Farmer John Writes: This Farm Was Made for Sharing

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 12, September 13th – 18th, 2021

Please Set Your Preferences for Winter Squash Varieties

Somehow, when we added the crops that we grow to CSAware, we lumped most of our winter squash varieties into one category, simply titled Winter Squash. We grow many different types of winter squash, so we have further differentiated the winter squash into their respective varieties for your customizing pleasure. Please go to your membership account, click on “Item Preferences”, and set your preferences for the different types of winter squash, which have now been added to the list of crops we grow. Your preferences will be automatically saved.

I’ll note that it’s quite the challenge to know just how much of each winter squash variety we have to offer. We’ll do our best, but you might customize your share with one variety, and we might need to substitute with another variety, ideally a similar variety. Since we did not distinguish the different types of winter squash this week, refer to this handy visual guide to winter squash varieties.

delicata squash

Fall Field Day and Covid 

We will host a Fall Field Day for shareholders and other friends of the farm on Saturday, September 18th. The Field Day will take place outside—therefore, masks are optional (but recommended for those in the food line and on the hayrides.) Potluck lunch at 12:30 pm. Sorry, no bluegrass band after all.

There are flowers, thyme and sage in the U-Pick Garden. There will be tables for those who want to enjoy lunch in proximity to fellow shareholders (outside).

For those who want to socially distance, you can: bring a blanket and spread out over the shady farmyard to enjoy your lunch, and avoid the hayride and walk 10 minutes or so to the pumpkin patch to select your 3 pumpkins and 5 gourds per family. It might take some effort to walk your fall treasures back to your car.

For more details, visit our Field Day web page.

We Are Blessed in Many Ways

We have many dedicated, enthusiastic, and appreciative shareholders.

In Some Ways, We Have a Mixed Blessing

Even though many of our shareholders are well-meaning, there are ways that they can help us to make our farm work better, such as by: doing their own share customizing and not requesting highly personalized treatment from our office staff; reading Farm News to stay current with developments on the farm so as to understand proactively why a crop might be late or non-existent; flattening boxes carefully as opposed to ripping the tabs and rendering the $2 boxes unusable; reading their pickup instructions to learn about late pickup policies, etc.

The volume of unjustified requests and complaints that come to the farm office makes it harder for us to do our work of growing vegetables and delivering them to shareholders. 

$5,000 worth of new CSA boxes, mostly to replace those boxes returned with ripped tabs

Please Read Upcoming Refresher Email

Soon, you will receive an email that will recap the main things to know about being a shareholder with Angelic Organics. Please review it and see if you can help us out by taking on more of your responsibilities and commitments as a shareholder.

We Are Not So Blessed in Other Ways

We also have some shareholders who are difficult to deal with, and are often impossible to please.

In order to screen out the people who might cause us trouble due to their unreasonable expectations, we require that people agree to our Shareholder Agreement before they sign up, which leads with a statement that the shareholder is very familiar with our CSA program:

I Am Prepared
I have thoroughly familiarized myself with the Angelic Organics CSA program at the main Angelic Organics website.”

Drawbacks with this way of joining our farm:

1) People don’t carefully read the information.

2) People read it but don’t really comprehend it.

3) People read it and agree to it and simply decide later to ignore it (because we are not in an age where integrity is in general highly regarded). 

From a disgruntled shareholder:

“I…don’t like your policy, which is essentially that you can switch whatever you want whenever you want. I would like to discontinue my subscription, and receive a refund for remaining boxes. I would like that refund to include today’s vegetable box and the fruit subscription as well.” 

Regarding the shareholder comment above, this below is from our Shareholder Agreement:

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 principles of a Community Supported Agriculture program is that I share, through my vegetable share, the farmer’s experience of nature’s blessings and mischief.”

From a disgruntled shareholder:

“I want to cancel my share. I just put it through last week and the first box is full of nothing of substance… Please confirm you will cancel and reimburse me.”

Regarding the shareholder comment above, this below is from our Shareholder Agreement:

Cancellation Policy
If I am dissatisfied with my CSA membership, I will reach out to the farm by emailing email hidden; JavaScript is required. The farm welcomes my feedback and would like the opportunity to make things right. Since the farm has already invested in growing a whole season’s worth of vegetables for me, I need to experience at least four deliveries before being eligible to request a refund due to dissatisfaction with my CSA share.”

From a disgruntled shareholder:

“…we just signed up for this last night. Nowhere on the website could we find information about what would be in the boxes promised and how much items would cost until after we signed up. If a refund isn’t provided, we will cancel the credit card charge explaining the situation, and report this incident to the better business bureau as a dishonest business practice.”

Regarding the shareholder comment above, this below is from our Shareholder Agreement:

A Shared Commitment
When I sign up for a CSA share, I dedicate myself to being a shareholder for the whole season, thus providing the farm a secure market — a welcome measure of certainty in the fickle world of farming! The farm, in turn, dedicates itself to me, providing me with a varied, nutritious vegetable diet.”

From a disgruntled shareholder: 

“Good Morning, We want to cancel the remainder of our CSA shares immediately. We have tried to be understanding, but we can not continue to receive at best marginal produce… Would you please refund the balance at your earliest convenience? Best Regards!”

Regarding the shareholder comment above, this below is from our Shareholder Agreement: 

The farm conducts all communications to shareholders with respect. I promise to also conduct all communications to the farm with respect. I know that the farm is on my side and wants the best possible outcome for my CSA experience. I will not be rude, mean or hostile in my communications with the farm. Constructive criticism, tactfully presented, is welcomed by the farm, as the farm is always striving to improve its services to shareholders. I will only offer constructive criticism if I am current in reading farm communications, as my concerns are likely to already be addressed by the farm in its correspondence.”

(Note: Interesting for the shareholder to sign off with Best Regards!  Does this satisfy the requirement for Decorum?)

People who are involved with customer service in many fields today will say that in general people are meaner and feel more entitled than in the past. This is certainly the case with a noisy minority of our shareholders. And, of course, one can experience on social media tremendous coldness, judgmentalism, and cruelty today. 

seems people used to be nicer (1954 Harvest Festival down the road from the farm)

We do not toil here day after day in order to face a barrage of rudeness and unreasonable demands from some of our shareholders. The crassness and entitled behavior of some of our members has crushed some of our office employees over the years to where they could not continue to do customer service—it is simply too toxic a job. I’m not exaggerating.

The Original Loveliness

The original impulse in creating our Community Supported Agriculture farm was to share a farm, especially with our urban friends who do not have access to a farm. It was to give people a feeling of belonging to the earth, a feeling for where their food comes from and how it is grown. This is a great story, the story by which people receive their earthly nourishment, their sustenance. For many of our shareholders, this has been their experience, an experience of the richness and the drama of their food and farm. For this I am grateful.

We do not offer a product, but a relationship. The food springs from the relationship. However, for too many, we have become the source of a product; we serve as a store, where discounts are expected, where quality standards are impossible to meet, and where customers see rudeness as an entitlement. I want to offer an experience which includes food and a relationship—food as part of that relationship, not food as a commodity. 

Back to Blessed: Comments from Appreciative Shareholders

“We appreciate the efforts of you and your workers! Thank you for once again painting a rich picture of farm life. We enjoy knowing about (at least some) of the processes and enjoy the vegetables and fruits of your labor.”
~ Adam

“Thank you for this – glimpses behind what goes into the wonderful produce we receive, endear the farm, all of you farmers and workers, and the whole CSA relationship to us even more!”
~ Megan

“Always astounded that you endeavor to have such an amazing variety and spectrum of food/plants- your choice for varietals that grow best here in Illinois and in this soil…it all is an amazing amalgam of wisdom and skills. I turn to thinking who will carry this knowledge forward?”
~ Nicole

What to Do?

We are not a store. We are part of a relationship that connects people to their farm, their farmer and their food. Some people don’t get it or aren’t interested in that sort of relationship and these people should not be part of our community. There is way too much work and devotion going into the farm here to be chastised for who we are and what we do. Should our community be so inclusive today as to include those who disparage and belittle us?

I don’t really want to downsize our production, because our systems, infrastructure and equipment are all designed around our current scale. In fact, we could  fairly easily take on a few hundred more shareholders and still provide for everyone adequately. I like wagons creaking with produce and fields throbbing with crops. But, maybe we will need to downsize—seems odd, when the world seems to be suffering so much from lack of connection to food and farms, and when we have the wherewithal to provide that connection. 

Since I’m a farmer, I don’t like facing a problem without coming up with a solution. I have ideas for how to move forward, so that we can consistently feel like we here at the farm are on the same side as our shareholders. Of course, this will require some finessing of how we make shares available. One could conjecture that more of a screening process would exclude the troublemakers, but we have a screening process in place with our Shareholder Agreement, which works sometimes, sometimes not.

So, back to the ideas I just mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph—I know it will seem a bit like teasing, but I need to formulate these ideas more fully before revealing them. Just know that we plan to look deeply into our CSA model in the upcoming months with the intention of having a more meaningful, more constructive, and more fun Community Supported Agriculture Farm into the future. 

This Farm Was Made for Sharing, and So Were We Humans

I believe that we can further deepen and enrich the relationship between this farm and our shareholders. I do not want to run a farm that is caustically regarded and capriciously dismissed. I want to take care of my fellow human beings, nurture them, and to be of service. 

More later.

Farmer John

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Showing 41 comments
  • Marlene Walker

    I do not understand the disgruntled comments. We have been shareholders for two years and have always been delighted with what’s in our boxes. And have always been treated with respect and courtesy when we had questions. Every time. We are thrilled with “our” farm. Thank you for the care to take in growing the best produce around.

    • James Roberts

      Hey Farmer John – Really enjoyed our in the field discussion yesterday. I now understand now why my comments on civility were of interest to you..and I had not even read this newsletter yet! Firstly, the flower garden was awesome and I couldn’t bring myself to cut some of the flowers because there were about 200 Monarchs feeding at the time! What a thrill. I mentioned to you during our conversation that I had been lucky enough to be part of a family business that spanned 4 generations. Even in that long term scenario, we had some misunderstandings with our customer base. But when misunderstanding became the norm for some of these relationships..we also realized that it was healthy for no one. With very careful review and explanation, we fired some of our customers. With that load off of our backs, our service to the good customers improved, and sales got better. Just sayin’ – when 80% of your effort is for 20% of the may be right..time to change. And I wouldn’t worry, the long term and thoughtfully enlightened shareholders will step up and eat all of that awful stuff you grow! We seem to be built for it. Thank you for the messages you obviously take great care in preparing. Best- Jim

      • Farmer John

        jim, Great to meet you the other day. Yes, we will figure out how to strategically trim our shareholder base. I’ve been considering it for a long time, and it is now time. Thanks for taking care of the Monarchs.

    • Farmer John

      thank you for your supportive message, Marlene. Most appreciated.

  • Laurel Saltzman

    It must be pretty bad for you to devote an entire newsletter to this. So sad. Your newsletters are one of my favorite things to read; usually so positive and full of info. We are grateful to be able to be shareholders and share your bounty. We feel so comfortable and confident in the love that helps create them and the nutrition they provide. Don’t let the naysayers get you down!

    • Farmer John

      Laurel, Sometimes it’s actually good that things get so bad that they attract our attention here. We plan to take some firm steps to mitigate many of these transgressions–have several ideas forming.

  • Kate

    It might just be the planetary alignment, but I’m crushed to read some of the comments from disgruntled folks. And I’m not even working the land with you–simply enjoying the beautiful and abundant harvest that you bring nearly to my doorstep every other week. I’m grateful what you do. Thank you. And with that, I’ve got arugula and basil to process into pesto tonight before they get gross in the refrigerator.

    • Kari

      Hello, I’m new. I’ve only had one box and went to the U pick garden. I’m overwhelmed by all I see and Im trying to understand the process. I don’t know what the answer is and I’m sure there will always be complaints…but I assume it has something to do with the lack of actually seeing what’s really going on and probably never having a garden and experiencing both failures and successes. I know I certainly want to see more of everything and learn what’s involved. It’s probably hard to compete for peoples time with 15 seconds tik tok videos. Either way I’m happy as a newbie and will try to do what I can as a “shareholder “. Thanks for all the hard work.

      • Farmer John

        Insightful and well said, Kari. A farm is a strict teacher, Tik Tok not so much.

    • Farmer John

      Perhaps we should fashion ourselves more as a club than a community, though “Club Supported Agriculture” sounds a bit aggressive.

  • Julie Brown

    We have been shareholders for more than 25 years, and we love and admire all that you do. Our relationship with this wonderful place and its people and bounty have shaped us and our children. The vegetables and farm experiences are deep in our (now grown) children’s DNA.

    I’m sad to know that the farm is not immune to the selfishness and rudeness that pervade our culture, but also not surprised. I’ll be interested to hear how you will choose to address this problem and support the farm staff.

    • Farmer John

      Over 25 years–thank you for your dedication, Julie, and for your uplifting note.

  • Claudia Woodward

    Dear Farmer John
    I am crying a little while reading the awful comments above. I am a new member this summer and recently drove out there to pick wildflowers and beans on a U-pick day (?). I felt such a connection to the earth, to you, and to the workers who were rinsing and stacking pallets and took the time to call out a Hello and asked if I needed anything. (I didn’t bc all the instructions were very clear). I feel so grateful to all of you for the very hard work you do all Spring, Summer and Fall. Don’t know about Winter. As I left the farm with my beautiful flowers and beans, I literally could not drive faster than 15 mph bc I felt such a deep peace. Luckily no one came up behind me so I didn’t have to break my trance. Can’t wait for September 18.

    • Farmer John

      Spellbound. I have felt it on many of the farms I have visited. They harness an energy from the natural world and the domesticated world and synthesize a mood, an aura. So lovely that you shared your experience. Thank you. Note about winter: it tends to be extremely busy here, as busy as the other seasons but different and with fewer workers. Buildings and machinery in constant need of upkeep and repair and winter is the time for that.

  • Sydney Hart

    First, thank you for the work you do that puts farm-fresh produce into my fridge and onto my table!

    Second, I am sorry for the shareholders that do not understand the meaning of a CSA.

    Finally, I have an idea that I’d like to share, but first a little about me: When I first signed up, I lived in a multi-generational household and split my share with my uncle. This year, my son moved away from home and our multi-generational house was sold. I now live on my own. This season has been amazingly plentiful–so much so that I can’t always get through all of the produce in my box!

    Now here’s the idea: I wonder, when we’re customizing our box, if there could be an opportunity to get less. Rather than ensure that the value of my box is $40.00 each time, it would be great if I could customize for what I’ll actually use even if it ends up being less than $40.00. Most of the local food pantries around me only accept nonperishable foods and I hate to think of the beautiful produce going to waste. Any amount less than $40 could either go back to the farm as an unacknowledged gift (no need to add more paperwork!)or perhaps the extra food could go to a local food bank that accepts produce (did I just make extra work?). What do you think?

    • Farmer John

      Thank you for this compelling, very original idea. I will inquire of CSAWare if this can be done through their platform.

      • Yael Hoffman

        If you live in Chicago, Love Fridges are all over the city and very much welcome donations of fresh produce!

  • Chris

    We have been members since sometime in the early 1990’s.The understanding to me is that we roll with what nature provides. We look forward each year to what it brings and know there must be seen and unseen variables. We accept it all happily because this is how nature works.
    I do NOT think these cruel people deserve a refund. I didn’t even know you could get a refund! Though I know you were trying to be fair, I think new members need to sign up for the whole season or nothing. This is NOT COSTCO!
    We are in a mean culture now. It has nothing to do with you or your staff. Please remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said,
    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, I know it is difficult, but sage advise.
    Finally, I am amazed at the customizing ability for the boxes. I like it but do/did think it is a LOT of extra work for you.
    I regret we have not been to the farm yet, but hoping for this Fall. Please know we love all you do!

    • Farmer John

      I agree; we should suspend refunds. Dissatisfied shareholders can find someone else to take over their box, or, as someone suggested, their box can be transferred to a needy family. Crazy that we plant crops for a whole season for each shareholder and then a person just wants to quit, and often seem capricious about it. We plan to look more stringently at our policies this winter. Thank you. About Eleanor Roosevelt, my dad wanted her for President.

  • Jodi

    Farmer John and Angelic Team,

    You are deeply appreciated in our house and we love everything we get from your farm. I am sorry to hear of the hassle you’re getting from some people. Thank you so much for all you do!

    • Farmer John

      Jodi, Thank you for your warm note of support and gratitude.

  • Steve Wlodkowski

    Once more unto the breach, dear Farmer John and crew, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our Angelic Organics dead.
    In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As modest stillness and humility:
    But when the blast of ignorant sharholders blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood….

    You folks ROCK! Please know that! So grateful for what you do. THANK YOU!

  • Michelle Fay

    We so appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this CSA. We have been members for 3 years and love the abundance and variety of fresh produce. Your newsletter is always a highlight. Thank you for all that you and your entire team do. We are blessed by you!

  • Charlene Biondo

    We love the produce and knowing how the farm works. I feel like part of your family reading the newsletters. We do some gardening and we understand how weather and bugs and animals affect the results. You must get quite a few nasty people to have staff quit customer service! So sorry for their burnout.

    • Farmer John

      Thank you for your empathic reply, Charlene. Warmly received.

  • Sara

    When a shareholder signs up for a share, the farm immediately commits the resources to grow and harvest a share’s worth of produce. I don’t think it’s fair to give the shareholder a refund. I think a better way to handle the situation is to make it clear that no refunds will be issued. Instead, would it be possible for a shareholder to donate unwanted produce to a charity and receive a tax deduction for the gift? If this could be arranged it would solve both the problem of the disgruntled shareholder and the shareholder unable to fully use the bounty you provide. The shareholder agreement is a useful document, but a no refund policy, if you adopt it, should be even more prominent so that no one signing up could miss it no matter how short their attention span.

    On a second topic, I like all varieties of winter squash and would appreciate getting a broad sampling of the ones you produce. If I leave my preferences blank would that achieve this end or do I need to set my preferences to an even level?

    Thanks for all you do.

    • Farmer John

      Sara, Your thoughtful reply is much appreciated. Yes, we will get more firm and obvious with our refund policy. About the squash, you can now choose in your preferences each of the many squash varieties we grow. I think that is a better solution than leaving your preferences bland. The way the algorithm works on a granular level is a bit mysterious to me. I think, though, that the more declarative you are in your preferences, the more satisfied you will be.

  • Thomas

    We raised our three sons to adulthood with the nurture of this farm (members since the early 90s). And farm was and is part of the ground for healing as adults. Our gratitude to the farmers and the land and fellow shareholders is overflowing. My heart leaps with these affirming statements from shareholders and aches to read those of the ‘consumers’ who suffer so. Too many, when finding themselves lost, inside of a farm and face-to-face with nature and community, flee the opportunity of arriving home (land and community) and cling instead to the empty stories of entitlement that trigger fear and rage. May the people open their eyes and hearts, and embrace the farm as part of the journey of healing ourselves, the land and community.

    • Farmer John

      Thank you, Tom, for your journey with our CSA from the very early years. Thank you for the wide view of what CSA can be for people and for you and your family living into that picture.

  • Margy

    Our society has taught us that people are expendable, that food sustenance is a commodity, and that relationships are transactional. Thank you for reminding us of our interconnectedness – with food, farm, and each other. I have learned more about seasons, reciprocity, and gratitude from the farm than I have in almost any other experience in my life. Thank you for teaching me another way to be in this world. You matter, Angelic Organics team!

    • Farmer John

      Most beautiful words from you, Margy. Warmly and tenderly received.

  • Anjali B.

    Reading the disgruntled commenters makes my heart hurt, and I’m wondering how to help inform future shareholders what exactly is entailed in becoming a CSA shareholder. Is there a tiktok (sad, but I guess that’s where we are in this moment).

    Six years ago, we were lucky to be inducted into the Angelic Organics CSA through sharing a box with our then-new neighbors. In those six years we have built an increased appreciation of our connection to the earth, through you all at Angelic Organics. We all look forward to what each Saturday will present to us and enjoy trying new recipes and old favorites, which we document on social media to both share the food joy and also to publicize the care we know everyone at Angelic Organics puts into bringing those vegetables to us. Thank you so much to everyone eat the farm, for every single task you do contributes to the whole.

    • Farmer John

      Anjali, Thank you for your lovely message and for your generous support of Angelic Organics on social media. Forever appreciated.

  • Philip & Chris

    Dear Farmer John and crew,
    We’re deeply saddened to read the abuse you good people have been subject to. Over the 3 years we have been a member of the Angelic Organics CSA,our enthusiasm for what you do (and what we get in return) has never flagged! We have felt from the beginning like part of the family and having been packing volunteers we know just how hard the work is that you good people do. Don’t let the turkeys get you down! What we learn from you in talking with you and from your wonderful newsletters has made us feel even more connected to the Earth and the food we eat. With deep, heartfelt thanks!

    • Farmer John

      Philip and Chris, Thank you for your most beautiful message. Thanks for helping with the packs and for your enthusiastic interest in our farm.

  • Kay

    It saddens me that some people are so disconnected from the Earth and life that they treat this incredible CSA with such cavalier entitlement. Having enjoyed our shares for over 20 years, I can say that each and every box brims with life energy and shared commitment. To those who don’t understand, try to learn a bit and get beyond your own selfish needs. If a CSA is not for you, just shop at Jewel and leave these dedicated farmers alone for the rest of us to respect and cherish.

    • Farmer John

      I like your tough message. I considered sending a link to all these wonderful blog replies to the naysayers, or even calling them and reading these tributes over the phone to them, maybe refund them in Jewel dollars–but life marches on. Chuckling, Farmer John

  • tw

    The complaints to me are like purchasing a museum membership, only going once on an “off” day and then complaining to get a refund, saying it wasn’t what one expected.

    I wish your farm the best still, all the way from Minnesota!

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