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March 2019

2019 CSA Shares Now On Sale

Clagett barn
This photo of the farm is from @2kdapllc on Instagram.

It's time to start getting serious about the 2019 CSA. We so appreciate your support and sincerely hope you plan to come back next year.



There are two ways we need your help:

  • Renew your share -- we hope you'll join us again! In case you need a reminder, we're the only local CSA that donates almost half of our produce, free or at a low cost, to families in need of assistance.

  • Share this email with someone you think would enjoy being a Clagett Farm member. Word of mouth is our strongest route to filling the CSA share, Please invite a friend, neighbor or coworker to join the farm this season.

Here are a few new things for the 2019 CSA season:

  • We’re adding a pick-up site in Annapolis, at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters. The address is 6 Herndon Ave, Annapolis MD 21403.  The pick up is Thursdays 4:00-6:30pm.

  • 13-week shares are available at all pick-up sites

  • 13-week members may double shares conditionally—We heard your feedback on this and want to make it more flexible for you. Most of the time it’s fine, but sometimes if we’re extremely pinched we’ll ask you to double a different week or change what’s in the 2nd share, so please check with the pick-up manager first.

Lastly, if your family is affected by the government shutdown, we will work with you on a payment schedule so that you can purchase your share after the furlough is over.

Any additional questions, let us know!

~ The Clagett Farm Team


2018 CSA Survey Results: Your Comments and My Responses (Post 3 of 3)

Clagett chainsaw
Farmer Dave does some off-season tree pruning at the farm. This photo was posted on Clagett Farm's Facebook page.

 

I've already shared with you the breakdown of this year's survey responses, and your feedback about which veggies you did and didn't like.

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!

Your farmer,
Carrie Vaughn

(And in case you missed it and want a recap of how the 2018 season went, you can read our summary here. And you can see a chart of all the weeks’ offerings here.)


2018 CSA Survey Results: What You Loved and What You Hated (Post 2 of 3)

Clagett tractor
Moving hay bales at the farm. Click over to Instagram for a cute little video of this.

We're back with more results from the 2018 member survey. Here's the first post about that, in case you missed it.

In sifting through all the responses, it turns out that most of you just want more of everything, and more choices generally.  

But here’s a few highlights worth mentioning:

  • Of the crops we grow, your favorites, in order of preference, are: tomatoes, kale/collards, strawberries, garlic, sweet potatoes and peppers.  Excellent!  Those are all crops we can grow in abundance in a reasonable year.  2019 is going to be a winner -- I can feel it!
  • Your least favorites, in order of distaste are:  stinging nettles, turnips, okra, rhubarb, kohlrabi and ground cherries.  I could have guessed all of those except the ground cherries.  But the ground cherries had an early demise this year, so perhaps some of you got some bad ones while those plants were petering out.  We’ll be more careful next year. For those of you who chose okra, the deer had you covered -- I’ve never seen an animal make such quick work of complete crop destruction.  I was a little sad about it, but I’m glad many of you were not. And while strawberries look VERY promising for 2019, the rhubarb does not (it’s another perennial, so its plant health in the fall is a good indicator for spring success).  Again, I’m a big rhubarb fan, so I’ll do my best to bring that one back to life for 2020 -- I just won’t make you take it if you don’t want it. One thing that’s worth noting is that many of your least favorite items (nettles, turnips, rhubarb and kohlrabi, as well as microgreens, spicy mix and radishes, which were next on the unfavored list) are crops we grow in the spring.  Spring is a tough season -- cold soil, not enough sun, and wild variations in temperature and rain -- so we don’t have as many choices of what to put in your share. Fortunately, almost any fresh spring vegetable is an improvement on winter, so we’re grateful for those of you who take May and June as an opportunity to get creative.
  • 68% of you dried, canned, froze or otherwise stored some of your CSA produce for use in the 6 months we’re apart.  Well done! Almost all of you wished you could have stored more.  I am like the 23% of you who didn’t stock away enough for lack of time, which is why I’ve been muttering lately about not having enough pesto in my freezer or jars of tomato soup on my shelf.  We had SO MUCH BASIL! And even though I regretted not having our normal deluge of tomatoes, there were many weeks with full bins of damaged tomatoes to pick through. Alas... But the reason most of you gave for not storing enough for winter was that we didn’t offer you enough of the vegetables you desired.  Well, indeed, you’re right about that. Here’s hoping for a more prosperous 2019.
  • You wanted more flowers.  I mean, you wanted more of a lot of things, but for you-pick, you wanted more flowers as much as you wanted more strawberries and tomatoes, which is saying something.  As it happens, our flower grower had a baby mid-summer. She was pretty exhausted before, during and after that happened. But she assures me that she is in no mood for a repeat performance in 2019, so we’ve heard your plea for flowers and we’re on it. We’re putting Baby Teddy in charge of the trellis.  I’m kidding. That baby never does what I tell him to.

 

Getting excited for 2019 yet?  You can sign up for a share today! www.cbf.org/clagettsignup

In my next post, we’ll get to the fun part, where you’ve tossed out barrage of questions, requests, imperatives, complaints and compliments, and I do my best to respond.

Your farmer,
Carrie


2018 CSA Survey Results (Post 1 of 3)

Clagett tree
Farmer Carrie shared this image today on Instagram. 

Happy New Year, everybody!

A huge thank-you to everyone who completed the 2018 CSA member survey we sent out. Your answers and comments will help guide us for the upcoming 2019 season and beyond. 

We want to share the survey results with you, and we're going to do that in three separate blog posts. Below, you'll find some basic stats from the survey that give kind 0f a demographic snapshot of who's in the Clagett CSA, and how satsfied everyone was with the 2018 season.

In the next post, you'll find specific details about what everyone liked -- and didn't like -- about last year's mix of produce. 

Finally, the third post will include some of your comments from the survey, along with responses from me.

I hope you find all of this informative and interesting. And thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Your feedback is incredibly valuable.

Now, on to the survey results!

First, the basics:

  • 95 people responded to the survey. Thank you!!
  • The large majority of you (82%) were glad you joined this year.
  • When asked what percentage of your vegetable needs were filled by your CSA share during the 6-month season, the most common response was 61-80%.
  • Almost half of you feed a household of 2.  

Perhaps you are a person who would like to read the results yourself without all my own interpretations muddling it up?  You can! The survey results, straight from SurveyMonkey, are here.  And remember, you can sign up for a 2019 share anytime!

Who is most satisfied with their CSA share?

  • Dupont! 92% of members who picked up at Dupont were glad they joined, compared to 76% and 74% of the people who picked up at the farm on Wednesdays and Saturdays, respectively. Hats off to Garrett Waters and Blake Reichmuth for doing such a great job managing that pick-up! That one took me by surprise, actually, because Dupont members get the same CSA share as everyone else, but seldom come out to the farm for you-pick.  It’s worth noting that our membership at the Dupont pick-up has been slowly declining. Word-of-mouth is our best advertising (especially since we don’t get any walk-by traffic now that we’re tucked in the back of an alley). So Dupont members, tell your friends to sign up!
  • People who thought the share offered 81-100% of their vegetable needs on average, over the 6 month harvest season, were the happiest with their CSA share.  That seems obvious: If the CSA is meeting your needs, you’re happy.
  • Households of 4.  This bit of the data is mysterious to me.  I would have guessed that households of 1 would have had the largest proportion of their vegetable needs met by the CSA share (in fact it is households of 2, if survey responses are to be believed).  And I would have guessed that our success meeting your needs would decline proportionately with household size (turns out it’s not a linear function at all). And I would have guessed the households of 1 would be the most satisfied with their CSA share.  In fact it is households of 4 that are most satisfied, and they are the ones who claim the CSA met the smallest proportion of their household’s vegetable needs (even lower than households of 5-6). Households of 2 were the next happiest with their CSA share (after households of 4).  I have a lot of theories about this. Perhaps people with children value the experience of visiting the farm as much as getting the produce? Perhaps a pair of adults can accommodate an unpredictable medley of vegetables better than a single person who has very particular tastes? But none of my theories hold any water, because why, then, are the 3-person households less happy?  So my dear customers, you are as unpredictable as the weather, and my crops. Naturally.
  • People who commute fewer than 20 minutes.  This one, thank goodness, was a linear function.  The less you have to travel, the more likely your CSA share was worth your investment.  It’s interesting that the people who travelled the farthest were the ones who had been members the longest.  Is that because driving a lot makes you want to be a CSA member longer? No. It’s because you are my stalwart, long-time community.  We’re dear to each other, you and I. We have history. Maybe you’ve moved, or maybe you changed jobs, and you think you’ll try to stick around a little longer even though your commute is longer now.  Maybe you purchased a 13-week share, so you can still enjoy your favorite tomatoes or those fall greens. You still remember what a rush it is when you’re picking gobs of sweet-ripe strawberries or don’t have enough room in your trunk to fit one more basket of ripe tomatoes.  Some years aren’t the greatest? It’s a gamble. We’ll take it.

 

Much more to come in posts 2 and 3!

Your farmer,
Carrie