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It is not too late to give us some feedback on how the CSA season has been for you. To do so, click on this link, and take a minute or two to help us learn and grow as farmers. Survey Link
We try to put out a survey every year. The results of these really help us do our job better, and a major part of that job is to gain a strong understanding of whom our eaters are, and what they want from their farmer, and from our fields. On balance, the early results demonstrate that we have done good by you this season and our GPA was nice and high. This of course is encouraging, but it is the things that we need improvement on that we would like to address. While it’s a grown up thing to do to take constructive criticism graciously, and build strength upon it, the little kid in all of us never likes knowing that we dropped the ball. Allow me to indulge that little kid for a moment and talk about some of that criticism. I would also like to extend an apology to those of you that had something that didn't go right. We constantly strive to improve and your feedback helps us to know where to put our energy. Thanks.
1. “Too much Kale and Cabbage. Not enough lettuce or spinach, peas, garlic, asparagus, carrots, or broccoli. “
As one member suspected unknowingly, kale does indeed never die(unless there’s a drought)! We didn’t go into the season with the intention of giving out quite as much kale as we have up to now. We had hoped to alternate kale and chard much more frequently, and be able to rotate in asian brassicas(bok choy, hon tsai tai, komatsuna, tatsoi, etc) through late spring. That didn’t happen because the weather wiped all of the asian brassicas out. We have replanted them recently now that summer is waning, and you should have good amounts of these to counteract kale this fall. We got a little carried away on the cabbage mainly because it did so well. Spring cabbage hasn’t been strong for us over the years, but this year it held in the field tremendously. Admittedly, I let that get a hair carried away too. Note to self for next spring.
Most of the crops that folks feel we didn’t give enough of will be back in shares soon and for the duration of fall. We weren’t able to get our summer broccoli planting in on time, as we were working at ½ staff for 3 pivotal weeks, and only had the time to harvest shares and market crops. Carrots too were pushed back a little as a result. Both of these will make strong comebacks soon. Spinach either dies, or gets bitter or buggy when planted between July 15 and August 25. But, we will have lettuce back next week, and hopefully spinach in two weeks.
Our garlic was planted on new ground this year, ground that had been pasture. When 80% of the field in early spring showed up as thistle, we knew we would have little to no luck salvaging the crop for fall shares or for planting. This is why we dug some of it as green garlic in mid spring. Most of the CSA farms I know in SE Wisconsin have had at least 50% losses to garlic this year due to weeds and flooding. Since that’s a crop whose seed is saved every year, and at up to $18/lb for seed, it’s a big loss. It goes with organic growing though. Instead of applying round-up and burning the thistle out, we lose $10,000 worth of garlic and keep all the thistle we want! So it goes. Needless to say, we won’t have garlic this year, but are starting with a new mulched system for garlic next year that should pay dividends, even in rough, weed-intense springs.
2. “What happened to the vacation hold option?”
Many of you miss the ability to put shares on hold, and be issued a box credit for future use. I agree that this ability is really important. On our end there are things about doing this that aren’t convenient, desirable, or efficient. Having said that, this food system isn’t about us, it’s about you, and many of you have rather busy and hectic lives. If CSA can’t fit into your world, what good is it?
The vacation policy was changed this year mainly due to challenges with our CSA management service provider (Farmigo). We needed a simple yet elegant solution to some of the challenges associated with allowing members to file for vacation boxes, and Farmigo simply wasn’t able to provide us with what we needed to make this happen.
For the 2014 CSA season, we will no longer be utilizing Farmigo as a management tool. We are looking at several other options, and have some good leads. Whatever we choose, the ability for members to take off a week and not lose the missed share will be an important consideration. So I can’t promise for sure that vacation replacement boxes will be back next year, but I’m 97.23% sure.
3. “Why isn’t there a labeling system, so I can know what the items are in my box?”
This year, in the newsletter, there is a photo link below the list of projected contents that will bring up a picture of all or most of the items in the box. In addition, you can click on the content items listed in the newsletter and get recipes and storage tips about these items. So, there is a labeling system in place. Hopefully this helps you. Also, if you have questions you can always email us and we are happy to help.
4. Occasional quality issues.
For the most part people spoke highly about the food quality, but there were a few mishaps this year. One of the most important and most challenging issued we address on our farm is quality control. This year it was even more challenging because of starting with 6 new staff members, two of whom won't be staying for the entire season. That means fully retraining quality control, which to master takes some reps. At the beginning of each Wednesday's packout, the crew is reminded that this is the last chance to look over an item before it gets put into the box. They are encouraged to reject any item that has question. Like a child, whose parents love it no matter what, our staff sometimes has a hard time rejecting a piece of food that has so much love and energy put into it. We all also have a different interpretation of what is acceptable to eat and what is not, and while our standard has been developed through Tim's 5 years of working in grocery store produce departments, even there the standard requires some interpretation. As the season has progressed, I feel we have reinforced our standards and are improving. The more experienced our staff gets the better at this they will become.
Logistics of delivery can at times contribute to spoilage too. Even though your food doesn't travel great distances, there are some challenges with keeping a mixed box of food in perfect condition between the farm and the customer. We continue to work at improving how we pack items to keep them in the best condition. You will notice that we now bag your tomatoes in an attempt to prevent you from getting a CSA box full of freshly made ketchup. If ever you have a concern about your box when you get it, please let us know.
We will continue to listen to what you say and adjust our standards and policies to meet the needs and desires of our customers. Thank you for helping us to continually improve as a farm and business. All of your feed back, both positive and negative is greatly appreciated.