Farmer John Writes: My Mother and the Plumber

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 14, September 18th – 22nd, 2018

Your Box This Week – Saturday Deliveries:
Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. Share contents often vary over the course of the week. And, as always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.

Fruiting Crops — Butternut Squash, Sweet Peppers

Root Crops — Carrots, Celeriac

Brassicas — Broccoli (maybe)

Stem Crops — Kohlrabi (maybe)

Cooking Greens — Kale

Salad Greens — Baby Lettuce Mix

Alliums — Garlic

Sign up for the Free CSA Meal Planning Service
Make sure you sign up for the Local Thyme CSA meal planning service we offer with your share. Local Thyme offers storage and handling tips and recipes customized to each week’s share. It has received many great reviews from our shareholders. Check out this sample recipe: Curried Celeriac Carrot Puree.

From Farmer John’s Cookbook
Here is a link to storage tips and recipes for carrots from the out-of-print Farmer John’s Cookbook:

Fair Weather for Now
We experienced several drying days recently–oh, my, the work that got done in this weather window! The carrots and celeriac were harvested. We didn’t want to subject them to more mud. (Still, due to the rains most of the season, we could only salvage a few carrots per share.) We were finally able to spread Biodynamic compost on many of next year’s vegetable fields, day after day, field after field, tilled the fields and seeded them to peas. Oh, and we had to harvest much more for your box than carrots and celeriac. Wow, did it rain again on Tuesday—pretty much all day.

For those who didn’t see last week’s Farm News, we had a good garlic crop this year, but the wrappers on many of the large bulbs dissolved in the mud, or at least became crinkly and flakey. This week, you are receiving cloves of garlic, not bulbs. The cloves are large and pungent, so your garlic experience will likely be up to your expectations.

Another crop that can succumb to mud is celeriac. We harvested the celeriac early, mindful that the tops can suddenly go brown and the bulbs can rot from excess moisture. In the flurry of planting last spring, I did not notice that many of the celeriac seedlings were doubles. They should have been thinned down to one seedling per cell. You may receive an intertwined pair of celeriac bulbs.

Celeriac Harvest

Farm Field Day
We enjoyed glorious weather and food at the Farm Field Day last Saturday. We have such a huge pumpkin crop this year, I was able to offer a pumpkin and gourd to each person who attended. Gladiolas had been somewhat battered by the weather, but they were still a fabulous treasure from the U-Pick garden.

Gallo siblings marvel at the silo during the Field Day, left to right: Thomas, Isabelle, Annie, Natalie

Field Day treasures of the Haas Siblings Jo, Katherine and Kaitlyn

25% Discount for 2019 Shares Will be Retired on Sunday, Sept 23
(Last week, I announced a Sept 16 retirement of our 25% discount, but I later realized that our 10-week shareholders who receive their share only on even weeks would then not be aware of this change in pricing in a timely way.) 

We began offering large discounts not to sell more shares, but to expand the range of those who could afford our shares. When I first introduced the option for shareholders to select a discount up to 25% a few years back, I was warned that most people would take the maximum discount. I was gratified that the average discount selected was about 13%. That was ideal. Now the average discount selected is about 22%. I’m going to soon pare the discount back to a maximum of 10%, as the farm cannot flourish with so many people taking the 25% discount. Until Sept 23, the maximum discount will be 25%. Until Sept 30, 20%. Until Oct 7, 15%. After Oct 7, 10%. Sign up at

This gradual escalation of shareholders’ discounts from the median, farm-sustainable discount of 13% to the much higher non-sustainable discount of 22% over the course of a few years is a cause for concern and reflection. 

Do shareholders value their share less? Are shareholders less able to pay more? Are discounts more and more normal in commerce and therefore more and more expected/taken for granted? Are we, a CSA farm, part of that commerce model for people? Are we now more regarded as offering a product for sale as opposed to offering a relationship?

We offered discounts to help those with less money, not to help everybody. We still want to help those with less money, hence the last call for those who need the 25% discount. But we don’t want to subsidize those who can afford to pay more for a share, but won’t, if they have a choice. Our discount program was a social and financial experiment; it was initially encouraging, because it broadened the range of who was able to buy a share. Since the great majority of people now take the maximum discount, we have to shrink the range of discounts available, because we can’t afford to subsidize most share sales with 25% off.

I received a letter from a shareholder a few weeks ago that contained this excerpt: “I am enclosing my renewal…I have deducted all the generous discounts you offer in consideration of my early renewal. However, I don’t believe these discounts are really warranted. You need to keep farming in spite of the vagaries of weather and the marketplace. Therefore, I have also included a separate check in the amount of the savings you are offering.” 

No Shame
A shareholder wrote to accuse me of “shaming” our shareholders with the explanation of why we are discontinuing our large discounts. I’m not writing this to shame any of our shareholders. I’m writing it to share the facts about a trend in the discounts shareholders take, and the impact that has on the farm and on those with less money, who need the large discount. 

Our Multi-Year Program
I’ll note here that our multi-year share program, which offers substantial discounts for signing up several years in advance, is more aimed at creating a secure long-term shareholder base, plus it helps us in making important long-term farm improvements. A multi-year commitment to the farm justifies larger discounts.

Bargains and discounts make me wonder who might be getting exploited on the other side of the transaction. To be clear, offering discounts on CSA shares so that those with less money can buy a share does not make me feel exploited—that is an offer to those truly in need. However, supporting those in need is not the purpose of most sales and discounts. Bargains for bargains’ sake—I simply wince when I see them. Of course, a company might need to reduce prices to clear out inventory or meet a sales quota, etc., but in general, I am unable to regard a discount without feeling sad and concerned for the person or company on the other side of the transaction.

Bob and I Tried to Pay More
Bob Bower (former growing manager at Angelic Organics) and I in the late 90’s lamented the financial difficulties that the airlines were having then. Bob had a conservative nature regarding money, but, like me, he felt for those who were suffering financially. Bob and I both realized that companies need to make money in order to stay in business, and at that particular time, we were feeling for the airlines. It was a pre-Expedia time, when the normal way of purchasing an airline ticket was by phone. Part of the call went like this:

Bob: “Okay, so we want to purchase those two tickets you just mentioned. In addition, we would each like to offer $20 extra to help the airline during this difficult time.”

Airline Ticket Agent: “You what?”

Bob: “We each want to pay $20 extra for our ticket.”

Agent: “You can’t do that.”

Bob: “Why not?”

Agent: “There is nothing in our system that will allow such a thing.”

Bob: “Okay, you are leaving $40 on the table that your company needs. I just want you to know that.”

You Can’t Work for that Little Money
My mother safeguarded her money in part so she could be more generous with it. In her late 70’s, she told me about a plumber who had recently done some work at her house. He gave her a reduced bill.

Mom said, “My gosh, you can’t come here and do that work for that little money.”

Plumber: “You’re retired, ma’am. I’m sure you can use the savings.”

Mom: “You can’t work for that little money. My gosh, people need money to live. Please give me a fair bill.”

I was reluctant to offer my musings on money, as I realize it’s an emotional topic for many. I’ll close by thanking all of our shareholders for being part of our farm, regardless of what they have paid for the opportunity. I’m reining in the options on discounts on behalf of the well-being of the farm, not for any idealistic or dogmatic principles. I would prefer to grow your vegetables for free, just because I consider it a privilege to grow them, but that’s not how farming works.

How to Have the Best Shareholder Experience
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Let Us Know
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More from Shareholders
Visit us often at, where we post exciting farm developments regularly, and shareholders post recipes, tips, and photos.

Farmer John


Angelic Organics Learning Center
Learn how to brew beer while the kids make pizza from scratch using farm fresh ingredients this coming Saturday, September 22. With instructors and beers from Prairie Street Brewing Company, and a fresh local meal of pizza and beer, what more do we need to say? Sign up now at

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  • Laurel Saltzman

    As an independent contractor for almost my entire working life,( and even if I wasn’t), I totally appreciate your remarks about farming and finances. Nevertheless, I still feel guilty. We are those people who take the biggest discount we can get. My husband is a musician and I am a Realtor and our incomes fluctuate like the weather on your farm. There were early years when we were so flush we bought multi-year shares, and then there were years that were so lean we didn’t even sign up. Since we never know from one one year to the next or often even one month to the next just what our work will yield, we have to look for a bargain where we can get it. Believe me, it has nothing to do with our love of the farm and its produce. If I had the means I would happily pay double for the privilege of receiving a weekly box. Just thought I’d share another perspective. Thank you for all the work you do and the love with which you do it.

    • Farmer John

      What a lovely message from you, Laurel. The 25% discount was offered for people with your sort of life circumstances. I am glad that you availed yourself of it.

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