Hello CSA members!
Happy Holidays!! It seems like it’s been so long since we’ve seen all your smiling faces! The winter is off to such a mild start, that it already has us pondering what day the snow will all melt and field work for 2019 will begin. But before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s always important for us to take stock of the season we just finished, and review the good, the bad, and the ugly, in order to help us improve the farm.
First off, we’d like to thank you again for supporting local agriculture, specifically Two Bear Farm. We’re pleased to report that 2018 was one of our better years. In spite of our latest snow melt ever (April 16th), we managed to stay on schedule, and reach the quality and sales goals that we aimed for. We didn’t have any natural disasters or other major set backs, although the early aphid outbreak almost qualifies. And unlike 2017, the carrots were really good! So, all in all, a great year for the farm from a business side of things.
As for the issues, did we mention we only had 4 employees all season? Which is basically how many employees we had when we were half this size. The conclusion of that little experiment was that Rebecca and I were completely exhausted, fried, worn-out, tore-up…from both a mental and physical standpoint by the end of the season. Definitely not what we would consider “sustainable” from a human capital point of view. So for 2019, we plan on finding a training work force that is a bit more reasonably sized for the work we do. Not only will this help our bodies and minds, but it will hopefully allow us to focus on the parts of farming that really bring us joy, by allowing us enough time to do jobs right and with the care that they deserve (that includes customer service!). We’re also constantly upgrading our systems to make things run more efficiently around here. We continue to push our soil management to focus on nutrient-dense food, which I’ll discuss in a future post. We purchased some new equipment to allow us to make compost on the farm next year, and we upgraded our irrigation pumping station down at the river to allow us much more flexibility in how and when we turn water on, and who can do it. In other words, turning irrigation on is now a job that can be delegated 🙂 And in the quest for keeping our customers satisfied, and setting up the farm and logistics for success, we are constantly thinking about what we could do differently….where we need to draw boundaries; what things can be improved; what crops or activities to cut out; what actions, crop, and logistics make or lose us money; etc.
One item that stands out in our minds after this exhausting season is the partial share. And here is my beef. When we first started farming, we only had one CSA size, which was the full share. However, as we got bigger and more popular, we received requests for a share that wasn’t so big, so that it was more manageable for one or two people. So, in the name of keeping everyone happy, we added the partial share. But this required a different sized CSA box, which needs to be packed differently. And when I packed them this season, I often felt underwhelmed in comparison to the full shares. I didn’t feel like the partial shares represented the bounty of the farm, because they were limited by their value ($16, as opposed to a $26 full share). And this feeling was excaserbated when partial CSA members would lament the fact that they did not receive crop x, y, or z that was in the full share. I know there were times when partial share members would watch full shares getting unpacked and they would feel shorted (even though the value in each share was what it was supposed to be). So, long story long, we have an idea that we want to run by you, to see if we can’t make things more streamlined for the farm while also keeping our customers happy. I am sending all the partial share CSA members a Survey Monkey poll to get your input (it’s also imbedded in the next paragraph). The basic premise is we would like to go back to a one-size-only CSA, which would be much more simple for us logistically, and replace the partial share with a swipe card that could be used at the farmer’s market stand. Yes, I know the market stand has a line before the start of market, but the CSA line often seems to reach similar proportions on many days. And, just think… you now would get to pick and choose what items you want in your share. In fact, you get to decide how much you want in your share each week. While the swipe card would cost the same as a partial share, you would be free to use it however you wanted. That means you could buy $50 worth of produce one week, when you have visitors, or you could skip two weeks because you are out of town, and it requires no notifications or hassle. Simply use it how you want, until the balance reaches zero. The other option would be for you to upgrade to a full share.
Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is that it is almost the New Year. And we’ve made it a tradition to open up our CSA enrollment on January 1st each year. So, if you have a chance to fill out this one-minute survey, we’d love to get your input on this important matter. Thanks again for being a part of our farm community, and we hope you are having a healthy and happy winter!
Todd & Rebecca