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.
If you would like our weekly updates sent you by e-mail, look to the upper left corner of the blog and subscribe yourself. Or you can “Like” us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ClagettFarmCSA). It sounds like we need to remind people how to do that a little more often.
It’s such a struggle to tell you all early enough and with enough accuracy what will be in your share. Some people who pick up on Tuesdays receive the information after they’ve already left to for the pick-up. But the difference in accuracy between 12pm and 2pm can be quite severe, so we haven’t figured out the right answer to that problem yet.
I like the suggestion about teasing out some of the most critical information on the blog and making it available on an FAQ page. It’s also good to know that no one said they were getting too many posts, which means we have some leeway to try more different kinds of updates about the farm and your vegetables without annoying everyone. We ditto the opinion one had about more searchable recipes. We’ve added a “Search” button to the left margin, and perhaps we can do more with categories or a separate page. And thanks to the person who asked for our crop plans spreadsheet. I can post that again this spring.
Thanks to everyone who posted their own recipes in the comments of our blog or on the Facebook page. We love it! Keep it coming!
SHARE PICK-UP: We got so many supportive comments. Thanks to you too!
I appreciate those of you who had very specific comments and suggestions. That is useful. There were some small confusions here and there that we can easily address, and some friction due to how crowded the pick-up can be sometimes.
Maps generally need to be more available, and I like the idea of creating a map of just the herb/flower beds. And I know I said this last year, but in 2011 we’re definitely going to remember to wear our nametags.
After a particularly hectic harvest, I forget sometimes that none of that work matters unless the food gets to the pick-up, gets set out on time, labeled, there is good variety at all sites all the way to the end. Thank goodness we had great, friendly, organized volunteers to help us, and my apologies again for the times when we didn’t load the van properly.
FESTIVALS: The bluegrass band at the fall festival was a big hit. Fortunately for us, they’re already working on their playlist for this coming fall.
Many of you wanted more advanced warning about the dates. So to prove that I’m listening and acting on the responses to your surveys, here are the dates for 2011:
- April 30, 2011- Spring Meet ‘n’ Greet
- October 1, 2011 – Fall Potluck Festival
Mark your calendars now! And thanks for the suggestions for kids’ games (including making ice cream, which sounds terrific). We agree we need more games, and we’d love more suggestions (and help!).
WORKSHOPS: This year we offered several canning workshops, as well as a general canning and preserving class, a tour of our medicinal herb garden and some wild-growing herbs, and a make-your-own rain barrel workshop. Generally, you support the idea of the workshops. Like the festivals, they needed more publicity to members, and many more would have attended except for schedule conflicts. Someone mentioned she would love it if more members offered classes in other things, such as pickling, drying or cooking. If that’s something you’d like to offer, please let us know!
THANK YOU all for being a part of our little farm. Many of your words were so, so kind. We feel blessed to have such a supportive community. Frankly, I wonder how anyone can endure the labor and vicissitudes without it. You’re the best.
-- Farmer Carrie