Farmer John Writes: About Warmth

 In Farm News

Extended Season Week 2, November 13th – 17th, 2018

Your Box This Week – All Delivery Days:
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.

Root Crops — Easter Egg Radishes, Daikon Radish (maybe)

Cooking Greens — Kale Tops

Brassicas —Broccoli, Cabbage

Salad Greens — Baby Lettuce or Arugula

Alliums — Onions, Garlic

Fruiting Crops — Popcorn (maybe)

This is The Final Week of the Extended Season
We have run out of crops. It’s a miracle that we were able to provide you with vegetables for this long. If you missed last week’s issue of Farm News, please read it now, as it explains how the extreme challenges of this season have led to this shortfall.

This is the second and final week of our extended season deliveries. Shareholders with a 4-week extended season share or a 2-week half extended season share delivered on the ‘even’ weeks will receive a delivery this week. Shareholders who have a 2-week half extended season share delivered on the ‘odd’ weeks received their final delivery last week. If you are not signed up for an extended season share, or if you have a 2-week half extended season share delivered on the ‘odd’ weeks, please do not pick up a box this week. If you pick up a box on the wrong week, it will cause a shortage at your pickup site. Make sure that your name is on the checklist at your pickup site before taking home a box.

If you are unsure whether you have an extended season share, log in to your membership using your email address at and look under the “Memberships” tab. Or look at one of your pickup reminder emails from this season which is sent from email hidden; JavaScript is required. The weekly pickup reminder emails list all of the share types that you have in the 2018 season.

Please Flatten and Return Your Empty Vegetable Boxes
Please return all your empty, flattened vegetable boxes to your pickup site this week. You might even take your own box or bag to the site and transfer your vegetables so you can leave the final box at your site. If you receive home delivery, please place your empty, flattened vegetable boxes in your usual delivery location for the courier to pick up on your final delivery day. The courier will not be back to pick up your final box, so please recycle your final box or keep it until next season.

Another Kind of Flood—Support and Gratitude
We have received a flood of outpourings of appreciation and admiration for our efforts this season, and for the results we have achieved in putting food on our shareholders’ tables. We have never before received as much praise and encouragement as this year. A most special thank you to those of you who have sent us extra money this season to cover the season’s added expenses —this is most supportive and encouraging.

Shareholders Write
Below are examples of the loving and supportive messages we have received about the season’s early ending. (I normally wouldn’t include so many acknowledgments and messages of encouragement, but I think you will find the many perspectives interesting, insightful and uplifting.)

Dear Farmer John,

I want to add my voice to the (I hope) chorus of shareholders who appreciate your hard work and also your thoughtful words each week. We have been shareholders for I don’t know how many years (turns out it’s 14, I just checked) and have seen the boxes steadily improve in quality and (at least for our family’s taste) selection.   The fruits of your hard work, intelligence and spirit have allowed our family to know that the food we eat comes from somewhere and someone.

I also want to echo the sentiment that part of our “contract” with you is to share the bad as well as the good.  I’m okay with that.  We shareholders learned a real lesson this year…

Thanks to you and everyone at the farm…


Just a quick note to let you all know that this is the first chance I’ve had to read this week’s newsletter, and felt I needed to respond. Your language is clear when signing up that shareholders are not guaranteed anything due to the nature of the variability and uncontrollable elements of farming. We all accepted the responsibility of knowing there could be lean years. We have been shareholders for many years, and are already signed up for next year. None of you should feel guilty for one second for having done your best!  We enjoyed each box!  I am relieved to hear that the farm is being managed responsibly enough to give us partially filled boxes and tell us this is all you have. Way to go!  

Wishing each of you a peaceful and restful winter season!


Dear Farmer John,
2 slightly skimpy extended season boxes will be just fine for me. Thanks to everyone at AO for the super hard work they have done this season supplying us with vegetables under nearly impossible conditions. Hopefully most shareholders who purchased extended season shares are long term hard core supporters and will feel blessed rather than cheated. Cabbage wraps sound like a lot of fun!


Dear Farmer John and helpers,

Thank you for a wonderful season of produce! I’m sorry the wet weather put a damper (literally) in your growing plans. However, I was happy for all the boxes I got, and I’m glad to have been able to shoulder some of the burden for your farm. I’m looking forward to next year—let’s hope for a little less rain and a little more sunshine for all of us! 

Have a great winter, and I hope you all get the chance for some R&R!!!!!!!

Take care…


Farmer John

I appreciate all the hard work you and you farmers have done this summer! I really enjoyed all the food you brought to our table and appreciate all the love, focus and attention to quality. Your intention is noticed and well received! 

I’ve been impressed that you’ve been able to grow as much as you have with the way the weather‘s been this year. I’m grateful to receive the first two weeks of extended season and I know that none of us have any control over what nature offers. 

 I signed up for next year And look forward to a first time visit to the farm, perhaps this fall for a workshop.

All the best…


Farmer John and staff,

I wish I was a wonderful writer with eloquent words to tell you how much my family and I have appreciated your hard work this year. I am sorry it has been a hard season for all of you, but we did not mind at all. We still got plenty! My favorite items this year were the mini gourds. I don’t think you usually put those in the boxes. We couldn’t make it to the fall open house this year when I usually pick up a few, so I was delighted you included them in the box. They still adorn our table each day. So if that was just a filler, we loved it. 

Thank you also for NOT buying additional items to give us a full box. I agree with the other shareholder that you mentioned in your farm news. It just isn’t necessary.

I look forward to picking up your delicious garlic tomorrow. Thank you for that. We will use it in many delicious dishes.

Thanks again for a wonderful season. We look forward to being shareholders again next year.


Thank you Farmer John and all the Angels from the farm!  We LOVE being a part of your kind, genuine, peaceful, loving organization is this crazy world we are suddenly living in.

Thank you for the dedication…


Dear Angelic Organics + Farmer John,

Thank you for all that you do for us shareholders. I want to especially thank the workers and volunteers that, while they may not always get specific credit, are just as vital to the farm as the seeds and soil. I’ve read every Farm News since I first started receiving shares, and I always wanted to pitch in my voice to acknowledge all of the care and hard work that everyone puts in – now I’m putting in the small bit of effort it takes to do so.

I’ve been receiving vegetables since my second year of graduate school – I’m just now starting my fifth, and I have enjoyed and appreciated every box. On a limited grad school budget, I get as many vegetables as I (plus some friends and fellow students) can eat, and the vegetables are fresh, organic, delicious, and we know exactly from who and where they come. I can’t imagine a more rewarding arrangement. Over the past few years, I have nourished myself, expanded my cooking repertoire dramatically, thought more about my food than ever before, and experimented with some small scale, apartment gardening myself. Given my results – or lack thereof – with the latter, I think it’s safe to say it has given me even more respect for the quality and quantity of produce that we get each week. Finally, perhaps my favorite thing about food is the connections it fosters with others. I have formed and strengthened relationships and friendships around food from my shares over the years. I’ve both shared and listened to many stories and conversations while cooking. Maybe I’m being overly romantic here, maybe I would have had the same experiences with food from the now-defunct grocery store down the block. Maybe that would be the case, but I know for certain that many of my fondest memories are from the afternoons and nights after receiving shares.

So, if there’s one thing I mean to say, it is this: No matter the weather, or the harvest, or the angry bemusement about pea shoots (I’m on the pro-pea shoots team, for the record), my experience is always going to be defined by what I described above. I understand that the season has been very difficult, for reasons out of your control, and sometimes you can’t meet peoples’ expectations no matter how much work you put into it. For the negative feedback you receive in circumstances like this, I want to try and counteract some of it. While I appreciate a plentiful and varied bounty each week, what I really love is connecting with my environment by working with what the land has to offer at that moment, and the memories I make and share while doing it.

Warmest Regards,
Erik S – Hyde Park Shareholder


No worries Farmer John, 

You have done your best and we support you. Totally fair that we share in the weather risks.


Dear Farmer John,

I just read with great sadness that our second extended box will not be delivered.  While I have complained to my husband (CCed) that I haven’t felt the box was the same as last years I continued to reiterate to myself that we brought a share and we share in the good and in the bad.  I hope next year is better, you, your hard work, and your farm deserve it! We have already purchased a share for 2019.

Simply wanted to say thank you for all your hard work and for providing us with amazing vegetables all summer.  I look forward to next summer!


A grateful shareholder…


Hello.  I’m so sorry that it has been such a hard season for you all.  I appreciate all that you have given me.  I hope that people are understanding towards you.   All our love.

A Trickle Has Not Been Support and Gratitude
We have also received a few harsh accusations and demands for refunds for the extended season and cancellations for the 2019 season for not completing this season. The Shareholder Agreement, which all shareholders click “I Agree” to when they sign up for a share, should protect us from these kinds of demands. Some shareholders must have read that agreement without taking it to heart. When one considers the term share in the word shareholder, it seems a CSA shareholder wouldn’t demand a refund when their farmer has spent many tens of thousands of extra dollars to provide for shareholders as fully as was humanly possible.

Summary of a Year That Was Not Summery
This was a financially painful year for us. Due to weather, we spent tens of thousands of dollars more than anticipated, plowing destroyed crops under, replanting, re-seeding, and hiring extra help to laboriously harvest in extremely muddy conditions. We normally sell many added shares after the season starts, but we only sold a few this year, due to the early flooding. We normally sell 200 to 300 extra extended season shares in late summer, early fall, but did not make them available this season due to the bad weather. That means that a considerable amount of anticipated farm revenue did not materialize, and a considerable amount of unanticipated farm expense did materialize.

The Ending Was Hard to Project
I planted a lot of extra crops in late summer to fortify the extended season. This was extremely challenging, as we barely had time to do the harvests, due to the rain and mud. For the most part, these additional crops inched along, and I was in a continual question of whether they would mature. Even when we were harvesting for the first week of the extended season, I wondered if we would have enough crops for the second week. The extra field of broccoli had only little buds for heads; the baby lettuce which we had covered to provide warmth, and then covered with a second layer to provide more warmth, was teeny.

The Ending was Suspenseful and Astonishing
Even cold-weather crops, such as lettuce or broccoli, grow very little, if at all, in late October, early November. I felt foolish even wondering if these late-planted crops would be harvestable. However, the temperatures of the past week were about 5 degrees above average, and every day, the crops grew a little bit.  The broccoli heads about doubled in size this past week, from tiny to small and harvestable. The baby lettuce also about doubled in size, from minuscule to harvestable. However, the baby lettuce was still too small to harvest with our mechanical greens harvester, so the crew knelt for many hours in the cold muddy ground and painstakingly harvested the lettuce by hand.

Pollo harvests baby lettuce

The Warmth Expanded Your Box Contents by 40% in the Final Week
To put it another way, if the temperatures had been normal during last week, your box would have been perhaps 3 inches less full. The growth of the crops added about 1/2 inch of volume or fullness per day to your box contents. That warmth nudged your box from skimpy towards full—a surprise ending. 

To put it yet another way, we needed about 30 twenty-bushel bins to fill your boxes this week. A week ago, I predicted we would have between 16 and 18 bins available for this week’s pack. Thanks to a little bit of extra late season warmth, we ended up with 30 bins for this week’s pack.

The Autumn Warmth Ended
In case you are wondering why we didn’t let the little crops get bigger, we harvested all the remaining crops just before killing frosts in the mid-teens arrived.

Broccoli, small but beautiful

I held garlic back from the main season, thinking that it was possible that the extended season would end early, and that extra garlic would mitigate the feeling of loss for our extended season shareholders. In case you wonder why you are receiving garlic cloves rather than bulbs, the garlic bulbs sat in mud for much of the season. Many of the wrappers on the bulbs disintegrated, so we separated the bulbs into cloves.

The fruit share posed a bit of a dilemma. Rather than deliver only fruit on the 4th week of the extended season, we placed a double order for fruit, so all the fruit scheduled for extended season will be delivered this week. For the vast majority of our shareholders who are signed up for extended season fruit, this means they will receive 2 fruit boxes this week. The fruit at this point in the season, mostly apples and pears, should store well.

The 2019 season has already started here, with fall tillage, bed layout, Biodynamic compost application, and seeding of fall peas as a cover crop—all done. We look forward to the promise of a new year. 

The new Harvie platform for customizing our vegetable shares is coming soon…those who are with us in 2019 will be contacted to identify their vegetable aversions and preferences this winter and then we’ll plant what you like to eat.

Thank You
Thank you for being with us this season, and thank you to all of you who will be with us again in 2019. Thank you to all of our site hosts, who help to make the CSA program possible in their communities. Thank you to the wonderful pack volunteers, who faithfully showed up to pack your boxes week after week. Thank you to the crew for slogging through the harvests. Thank you to the earth, for providing us with sustenance.

Farmer John

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  • Dr. Cindy Stear

    Reading the newsletter is a wonderful start to my day, a start of witnessing abundant gratitude and appreciation from fellow shareholders for all you have done. As an amateur gardener, I am interested to hear of your struggles with the weather. I can testify that my garden was “teeny” all year. My brother in law visited, and brought tons of home-canned vegetables for me from his garden in northern Iowa. He enjoyed teasing me about my pitiful outcome. I told him he was glaringly jealous. Haha! It’s not about the outcome, sometimes, but about the process. Please let yourself off the hook for doing above and beyond your very best, and still not being able to control the weather or please everyone. Thanks for a great season.

  • Nancy McClelland

    I remember emailing you last year and saying that as a long-term shareholder (since 2000) and as a small business accountant, that you should never do what you did [last year], taking money out-of-pocket to purchase vegetables from other farms to pack our boxes.

    We’re in a contract with you as shareholders, and we are *proud* to honor that contract. In 19 years you’ve never left us empty — and those are odds no one should attempt to beat. When we first signed up with friends, shortly after moving to Chicago, we were surprised that year after year the boxes were full… when clearly our agreement indicates that we are sharing in the surplus and the shortcomings that go along with being closely involved in a farming operation. We kept wondering why we were clearly getting the better end of the deal.

    So as sorry as we are that it’s been such a challenging season — and of course, our hearts break for you and all the people who participated in making our boxes happen — we’re also filled with pride at the opportunity to finally honor our end of the deal. Please keep doing what you do best and knowing that we’ll support you in those efforts.

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