We got about 150 responses to the survey this year, which is terrific. Thanks so much to all of you who took the time to do that for us.
I can't possibly mention all of the helpful comments and ideas, so if any of you would like to read the responses in full and check out the statistical summary, you may do so for a short time through SurveyMonkey--at least until we end our subscription with them. Just follow this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/sr.aspx?sm=WF9PtUfWHv0paNfG5sxqjYejTbFc5fSet6AOYLQCJ_2bc_3d .
Here's some of the information we've learned:
- The average number adults that you believe a share typically fed in 2007 was 2.5 (the most common answer was 2).
- 77% of you supplemented your share with other vegetables. The top 10 items purchased were salad mix (especially in summer, and especially lettuce), onions, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, winter squash, and fruit (I'm sure fruit would have ranked higher if we had not specifically asked only about vegetables).
- The vegetables you would most like to have received more of in your share were similar to those mentioned above, but also included beans, melons and strawberries.
- You were more united in the crops that you didn't want as much. The top item by a long shot was eggplant (61% of you!), followed by okra, turnips, radishes, kale, summer squash, collards, bok choi, cucumbers and chile peppers.
It's worth noting that we planted 1.5 acres of sweet potatoes and harvested zero pounds, while we planted 0.2 acres of radishes and turnips and harvested about 8000 pounds. So whether you're laughing or crying about this, at least you can rest assured we're right there with you.
- It was fun to read which particular varieties of the crops we grew were your favorites. We'll be following your guidance as we make our seed order in the next few weeks. Top items mentioned were: lipstick peppers, spicy mix, all blue potatoes, bright lights chard, orient express eggplant, black prince tomatoes and royal burgandy beans.
- Most of you (74%) were satisfied with the recipes available to you. We'll continue to fine tune how we share recipes, and work on recipes that fit the share as precisely as possible. For those of you who mentioned you would like to know how to store the crops or that you need a more basic recipes for unfamiliar items, we recommend starting with From Asparagus to Zucchini, published by the Madison Area CSA Coalition. We have copies on the farm we can sell you, or you can buy it inexpensively on-line.
- 74% of you were happy with the quality of your produce. In fact it was the most commonly mentioned highlight of your shares. But there were three items that 5% of you noted you did not eat because of quality problems: apples (buggy), tomatoes (soft or overripe) and broccoli (buggy).
- 92% of you found the staff helpful, informative and accomadating. Your compliments of the staff and volunteers were very encouraging, and we would all like you to know that whatever helpfulness and good vibes that you got from us were the least that you deserve. I don't know how conventional growers work as hard as they do without such supportive customers surrounding them.
- 15% of you noted the you-pick, especially of herbs and flowers, as one of the highlights of your membership, and 46% of you took advantage of the opportunity often, which is a big increase from years past. Clearly the herb-flower bed has been a big hit, especially in a year when our most popular you-pick items--strawberries and tomatoes--were not producing very well. Expect it to expand in the years to come. It's a shame we cannot grow the same herb bed in the Dupont parking lot. But we're trying to provide herb seedlings for your own balconies and urban gardens, and perhaps we can find a way to include fresh herbs more consistently in the Dupont share. We also heard loud and clear that you still have trouble navigating the farm to find items in more distant fields. We have a farm map that we will make more available, and we'll see what else we can do to make the experience easier.
- Almost unanimously, the most common suggestion for the pick-up sites was for more scales. Got it.
- Most of you (85%) were satisfied with your communication with the farm. But 14 of you mentioned that you would like to get your weekly email sooner, to tell you what will be in your share. And 11 of you mentioned that you weren't able to get that email at all. So we'll try to make that easier.
- 80% of you probably or definitely plan to buy a share again next year. Great! The most common response for your favorite aspects of the CSA was the quality and taste of the produce. Other top reasons why you like being members are the fact that the food is fresh, local, organic, and you appreciate your connection to the farm and the friendly people involved. Many of you also noted the wide selection of varieties, and that it encouraged you and/or your children to try new foods, eat more seasonably, and more vegetables in general.
- Of your least favorite aspects of the CSA, the most common reason was the inconvenience of the time and/or location of the pick-up site. I would like to believe that someday there will be so many farmers' markets and CSAs that each of your neighborhoods will be conveniently served. Currently, labor is the most expensive thing we buy, so making our distribution less efficient would increase the price of the share a great deal. And yet your time is also your most valuable asset, so I empathize with you completely. We will continue to make whatever minor adjustments we can that have the least effect on the price of your share, and you can continue to support CSAs, which will encourage more farmers to join us in serving you better.
- It's worth mentioning the other two things that a significant number of you mentioned as your least favorite aspects of the CSA. One is the drought and crop loss, which I also felt was the worst aspect of 2007. Another 11% of you mentioned that you didn't get the mix of produce that you prefer (too much eggplant, not enough lettuce, etc.). We will be increasing the price of the share in 2008, and part of that increase is because we need to increase the time and materials (such as irrigation supplies, and various fabrics to protect the plants and reduce weeds) we use to get a more consistent harvest from inconsistent weather and pest conditions. We are mindful of our use of the Earth's precious resources, though, so we'll always have to bend our wishes to what the land can most easily provide. We hope you'll continue to take that challenge with us.
Thank you all for supporting us in a year of challenges, for eating healthfully, for taking the time to appreciate good food, for being attentive stewards of the land and your community, and for your infectious joy. Have a great new year!!
Carrie Vaughn, and the rest of your admirers here at Clagett Farm