marshmallows to roast, cookies, and the weather has been wonderful.  Also, my 5-year-old daughter has been making pine cone owl ornaments that she is excited to give everyone.    


CSA members, we need your feedback!  This year the survey is a mere 8 questions long.  I'm trying this new feature where you can look at everyone's responses as soon as you've submitted yours.  But that means I can't just post a link here, or who knows what kind of crazy spam we'd get.  So I've e-mailed a link to all of you.  Were your tomatoes too red?  Your radishes too spicy?  U-pick maps too confusing?  Not enough potatoes (ha ha)?  Inquiring minds want to know: 2013 Member Survey. Deadline for submitting surveys is December 31


We crunched all the harvest data, and compiled them in a few spreadsheets that you can  download here (it's in Excel format).  It will tell you how many pounds you got of each item (approximately, since you had choices), how many weeks we harvested each crop, which varieties yielded the best, and if you really like to get in the weeds, you can see our some of our notes for next year, which tomatoes were in which fields, and so on and on and on.... If you like farm data, dig in and go crazy!


That's all for now - thanks again for choosing Clagett as your CSA this year. We're pleased with the season, and are eager to hear your feedback. Enjoy your holidays!

~ Farmer Carrie 

Mustards--the over-achiever

I was just reviewing some of our yield data (pounds harvested per acre planted).  I thought you all might be amused to hear that our highest yielding crop in 2012  was Southern Giant Mustard.  Seriously.  Seems a little cruel to me, since only a couple of you actually like eating it.  Had we planted a full acre of it in August, we would have harvested 44,576 pounds.  Thank goodness we only planted 7 thousanths of an acre.  If we'd actually picked it all, the yield would have been even higher!

The next 9 varieties that gave us the highest pounds per area planted were:

  • Roma tomatoes
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Black beauty eggplant
  • Tatsoi mustard
  • Tendergreen mustard
  • Ruby streaks mustard
  • Valley girl tomatoes
  • Tango lettuce
  • Necoras carrots

Of course this list is a little misleading.  Mustard, lettuce and carrots are planted very close together.  We can't hand-weed all our crops or we'd have to hire an army to help us.  Most other crops are spaced farther apart so we can cultivate them with tractors.  To give you a different perspective, consider yield as pounds per row-foot.  This calculation favors crops that are spaced closely in the row but far apart between rows.  Here's the new top ten:

  1. Chinese cabbage (3.2 pounds per row-foot)
  2. Roma tomato
  3. Valley girl tomato
  4. Black beauty eggplant
  5. Partenon zucchini
  6. Early jalapeno pepper
  7. H-19 little leaf cucumber
  8. Big beef tomato
  9. Garlic scallions (mixed varieties)
  10. Super red 80 cabbage

Better, huh?  You guys actually like most of those.  Maybe your New Season's Resolutions this year should be to learn how to love Chinese cabbage more--that crop grows like crazy!

Here's a link to an Excel spreadsheet of our harvest data: Download Harvest Log 2012.  I actually don't recommend that you look at it.  It's a gigantic document with a lot of boring data, and since I keep it for my own use rather than yours, it won't be easy for you to tell what all the numbers mean.  But some of you might want to get into the nitty gritty of what we do, so go crazy. 

Your farmer,


Survey Results, Part Two: The Logistics

Here's part 2 of our overview of your survey responses. In Part 1, we focused on vegetables and selection. Part 2 focuses more on the logistics of the CSA: our communication with our members, days, times, locations and you-pick. 

Let's start with our member communications!

Weekly Updates by blog, e-mail and Facebook

I was glad to see that everyone managed to see our weekly updates at least a few times.  It's always sad when surveys come back and people comment that they couldn't ever figure out how to get our weekly posts delivered to their inbox. We've clearly made some progress, and I'm quite pleased.  

85% of you said you saw the posts in time for them to be helpful, at least sometimes.  People who pick up on Saturdays get the best advanced notice.  Three days after you pick up your share, we announce what you'll be getting the following week, with reasonable accuracy.  For the 18 of you Saturday folks who still felt we were not timely enough, I'm not sure what we can do to help you (except maybe cook your dinner for you, and really, couldn't we all use that?). 

Of people who pick up at the farm on Tuesdays, a third of you don't get much use out of our weekly updates (which is true for just 10% of Dupont folks).  This is probably because most weeks we post it and send the e-mails between 1 and 3 pm.  The Tuesday farm pick-up begins at 3pm, and for those of you who like to get there early, there would be no point in checking your e-mail on the way up our driveway to get your share.  I think the best I can do for you is show you our harvest plan, which I could potentially do as early as Saturday afternoons.  It would at least tell you what we're planning to pick, though not how much of each item you'll actually get, if any.  This idea falls into the category of "Things we could do if we paid for internet access at the washing station, or if we ran back and forth to the office a lot."  It will probably happen eventually, but perhaps not in 2013.

We're Shifting to Wednesday

The vast majority of you do not care whether our weekday pick-up is Tuesday or Wednesday, with a very slight preference for Wednesday among folks who do care.  We think your share might improve slightly if we move it to Wednesday, because there are more members picking up during the week, and there will be one more day for the plants to grow since they were last harvested.  So the balance of what we're able to pick on Wednesday vs. Saturday will better match the number of members we are serving on those days.        

Dupont pick-up: new site fine, maybe earlier?

We asked slightly different questions of the people who picked up at Dupont versus people who picked up at the farm.  People picking up at Dupont had a new site this year, which 87% felt was between neutral and great.  Only 7 people rated it poorly.  Everyone seems aware that we won't find a perfect spot in a neighborhood with so little available parking.  From a staff perspective, we were generally pleased, but with all the Tuesday evening rain storms, we were really sad that we never found a site with any rain cover. 

We noticed that a lot of you wanted more scales.  We can certainly buy a couple more for Dupont next year, and work on easing up some of the bottlenecks to reduce the lines. 

The Dupont Circle Physicians Group closes early on Wednesdays, so we'll be able to set up in their parking spaces earlier in the evening.  I was surprised to see that there was not a strong preference for 5-7pm (preferred by 23 people) versus 6-8pm (preferred by 20 people).  We might split the difference and go for 5:30-7:30pm.  We'll let you know soon what we decide. 

Thanks, by the way, for so many nice notes about the staff (Genevieve) and volunteers (Holly, Rebecca, Katie and Layne) helping at the pick-up.  I agree--I see Genevieve go way out of her way to be warm and helpful, and it seems like you all noticed, too. 

Compostable Bags

Great news!  The amount of money you contributed for bags is exactly the same as the amount we spent on the bags you used.  We were a little concerned mid-season when it looked like a lot of people were using bags but not contributing.  But all you needed was a little reminder.  Thanks!  Some of the members were discouraged to hear that other members weren't pitching in.  You may now renew your faith in human-kind.  The other great news is that 37% never needed bags from us at all, which is mighty impressive.  Only a couple of you said you would have preferred a different system, compared with the 78 people who thought it was fine as it was.  So next year we'll make the signage a little more clear and consistent, but otherwise we'll keep it the same.

You-pick signs

There is a general consensus among you that it's difficult to find you-pick items in the field.  This is a perennial problem for us, unfortunately.  How do we post signs that don't encourage strangers passing through the farm to pick our strawberries?  How do we post signs that don't get hit by tractors or mowers or vehicles, but are still visible?  Do we use paper or plastic signs can include lots of information and pictures and arrows, but which blow away or fade?  Do we make wooden signs that can't be changed year to year and are difficult to make and move and store?  Do we post a map on-line and let anyone with a computer find out about our abundant ripe tomatoes and where to find them?  I think we can make some modest improvement with some field labels and more printed maps.  If anyone has a hankering to router some wooden signs for me, let me know. 

Maintaining good selection throughout pick-up

Several of you mentioned your disappointment when items ran out before you arrived, or when food looked picked-over.  It might not seem obvious, but we routinely hold on to items to put out toward the end of pick-up--especially if we ran out of that item the week prior.  It's not a perfect system--after all, you probably don't come at the same time every week.  And there were a few weeks when we were surprised by the number of people who turned up or made a mistake with our weights, and the people at the end were left with a poorer selection.   

There was a time when we used to pre-bag some members' shares, and their general satisfaction with their shares was much lower.  So we like to offer choices to our members.  But there is not circumstance I can imagine where everyone at all pick-ups gets identical options.  We're always going to have this problem where people get a slightly different selection depending on when and where they show up.  But the people who come later during the pick-up are just as important to us as the people who come first.  I think our challenge is to make sure the value of the share at the end is just as high as what we offered in the beginning, and to somehow communicate how the selection they are seeing is a fair one.      

Thank you for sharing a season of Clagett Farm with us!

I wish I could respond to all of the comments, but you'd be reading til the cows come home.  I hope I touched on most of the important issues, at least.  If I didn't please rest assured that I definitely read them all.  There were lots of great suggestions and my mind is humming with ideas for this coming season. 

You'll hear from us again in a few weeks, when we'll invite you to re-join.  We hope you do!

Happy new year, everyone!

Your farmer, Carrie     

Survey results, Part One: Overall opinions and favorite crops

At the end of the CSA season we surveyed all of our members to find out what they thought about the 2012 season. Thank you to everyone who responded! 

Aren't you curious about everyone else's responses?  Here are all the results, exactly as they were submitted:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=Um1D8PaFgcI2R9jLxHtJ8_2fCOop4G2UBUOzsM_2fMQA9mM_3d

Below I've given you my general summary, as well as some  of my responses.  There's a lot to say!  I've done my best to stick to the most mentioned issues, and I've split my summary in half.  I'll post the second half tomorrow.    

Let's start with your general impressions:

 76% of you gave a very affirmative "yes!" that you are glad you bought a share this year.  And 98% of you were at least mostly glad.  Terrific!  

96% of you were between somewhat and very satisfied with the quality of your produce.  92% felt that way about the overall amount, and 88% were somewhat to very satisfied with the variety of choices each week.  

It looks like we should focus our efforts on offering more variety, especially in some of the weaker months.  In years past, our most difficult month was June.  Since then we've figured out how to grow early zucchini and cucumbers in June, so we've made that month more appealing.  Now the notably difficult time seems to be the fall.  Last year we had a big flood in the fall that ruined the greens.  This year we lost our sweet potatoes and winter squash.  Winter squash are always fickle for us.  They have a very long growing season, and easily succomb to disease.  And one little bite from a deer, groundhog, skunk or stink bug can ruin an entire 10-pound squash.  But we can certainly redeem ourselves with sweet potatoes. They are usually so hardy, I'm afraid I wasn't as worried as I should have been when the drought set them back, followed by a steady nibbling from animals.

Top ten crop requests.  In order of preference, you wanted more weeks of:

  1. Mushrooms - We inoculated a lot of new logs in 2012, and hope to see the results in 2013
  2. Sweet potatoes 
  3. Winter squash (acorns, butternuts & other edibles--not pumpkins) 
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Asparagus - Unfortunately our experiment of adding chickens to the field (for fertilizer and bug control) did not seem to help;  we've moved the chickens elsewhere (and might do away with them completely), and we'll plant more asparagus in the spring.
  6. Broccoli 
  7. Strawberries - We tried an everbearing variety, and we were very disappointed with the flavor, texture and yield;  we'd rather try some new fruits and leave the strawberries to May and June.
  8. Spinach - More!  We agree!  It's a tricky little plant for us, but we're working on it.
  9. Peas - One of my co-workers has some choice words about peas ("#*$%ing waste of time...").  They require huge amounts of work for just a handful per share for 2-3 weeks.  We're going to need a whole new plan for peas, and none of our ideas involve increasing how much we're growing.  This is a terrific candidate for your own garden, if you happen to have one.  Or perhaps you'd like to move to England?  
  10. Cucumbers - We had some great cucumbers in June, and then a lot of disappointment.  That's definitely one we'll keep working on improving.  

There were a heck of a lot of potatoes this year, weren't there?  I was surprised to see that there were still 39 of you who wanted more weeks of potatoes, and 28 of you wanted larger amounts per week.  That's some real potato love, right there. 

And 17 of you still wanted more Southern Giant mustard.  I thought even those of us who love spicy mix were maxed out by the end of fall.  Kudos to you and your stomachs of steel!  You will outlive me for sure. 

I appreciated one comment: "Clearly, some items can't have longer harvest times, so 'more weeks' is a bit of a dream…" So true!

And whoever wrote, "I love greens and there were plenty for me!" is one of my new favorite customers.  As well as the person who wrote, "Our involvement with this CSA has literally changed our lives, not just in the way we eat, but in how we think about food."  I feel like a dog that just had her belly rubbed. 

Items that we didn't list, but many requested:

The most commonly mentioned was the same as every year:  FRUIT.  Indeed.  We love fruit too!  We'll be  planting some blueberries and Asian pears this spring, but please keep your expectations low.  This is a notoriously difficult region for growing organic fruit.  

A lot of you also requested beets.  Perhaps you have heard me mention how many times I've tried to grow beets, and yet I can't even get them to germinate.  Oddly enough, they grow beautifully in my kitchen garden, which is a stone's throw from several of our vegetable fields.  Some day the eureka moment will come, when I finally find the answer to this puzzle.   

Several people were especially happy about the abundance of tomatillos, ground cherries and celery in the you-pick field.  I'm glad you mentioned the celery, because I was thinking that was a bit of a bust.  The celery was great in my stock pot, but I didn't notice a lot of people picking it.  So we'll keep all three crops in the u-pick field for next year.   

Shallots were another frequent mention.  And I've been surprised to find they are my favorite topping on our homemade pizzas.  The bit we grew fared reasonably well, so we'll plan a modest increase for 2013--modest because we need to be sure we don't plant more than we can weed.  

Some of you might remember that we planted some experimental fava beans, parsnips and fennel this year.  The favas were a miserable failure.  They grew poorly, the deer ate them, the ones that remained had black spots all over them, and the one I ate was kind of gross.  I love a chance to quit growing something that doesn't work, so that was all the convincing I needed to give up, but my English co-worker, Dave, would like to try again.  We'll see who wins.   To be honest, I'm kind of a push-over. 

The parsnips didn't grow well, but still have potential.  They have an especially long growing season--one of the first crops to be planted, and one of the last to be harvested.  By the time we should be pulling them out of the ground, everything else we planted back in the spring has been long gone, so in September the parsnips sit alone surrounded by cover crop and get neglected.  We need to find a place for them that we can keep weed-free for a long time.  It's not the most attractive quality in a plant, but we'll give it another try. 

The fennel was tough and chewy.  I think it would have been more tender if we had harvested it sooner, but the bulbs would have been pretty small.  We'll adjust our planting and harvest times to get a better result.  At worst, we can offer a steady supply of fennel leaves, much as we do with celery.  The feathery greens can be a nice garnish for salad, if you like the taste of licorice.  It's not perfect, but we'll take what we can get.   


In past years we've gotten quite a few comments from people who felt their tomatoes often spoiled before they had a chance to use them.  This year we made a point of picking them less ripe, so there was a range of ripeness to choose from.  86% of you thought that strategy worked.  9% of you thought they were still too ripe, and 6% of you thought they weren't ripe enough.  Perhaps we've struck a good middle ground? 

I'd be happier with more tomatoes overall, so you can go crazy picking as many for yourselves as you want of your preferred maturity, flavor, size, and so forth.  My favorite decision was leaving all the cherry and grape tomatoes for you-pickers.  You deserve the sweet reward for your efforts, and the nerves behind my knees deserve a little break after all that squatting to pick beans.  For those of you that do not have a car, I applaud you, and direct you to Zipcar.  Some treats must be appreciated in the field. 


We had an excellent question about the garlic:

There were ups and downs this year, but that is all part of the bargain, right?  Still waiting for an answer though on way you were selling the garlic surplus rather than including it in the shares.  We took the bad (i.e. the corn, the melon) with the good, so we didn't we share in the garlic bonanza? Just can't wrap my brain around that one.

Garlic is one crop that we can grow very well with relatively little space, labor, and other expenses.  Yet in survey responses, it seems very few members want more of it than we're already giving you.  And in weeks when we offer garlic as a choice among several items, few people take extra garlic.  So we're not adding much value to your share with more garlic.  Yet I do not believe that if we stopped growing the extra garlic we could increase the size and quality of your CSA share by much.  On the contrary, selling the garlic made a profit of $5,414.  Had we tried to make that same income from CSA shares, we would have had to raise prices by $21. 

We used that income to pay for staff and supplies, which means we can provide a better share for a lower price to you.  So I believe you did "share in our bonanza," but it wasn't in the form of garlic.  Perhaps to make the situation better for the two dozen of you who would like more garlic, next year we can offer garlic more often as part of a choice among other items, so you can take more if you want it.   And of course, we gave you the chance to buy it, so you could spend $21 and buy 4 pounds of garlic, which is about 48 bulbs, or 240 cloves.  Our intention is to give you as much as we can of the things you want, and waste as little of our time on things you don't want.  I certainly don't want to give the impression that we're taking your money, siphoning off our best product, and then selling it to someone else.  Do you have thoughts you would like to share?  Feel free to leave your comments below and tell us what you think.   

 Is your share getting smaller?

Here's a comment from a member that I would like to address:

The full shares these days are about 1/2 what they were 10-15 years ago.  Why is that?  When I first joined, a "full" share was enough for typically two small households each week; now it's barely enough for one hungry vegetarian.  What percentage of the output goes to non-revenue generating interests?

I like this question because it inspired me to go back to one of our old Year End Reports (2001).  I got a good chuckle thinking about how some things have never changed ("many customers requested pick-up sites closer to their houses"), while others have changed quite drastically (we didn't harvest weekends). 

To the point of the questions raised, in 2001 we distributed 55% of our harvest to low-income families (our "non-revenue generating interests"), compared to 47% this year.  The weight of the share averaged 7.4 pounds per week in 2001.  This year it was 6.2 pounds/week, which is indeed, lower.  Interestingly, our all-time highest average was in 2010 (9.3 lbs/wk) and our all-time low was 2011 (5.4 lbs/wk), although our records prior to 2004 are not terrific.  At any rate, the weight of the share is not the same as the volume or the quality of the share.  So I don't want to dismiss the idea that a member might have been much more satisfied with a share 10 years ago as opposed to this year.  But the evidence does not support that with any clarity. 

I can say that in 2001 our income was 25% of what it was this year.  We had less than half as many CSA shares, and we charged just $340 per share.  It was certainly a much better deal for our customers, but it was not financially sustainable--we relied very heavily on money from the Capital Area Food Bank and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation back then.

Check in tomorrow when we talk about your pick-up sites, weekly updates, compostable bags, and more!  Woohoo! 

Table of 2012 shares by month

We've just sent e-mails to all of our 2012 CSA members asking you all to tell us what you thought of your shares.  Did you get the e-mail?  If not, and you were a CSA member, click to the survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ClagettSurvey.  And please send us a note to let us know you didn't get the survey.  We want to make sure you get an invitation in January to sign  up for the 2013 season. 

Sometimes it's hard to remember what was in your shares each week.  Of course, you can go back through the blog and read what we posted each week.  But to give you a quick, visual reminder, here's a chart:  Download 2012 per month share summary

You can also click on this image to enlarge the chart:

2012 per month share summary



Crunching the numbers from 2011

I've been in front of a computer lately, figuring out how the season looks by the numbers.  I thought it went pretty well--we had a nice variety of vegetables throughout the season.  But we definitely had some major pitfalls, and our total pounds hasn't been so low since 2006.

 If the details interest you, I'm linking a few charts.  They are PDF files:

  • Download Total pounds per crop per share This chart shows you an approximation of how many pounds you got of each crop (though it obiously depends on the choices you made at the pick-up).  Tomatoes were the winner!
  • Download Number of weeks crops were offered This is a similar chart but looks at how many weeks each crop was offered.  Note, for example, that kale was available 14 weeks, which is a lot, but everyone got an average of just 1.8 pounds, which is basically enough for 2 weeks.  So you can see that we obviously made it one choice among many items.  If you love kale, that's good that you were able to choose it so often.  If you hate it, it's good that you had other choices.   
  • Download Crops offered each week 2011 This is a big chart that's especially good for people who are considering becoming members of our farm.  It shows what was offered each week, and how many total pounds were in each week's share. 
  • Download Yield per variety 2011 This chart will only appeal to you if you are curious about how each of the different varieties performed.  For example, Hakurei turnips yielded one sixth as many  pounds for each linear foot planted as Purple-Top turnips did.  Bummer! 

But looking at a series of dry numbers doesn't really tell a story.  Here's a general sense of how the season went, from the grower's perspective.  It's pretty long (I can't help myself), so you might want to skim to the items that interest you.

SPRING:  March and April were very wet.  In the cold weather of spring and fall, moisture does not evaporate quickly from the soil, so a single rain event can make our soils wet for weeks.  Some years we have dragged the tractor through the wet ground anyway, just to get the plants started, but this has backfired by compacting the soil, which makes it harder to weed later, and further decreases the soil's ability to drain.  This spring we decided to try planting the crops on-time by hand, without tilling the soil with a tractor.  We're hoping that decision will help our soil and crop health in the long term, but the short-term result was that most of our spring crops grew much more slowly. 

  • Salad and cooking greens, radishes: fared pretty well without tillage.  We harvested them a little later than normal, but yields were about average, and they had very few weeds. 
  • Carrots:  Our first planting (un-tilled) matured a month later than we they normally would have, but they were remarkably weed-free, tasted good, and gave us a huge number of pounds for the small area planted.  We planted the second round with some lettuce in April and they never germinated.  The prior cover crop of sorghum-sudan grass was still breaking down, and its "allelopathic" chemicals were prevent seeds from germinating.  Oops!  We planted a third round 10 days later and they grew reasonably well considering how much carrots hate the heat.
  • Cabbage, Kohlrabi:  No-till was OK for quick-growing Chinese cabbage, but kohlrabi and slower-growing cabbages didn't make sufficient heads before the heat ruined their flavor and stopped their growth completely.  Weed competition was also a bigger problem by June in no-till fields. 
  • Broccoli:  We go back and forth about whether it's worth planting broccoli in the spring.  This year we didn't bother.  Spring broccoli plants suffer from the heat and give small, bitter heads that are more attractive to caterpillars than customers.  It's hard to justify all the space they require for such mediocre output.    
  • Garlic:  This is a crop we can grow very well, so we've doubled our planting for 2012.  Hopefully we can sell our surplus and reduce some of the financial strain on our CSA.
  • Mushrooms:  We have a collection of about a hundred logs in a shaded greenhouse that are inoculated with shiitake mushroom spawn.  Each year we have steadily increased the number of logs and they are finally producing enough mushrooms to have them available for all CSA members at least once.  This year Rob has begun inoculating fallen trees in the woods.  It will take several more years for them to fruit, and they will be more vulnerable to pests and weather, but in the years when those circumstances are favorable, we should see a huge increase in the number of mushrooms we can harvest. 
  • Onions:  This is our second year of success growing bulb onions.  Hooray!  We are not at the ideal latitude for growing storage onions (north is better), so we have been reluctant to grow more than we can give out fresh, but we'll do some experimenting. 
  • Peas: Our particular climate limits us to 3-4 weeks of peas.  No more, no less.  We've considered ways that we can warm up the soil so we can plant some a bit earlier, which could extend our harvest.
  • Rhubarb:  We weed, fertilize and mulch this once a year, and then forget all about it.  It seems to work pretty well!  100 plants seems sufficient to us, but if you want a lot more, let us know. 
  • Strawberries:  We had an average yield of strawberries this year.  We'll have a little more acreage to pick from this coming spring than last, so I'm hopeful for next year.  It's hard to keep such a big space weeded for three years, so that's the main limiting factor that keeps us from planting half the farm in strawberries.
  • Herbs:  We had big plans for the teams of volunteers that would keep the herb beds weeded, but that never really worked out.  The biggest problem is the wire grass that spreads its rhizomes under the pathways and then pops up in the beds every time we look away.  Our big plan for 2012 is to bury aluminum flashing as a border between the beds and the paths to keep out the grass, to build up the beds with a little more compost, to use wood chips or grass clippings as mulch between plants in the beds, to move the mint and oregano into a big planter, and to come up with a system to capture the wash water from the washing station so we can water the herbs more regularly.   Will the big plans materialize?  We'll see!

SUMMER was remarkable for how dry it was.  It was a year of extreme weather!  We had over a month without any rain at all.  We also suffered from some problems in the greenhouse.  We had very low germination, and it took a long series of failures before we figured out there was herbicide residue in our neighbor's compost, which we bought for our soil mix.  Needless to say we won't be purchasing compost any longer.  As a result we had fewer tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings than normal, and lost all of our seedlings for fall broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards and cauliflower.  Why didn't we just run to the store and buy more?  Organic seedlings are typically only available in the quantities we need if we order them 7 weeks in advance, and they are expensive.  By the time we knew we needed them, it was too late.

  • Basil: We tried planting this extra-early in some small beds and protecting them against spring frost with floating row cover.  It worked well!  We finally were able to offer basil at the same time as our garlic scapes, and it survived reasonably well through the summer in spite of the close spacing.   
  • Beans:  What a crazy bean year.  The drought caused them to quit producing, and then when it rained at the end of summer, they spit out a whole summer's-worth of beans all at once.  They get an A+ for effort, as do my unbelievably loyal crew of pickers (most of them unpaid!).  Did you notice the pole beans?  This was our first attempt, and we liked it enough to make plans for next year (with a better trellis).   
  • Beets: We have tried many ways to grow beets with no success.  This year we included some donated seed in our summer cover crop planting, but none of it germinated.  I suspect it has something to do with our soil's deficiency in Boron, but our efforts to fertilize have not helped.
  • Corn: Our sweet corn suffered an avalanche of problems this year--drought, deer, raccoons, weeds, you name it.  Some years we get lucky, but this year we really didn't!  The popcorn hit the jackpot though--rain at just the right time, and very few bugs and weeds.  So you'll get lots of pretty ears of popcorn in your first share next year. 
  • Cucumbers:  For some reason, the short, squat pickling cucumbers grow well for us.  Regular slicers don't do as well, and the fancy Asian cucumbers never make anything at all.  In our 2009 member survey, several members mentioned they would like more variety in our cucumber offerings, so we keep trying new varieties anyway.  Picklers, by the way, can be sliced into a salad just as you would a slicer.  And if you prefer more tender skins, always choose the smaller cucumbers.  They often look a little ragged because the skin gets nicked more easily, but they still taste great. 
  • Eggplant:  This was a great year for eggplant--especially the long, thin, lavendar ones (called Orient Charm).  We tried a green variety this year (Raveena) that didn't produce much and didn't get noticed much by CSA members.  The white one (Snowy) produced well but was prone to some unattractive black spotting.  As usual, we planted lots of the large, Italian-type (Black Beauty) because even though it produces fewer pounds per plant, our members seem to like it more.
  • Melons:  were a dismal failure ths year, which was a hard hit considering how great they were last year.  I can think of a number of contributing factors, but I'm not sure which was the main culprit. (1)Last year there was moisture in the planting and flowering phases and dry weather while the fruits were developing.  This year was drier earlier, which might have prevented pollination.  (2)We used a field that hadn't benefited from a robust cover crop before planting.  (3)We lost a lot of plants in the greenhouse so we had to direct-seed a greater proportion, which tends to be less successful.  And (4), we never covered the plants with floating row cover to protect from disease during the first 3 weeks after planting.   Fortunately we did have a few cantaloupes in a different field that were successful enough to give everyone the option of a melon at least once.  
  • Okra:  yielded well for us this year.  We've moved away from using a hybrid (Cajun Delight, which is no longer available) to this much cheaper open-pollinated seed.  We saved lots of our own seed this year, which we've never done before.  We're eager to see how well it grows next year.  A note to you-pickers: be sure to come the day before harvest if you want to get a lot.  We've tried leaving some on the plant for you to harvest, but too often they become overgrown and were wasted. 
  • Chile peppers:  were hot this year!  And they grew well.  We try for a broad mix of varieties, although we shy away from chiles with similar shapes and colors to any our sweet peppers. 
  • Sweet/bell peppers:  We had fewer seedlings to plant than we had intended, but they grew very well, so we still harvested plenty of peppers.  Like most years, the fruits often develop a soft spot before they ripen completely, so it's very tempting to pick the bells when they are green instead of waiting until they have turned yellow or red and sweetened up.  And for some reason, the plants make smaller peppers as they age, so we have lots of smaller bells at the end of the season.  We had used two types of weed barrier--one straw mulch and the other landscape fabric.  The peppers in the straw mulch definitely grew better.
  • Potatoes:  It's not often I have such complete failures for which I have only myself to blame.  Yikes!  The last two years I had planted potatoes deeper and deeper with better and better results.  Until this year!  That cold wet spring was extra cold and extra wet one foot underground, and all the seed rotted.  Obviously I should have tested my new technique on a smaller section of he field instead of the whole lot of it.  So the best depth for potato seed?  6 inches.  Tattood on my brain.  
  • Summer squash:  Hooray for early, self-pollinating zucchini!  The seed is expensive, but I could never get early squash before I started planting it into landscape fabric and covering it with floating row cover.  The other 3 plantings later in the season did not grow as well, but by then you were growing weary of squash anyway, so it wasn't such a big deal. 
  • Tomatoes:  were very successful this year.  We didn't grow as many seedlings as we wanted, but the ones that we planted produced abundantly.  Given our short supply of plants, we weren't able to set aside a section for you-pick only, nor a separate field for late-season production--both of which we intend to do in 2012.  One test we conducted this year was on a few products that are marketed to improve soil microbial life and therefore plant health on a few rows of the New Girl tomatoes.  None of them appeared to improve the yield or longevity of those plants.  An investment we will make for 2012 is in metal "T-posts", to replace some of the wooden stakes.  This should keep all those large, healthy plants from falling over! 

FALL  Rain flooded our 2 fields of greens, radishes, carrots and turnips, carrying away some of the seed, rotting many of the newly germinating plants (farewell, sweet spinach!) and slowing down growth for a month.

  • Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower:  Our seeds did not germinate because of our soil mix problems.  We ordered plants to replace them, but didn't get them in time to produce heads by November.
  • Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes):  These are a type of sunflower, that make roots a lot like potatoes, but without all that fattening starch.  It stores its energy as inulin, instead, which encourages healthy microbes in your colon, but in large doses, also has some distracting side effects (thus the nickname, "fartichoke").  They produced a knock-out yield with very little effort, so now I'm a big fan.  I'm excited to grow and eat more next year (in moderate amounts, of course). 
  • Sweet Potatoes:  They produced very well--6900 pounds--even better than last year.  We had some loss to groundhogs (at least five were eating from one corner of A6), but the deer fence continues to save us from the wild destruction we suffered before 2010.  Sweet potatoes thrive in poor soils and little rain.  God bless them.   We used to grow a lot of varieties and had trouble keeping them separate.  Since then we've found a much cheaper source of organic "slips" (seedlings), but they only offer one variety.
  • Swiss Chard:  Usually our spring-planted chard goes dormant over the summer and revives in the fall.  This fall the chard was lucky to be in a field with good drainage, but it still suffered from a mold called, "leaf spot", due to the wet weather.  So we didn't get much fall chard. 
  • Winter Squash:  is in the cucurbit family, along with melons, cucumbers and summer squash.  Every cucurbit standing the day before Hurricane Irene was dead the morning after.  We were able to salvage some of the earliest-maturing squash for shares.

Later this winter I'll analyze the survey results and answer members' questions.  If you are a CSA member and haven't responded to the survey, here's the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LTZRQ3N.  If you've already submitted a response, and you'd like to change it, you can access your old one by going back to our original e-mail invitation.  That should allow you to edit the one you turned in. 



2010 CSA Member Survey Results

Zachari Curtis (left) and Xavier Bure (right) sorting tomatoes

Back in November, we asked our CSA Members to provide feedback on their experience over the course of the 2010 season.  Below we’ve summarized all of the responses and answered a lot of questions raised by your fellow members.
If you're interested, the complete results and responses are available for your review. And if you haven’t responded to the survey, we’re still happy to get your feedback. You can fill out the survey here. [Note that we won’t be updating this blog post if more responses come in, but we will read them here at the farm]. 

So how did the season shape up?  Here's a summary of the responses:

RESPONSE RATE: About half of you responded to the survey.  We got 138 responses, and we have 280 CSA shares.

RETURNING?: 85% said they definitely or probably will purchase a share again next year.  Terrific!  That’s an increase from 83% in 2009 and 80% in 2008. For those who might not return, the vast majority (82%) said it is because they might be moving or the pick-up site is not convenient.
HOW MANY ADULTS DOES ONE SHARE FEED?  As always, the most common answer, by a wide margin, was two adults. 31% thought it was more, and only 9% thought it was fewer.

COMMUTE:  Interestingly, 48% of you travel 30 minutes or more to pick up your share.  Most of the long-commuters pick up at the farm, frequently harvest from the fields or herb beds when they’re here, and do not usually take turns picking their share with anyone.  For those of you who might want to start taking turns with someone to get your share each week, we would like to help. Although we try something new each year, we haven’t yet found the winning technique to get you in touch with each other.  We’ll try another this year, although we haven’t settled on how. Stay tuned…

CROP PREFERENCES:  The biggest winner was asparagus—87% of you want more.  Yikes!  I happen to love eating asparagus, but hate picking it.  It’s the only one I have to harvest every day, including Sundays.  We just penned in the asparagus so we can let our chickens eat bugs and fertilize beginning this June. Hopefully this will help increase the yield for our 2012 crop without adding more time to the harvest. I won’t be ready to expand our asparagus plot until we get someone else to pick it on Sundays. 
Other crops that most of you wanted more:  beans (fresh), broccoli, carrots, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, mushrooms, onions (bulb), peas, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes (ripe), and acorn and butternut winter squash.  And for the person who suggested sunchokes, we read your mind—we just planted them in November.

There was only one crop that most of you wanted less:  sweet potato greens.  No surprise!  Although I happen to like them, I would have preferred a wider selection of fall greens, such as spinach, lettuce and kale.  All of those were delayed over a month by the dry, hot spell in August.  This year we’ll be quicker to adjust our strategy, so we can plant less and take that time to irrigate if needed. 

QUALITY PROBLEMS:  Most of you (74%) did not have any issues. Several people mentioned over-ripe watermelons and tomatoes. The tomatoes are a tricky balance.  When we harvest them under-ripe, people tend not to choose those. Given the number of varieties we grow, it also confuses people who aren’t sure if the tomato is ripe when it’s orange, or if it’s an under-ripe red tomato.  Perhaps in 2011 we will make a point to pick more tomatoes that are a few days shy of dead ripe, and label them clearly for people who know that’s what they prefer.  We could also send more of those under-ripe tomatoes to Dupont, since they have to endure an extra van ride.

A few other people mentioned early spoilage with squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peppers.  If you get home and find that your produce spoiled prematurely, please tell us!  We would like to replace that item with the same some equally valuable item the next week. The same goes for watermelons that turn out to be duds, since it’s hard to be sure of their quality without cutting them open.

I understand that some of you can’t stomach seeing caterpillars in your corn.  We sprayed Bt (a natural, non-toxic caterpillar-killer) when we were able, so there was some improvement over previous years.  And we try to have a staffperson available to remove the tops of ears, which is where most of the caterpillars are hiding.  But we’re not going to be able to get them all, so it’s fair for you to refuse our corn if that’s a problem.  We have a similar issue with broccoli and cabbage—sometimes the spraying takes a back seat when the peppers need planting or tomatoes need twining.
YOU-PICK:  We agree completely with several of you who mentioned that some more weeding would make a big difference.  This year one of our worksharers generously took the job of managing the herb/flower beds, but she needed more help.  So this year we hope to find more volunteers to join her.  Hopefully this will improve our flower selection a great deal, since those often fail for lack of attention. 

A few people mentioned missing the rosemary.  We’ve had trouble getting that plant to overwinter here, it doesn’t germinate well, and after we plant seedlings they often get over-pruned by eager you-pickers before they get well-established (even when we post signs!).  So we’re working on a new strategy.  We might try planting rosemary in a hidden spot and then telling people in 2012 where to find it, since by then the plants should be big enough to survive a winter and some heavy harvesting.  

We couldn’t get the dill and cilantro to grow for most of the summer.  (Of course the cilantro is growing like gangbusters now.  Great.)  We’ll keep trying.

We got some positive feedback about the you-pick fields of chiles, cherry tomatoes and basil.  We would like to repeat and improve on that success.   

SEEDLINGS:  It’s great to hear that so many of you tried planting them and enjoy getting them, even if they don’t all work out.  We’ll do it again next year.  Your favorites seem to be herbs, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers.  

Continue reading "2010 CSA Member Survey Results" »

2010 Summary and Survey

It’s that time of the year again, when the smell of our fall survey mingles with that of the crisp autumn leaves. We ask that our members take a few minutes to complete our annual survey. It helps us find out what you liked and didn’t like about the season and the share.  Read on for our own perspective of 2010. 

We had a great season here at Clagett Farm – the spring and summer shares in particular were heavy and delicious. We all enjoyed the heavy harvests of greens and roots in the spring. Some crops that did very well for us this year that haven’t fared so well in the past included eggplant, melons, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. The two techniques we emphasized more this year than before were increased use of reusable landscape fabric to keep weeds down and more electric fencing around fields to keep deer out.

We did have a few disappointments, though: pest pressure and disease kept many of our tomato varieties from producing as long and as heavy as we had hoped, and a drought in August did a number on our fall greens. Carrots and spinach made brief appearances, but neither in the quantity that we had hoped. Both are a little finicky about germinating, and both are sensitive to heat and weed pressure.

 A couple new crops were planted this year: dry beans were one, which we found to be tasty but labor-intensive to thresh and clean. We were more excited about our onions: we tried several different ways of growing them and they all worked fabulously.

 If you need a refresher of what filled your share bags from May through November, what follows are summaries of this season’s shares. If you’d like to read a more thorough account of the season, click on this link: Download 2010 Clagett Farm In depth summary.

Average early spring share: 6.8 pounds

  • 1 bulb onion or 1 bunch of scallions
  • ½ pound garlic scapes
  • ½ pound carrots
  • ½ pound combined of greens: lettuce, spicy salad mix, bok choi
  • 1 pound Swiss chard
  • 3 pounds combined of radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, and kale
  • Choice of a pint of strawberries or shiitake mushrooms; or ½ pound of rhubarb, peas, or broccoli

Average late spring share: 6.4 pounds

  • ½ pound scallions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • ½ pound bulb onions
  • 1 pound Swiss chard
  • 3 pounds cabbage, kale, or kohlrabi
  • ¼ pound lettuce, peas, or carrots
  • 1 pound summer squash

Average summer share: 13.9 pounds

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 pound beans
  • 2 pounds of sweet corn
  • 1.5 pounds okra, cucumbers, sweet peppers
  • 4 pounds eggplant and summer squash
  • 1 melon, cantaloupe or watermelon
  • 2 pounds tomatoes

Average late summer share: 8.5 pounds

  • 1 head of garlic
  • ¾ sweet peppers, okra, beans
  • 2 pounds squash or eggplant
  • 1.5 tomatoes, okra, sweet peppers, cucumbers
  • 2 pounds of potatoes
  • 2 pounds summer squash
  • 1 winter squash: acorn, butternut, jack-o-lantern, pumpkin

Average fall share: 5.75 pounds

  • 1 head of garlic
  • Choice of 1 pint of shiitake mushrooms, 1 cup of dry beans, or ½ pound okra, peppers, or green tomatoes
  • 1 pound turnips or radishes
  • ¼ pound of spinach, lettuce, spicy salad mix, or arugula
  • 1 pound cabbage, kale, broccoli raab, chard, sweet potato greens, or other cooking greens
  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
Thank you, everyone, for your generosity in spirit, deed and words.  You are a terrific community, and we're proud to be a part of it. 
 Written by Anna Johnson

Summary of 2003 Survey Results

<p>Happy holidays to all!</p> <p>I suspect this does not qualify as holiday reading, but here is a summary of the results of our 2003 CSA Members Survey. First, thanks to all shareholders and worksharers who went through the trouble of completing the survey. The response rate was good, and this, of course, helps us to do a better job in the future.</p> <p><strong>Where did you pick up?</strong> 32 percent of responding shareholders picked up their shares at Dupont, 8 percent at Anacostia, and 60 percent at the farm (45 percent on Tuesdays, and 15 percent on Saturdays.) Responding shareholders ran the gamut from first year newbies to ten-year veterans (CSA members who were with us right from the beginning.)</p> <p><strong>What do you want us to grow more of? </strong>Your selections were very wide: 29 different vegetables were listed! Here I’m mentioning only the ones that got that most votes. <strong>Winter squash </strong>was the winner, closely followed by <strong>eggplant</strong>, <strong>peas</strong>, and <strong>sweet potatoes</strong>. A little bit behind, but also part of the leading pack were <strong>broccoli</strong> and <strong>corn</strong>. </p> <p>These results reflect the peculiarities of the 2003 growing season. Last year shareholders got plenty of eggplant. Alas, not so this year. While in 2002 shareholders only half-jokingly said that they were being overwhelmed by the amount of sweet potatoes in their shares, 2003 was the exact opposite. While in 2002 we harvested a significant amount of winter squash, in 2003 stem rot destroyed all of our winter squash crop. Ironically, this year we actually spent more time working in the winter squash field. Oh, well.</p> <p><strong>What would you rather not see?</strong> Once again, <strong>okra </strong>was the most polarizing vegetable. By far it was the veggie that got the most negative votes, but then it also had a significant share of enthusiastic backers. Somewhat surprising for me, <strong>kohlrabi</strong> followed okra among the least popular crops (even though there was so little of it this year). Those two had the highest negatives. Although behind them, <strong>cauliflower</strong> and <strong>collards</strong> also got a significant number of negative votes. All of these veggies, however, also had loyal backers. <br /><br /><strong>Of what we didn’t provide, what would you want us to add to your share?</strong> The clear winner here was <strong>strawberries</strong>. This is good news, because next season will be our first strawberry season. Last spring we planted two strawberry varieties and they should be ready for harvest this coming year. If they do well, we will probably plant more. Other crops that several of you want us to grow include <strong>asparagus</strong>, <strong>fennel</strong> and <strong>parsnips</strong>. We are thinking about planting them. Keep in mind, though, that asparagus is a perennial that needs at least a couple of years to be ready for harvest.</p> <p><strong>Pick-Up. </strong>Most of you were happy with your pick-up sites. 21 percent did suggest some changes: a second scale at the Dupont site, the expansion of drop-off hours, and the addition of another site (in Takoma Park, Silver Spring or College Park) were the most common suggestions. Taking the latter into consideration, early next year (wait for our announcement) we are willing to coordinate a shareholder-driven effort to find an additional site. A critical mass of interested shareholders is needed, however. Also, Clagett Farm would not be able to provide transportation for it. This is something that interested members would have to organize among themselves.</p> <p><strong>U-Pick.</strong> According to the survey, 54 percent of shareholders “you-picked” extra vegetables while visiting the farm. The most common suggestion among U-Pickers was for us to provide better signs. We will.</p> <p><strong>Staff.</strong> You were generous with us, the farm staff. 95 percent stated that we provided adequate assistance. Thanks! </p> <p><strong>Was the share price worth it?</strong> 64 percent replied that it was indeed worth it. 24 percent thought that usually it is, but not in 2003. 12 percent stated that it was not. </p> <p><strong>Weblog. </strong>The majority of shareholders found the weblog useful, but a significant number have never checked it. Many of you would like to be notified by email when there any changes in the weblog. We will do that. We will implement a system in which shareholders will be notified (once a week) if there are additions to the weblog. Shareholders will also be notified by email of any time-sensitive information posted on the weblog. These email notices will include the relevant link.</p> <p>Some of your suggestions for the weblog: inform members about what to expect in the coming share, include recipes for the veggies provided in any given share, write more about the season and life at the farm, keep on with the pictures. <br /><br />A quick reminder. This weblog supports comments. If you want to comment on anything posted on it, just click on <strong>comment</strong> at the bottom of the post and write. If you want a more interactive weblog, do not hesitate to comment. </p> <p><strong>5K. </strong>According to the survey, 42 percent of shareholders are interested in participating in a 5K run/walk at the farm, 21 percent wrote that maybe they will participate, and 37 percent are not interested.</p> <p><strong>Dinner and Dance. </strong>Similar numbers. 38 percent are interested, 31 percent are maybes, and 31 percent are not interested. </p> <p>Nothing has been decided, but these numbers are very encouraging.</p> <p><strong>What you liked the most? </strong>Common responses: variety and freshness of the vegetables, exposure to previously unknown veggies, going to the farm, the CSA concept itself, and being informed about the progress of the growing season. Honorable mention: Cassie, the one and only, was also cited (for those who don’t know her, Cassie is the resident farm dog.)<br /><br /><strong>What you liked the least?</strong> Common responses: rush hour commute to pick up the share, lack of sweet potatoes, smaller shares than on the previous year.</p> <p><strong>Do you plan to continue membership next year? </strong>Despite the fact that 2003 was not a good harvest year, we are encouraged that 71 percent of you stated that you will indeed renew your membership. 16 percent wrote that maybe you will renew, while 13 percent said that you will not.</p> <p>This wraps up the survey summary. Thank you very much and enjoy the holidays!</p>