Farmer John Writes: We Are a Team
Harvest Week 15, October 4 – 9th, 2021
Overall, it’s been a dry season. Thankfully, we have enjoyed some recent rescue rainfalls, though for the most part they have been too light and too few.
Check out Week 13 Farm News, Healing the Past, to learn more about this field.
We have irrigation to cover about 3/4 of our vegetable fields. We have the well and pump capacity to cover all of our fields, but not the supply line capacity, at least not without the great effort of disassembling and re-assembling supply pipes. These matters are always considerations of time, labor and capital. Daily, even hourly, we are considering how we allocate such resources. Are we going to spend half a day moving irrigation pipe to get water to a drought-stricken part of the farm, when the forecast is for rain tonight, or rather, for a chance of rain tonight? And if that rain misses us, do we move the pipe when another rain is predicted for two days from now?
Sometimes the likelihood of rain is forecast to be 100%—how brazen. And sometimes, when the forecast is for a 100% chance of rain, it doesn’t rain. This past Saturday morning, there was a 0% chance of rain forecast, so we hastened to prepare for a winter squash harvest, and then it started to rain early morning.
Where are the media censors when forecasts like this don’t materialize as rain or no rain? Don’t these forecasts qualify as disinformation? I guess they are misinformation. Disinformation, I recently discovered, is intentionally misleading; misinformation is innocently misleading. The differences are more nuanced than this, but this can suffice for this edition of Farm News.
Whose Crop Is It, Anyway?
Within the CSA model (except for any crop that we have planted for another market than our current shareholders), the broccoli that we are stewarding is really already yours. It’s not the farm’s broccoli until the shareholder accepts it; it is the shareholder’s broccoli from the get-go.
When we get asked by a shareholder for a credit for a marginal head of broccoli, it already belongs to the shareholder, because the shareholder has signed up for a portion of the crop that we grow, not a portion of the crop if it is excellent and bountiful, but for a portion of whatever crop we grow—or try to grow and then fail. The farm never owned the broccoli; the farm just did its utmost to grow the best broccoli possible for the shareholder.
We diligently treat your portion of the crop like it’s yours, because that is our nature—to take care of the crops for you. While the crops are on our farm, we are their caretakers, their stewards. Technically, they belong to you. The blemished tomato belongs to you. The misshapen carrot belongs to you. Our job here is to look at a marginal head of broccoli, a blemished tomato, a misshapen carrot, and decide if is good enough so that you would use it. It’s your broccoli, tomato and carrot already, but you never really paid for it; you simply paid for the service to grow it.
Our ideal grading approach here is not to imagine this tattered head of broccoli in a store and then knowing for sure you wouldn’t buy it; it’s to imagine that it is already in your refrigerator, and would you still use it? There is a very different mindset when we assess the broccoli as though it’s already yours, versus assessing it as though it’s ours and we hope you will accept it and not demand a credit for it.
In a conventional retail exchange, the item for sale belongs to the seller until the buyer pays for it, and then it belongs to the buyer. Then a disgruntled buyer might demand a refund. Some of our shareholders project this model onto our CSA. It’s not an appropriate model. The farm can’t give a shareholder a refund for an item that already belongs to the shareholder from when it was a seed. The shareholder in actuality never paid for the item; the shareholder partnered with our farm through a payment to provide the service of growing your vegetables and herbs that you own from the get-go. (In a certain crass, unpoetic way, we are merely contract growers for our shareholders.)
This has been a bothersome issue here for years. What Community Supported Agriculture means is that there is no seller and no buyer. It means there is a generous caretaker—the farm—and a generous recipient—the shareholder—and we are sharing in the same story, the same initiative, the same process. We are on the same team.
The current system that we use for customizing your share via price per item is rather inappropriate and awkward. How do we sell you something that is already yours? And if we don’t have it to provide—say, if a crop fails—whose loss is it? In the current customizing model, the loss is ours. We can’t charge you for items we don’t provide for you but for which we invested time and money in order to provide it for you.
CSAware offers other options for customizing shares which we will consider for next year. It is really inappropriate for us to be treated as sellers of vegetables. We are providers of a service that tends to result in great vegetables.
Next season, we will introduce and adhere to policies that conform to our vision of what a CSA should be, and we only want people to be part of our CSA who agree with these policies, who regard themselves as being on the same team as us. I do not want to seek yet another farm office employee who is primarily steeled against entitlement and rudeness, but a person whose primary role is providing warmth, guidance and hospitality to our shareholders.
We will probably be downsizing our CSA to serve people who we love and who love us, and entering into the wholesale markets where the terms of buying and selling are clearly defined. This will be our first serious venture into wholesaling since 1991. It would be more ideal for us to grow everything for people who are part of our CSA program, but it has become too disappointing to let just anyone out there join our CSA farm and then lambast and belittle us. I didn’t sign up to run such a farm. (I anticipate that farming will become more fun as a result of this new model.)
Another reason for the likely downsizing of our CSA is that the interest in and support of CSA has been in a decline for years, for us and throughout the rest of the country (with the exception of the 2020 surge in share signups, which has since subsided). Because of this downward trend in CSA enthusiasm, it is very hard to find people who want to join our CSA, who are a good fit for our CSA, and who will be shareholders for more than one season.
We will keep you posted on any future changes. This new direction is still forming.
I’m sure you have noticed that the peak summer crops are mostly behind us. Sweet corn, tomatoes, basil, and summer squash (all bumper crops) are done. Celery and celeriac succumbed to fierce winds and high temperatures. Peppers and eggplant, our best in years, will be finished soon.
A plethora of fall crops is coming towards us. Besides broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts and a mountain of winter squash, the fields currently host an enormous amount of beautiful head lettuce, baby lettuce, and arugula. Also plentiful are kale, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, beets, kohlrabi, cilantro, dill, radishes, turnips. And we have harvested our best carrot and potato crops in years.
We harvested our potatoes and carrots free of mud, which is a great benefit for the harvest itself and also for storage.
The mild frost-free weather is also helpful for our winter squash harvest.
After a recent light rain, the broccoli heads became darker green and they expanded to sizes I don’t believe I have ever before seen here.
We have never before had such great fall crops. I’m glad you are with us this year to enjoy them.
Two Potato Notes, In Case You Missed Them Last Week
1.) Potatoes keep better when unwashed, so we don’t wash them. Please wash your potatoes before use (as well as your other vegetables). Also, our elderly potato harvester nicks and batters a potato on occasion; please accept them.
2.) We grow several different potato varieties, including ones with purple skins and flesh, and ones with pink skins. We don’t distinguish the types of potatoes we grow for customizing, so prepare for potato surprises.
Second grade art teacher to child:
“This is an excellent piece of art. You used two primary colors, green and red. You made the red dense and the green light, which is the right way to work with primary colors. However, since I’m sure you didn’t know this technique—it was just chance that you used it—I am giving you a C+. You did it right, but you didn’t know you were doing it right.”