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November 2006
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February 2007

Looking back at 2006

by Carrie and Gail

Now that the 2006 season has ended, we thought it would be helpful to give you all a summary of how things went.

2006 Season Results: The Raw Numbers
77,474 pounds harvested
~    an increase of 9,119 pounds from 2005
~    an increase of 11,416 pounds from 2004

Distribution:
~    51% sold as full-priced shares to CSA members
~    7% earned by worksharers
~    45% distributed to low-income individuals (up from 36% in 2005)*.

The Share
~    27 weeks (an extra week from 2005)
~    average share was 7 pounds (down 1 pound from 2005)

2006 Season Results: Our Thoughts
Our goal was to distribute 50% of our harvest to low-income folks this year, so we got closer but did not quite reach it.  Even though we increased the number of total pounds harvested, the increase went more to low-income families which resulted in a lower per-week share average for CSA members. In the end, you received roughly the same amount of vegetables as last year, however, because we extended the share by one week.

It is clear to us that the average weekly share size this year was too small, and increasing the size and value of your share will be our primary focus for 2007.

Feedback from CSA Members- Thanks!
    As in previous years, many of you (63.2%) felt that a single share typically feeds 2 adults.  And most of you (85%) supplemented your share with other vegetables, such as onions, carrots and summer lettuce.  There were no items that a majority of you wanted less of or none at all. There were 11 items that most respondents wanted more: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, corn, spinach, strawberries and sweet potatoes.

We had a total okra crop failure this year, and perhaps that means many of your prayers were answered.  As ever, this is a polarizing vegetable.  64% were happy that we got none at all while 36% of respondents wanted more.

Spinach and strawberries were the only items that no one wanted to get less of, which offers us one of those rare opportunities when we could please EVERYONE. Fruit (blueberries especially), onions, celery and brussel sprouts were the ones that ranked highest among new crops we should start growing next year.

And of the specific varieties that people prefered, all types of tomatoes were the stand-out favorites, especially Striped German, Black Prince and Garden Peach.  Among the heirloom tomatoes, the Striped German is a very poor producer and what we can harvest usually spoils before it gets to the pick-up.  But man, it sure is delicious.  During tomato season, it’s not a bad idea to plan on a picnic at the farm!  Picking your own tomatoes and eating them straight off the vine is one of the enjoyable moments of being a shareholder in a local farm; tomatoes will never taste the same once they’ve been put in a truck.

The vast majority of you appreciated our additional labeling this year, with some good suggestions.  My favorite comment was, “The kids enjoyed taste-testing different varieties. They tried veggies they wouldn't normally eat in the name of science.”

We heard loud and clear that many of you missed getting the weekly email about what was in the share.  We'll try this winter to iron out a system that allows you to easily choose what kinds of emails you get from us so no one's inbox fills with junk and everyone gets the information they need.  Bear with us!  On the opposite side of the communication spectrum, we're finally getting close to saturating the need for recipes.  There were several requests for more summer squash and kohlrabi recipes.

Most of you (70%) were satisfied with the quality of all your produce, but there was a significant number who were disappointed with the bugginess (11 respondents) and/or poor taste (6 respondents) of the sweet corn.  Sweet corn is a troublesome crop for organic growers because the best way to eliminate corn ear worms is to dab the corn silks at just the right time with Bt (an enzyme lethal to caterpillars but non-toxic to everything else) and horticultural oil.  This can be quite time consuming and expensive.  Corn also has a narrow window when it is sweet, so the timing can be tricky to make sure every share gets a fair amount of premium-quality ears.  Some years we're luckier than others.  Note, also, that conventional growers use seed treated with fungicide, so they can plant corn earlier in the season than we do.  Our suggestion is to join us for harvest on any Tuesday or Saturday around 7:30 or 8am during sweet corn season.  Corn is never sweeter than the moment after it's harvested, and a good harvester tests a few ears each morning just to be sure we're getting a good crop.  Fortunately, raw corn makes a great breakfast.

We got lots of good suggestions for improving you-pick for the coming year, including making more maps available and clippers and signs in the field.  Our own line drawings of the farm have been difficult for people to understand, so we might solicit the help of a professional artist.  There was also plenty of encouragement to include more items on the you-pick list, which is generally limited by what crops we are able to grow in excess, and how accessible their fields happen to be.

As for the pick-up sites, we concur with the suggestion that staff should wear nametags or some  identifying article of clothing so you all would know to whom to direct questions.  Most of you were quite positive about your experiences with us, although the biggest hassle was certainly getting to the pick-up site each week.

It sounds like there's also a feeling among some that we should have a spring event to help you all get to know each other and get oriented with the farm and fields.  That's a great idea.  And we'll also work out a way that you can contact other members in your area before shares begin so you can coordinate pick-ups.

The End
    All good things come to an end, and this email is the official end of the 2006 Clagett Farm CSA season. From all of us at From The Ground Up! CSA, we just want to say thanks again for sharing this experience with us and making Clagett farm part of your lives. The direct relationship between grower and consumer is a rich one that CSA’s strive to recover. Have a great winter! We hope to see you all again next May.

*Last year we would have told you that we had to distruted 42% to low-income individuals, but that's because we used to include the food distributed to worksharers.  Since not all worksharers are low-income, we made two separate categories this year.


Member survey results

In case you're curious how your fellow members responded to their surveys, feel free to check out a summary of the survey results at http://www.surveymonkey.com/Report.asp?U=283214710676 .

We'll be ending our account with Survey Monkey by the first of January, and I assume that means you will no longer be able to access these results at that point.  So I'm planning to create a general summary for this blog so we can keep this information for posterity. 

If you haven't answered our survey, you can still do so by digging up the email I sent you in November.  Or, if you never got one, you can email me and I'll send you the link.  I don't want to post the link here or we might get some non-members contaminating your data. 

Thanks to everyone who gave their input!
-Carrie