Farmer John Writes: End of the 2019 Season

 In Farm News

Please note: This announcement was emailed to shareholders on Thursday, November 7. We are posting it on the blog as well so that other friends of the farm can also read about the conclusion of the 2019 growing season.

I suggest you read this week’s Farm NewsI Looked into the Air before reading this important announcement. 

Week 18 Was the Last Delivery Week of the 2019 Season
In the final newsletter of the 2018 season, About Warmth, I wrote that 2018 was probably the worst season ever for us as a CSA farm, due to weather. Remarkably, 2019 now holds the record for the worst season ever.

I am sad to announce the early closing of the 2019 delivery season. Because of the historic rains this season and the subsequent crop losses, we are not able to complete this season’s deliveries. There will be no deliveries after this week–in Week 19 or Week 20, nor will there be deliveries of Extended Season shares. (Thankfully, we suspended Extended Season sales early this year, due to our concern that we might not be able to fulfill them.)

More About the Weather that Led to This
If you would like to delve deeper into the historic Illinois rains of this season, check out this recent article from the Chicago Tribune: Historic Rains Ravaged Illinois Farms .

We Waited to See How the Fall Crops Would Develop
This fall, I kept eyeing the cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli for encouraging signs of development, knowing that the length of the delivery season would be considerably determined by their health. The soil, which was continually saturated with moisture, increasingly stunted their growth and also caused extreme blight. 

blighted, puny Brussels sprouts

Also, I was counting on the surprisingly popular Brussels sprouts tops for the late season shares, but, after holding up so well for many weeks of harvest, the remainder of the Brussels sprouts tops finally gave way to blight and wilted. In the end, the plants simply could not withstand the saturated soil.

We tried numerous times to harvest the potatoes. 

potato harvester clogged with mud

We thought we might get a rare November weather reprieve to finally harvest them, but alas, the potatoes are entombed in mud, and the mud will be frozen solid any day now.

tomb of potatoes in the muddy earth

Without the hundreds of anticipated Brussels sprouts tops, many tons of potatoes, many thousands of cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts stalks, we are tapped out of crops.

By the end of this week, our coolers will be empty. It will be impossible to continue deliveries beyond this week.

Furthermore, temperatures will be extremely cold early next week, down to 6 degrees or so at night. Packing vegetables in our open barn would be most unappealing for our pack volunteers and our crew, and some our vegetables would freeze while we were packing them. In addition, some of the vegetables would freeze at some of our delivery sites that are exposed to the weather. (These are rather empty considerations or side notes, given that we will have nothing to deliver that might be vulnerable to freezing.)

If you have not already read Farm News, Week 18, I Looked into the Air, as requested at the beginning of this announcement, I suggest that you read it now, as it provides a detailed report of the losses of the season.

Community Supported Agriculture
In the CSA model, the farmer and the shareholders share the rewards as well as the risks of farming.

This is the Angelic Organics Shareholder Agreement that each shareholder agreed to when they signed up for their farm share. Here is an excerpt:

“Shared Risk; Shared Reward
The farm does its very best to bring me a beautiful and bountiful box each week, but since the farm’s boss, Nature, provides no guarantees — the farm can’t offer any either. One of the premises of a Community Supported Agriculture program is that I share, through the vegetables, the farmer’s experience of Nature’s blessings and mischief. However, I realize that for decades the farm has routinely provided bountiful shares to its shareholders. 

Count Me In
I would like to be a shareholder in the Angelic Organics Community Supported Agriculture Program. I understand that Farmer John and Angelic Organics will do their best to provide a bountiful, nutritious harvest as scheduled, and I agree to excuse them for any mishaps or catastrophes that might compromise the quality or quantity of my share.”

Refunds Will Only Be Issued for Fruit and Home Delivery Payments
My crew and I have done everything possible to rescue this season and to bring forth the best boxes possible from this epically challenging season. We have run out of ways to coax crops out of the ground this season. I have spent tens of thousands of extra dollars this season weeding crops that were engulfed by weeds unlike I have seen for 20 years on this farm, as well as re-seeding and re-planting crops earlier in the season to try to make up for the crop losses. Because of this, and because of the inherent ‘shared risk’ element of the CSA model, no refunds will be issued for vegetable boxes that were scheduled to be delivered for the rest of the 2019 season.

Here is an excerpt from a PennState Extension article on CSA:

“By paying for food prior to planting, CSA members essentially assume the risk of crop failure or pest or disease problems and understand that a refund will not be issued in the event that no crops are harvested. If a crop is lost or is of poor quality, the farmer is able to continue to operate.”

Many shareholders will accept this outcome, knowing that this is the agreement that they entered into with the farm and wanting to support the farm, and some will resent it. We hope that our shareholders will come to an understating by revisiting the Angelic Organics Shareholder Agreement and the core principles of CSA. 

We realize that we will owe refunds to some for unfulfilled home deliveries, and also to those with fruit shares. This is a complicated process–to determine the amount of refund due on a shareholder-by-shareholder basis for their fruit boxes and/or home delivery payments–and we do not expect to get to these refunds until some time in the winter.

If You Are on a Payment Plan
I will notify Harvie that we will stop delivering this week. If you are on the payment plan, Harvie will suspend your payments accordingly.

Our Record
We have a very favorable track record of delivering shares to complete the delivery seasons. This record goes back decades. It is not impeccable, but it is commendable. Ending the main 20-week season this year after Week 18 and not fulfilling the extended season at all is an anomaly. I have some of the best employees imaginable here, a few of whom have been with me for more than a decade, employees who I marvel at daily, who are dedicated and resourceful and wise, employees who I love and admire. Yet, that was not enough to complete the season. We must be humble and know that sometimes the power of nature’s adversity will triumph. 

In case you are wondering about my performance, I have a most extreme capacity for work. (I would rather work less, but if work is called for, I work.) My 60 years of farming experience were called upon to the maximum this year. I brought so much to this season that I didn’t even know I remembered, didn’t even know I could access, for the sake of bringing you the food you wanted. I was able to create far-fetched solutions and workarounds that resulted in getting food to your table. I felt successful in overcoming the most daunting of obstacles, yet I also felt I did not do things nearly well enough. Isn’t that life, though, that however much we succeed, there is still room for improvement?

My beloved wife Haidy has been extremely ill since August. Some of you know that she has had debilitating health issues on and off for many years, but this is perhaps the worst she has ever been. She has been housebound these past few months, and often bedridden. A confirmed resurgence of Lyme disease co-infections is a major contributor, though other imbalances might also be playing a role.

(In addition to managing hideous weather this fall, I have had the added responsibilities of doing much of Haidy’s administrative work in the office and also of taking care of her as well as possible, this in conjunction with my 90-hour work weeks.)

In a few weeks, I will be taking Haidy to be treated by our doctor, Dr. Aric Cox, at the The Institute for Restorative Health near Wichita, Kansas, in the hopes of restoring her to good health. Of all the health professionals Haidy has seen over the years, Dr. Cox has been the most effective at treating Haidy’s condition. 

The institute’s approach is to avoid the dreaded common method for treating Lyme conditions, the antibiotic route, and instead to focus on empowering the patient’s immune system to subdue the infections that are out of balance. (The most recent recommendation from a local health practitioner for Haidy was to engage in at least 2 1/2 years of antibiotic treatments.) 

If you have been struggling with chronic illness, Haidy and I encourage you to consider The Institute for Restorative Health. Many people go there as a last resort, after having tried conventional approaches to healing for many years, even decades.

I suppose, given the stresses of this season, I am also due for a checkup by Dr. Cox. As you might know by now, in the face of adversity, I give my all (also in the absence of adversity…). Perhaps I give too much, but my nature is to do what is needed, whether it is too much or not.

Please Return Your Empty, Flattened Vegetable Boxes
If you pick up at a site, please transfer the contents of your vegetable box to a bag or tote, and leave your flattened box at your site. I realize this request is too late for those who only pick up on odd (or A) weeks or who have already picked up this week…sorry. It only dawned on me a couple of days ago, after doing the crop projection for the Wednesday pack, how abruptly the season needed to end. I had thought we could get it to last at least another week.

Thank You
We have received many heartwarming emails from shareholders in response to the several recent issues of Farm News. There have also been many very warm and encouraging comments on the blog. All of us at the farm have felt heartened to receive these beautiful messages of love and support. I’m grateful for all the shareholders who value their relationship to Angelic Organics even during the tough seasons.

Support from a Site Host:

Dear Farmer John and every single member of the Angelic crew: 

We are the drop site for Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago. Each week during harvest season, we see the veggie-loving shareholders arrive empty handed, and depart with smiles and produce. Subscribing has changed our diet for the better. Thank you so much for sharing the hard parts of farming as well as the successes. The nature of the CSA relationship means that we roll the dice WITH you. Great weather, no pests, wow great harvest! Stinky weather, pesky bugs, weeds triumphant then we see a little less. HAPPY HALLOWEEN to one and all at the farm and THANK YOU once more.

Farmer John

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