Farmer Dave does some off-season tree pruning at the farm. This photo was posted on Clagett Farm's Facebook page.
In this post, I've pulled out lots of comments from the survey, and I've done my best to respond to them.
There were many more comments than I could reasonably answer here, but please rest assured that we read them all! We hear you! And thank you so much for taking the time to give us your feedback. It’s incredibly useful.
- Any chance of added raspberry and blueberry bushes? Funny you mention blueberries. We planted 100 plants in 2013. They haven’t grown much since then, and have never produced many berries. The problem might be the soil pH, which we are working on lowering (it’s a slow process). But the more likely culprit is deer. We have since fenced in the area, but they only need a few incursions per year to eat back all the new growth, and that fence (the same one the deer busted into to eat your okra and first succession of tomatoes) is assaulted regularly. As for raspberries, we planted about 20 black raspberry plants in 2017, which are doing well but are still too young to produce many fruit. Given their success, we hope to expand. We also trialled a couple persimmon trees in 2018, 3 apple trees and 2 kiwi vines. (We also planted 10 kiwi in 2014 but they died. These are in a new, more auspicious location...we hope.) In 2019, we will be planting blackberries. Did you notice the one week we gave out Asian pears? Woohoo! We planted 50 trees in 2014. Most died of fire blight, but the 10 that remain had a bumper crop! Fruit are tricky, but we’re still trying.
- I liked everything I got in my share. I actually lost 15 lbs because I was eating vegetables all summer. It also forced me to do some creative recipes since my share contained things I would not normally have purchased. That’s right, friend! You’re my new favorite CSA member!
- Rutabaga more of these please! So delicious!!! You know, I scoffed at the idea of rutabaga when Jared and Elissa wanted to plant it. I’d grown it before and it got the same dull response from our members as purple-top turnips, but with even more confusion. But you know, I have since eaten my words, because roasted rutabagas are delicious. Our planting date turned out to be a little late this past fall, so we didn’t get many, but it was enough to whet my appetite. Get on the bandwagon, everybody, rutabagas are coming.
- Loved the rutabaga greens. That’s right, climate! You kill our crops? We gave out rutabaga greens. Take that!
- What happened to zucchini? Hmmm. We picked 3,288 pounds of zucchini. That’s enough to donate half and still give every CSA member 7 pounds. Now, I admit, over 11 weeks, 7 pounds isn’t that much, but we had even more yellow squash (for a total of 9,059 pounds of summer squash). And that’s in a bad year. Are you sure you want me to plant more?
- I threw out things and it broke my heart. Maybe at pick-up there could be some information on how to store things? Some of my problem was I was storing the veggies wrong (in the fridge, in air-tight containers, etc). Good idea. Some things don’t want refrigeration (undamaged tomatoes, sweet potatoes). Some things should have their green leafy tops removed (turnips, beets, carrots). And speaking of containers, I would like to encourage you all to save your plastic clamshells. I’m talking about those big boxy things that you might be buying salad greens in right now. You can rinse and re-use them easily, when you put vegetables in them in the fridge, you can see what you’ve got (unlike some reusable produce bags), and they’re great for carrying delicate items like tomatoes home from the pick-up. And by the way, don’t worry about a little lost produce along the way. It happens to everyone. We’ll compost it, and your wilted lettuce will be next year’s potting mix. No harm, no foul.
- More canning workshops. I know there's usually one or two but they always seem to be in DC and that's not really convenient for me. Anyone want to volunteer to host a canning party?
- I would like to thank each and every one of the great people who cleaned the produce and helped the distribution! They were all awesome people and I appreciated them very much as did my family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Thank you for your friendliness Helpfulness and smile’s. How kind! The gratitude is perfectly mutual.
- I appreciate Sara and John! And I'm not Sara or John! I’m so glad you thought to mention them because it gives me an opportunity to highlight two people who have been a huge help for us over the years. John and Sara Chapman are paying CSA members who also volunteer 2 hours every Saturday from March through November. I can’t tell you how many hot, desperate, dehydrated harvest days when we were rushing to get it all picked by 1:00, and I breathed a big sigh of relief that at least Sara and John were at the washing station getting it all cleaned, organized and ready. They know just what to do without a peep from me. If we’re dragging the last, heavy bin of tomatoes in at 2:00, I know they’ve got me covered. Phew! Thank you Sara and John!
- I know you had a rough year. My family missed the strawberries, but we still loved our share. I'm finishing a dissertation on environmental food ethics, and in it I have a satellite image of Clagett next to a satellite image of a monocropping conventional farm from this past (very wet) April. Clagett's fields are, by comparison, filled with a variety of green, clearly benefiting from the better crop management and plantings. The conventional farm, which plowed all the way to the edge of their streams (stupid) is a muddy mess. You did extraordinarily well with a rough season. How great of you to bring our perspective back to soil health. After the seemingly nonstop rain we've had, I can be discouraged to see some of the gullies pop up in our fields. It’s good to know that from a mile-high view we’re still moving in the right direction.
- I wish that half-share holders could still pick up a double share. Good news -- now you can (most of the time)! In 2019, 13-week members will be able to pick up 2 shares at a time if they clear it first with the person running the pick up, who will confirm that we have enough produce to accommodate you. If we are especially tight on some items, we will ask you to double another time or to only double the things we have in excess. I don’t think this will happen often, but a few weeks each year we are slammed with people taking doubles, and I don’t think I can keep the quality up for everyone if we increase the number of shares taken those days. Also, 13-week shares will be offered at all pick-up sites this year.
- I would like to receive at least a pound of greens (kale/collards) in a share. This is useful information. I know there is a minimum weight to make cooking greens useful. I have noticed that the bunches of kale sold in the grocery store right now are a half pound at the least, so I’ve been using a half pound as the minimum quantity for a category that includes kale and collards. I’ll try to aim for a pound minimum when I can.
- My Midwestern husband would love one season heavy on the Midwest crops, e.g., carrots, peas, potatoes, onions, shallots if the soil and weather here can support it. Man, those carrots we had at the end of the season were amazing! It made me fall in love with carrots all over again (although they are still a pain to germinate and weed). And I was pleased with our progress on onions and shallots. But my feelings about growing peas and potatoes are dark and gloomy right now. I can tolerate a lot of crop failures to get a few great seasons with a crop, but even I have my limits. You done me wrong too many times, peas and potatoes!
- It would be cool to have an opt-in list of people who live near each other, to cooperate and share pickups. I have thought often about this idea over the years. I agree, it would be nice if you could coordinate with each other. Right now I’m thinking about a Google spreadsheet that can only be accessed by CSA members where you can include whatever contact information you’d like. Another idea might be a closed Facebook group for members so you can communicate directly with one another. If you guys have any better ideas, I’m all ears.
- The half-share option is appreciated, but it seems to be affecting the farm's overall success. I understand this concern. I have been paying close attention to how many people are picking up their shares each week. So far it has not exceeded what it would have been if we had simply sold more full-season shares. And we can’t continue to function without enough revenue. I think what’s really affecting the overall success is our drastically reduced yield due to the weather. If we’d had average overall yields, I think we would not have seen a decline in share quality due to offering 13-week shares.
- I am nightshade intolerant. It would be very helpful and valuable for me, to have a non-nightshade choice in each group. Nightshades are tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, ground cherries. It also would be nice to have some more interesting choices like Chinese long beans or agretti. Good to know! For those of you with specific dietary needs like that, let us know and we can try to work around it. For example, if you see that we have only nightshades in a category, speak with the person managing the pick-up and we might find an appropriate substitute (I sure hope you like squash!).
- Please consider growing herbs like parsley, chives, mint, etc., in larger amounts and incorporating them into the share. The difficulty of including herbs in the share pre-harvested is a constant source of frustration. Herbs are quite delicate. They wilt easily, and as soon as we pick enough to fill a bushel basket, we have way more than people want. But I have noticed that we need more parsley, chives and mint, so at the very least we’ll try to plant more of those in the you-pick areas. We seemed to have plenty of garlic chives, oregano, thyme and basil last year. And we did pretty well with cilantro and dill.
- Parking can be a stressful experience. Yes! We’ve discussed paving the area beside the washing station (behind the pizza oven) with gravel so we can use more of that space for parking. I also think we need to plant some trees to shade the cars. A work in progress...
- Just keep farming. We worry about the communities popping up around you and hope we don't lose this gem. Thank you, we appreciate it!
Thanks a lot, everyone! All the staff here at Clagett Farm wish you a wonderful winter, and we’re excited to see you in May!