Farmer John Writes: The Right Question

 In Farm News

Week 8, August 27th – 31st, 2019

Variability of Box Volume
I wrote about volume vs value in Week 5 of Farm News. The volume approach was a reliable way to fill everyone’s box the same amount, usually to the brim. The value approach is not at all mindful of box volume.

This season, the boxes end their journey down the pack line in various states of fullness. Some are overfull and we have to re-arrange their contents in order to close the box or put some of the vegetables in a second box and tape the two boxes together. Some boxes are comfortably full, and some are far from full. 

The volume issue was one of my concerns when considering whether to join Harvie. I knew that some of our shareholders rated their box value based on its fullness, besides judging it on its composition. (Unlike today, in former years some of the items in the box that made it full might not have been items the shareholder actually wanted to receive.)

I write this because some shareholders choose to receive mostly vegetables with a concentrated value, such as tomatoes, peppers, and especially garlic. A bulb of garlic has about the same value as a melon, but the garlic bulb is much smaller than the melon. If a shareholder lists melons, sweet corn, and fennel as their least preferred vegetables, and peppers, garlic and tomatoes as their most preferred vegetables, then that person’s box will receive a disproportionate amount of items with a concentrated value and their box will seem quite empty, even though it will have the same value as the box stuffed with corn, melons and fennel, etc.

Some shareholders have asked to cancel their share because of their dissatisfaction with their box fullness. I can’t remedy this problem. We can’t cram a person’s box full of high value items just to make it full, and then have that box be worth 2 or 3 times as much as the box full of corn, melons, fennel, etc.

In the past, all the boxes were more or less equal in volume; today they are all equal in value.

We will soon have greens again–kale, chard, pea shoots, and arugula. We might have some of these items available this week. A bit later, expect mizuna and baby lettuce.

Pea shoots

Another Observation about the Customization System
While on the topic of volume, customizing shares generates about three times the volume of shareholder correspondence as the former system. It’s hard for our dedicated Community Coordinator Denise to keep up with it. She might get 75 shareholder emails in a single day. If you are waiting for a reply, please be patient; she is doing her best to get back to you.

Also, please know that our office is not open 24/7. We get shareholder correspondence and calls at all hours, including weekends, sometimes with the expectation for an immediate reply. Again, we’re simply not able to be timely with all shareholder communication. I wish it was otherwise.

Sweet Corn Parties
Some of our shareholders buy extra sweet corn for their cookouts. I love that we have a system in place now that can offer our extra vegetables for sale for shareholder events. The most sweet corn ordered so far was 42 ears. We had to pack an extra box to accommodate all that corn. That must have been a fun party.

Haas kids enjoy an after-school corn snack

Everyone is Important
Haidy and I recently met the engaging Anthroposophical biography worker Leah Walker and her charming daughter Allison. We talked at length about biography work. 

I said “writing about myself is a process of discovery. So many things about myself are completely hidden from me, and then I discover them through writing. It is a process of revelation.”

Here is a quote by Rudolf Steiner regarding biography work:

“As many descriptions as possible of how human beings really develop—what I would call the positive natural history of human development—must be disseminated in an understanding way. Wherever we can, we should describe how this or that person developed—we should be able to give a loving account of development, as we have observed it. The study of life is needed, the will to an understanding of life…”

—Rudolf Steiner, How Can the Soul Needs of Our Time Be Met

You can learn more about Leah and her work here:

As many of you have probably gathered from Farm News, I often write about my life. Since the early 80’s,  I have written many long and short stories about adventures on and off the farm. Of course, stories about my life include stories about others in my life. Below, I am sharing a glimpse of a recent day of Haidy’s and my life in New Orleans, a glimpse into the biographies of others.

Bywater District of New Orleans. Homes have biographies, too.

Everyone is Interesting
Haidy and I went to New Orleans for a day-long government mandated course in food safety. We set aside an extra day to explore New Orleans. The following are excerpts from conversations we had during that extra day.

Uber Driver
Farmer: Why do you live in New Orleans?

Uber Driver: It didn’t work out in L.A. I was living with a woman I loved.  I couldn’t get a job, couldn’t pay my rent. I tried for four years and gave up.

Farmer: How’s it going here?

Uber Driver: I had a baby with someone I don’t love. She takes care of the baby part time; I take care of the baby part time. It works out okay from that angle, but there’s no love. I want to have a baby with someone I love; I want to be able to show the baby what love is. Having a baby when you can’t show the love between the parents–what is that?

Another Uber Driver
Farmer: How do you like living in New Orleans?

Driver: I love it here. I used to be a cop here. I could have had a nice pension if I could have held on. The bad guys kept taking out my fellow cops; I kept losing them. Sometimes I was right there when it happened. Dead. I couldn’t take it, had to get out. Didn’t know when my time was coming.

Farmer: Where are you from?

Waitress: Cleveland. My whole family is from Cleveland. They love it there; they would never leave. I had to prove to myself I could leave, and prove it to them, too.

Farmer: What did you do there?

Waitress: I walked people’s dogs. I loved those dogs. On my last walk, I told one dog I was moving to New Orleans. I think he understood. He was my favorite dog.

Farmer: Do you stay in touch with the dogs?

Waitress: No, but the one I told I was leaving, I’m friends with his owner. We talk on the phone a lot.

Farmer: Do you say hi to the dog over the phone? The dog would probably recognize your voice.

Waitress: No, but I should. I love that dog.

She began to weep. 

I so loved that dog. I shouldn’t be crying in front of you, but I so loved that dog. I so loved that dog.”

The Right Question
I have met many people who have told me their lives aren’t interesting. Then I ask them about their lives. Then it gets interesting.

Your Share
Let the farm office know anything you’d like to share about this week’s box at email hidden; JavaScript is required. Please note the week and day of delivery, your site, when you picked up your box, and any comments about your box. If your box is missing an item, let us know at email hidden; JavaScript is required and we’ll make it right.

Fruit Newsletter
If you get a fruit share, find the fruit newsletter on the Fruit News blog.

Make sure to add both email hidden; JavaScript is required and email hidden; JavaScript is required to your email address book to make sure that you receive all pertinent emails. 

Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return Them
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly, and then the box bottom might later burst open with fresh, organic local produce heading towards the floor. Please carefully flatten your box and return it to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place your flattened, empty box it in the location where your box is delivered.

Thank You
Thank you for being with us for a dramatic farming adventure this season. 

Farmer John



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  • miriam greenfield

    I love how things are working out this year. Every year I have been with you has been gratifying; keep up the good work.

  • Jenéne

    Dear Farmer John and Haidy, I’m very happy with the value of my boxes this year, and the option to purchase additional produce. I’m stocking up corn in the freezer so I can enjoy bits of sunshine this winter. All the best!

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