For all that has been going wrong in the world, we are grateful that in 2020 our farm season went remarkably well. In mid-March we wondered how we could get everything planted without interacting with each other in the field, and how we would give you your vegetables if you weren’t allowed to pick them up. How would we keep the farm running if we all got sick at once?
We switched our distribution to pre-bagging your shares, which was a lot of extra labor for us and less choice for you, but as far as we know, no one on the farm contracted Covid-19! What a blessing. And we made up for the lack of volunteers and seasonal hires with help from a dozen Chesapeake Bay Foundation staff who never thought their job descriptions would include farming. Phew! Our yield was about average (62,475 pounds), which is pretty fantastic, all things considered. It certainly helped that the weather through 2020 was wonderful.
We have reviewed your survey responses and met together as staff. As always, we are happy for you to read the complete survey results. Here’s a few of the questions and comments that came up, and our responses.
Your satisfaction with your CSA share was 8.9 out of 10, and 97% of you would recommend our CSA, which we take as a big vote of confidence. We received many, many messages of thanks and encouragement, and our hearts are full! Thank YOU!
To bag or not to bag
If Covid were not an issue, most of you would prefer to weigh your own vegetables in order to have more control over the what ends up in your bag. But if Covid remains at the current threat level, most of you would prefer to get your share pre-bagged and brought to your car. The problem is, pre-bagging shares takes too much of our time, and it keeps us from getting other field work done. In 2019, our work week was 2 days harvesting & distributing + 3 days field work. In 2020, it was 2 days harvesting, 2 days packing & distributing, and 1 day field work. There’s no way we can continue that in 2021.
Most likely we’ll ask you to collect your vegetables in a staff-assisted buffet line of sorts, where we handle the vegetables and your bag is packed while you watch. But a lot can change between now and May, so we won’t know for sure until harvest time is upon us.
Note that only 4% of you liked the idea of limiting the pick-up window to 30 minutes to avoid waiting in line, so 96% of you will be glad to hear we’ve taken that option off the table.
More of you prefer to sign up in advance for u-pick than to come at will and risk a crowded field. But we agree with the multiple comments that the on-line sign up was cumbersome. We’ll be looking for a platform that we like better. If you have one you like that’s cheap, let us know.
We made an extra effort this year to boost the information in the weekly e-mails, since we wouldn’t have as many face-to-face interactions. We heard that you appreciated the recipes and hearing about the farm. Many of you who picked up on Wednesdays wished the emails were earlier and more accurate. Unfortunately, if they are earlier, they will be less accurate. It’s a perennial problem. We’ll do our best.
Crops you love and hate
The big favorite crop this year was TOMATOES by a comfortable lead. Also favored were strawberries, kale/collards, and garlic (in all its forms). Honorable mentions are peppers (sweets and green bells), winter squash, spicy salad mix and summer squash.
Your least favorite crops were okra and turnips. Other frequent dislikes were eggplant, radishes and kohlrabi.
Here’s just a taste of the comments we received, since there were too many to list them all…
“I was over the moon satisfied with my share this year and plan on buying a full one next year.”
“This was an awesome experience as a first time CSA member. I hope I can get to know the community more next time!”
“Having fresh organic, sustainably grown produce from the farm was a bright light in this awful year of covid. You all literally kept me alive. Thank you!”
“Other years, to avoid wasting food I only get what I know I'll eat. With prepackaged shares I ended up composting produce I don't like. I hope next year we have better customization for our shares so I can leave things I don't eat for others.”
“I missed regular u pick so much this year! Of course, I understand your thinking, but I felt COMPLETELY safe the times I signed up to come out, and for those of us who live in city apartments, especially now, being at the farm is just wonderful. Thank you for whatever you can do to allow visits next year.”
“Our household doesn't like eggplant. We've prepared it many different ways (and I used to be a vegan) and no matter what we do we do not enjoy it. It would be nice to be able to have the option to sub sometimes.”
“After a few years of melons and corn, my opinion is they are not very good. Melons aren’t sweet and corn is often buggy. I’d prefer you grow something else that tastes better. Would love to see more mushrooms, asparagus if possible. Overall, I am still very happy with my shares, and congratulate you on managing to distribute shares so well and so cheerfully this year.”
“Paper bags may be eco-friendly, but are not compatible with wet or damp produce. You all did a fantastic job coping with extraordinary conditions!”
“The road maybe needs to be 1-way. It was very challenging to exit onto Ritchie-Marlboro and meet incoming cars!”
“I did think it was odd to receive to small turnips or radishes. Not much you can do with something like that. Not even a serving for one.”
“If you have to operate the same way in 2021 with Covid (your employees have to pre-bag our veggies), I continue to be concerned at how much extra work that is for your employees. Therefore, I think you need to increase the cost of the Share.”
“Thank you so much for all of your hard work!! No one complained at all when I asked to remove items from my share. What a terrific group of volunteers. The produce was beautiful and tasted so fresh. See you next year!”
This year was a wild ride. During all of the turbulence of 2020, the one thing that stood out to us most was the importance of community. We learned that in difficult times the most important resource that we have is each other. We learned how to adapt together throughout this crisis to continue something that we feel is truly vital, getting healthy food into your homes. Each and every one of us had to make sacrifices and changes throughout the year, yet together we made it.
As we continue into 2021, we strive to remember these lessons. We know that whatever the future brings we will face these challenges together and we will become stronger and more resilient than ever.