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2010 CSA Member Survey Results

Zachari Curtis (left) and Xavier Bure (right) sorting tomatoes

Back in November, we asked our CSA Members to provide feedback on their experience over the course of the 2010 season.  Below we’ve summarized all of the responses and answered a lot of questions raised by your fellow members.
If you're interested, the complete results and responses are available for your review. And if you haven’t responded to the survey, we’re still happy to get your feedback. You can fill out the survey here. [Note that we won’t be updating this blog post if more responses come in, but we will read them here at the farm]. 

So how did the season shape up?  Here's a summary of the responses:

RESPONSE RATE: About half of you responded to the survey.  We got 138 responses, and we have 280 CSA shares.

RETURNING?: 85% said they definitely or probably will purchase a share again next year.  Terrific!  That’s an increase from 83% in 2009 and 80% in 2008. For those who might not return, the vast majority (82%) said it is because they might be moving or the pick-up site is not convenient.
HOW MANY ADULTS DOES ONE SHARE FEED?  As always, the most common answer, by a wide margin, was two adults. 31% thought it was more, and only 9% thought it was fewer.

COMMUTE:  Interestingly, 48% of you travel 30 minutes or more to pick up your share.  Most of the long-commuters pick up at the farm, frequently harvest from the fields or herb beds when they’re here, and do not usually take turns picking their share with anyone.  For those of you who might want to start taking turns with someone to get your share each week, we would like to help. Although we try something new each year, we haven’t yet found the winning technique to get you in touch with each other.  We’ll try another this year, although we haven’t settled on how. Stay tuned…

CROP PREFERENCES:  The biggest winner was asparagus—87% of you want more.  Yikes!  I happen to love eating asparagus, but hate picking it.  It’s the only one I have to harvest every day, including Sundays.  We just penned in the asparagus so we can let our chickens eat bugs and fertilize beginning this June. Hopefully this will help increase the yield for our 2012 crop without adding more time to the harvest. I won’t be ready to expand our asparagus plot until we get someone else to pick it on Sundays. 
Other crops that most of you wanted more:  beans (fresh), broccoli, carrots, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, mushrooms, onions (bulb), peas, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes (ripe), and acorn and butternut winter squash.  And for the person who suggested sunchokes, we read your mind—we just planted them in November.

There was only one crop that most of you wanted less:  sweet potato greens.  No surprise!  Although I happen to like them, I would have preferred a wider selection of fall greens, such as spinach, lettuce and kale.  All of those were delayed over a month by the dry, hot spell in August.  This year we’ll be quicker to adjust our strategy, so we can plant less and take that time to irrigate if needed. 

QUALITY PROBLEMS:  Most of you (74%) did not have any issues. Several people mentioned over-ripe watermelons and tomatoes. The tomatoes are a tricky balance.  When we harvest them under-ripe, people tend not to choose those. Given the number of varieties we grow, it also confuses people who aren’t sure if the tomato is ripe when it’s orange, or if it’s an under-ripe red tomato.  Perhaps in 2011 we will make a point to pick more tomatoes that are a few days shy of dead ripe, and label them clearly for people who know that’s what they prefer.  We could also send more of those under-ripe tomatoes to Dupont, since they have to endure an extra van ride.

A few other people mentioned early spoilage with squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peppers.  If you get home and find that your produce spoiled prematurely, please tell us!  We would like to replace that item with the same some equally valuable item the next week. The same goes for watermelons that turn out to be duds, since it’s hard to be sure of their quality without cutting them open.

I understand that some of you can’t stomach seeing caterpillars in your corn.  We sprayed Bt (a natural, non-toxic caterpillar-killer) when we were able, so there was some improvement over previous years.  And we try to have a staffperson available to remove the tops of ears, which is where most of the caterpillars are hiding.  But we’re not going to be able to get them all, so it’s fair for you to refuse our corn if that’s a problem.  We have a similar issue with broccoli and cabbage—sometimes the spraying takes a back seat when the peppers need planting or tomatoes need twining.
YOU-PICK:  We agree completely with several of you who mentioned that some more weeding would make a big difference.  This year one of our worksharers generously took the job of managing the herb/flower beds, but she needed more help.  So this year we hope to find more volunteers to join her.  Hopefully this will improve our flower selection a great deal, since those often fail for lack of attention. 

A few people mentioned missing the rosemary.  We’ve had trouble getting that plant to overwinter here, it doesn’t germinate well, and after we plant seedlings they often get over-pruned by eager you-pickers before they get well-established (even when we post signs!).  So we’re working on a new strategy.  We might try planting rosemary in a hidden spot and then telling people in 2012 where to find it, since by then the plants should be big enough to survive a winter and some heavy harvesting.  

We couldn’t get the dill and cilantro to grow for most of the summer.  (Of course the cilantro is growing like gangbusters now.  Great.)  We’ll keep trying.

We got some positive feedback about the you-pick fields of chiles, cherry tomatoes and basil.  We would like to repeat and improve on that success.   

SEEDLINGS:  It’s great to hear that so many of you tried planting them and enjoy getting them, even if they don’t all work out.  We’ll do it again next year.  Your favorites seem to be herbs, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers.  

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