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.
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.
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