Farm News

10

Farmer John Writes: Progress on the Angelic Organics Shareholder Directory

If You Haven’t Yet Signed up for Your 2022 CSA Share

The growing season will soon be upon us. 

If you aren’t already on board for 2022, join us by signing up here. Be sure to log in to your membership account if you were a shareholder with us in 2021.

Update on our Shareholder Directory

Amanda, Nathan, Haidy and I have all been working towards launching the Angelic Organics Shareholder Directory. I wrote about the upcoming directory in my last issue of Farm News, and mentioned the holiday as an intended launch time. Some of what is in this issue of Farm News is somewhat redundant with the last edition, but I want to make sure you get familiar with the overall picture, before the launch.

Victor is getting us ready to grow

It turns out that the back end of this directory, the part the four of us have been working on, is more labyrinthian than we realized, hence more daunting. We have even hired a consultant, Luana, from the company that offers the platform for the directory (www.Brilliantdirectories.com). She is fabulous and has saved us many hours by helping us to better fathom and distinguish the extensive directory features and by helping us to gradually get it ready to launch.

All of this work on our part is intended to make it simple for you to set up your directory profile and to actually use the directory. The more confusion we wade through now, the more easy it will be for you later to join and use the directory—at least that’s our theory.

You might be a person who is thinking right now how can it be that hard? You might be thinking can’t they just publish a paper directory like they did in 1995?

We think it’s better to have a directory that keeps with the times and that doesn’t clutter your curated refrigerator door. We also think that you will agree with us once you join the directory and start to use it.

Today, I simply want to offer you an additional  overview of the directory, now that we are more familiar with it. The directory will offer two types of profiles for you to create: a business profile and a social profile. You can create one or both, and more than one of each. 

I am just offering the broad strokes here. I know that without you having the directory on your screen now to explore and work with, some of this might seem too abstract, but I think it’s important to background you further in this overview.

The Business Listing

The business profile is for our shareholders who own or partially own a business. We are hosting the directory especially to support our shareholders who are entrepreneurial. It’s not for non-profit organizations, such as hospitals or schools, since one cannot own or partially own a non-profit. (A shareholder pastor or rabbi could post their place of worship in the social directory, since they don’t own their place of worship but are affiliated with it.) If you work for Target, no business listing. However, if you are an insurance agent, who has your own agency, you would qualify for a business listing. We know these distinctions can seem a little complicated, but again, the business side of the directory is intended to support our entrepreneurial shareholders.

The business directory will have all sorts of ways for our shareholders who are enrolled in the directory to find and contact the businesses they need. Shareholders will have numerous ways to feature their businesses. 

A shareholder business owner (or partial owner) will select a category for the business, and sub-categories that represent the business. The directory will have about 20 main categories to choose from, and well over 100 sub-categories. It was great fun for us to come up with the sub-categories, which range from puppeteering to mural painting to voice overs to car detailing to dog walking. I’m sure we missed a few.

If a spouse or partner of the main shareholder wants to make a business profile–fine.

If someone who shares a share (funnily known as a piggybacker) wants to create business profile—fine.

If you have more than one business, there will be a way to enter that in the directory.

These business profiles will be offered for free for the first 6 months. If the directory drives good business to our shareholders, we will likely implement a small fee for the service. 

Only current shareholders who are members of the directory can access the directory and its business and social listings.

The Social Listing

This part of the directory is for shareholders who would like to learn about fellow shareholders and perhaps choose to interact with them. Most of the profile details in the social profile are optional, so that shareholders can be as private or as disclosed as they choose. Some of the optional details that can be posted in a social profile are school affiliation, hobbies, volunteer activities, address, phone number, etc. The more shareholders share about themselves, the more connections with fellow shareholders might be formed. And of course, creating a social profile is optional; no one will be listed in the directory who does not choose to create a profile.

The social directory is completely closed to the people who are not enrolled in the directory; it will not be available for interacting or viewing to non-members of the directory.

If a spouse or partner and children 13 years or older of the main shareholder want to create social profiles—fine. 

If someone who shares a share (a piggybacker) or spouse or partner and children 13 years or older want to create social profiles—fine. 

The social listing is free. I just want our wonderful shareholders to get to know one another better and to build shareholder community wherever they are.

In Moderation

The directory will be moderated. Inflammatory and contentious posts will not be allowed. The directory is intended to be a place where people can come together out of shared interests and respect. 

we love the seasons

Launch Date?

We’ll probably launch this month. We are extremely busy with a host of other farm tasks, preparing for the upcoming season. The directory is a priority, but so are many other things here priorities. 

I am very excited about this directory, so I keep moving it along, no matter how busy I am with other things.

Warmly,
Farmer John

6

Farmer John Writes: Angelic Organics Shareholder Directory

(Note for our 2021 Shareholders: deliveries are now complete for the season. Thank you for being part of our farm this year. The following is an announcement about our upcoming Service Directory.)

The Launch

We will soon be launching the online Angelic Organics Shareholder Directory. The directory will help to support our shareholders’ businesses and it will also hopefully facilitate shareholders’ cultural and social relationships with one another.

heartfelt

Sound Lofty?

Before our CSA came into being, I hosted a lot of parties at the farm—big parties, with food, performances and, of course, antics. Why? Because I like to bring people together, to get people talking, learning about one another, maybe falling in love. I suppose my farm was an early version of a dating app. (The only thing that got swiped back then was a jacket).

Once our Community Supported Agriculture program started here in 1990, my active social life dwindled. I mostly just worked non-stop to build up the farm and to keep the farm going. I still have the impulse to bring people together: that’s the main thing, in my opinion—what happens between two or more human beings. But how to bring people together?

I wrote about our upcoming Shareholder Directory in Farm News, Week 20, Agriculture Supported Community. The following are some excerpts.

“The current CSA arrangement creates a relationship to the farm, but this relationship is more like spokes in a wheel. It does not structurally facilitate a relationship between shareholders; it primarily facilitates a relationship between the farm and individual shareholders. The sacrament of our shareholders eating from the same farm doesn’t offer an adequate form for them to connect with one another.

“My inspiration for having a CSA farm was to bring people together, to build community through the wondrous place of an ever-unfolding farm. However, Angelic Organics farm is really too distant from most of our shareholders for it to become a hangout–an ongoing, drop-in place of awe-inspiring, life-affirming encounters…the CSA [directory] can help my dream of nurturing shareholders to come somewhat true by facilitating encounters with and support for one another near where you live.

“In our former Shareholder Services Directory, created in hard copy in 1995, shareholders had 85 individual listings; at least one out of ten shareholders listed a service or a product in our directory.

our original hard copy Shareholder Directory from 1995

“The directory was very popular. Years after we published it, shareholders told me that it was still serving them as a resource.

“I wrote the following in the introduction to our former Shareholder Services Directory. It will apply to the upcoming directory.

“Healthy food from Angelic Organics is a unifying theme for members of our CSA, but it is just a beginning. Food does not satisfy all our various needs; there is so much more that we rely on in our everyday life. Use the service directory to support your health, your environment, your children, your legal and financial needs, your emotional and spiritual wellbeing, your business—what an ideal way to weave community into the diverse membership of Angelic Organics.”

End of excerpt from Farm News, Agriculture Supported Community.

The Upcoming Angelic Organics Shareholder Directory

The upcoming new Angelic Organics Shareholder Directory will be swanky, compared to the hard copy version we published in 1995. It will be online and will offer many features that will help it to be very useful to our shareholders. (Brilliant Directories will offer the directory platform.)

I won’t elaborate on the features yet. Nathan and I are still wading through its plethora of options to determine just how to make it as useful as possible. I just wanted to get you used to the idea of this forthcoming directory now, so that when we launch it, you will be more prepared.

This newsletter basically offers the impulse behind the directory. When the directory actually launches, we will send instructions for just how to engage the directory.

This is the Party

I’ve noticed that our shareholders tend to feel a bond with their fellow shareholders—if they ever get to meet them. I have been told many times by shareholders things like, “We were carpooling to Minneapolis and I found out that the driver was also an Angelic Organics shareholder!” and “Turns out that the secretary at my law firm is an Angelic Organics shareholder—been doing it even longer than me.”

Our CSA is Agriculture Supported Community waiting to happen. Is it a community waiting for my first huge weekend-long party that everyone attends? Doubtful. Let’s consider this directory that party.

The Directory Will only be Available to Current Shareholders

The Shareholder Directory will only be available to current Angelic Organics shareholders to post or to browse. (In this case, that means shareholders who are signed up for a 2022 CSA share.) It is possible that we will eventually allow browsing of shareholder businesses by the general public, but for now, we will keep the directory cozy and only make it available to our shareholder community.

You Can Have a Social Profile

There are church membership directories, school membership directories—why not a CSA membership directory? Of course, you, the shareholder, will decide if you want to appear in our directory or not, or just how much you wish to disclose about yourself. This social profile portion of the directory will always be closed to non-shareholders.

I would like to let shareholders know of other shareholders who attend the same place of worship; whose kids attend the same school; who loves golf, or tennis or boating or yoga; who have the same delivery site; who would like to car pool to a Farm Field Day; who lives a block or two away; who would like to get together for shareholder potlucks.

Of course, this will only work if enough shareholders participate, but if they do, party’s on!

This part of the directory, the social profile, will be free.

You Can Also Have a Business Profile

The shareholder directory will make your service or product available to your fellow shareholders. Shareholders will be able to discover you online by service or proximity, and text, email, or call you about what you offer. You may post your business for free for the first six months, after which we will evaluate how useful/lucrative it is for you. After 6 months, we might start charging a fee for your directory listing.

There You Have It

Well, there you have a broad outline of the intention for the Angelic Organics Shareholder Directory—more to come as we get nearer to launch time, which will likely be this month.

It’s a gratifying holiday project for the farm and hopefully for our shareholders.

Warmly,
Farmer John

4

Farmer John Writes: Honor the Farm

Extended Season Week 4, December 6th – 11th, 2021


Finale

This is the final week of the extended season, and the final week of the 2021 season. We have been fortunate with the fall weather, with yields, and a good crew. I hope you feel that the farm took good care of you this year.

What’s Next?

My tendency is to ramp up the work when the season ends and go full tilt until the next season starts, because there is so much that needs to be done here that we cannot get to during the busy season. Haidy recently pointed out to me that I should be strategic about what winter projects to take on, as there should be at least some downtime in the winter. She’s right.

Final Installment 

The topic of farmstead design has been overdue, I guess, as it has dominated my last few newsletters, including this one. Upon just now reviewing the four newsletters for the extended season, they all address my approach to farmstead design from various angles.

Hints 

I can only offer hints of my design process, due to limited space in the hard copy and limited time. It occurs to me that I could write a chapter and probably a whole book about the design projects here on the farm, what informed them, limited them, expanded them. I hope that my brief indications that I am offering here might give you some insights into my process and perhaps provide you with a richer experience of the Angelic Organics farmstead when you visit it. Perhaps my musings will even inform some of your own future design decisions. 

A few of my design standards/insights/methods are:

  • I let the building (the project) speak to me. 
  • I use recycled or salvaged materials when they fit the purpose and the design.
    • Salvaged materials are often more authentic than contemporary building materials.
    • Materials emit their essence. 
      • Marble has the vibration of marble, the intrinsic quality of marble.
        • A surface conveying an image of a marble surface is not marble, just like a photograph of a person is not the person.
  • I endeavor to build what will never need to be updated. 
    • I renovated Haidy’s and my limestone home 50 years ago with a limestone addition, slate, marble, hardwoods, stained glass and wrought iron. Over 75 items of architectural salvage are incorporated into the design of our home, not primarily because they are salvage, but because they are authentic and inherently beautiful.
      • What these materials offer aesthetically is key to why these materials were selected and key to the intrinsic and enduring beauty of our home.
      • Haidy says the design is timeless, except, ironically, the bedroom needs to be updated, because it was designed by a designer according to principles that were modern or current at that time
        • I suppose a better term than update is to undate, as timeless design has no date.
        • Does the Acropolis need updating?
  • It usually takes way too long to get back to an unfinished project, so I give a project my all to finish it, once I start it.
    • I consider it unethical to not complete a project; such incompletion weighs on my conscience.
  • Most projects are fraught with unexpected construction challenges and cost overruns.
    • If I expect these, they are not unexpected.
  • When I think the project is near completion, it’s not.
  • The remembered past, the known present and the likely future all enter into how I work with a building.
    • As much as the future seems known, it is still a mystery. I design for specific future purposes, knowing that other unanticipated purposes might emerge and need to be served by the design.
  • I pretty much never draw a sketch or a blueprint. My guys here on the farm, who have been working here for years, know what I want with a few gestures and words from me.
  • Sometimes, a building will want a feature that seems excessive or preposterous. The feature might be an alcove, a shrine, a blue light, or a disco ball.
    • It’s hard to know what to do then. Often I go with it, because I think in the long run, the building knows best.
    • Sometimes I refuse to indulge the building, because buildings, like children, can be wrong.
  • Echoing a lament of film directors, seldom do I get what I envision. 
    • Occasionally the result is better than I envision; often it’s not as good. 
    • Sometimes I let it be when it disappoints me; sometimes I remedy it—it all depends.
  • Saving, energy, using non-toxic materials, conserving water are important.
    • These reside in the realm of ecological function, and one might add ecological aesthetics.
  • I always consider how my fellow human beings will feel while entering into and being in the spaces I design.
    • Even when I am on a tight budget, the creative impulse must be integrated throughout the building project. It will still shine through.
      • Beauty is not to be added on, in case there is time and money for it. Beauty is as essential as function, and must be integrated, not patched on later.
  • After a building project is completed, a policy of order and cleanliness is continually upheld in the space.
    • Frank Lloyd Wright even looked inside the closets and cabinets of his clients to see if they were upholding his design standards throughout their home.
  • With the proper care, buildings metamorphose, and eventually flower.
  • The space between the buildings is part of the design of the building. 
    • A farmstead is a constellation. Stars shine forth in part because of the space between them. 
  • I don’t design to make myself look good. I design to make other people look good (and feel good).

Balance

Appropriate building design relies on many delicate processes, because the whole design has to harmonize—colors, textures, shapes, sizes, materials, windows, light, the space between the buildings, etc. For instance, a beautiful element can be too sensational for the rest of the structure or the constellation of structures. I pondered the entrance to our milkhouse for years, because it had to be special, but not so special that it took away from the rest of the farmstead. 

I finally chose a vintage cottage door with leaded glass that has a slightly rounded top, echoing but not imitating the arched roof. In spite of its slight flair, one might even think that the door is original to the milkhouse. Installed above it is a round window embedded with colored glass prisms that cast multi-colored light into the interior in the mornings. The combination of arched door and prismatic window is almost a bit much, but the milkhouse is a centerpiece of the farmstead and it wants to be just a little flamboyant. It doesn’t seek to dominate the rest of the farmstead; it seeks to heighten the experience of the whole farmstead. I could not achieve this sort of aesthetic without love and respect for the milkhouse and farmstead, and the corresponding guidance that the milkhouse itself has imparted to me. 

milkhouse in foreground, vintage door, round window, dormer windows

photo of east milkhouse wall at night

morning light from the round bejeweled window plays on the north milkhouse ceiling and dormer

This guidance was informed to a degree by my history with the building: I chose the arched form when I was eight; from when I was nine years old to twenty, we kept our milking equipment in the milkhouse; I poured hundreds of thousands of gallons of milk into the cool stainless tank inside the milkhouse; when we sold the cows, I converted the milkhouse into a cozy apartment where I lived for several years. The milkhouse was like a friend or a partner–supporting me, housing me, comforting me–and, when it was time to re-purpose it, it whispered to me how to proceed. This process is about as local is it can be, given that I saw the milkhouse built in 1957 when I was 8, and have had it in my heart and my mind for the decades since.

Feeling My Way

It is important to note that this process does not come about primarily from thinking; it comes about from feeling—feeling my way into the form, into the history, into the need. The feelings emerge into the world of conscious thought and also penetrate into the will. I do not understand the process by which the buildings here speak to me and share their needs and wants with me. It is almost as if the buildings are entities, are beings. What I do understand, however, is that love is at the basis for the whole process, from beginning to end.

A Hike

While hiking the Italian Alps, when I was taking a break from touring with the film The Real Dirt on Farmer John, the corn crib on the farm spoke to me for many hours, day after day, suggesting colors, arches, walkways, staircases, even insisting on a disco ball. These images formed more vividly in my imagination than they even exist for me now in the physical. Not only did they vividly form as images, they formed as sequences for how to achieve the actual construction results. Over the next several years, I executed these designs in the corn crib, as it requested.

I refer you to the Metamorphosis of the Peterson Farmstead for a photo review of the re-purposing of our corn crib, which was mostly inspired by visions/imaginations that I received while hiking the Italian Alps. Below are samples of photos you will encounter at that link. Notice how the corn crib eventually flowers.

corn crib under construction in the mid 2000’s

corn crib exterior today

corn crib interior, where we used to stop the corn and oats

You will also find in that link documentation of the renovation of the main barn, and the renovation of the farmhouse. This link will provide you with a feeling for the vast scope of work with the buildings here at Angelic Organics, including how they continue to metamorphose.

To learn more about my inspiration for the creation of spaces on the farm, check out my presentation given in our barn loft as a pre-conference event for the 2012 Biodynamic Conference, Awakening to the Social Organism of the Farm and the Design of Social Spaces.

The Money

I’ll note that this imaginative design process never takes into account where the money will come from to finance the projects. The buildings never whisper to me how to afford the needed changes while they are imparting their longings to me. I thought that my tour with the film would at least provide the funds to replace the leaky roofs on my buildings, but no. Maybe, if I were to love money the way I love my buildings, money would start to speak to me.

Haidy Said

“A building is like a child. At first it’s like a baby, and you are not really sure what it wants to become. Over time, it expresses itself more and its personality starts to emerge. You help it become what it wants to be.”

Our Best to Your Holiday Season,
Farmer John, Haidy, and the Rest of Us at Angelic Organics

2

Farmer John Writes: Honor the Human Being

Extended Season

This is Week 3 of our 4-week extended season. Only shareholders with an extended season share have deliveries left this season. If you are unsure of your delivery schedule for the rest of the season, check your delivery calendar in your membership account.

Garlic this Week

If you ordered a garlic bulb this week, you might get a bag of garlic cloves instead. The cloves were left over from our garlic seeding this fall. There are about as many cloves in a bag as there would be in a bulb, so you are getting an equivalent amount of garlic in your bag. 

Thanksgiving Feast

Farm employee Amanda and her mom Ann presented a most beautiful, delicious Thanksgiving feast for the crew last week. Everyone was lauding everyone else in light of the industrious work performed over the long season. It was the first time most of our crew had ever experienced a traditional Thanksgiving meal, and they were most enthused and appreciative. (Sorry, no photos. We were too busy enjoying our event.)

The H-2A workers, who have now all returned to Mexico, emphasized the tremendous financial opportunity they had received by being able to work here for $15.31 per hour, vs the $12 per day they would earn in Mexico. (In addition, they received free housing, utilities, and the use of a farm van. Their travel expenses were also paid by the farm.) At the lunch, they shared that many dreams for their lives in Mexico were made possible by their wages here this season.  

A Crop of Buildings

Whereas I have raised seasonal crops over many decades, my buildings represent one crop—one continuous effort through decades of prosperity, insolvency, illness, and vitality. It is no wonder that I consider my farmstead a major component of my life’s work. I have been creating, maintaining, and re-purposing the buildings here for over 50 years. When I offer a tour of my farmstead, I am really offering a retrospective.

You might think, when reading this issue of Farm News, that you signed up for a share of food and you might wonder why you are being subjected to another farm newsletter focused on farm design and beauty. Well, Angelic Organics is not just about its food; it is about the whole range of life and activity here, including the built environment. If you don’t already, I encourage you to take an interest in the whole farm, since it is the whole farm that functions in a way that brings you your food. In the local food movement there is a suggestion to “know your farmer,” and this newsletter will help you to know your farmer better.

Plants are Pre-Determined. What about Buildings?

I do not design plants. I tend them. The seeds that give rise to the plants are the designers of the plants. I design how the plants are tended, where they are raised, how they are harvested, but the plants grow from seed that is our heritage and that is mostly pre-determined according to the variety of the seed.

The built environment here is about 15 buildings or so, comprising the farmstead and our home. The ongoing design and rejuvenation and new construction is a most compelling and mysterious process for me. A seed is going to become the plant that is already determined by its genetic makeup—not so, a building. How does a building come to be, or come to be something different than it already is? Of course, there are architects, designers, engineers and project managers who produce buildings and renovations via their informed, educated processes, but in my world of buildings, I am the architect, designer, engineer and project manager. As I mentioned in the last issue of Farm News,No Professional Qualifications, a representative of the National Endowment for the Arts told me that I had no credentials for evaluating design, buildings; no training…

But I think I Have Credentials

The Seed. You might remember from the last issue of Farm News that I actually caused the basic forms of our main farm buildings when I was 8 years old, when my mother let me choose their shapes. With the help of my parents, perhaps I am in a way the seed for the built environment on this farm. 

Lifelong History with the Earth. Perhaps another credential that should be attributed is my lifelong history of working with materials of all sorts, as I have a training in the workings of the earth, of equipment, of tools. I might have lofty ideas for a project, but my feet are always firmly on the ground. As a lifelong farmer, I am steeped in earthly reality: process, heft, strength, resistance, resilience, death, life, rust, tension, form, time…

Love. Another credential is love. If I love a person deeply enough, or a river, or a book, or a mountain, or a pet, it will reveal more and more secrets to me. This is the case for me with my farm buildings. Impressions/imaginations of how to care for and develop the buildings form out of my love for them. 

(Should I send the above credentials to the NEA representative who said I had no credentials back in 1981?)

Honor the Human Being

I of course bring certain priorities or guidelines to the design process: function is of course paramount; ecology is important; beauty is necessary. The most essential thing about any building that I build or modify here is that it embrace the human being, elevate the human being, make the human feel honored and uplifted. 

Of course, my work does not always achieve that level of embrace. A color combination or form might elevate the mood of some souls and darken the souls of others. A different hue of a color might have worked better, a window should have ideally been installed an inch lower, a floor would have ideally been a different type of wood. However, all of these design and building efforts are always an attempt to facilitate function while bringing joy or at least affirmation to the beholder, the user. Affirmation? You, the beholder, are a human being. This building is here in part to hold you in high esteem, to remind you that you matter, to affirm you. (Attentive listening offers a similar affirmation to our fellow humans.)

Even our very functional shop, built with a shortage of funds, elevates the user with its use of color and its artwork.

Concepcion and Victor discuss Concepcion’s return to Mexico in the farm shop. Notice the red, yellow and teal color details. (The shop likes to host meetings.)

framed motto hanging in the shop: “Sure, We’ll Finish the Job” (Victor upholds this motto daily.)

Perhaps you recall my Week 12, 2020, newsletter on Portals, where I highlighted several portals on the farm. Excerpt from Portals: “The room through which one enters a home is often referred to as a foyer, which has its origins in Old French as the word for hearth, or warmth. Over the years, I have strived to enhance entrances so that human beings passing through them will feel special, elevated, wondrous–will feel warmed.”

example of portal on the farm: milkhouse staircase, lazured ceiling, uplit eaves

My impulse to elevate the human being through the built environment became more crystalized upon encountering a book of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures titled Architecture as a Synthesis of the Arts, which I have now read three times. Upon referencing it here, I realize it is now time for me to read the book a fourth time.

From a synopsis of the book: “In these lectures Steiner describes…the importance of an architecturally coherent and integrated community, and how this in turn affects social unity and harmony.”

Overheard

Artist/Friend: “Let the buildings speak.”

To Be Continued

The danger of writing issues of Farm News is that certain things just want to be written, and those things don’t necessarily conform to space or time (a bit like the danger of designing buildings based on their wants and needs, which also might not conform well to space or time.) This topic of aesthetics and building design in light of my relationship to my farmstead and my fellow human beings has gotten away from me today. This issue, when I finally checked, was as long as two regular editions of Farm News.

I could condense it, or continue it in the final issue of the season. I’m going to continue it in the final issue.  

Warmly,
Farmer John

2

Farmer John Writes: No Professional Qualifications

Extended Season Week 2, November 22nd – 27th, 2021


Extended Season

This is Week 2 of our Extended Season. Only shareholders with an extended season share have deliveries left this season. If you are unsure of your delivery schedule for the rest of the season, check your delivery calendar in your membership account.

Popcorn

If your Angelic Organics popcorn does not pop well, pull the husk back to expose the kernels, and dry the ear on a windowsill or a counter for a couple of weeks—should pop to your delight after that.

Our Crew and Thanksgiving

This week is the last week of work for our H-2A workers from Mexico. Customer service provider Amanda August and her mom, Ann, will provide a Thanksgiving feast for the crew on their last day of work here, Wednesday. Thank you so much, Amanda and Ann, for giving the crew an experience of our Thanksgiving traditions here in the States. And thanks for including everyone on our whole farm team in the dinner. And much appreciation to the crew for all your hard work this season. 

field team mulches the garlic so it will endure hard winter frosts

I Think I Want that One

I wrote a bit about farmstead design last week in Farm News, Extended Season Week 1, Like a Dream that Won’t Form. That got me to reflecting on my somewhat mysterious relationship to farm buildings since I was a child. When I was 8 years old, my mother drew pictures of possible roof shapes for the new barn my family was planning to build. I chose the arched form. I sometimes wonder if my steadfast commitment to the upkeep and beauty of our farmstead has to do with my very early involvement with choosing that form. Fortunately, my wife Haidy is equally committed to upholding the beauty of our farm buildings, even though she didn’t have the opportunity when she was little to choose the arched forms that characterize our farmstead.

International What?

There is considerable attention today put on local–supporting local food, local artists, and local businesses in general. I notice, however, that city governments and real estate developers often sponsor worldwide design competitions and typically award commissions to prestigious firms whose principals didn’t grow up in the city for which the building is being considered.  

My parents talked at the supper table in the 60’s about the new style of architecture that was then becoming popular—the international style. My mother said, “with the new international style, when you visit a city, it will look like any other city.” I remember the feeling of trepidation I experienced when I heard this, though at the time, I wasn’t really sure what made me feel that way.

Does Love Matter? Does Matter Love?

I’ve been paying attention to the buildings here on the farm since I was a child, and I suspect that the love and care that I have directed towards them, and that they have directed towards me, play a considerable role in how I interpret them and re-express them. 

Art and Agriculture

Many artists during the 70’s and the early 80’s were living on this farm, doing their art work here and also helping with the farm work. It was natural to me that the buildings were treated with an artistic sensibility and that their use and function emanated from a local perspective. The forms and uses of the buildings would of course flow out of the relationship that the residents had to the location and to the activity of the place. We even formed a not-for-profit called The Midwest Coast, whose mission was our commitment to Art and Agriculture. The Midwest Coast was dedicated to noticing, creating, and celebrating synergies between art and agriculture; this included the design of the buildings.

For example, the loft of the main barn became a studio for a fiber artist. Since fiber was a primary component in her artistic activity, we incorporated muslin into the design of the walls and ceiling when we insulated them. We prioritized keeping the arched rafters exposed, since they are an important feature of the barn’s heritage; also, they offer a feeling of rhythm, which is an innate component of farm life and human life.

muslin walls and ceiling of barn loft; exposed rhythmic rafters

A Risk

In 1981, I received an artist’s grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to visit art communities and examine to what degree their building designs were informed by place and informed by the people who inhabit that place. 

Someone at the NEA said to me at the time, “We are taking a chance on you by giving you a grant, because you have no professional qualifications. Every other recipient of the grant is a professional.” I was talking from a landline phone installed in the barn. I remember saying something like, “I’m having a little trouble hearing you, because of the chickens and pigs making all that racket in the background.”

Relational?

Generally, based on my NEA funded tour of several artists’ colonies out East, my impression was that the architecture of the art colonies was not especially artistic in itself nor inspired by the locale where it was situated. The buildings often seemed designed from afar by professionals, and plunked down irrespective of place–not inspired by the sort of work that would be carried out within these communities nor inspired by the region where the work was being done. In other words, the built environment of these colonies, with the exception of the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, generally did not echo place nor the character of the creative work that was being done there nor the character of the artists who worked there. 

I am not advocating for everyone to design and hand build their worlds. My experience of doing such is that it is a huge amount of work, an enormous commitment fraught with surprises and budget overruns. However, it intimately relates one to place, to self, to community. And I am compelled to do it—it is part of my calling. 

Local

In my twenties, I cut oak trees from my woods, cured the logs for two years, had them rough cut into lumber, cured the boards for two more years, milled them and paneled some of the walls of my converted limestone schoolhouse with them.

bathroom in our home paneled with oak from the farm

Without Credentials

For several years, a class from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, organized by SAIC Professor Jim Zanzi and former farm resident Lisa Stone, would spend a few days touring Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois folk art environments. These are places where people, generally without artistic training, would create very imaginative installations in their homes or yards or farms, often referred to as folk art or naive art or outsider art. My farm was on that tour, since, without professional training, I had created so much out of my personal history with it and my unschooled imagination of it.

I suppose that the tour organizers, in order to include me on the tour, loosely categorized me as a (definitions procured from the internet): 

naive artist: a visual artist who lacks the formal education and training that a professional artist undergoes

folk artist: an environmental artist who creates unique, personal places, which comprise of large-scale hand built sculptural and/or architectural structures…The folk art environment is quite simply a lovingly hand built, unique dream environment.

outsider artist: self-taught art maker. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions.

I imagine that, to the tour organizers, my lack of professional design credentials was in itself a credential.

north wall of farm powerhouse, designed and built by Farmer John, 1983…outsider art?

limestone home addition and garden wall designed, quarried, and built by Farmer John, 1976—John & Haidy’s current home…folk art?

Long Introduction

Just this introduction to my lifelong commitment to making the farmstead beautiful, functional and relational has taken up pretty much this whole issue of Farm News. I didn’t even enter today into my process by which I design the farm into the future. I just sort of backgrounded you in my lack of professional credentials and my abundance of love and care for the farmstead since childhood. Once I began to write, I unearthed much about the history and nature of my enduring commitment to the beauty and integrity of this place. I will explore this relationship further in an upcoming issue of Farm News, as the most important thing is not my credentials or lack of them; the most important thing is the delicate, profound process by which I have continually balanced the future of the farmstead with its past while being in the demanding presence of the present. The other most important thing is that we design, work in and live in spaces that make us feel love, that elevate us as human beings, that affirm life.

Art

“It is our task in the study of method always to engage the whole individual. We could not do this without focusing our attention on the development of an artistic feeling with which the individual is endowed. This will also dispose the individual … to take an interest in the whole world as far as [that person’s] nature permits.”

     ~ Rudolf Steiner – GA 294 – Practical Course for Teachers – Stuttgart, 21st August, 1919

Warmly,
Farmer John

2

Farmer John Writes: Like a Dream that Won’t Form

Extended Season Week 1, November 15th – 20th, 2021


Our 20-week main season is now complete. This is the first week of our extended season. Only those shareholders who are signed up for an extended season share have deliveries left this season. If you are unsure of your delivery schedule for the rest of the season, please log in to your membership account to view your delivery calendar.

I notice that this issue of Farm News somehow segues from weather to farm design. So be it.

Weather dramatically impacts harvest activities as we near the end of the season. The frosts make early morning harvests awkward, because the crops that have survived the cold, such as kale and cabbage, are rather like leafy sheets of steel and cannon balls, respectively. And, of course, the field crew, depending, experiences numbness in the feet and hands and frigid cold further within their bodies. When I say depending, I mean that some of our H-2A guests from Mexico who have chosen to brave the work until the end of the season are poorly equipped to deal with the cold. Instructing them on the importance of keeping their feet warm might sound to them like the words of an overly-protective parent, as they stare at me, shuffling, shivering, rubbing their stomachs and chests briskly to ward off the cold. (Yes, we offer warm winterwear to the crew and insist that they wear it.)

Of course, there is a psychological component in one’s tolerance for cold. Victor and Pollo, both of whom hail from Mexico, stay warm. I felt Victor’s ungloved hands recently after he came in from the field on a frigid day; his hands seemed like they were fresh out of the warming oven.

This fall, with the heaps of harvest work and a smaller crew than usual, we have still managed to provide some overdue structural care to the greenhouse. That’s in addition to the massive amount of upgrades (about $50,000 worth) we did on it in early spring described in a March edition of Farm News, The Thaw, My Sister, and Your Share.

We built the greenhouse 25 years ago. The water cascading down the arched roof and pooling at the base over the years eventually rotted out the boards that serve as the seal to the ground. This past week, Pollo and Bartolo replaced those decayed boards that were embedded in the ground with long-lasting yellow pine, tongue and groove 2×6’s. Then it rained. Then it froze. We would not have been able to get to the job if we had waited a day longer. I had been wanting to do this project for years—but how to fit it in amongst all the other farm busyness during the unfrozen part of the season? Sometimes, we just make things happen, no matter what.

I must add here that, given that Pollo was in charge of the project, it would for sure be done in a timely and effective fashion. I featured Pollo in Week 10 Farm News, The Wrong Kiss. One of his more mystical qualities is that I usually only need to nod at a project, maybe discuss it briefly with him, and he already knows exactly how to do it. It’s almost as if the project is already done in the future and he just has to go through the motions to manifest that already realized future.

Pollo and Bartolo replace the baseboards of the greenhouse before the rain, the snow and the hard frost

The next step is to replace the double poly liner that spans the roof: that’s a challenging, weather-sensitive process. The day has to be very calm to drape the 86 ft x 40 ft double liner over the arched rafters and then secure it. If a wind comes up, what might normally take 6 hours can take an extra day or two. The slightest wind turns the liner into a giant, billowing kite. Years ago, I tried to hold the liner down to the ground against a breeze. It took me airborne–just a few feet upwards before I let go. I sometimes wonder how far it would have hoisted me to the sky if I had hung on.

These poly liners last three to five years. Then they begin to crack and let out the expensive heated air. The loss of heat will probably be more expensive this coming spring than ever before, given the increases in costs for the lp gas we use for heating it.

When I chose the greenhouse’s 30 ft x 84 ft dimensions in the mid-90’s, I made sure that it would not exceed the 32 x 88 dimensions of our main barn. It didn’t seem right to give the greenhouse a greater stature than the magnificent arched barn that graces our farmstead.

the main barn, 32 x 88

I did choose a form for the greenhouse, however, that echoed the arched form of our main barn, the milkhouse, our corn crib (now office) and the charming cupola that sits on top of the corn crib.

In relation to the lovely, classic buildings that populate the rest of the farmstead, the greenhouse is conspicuously gray and filmy, like a dream that won’t form. I plan to mitigate this drabness, even if it is only through a gesture, perhaps just a strategically placed streak of color that lets the other buildings know it’s on the same team as them. I want my buildings to be relational.

the gray greenhouse, 30 x 84

For me, the worst aspect of modern architecture is the garish individuality of the structures and the lack of relationship to the nearby edifices. (Most verbal communication is done similarly today, without cohesion, without connectedness, without relationship.) I want all of my buildings to feel like they can talk to one another; intruding and narcissistic forms and colors are unwelcome. The discreet individuality of each farm building here needs to illuminate, not dwarf, the individuality of its neighboring buildings.

the arched corn crib office and cupola (foreground) communicates with the farmhouse (right) and garage (left)

The farm buildings at Angelic Organics are temples to agriculture: a constellation of designs that comprise an enduring tribute to the workings of this farm. I tend these buildings in a way that is mindful of their agrarian and cultural past, and mindful of their agrarian and cultural future. They are a major part of my life’s work. They are my retrospective—my way through the past– and they are my prospective—my way into the future.

The methods that guide my design process for the farmstead are a bit mysterious to me. Perhaps I will elaborate on them in the next issue of Farm News, since this world that we inhabit is very visual and tactile and has a powerful impact on how we experience life. This is especially true of the built environment.

Overheard

Musician: I want to sing your buildings.
Farmer John: Sing to them?
Musician: Sing them. Put them to song.

Warmly,
Farmer John

4

Farmer John Writes: Agriculture Supported Community

Harvest Week 20, November 8th – 13th, 2021


Is this the End?

This is Week 20, the last week of our 20-week main season. If you are not signed up for an extended season share, this is your last week of deliveries. Thank you for being with us this season.

If you are not sure if you still have deliveries left this season, please log in to your membership account to view your delivery calendar.

bok choy

Join Us for 2022 through Saturday, November 13th 

Shareholders keep signing up for next year, so we are going to keep the 15% early renewal discount, which will be active through Saturday, November 13th. Current shareholders can opt for a 15% discount or opt to help the farm even more by foregoing the discount. Either is appreciated.

Sign up for your 2022 CSA share by logging in to your membership account and clicking on “Purchase or renew subscription”. If you choose the discount, enter coupon code RENEW15 at checkout.

For details on why early signups are important, read Week 17 Farm News, People Were Scared.

Victor and Nathan transport lettuce, early morning

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture has a nice ring to it, and many of our shareholders truly resonate with its meaning.

Agriculture Supported Community

Agriculture Supported Community—how does it ring for you? For me, I lament that in my extreme busyness in keeping the farm going these past 32 years as a CSA, I have not been able to be supportive of our shareholder community in ways that I initially imagined. Yes, I have been supportive of our community by growing healthy food, providing a U-Pick garden, offering a connection to the farm through Farm News, hosting Field Days, and providing share customizing, but this hasn’t sufficiently satisfied me.

The current CSA arrangement creates a relationship to the farm, but this relationship is more like spokes in a wheel. It does not structurally facilitate a relationship between shareholders; it primarily facilitates a relationship between the farm and individual shareholders. 

hub, spokes

I like to bring people together; this has been a strong current throughout my adult life. The sacrament of our shareholders eating from the same farm doesn’t offer an adequate form for them to connect with one another. 

My inspiration for having a CSA farm was to bring people together, to build community through the wondrous place of an ever-unfolding farm. However, Angelic Organics farm is really too distant from most of our shareholders for it to become a hangout–an ongoing, drop-in place of awe-inspiring, life-affirming encounters. Also, the farm-as-hangout is really not possible without a full-time host who enthusiastically greets all with an offer of muffins, coffee, tea or juice, and orients them to the wonders of farm life; this is a hospitality dream for the distant future. An even more distant dream is a café, which firmly establishes us as a destination of warmth, food and hospitality. However, the CSA network can help my dream of nurturing shareholders to come somewhat true by facilitating encounters with and support for one another near where you live.

Renewal of a Former Form

I want to support shareholders in your dreams, your initiatives, your enterprises, and I want to encourage shareholders to join in supporting your fellow shareholders. My plan for this strengthening of bonds within our community will start with the re-creation of a Shareholder Services Directory. 

Back When

In our former Shareholder Services Directory, created in hard copy in 1995, shareholders had 85 individual listings; at least one out of ten shareholders listed a service or a product in our directory.

The directory was very popular. Years after we published it, shareholders told me that it was still serving them as a resource. (Let me know if you still consult that guide, 26 years after it was published.) 

Still Applicable

I wrote the following in the introduction to our former Shareholder Services Directory. It will apply to the upcoming directory:

“Healthy food from Angelic Organics is a unifying theme for members of our CSA, but it is just a beginning. Food does not satisfy all our various needs; there is so much more that we rely on in our everyday life. Use the service directory to support your health, your environment, your children, your legal and financial needs, your emotional and spiritual wellbeing, your business—what an ideal way to weave community into the diverse membership of Angelic Organics.”

These were some of the services and products offered by shareholders: architectural design and construction, aromatherapy, art, bakery, bicycles, bodywork/massage, childbirth and pregnancy, childcare, counseling, data analysis, dietary consultation, drum making, environmental purification, film and video, financial and business services, food, holistic health center, home inspection, legal, meeting room and cooking, mask making and puppeteering, mural painting, nutritional supplements, organic clothing and accessories, publishing and illustration, speaker, storytelling, starting a business, and voice lessons. 

1995 hard copy Shareholder Services Directory listing for the Melvins, our esteemed Ravenswood Manor site hosts and shareholders for over 30 years

Updated

Of course, the new directory will be internet based, easily searchable by location, service, etc. I am currently exploring various companies that provide templates for online directories. It’s a bit complicated today to select and host such a service, as there are many, many options available, add-ons, etc. It needs to be easy to use and easy to manage while still providing powerful and convenient features. As much as I would love to offer this service for free, there will probably be a fee for shareholders to list their businesses, as we will need to pay for the use of the online platform and to moderate the platform. (It will only be a platform for providing shareholder services and products, not a platform for political views.) 

When Will the Service Directory Launch?

I don’t usually announce a development or an offer before it is actually ready to launch. However, I have been wanting to renew our Shareholder Services Directory for so many years that I am finally declaring, before it happens, that it is going to happen—this winter. 

Former Instructions for Using the Shareholder Services Directory

I suppose this 1995 example for how to use the service directory will be applicable for how to use the new directory:

“Let’s say you want to build a house. You go to the Architecture section, find your architect, share your 3D dream. You also notice, when you are in that section, there is a fellow CSA member who can take care of your patio lighting, someone who can paint luxurious patterns on your walls, and someone who can keep your deck clean. Under Household Tools and Supplies, you find a source of kitchen accessories and ecological cleaning supplies.

“Thinking about your kitchen makes you hungry. You and your partner choose your dining destination from the Food section; the restaurant serves tomato soup. You are sure the tomatoes came from Angelic Organics

“On your way home, you whip out your guide to find the address of that aromatherapy place, because you are confident that there is a fragrance that will help you imagine your dream house more creatively. The proprietor of the store asks you which heirloom tomatoes you got in your box this week. You don’t answer; the aroma has swept you into a daydream about your dream house. 

“You continue home. Embarrassed by your behavior in the aromatherapy store, your partner suggests you improve your communication skills. He reaches for the directory. You grab it from him to find a counselor to resolve this conflict. While lurching for the directory, you twist your back. Your partner lovingly consults the guide to direct you to a chiropractor

“The chiropractor is wearing a nice organic shirt made by a shareholder. The chiropractor suggests you buy a bicycle. The bicycle makes you want to sing. 

“You get voice lessons. You become a great singer. You don’t know what to do with all your money. You consult your guide to determine who can help you invest responsibly. You realize you need an attorney to manage your contracts. The attorney looks in his directory, suggests a graphic artist to design your album cover. Your attorney just had a drum made by an Angelic Organics shareholder, and requests to do percussion on your album. If you accept, she will finance a music video

“You suddenly crave arugula; you must be expecting a baby. You reach for the directory…”

(Note from Farmer John: That baby would now be about 26 years old.)

One of My Foremost Guiding Principles

I often say, “what are we on earth for if not to help others?” The following 3 questions are my guide for how I like to engage others, though, of course, it’s not always this straightforward:

“Who are you?
What do you need?
How can I help?”

I believe that the Shareholder Services Directory will help to enliven this guiding principle.

Warmly,
Farmer John

5

Farmer John Writes: A Natural Sweetener

Harvest Week 19, November 1st – 6th, 2021


This Could be Your Last Week of Deliveries

If you get a bi-weekly share and you are receiving a delivery this week and you did not sign up for an extended season share, this is your last delivery of the season. Thank you for being part of our farm. To see your delivery calendar, log in to your membership account.

Eat from Your Farm During the Holidays

There is still time to secure an extended season share. We have a splendid array of crops available for the extended season. The crops that will likely be available are: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, garlic, carrots, potatoes, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, chard, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, daikon radishes, kohlrabi, and popcorn. Maybe beets. (I am probably overlooking some crops.) 

Price is $80 for a bi-weekly extended season share (2 boxes); $160 for a weekly extended season share (4 boxes).

Sign up for your extended season share by logging in to your membership account and clicking on “Purchase or renew subscription”. Make sure you select the 2021 extended season vegetable share; we have had many shareholders sign up for a 2022 extended season share by mistake.

While on this Subject of Eating from Your Farm

Shareholders keep signing up for next year, so we are going to keep the 15% early renewal discount active for a while longer. We’ll let you know before we end the 15% early renewal discount. Current shareholders can opt for a 15% discount or opt to help the farm even more by foregoing the discount. Either is appreciated.

Sign up for your 2022 CSA share by logging in to your membership account and clicking on “Purchase or renew subscription”. If you choose the discount, enter coupon code RENEW15 at checkout.

How We Eat from the Farm Every Thursday

After last week’s fabulous fiesta on the farm funded mostly by a generous gift from a shareholder family (see Week 18 Farm News, What Do You Say?), I decided that all of us here could benefit from the warming, nurturing aromas and flavors of Mexican cuisine. I enlisted three of our H-2A workers who are also fabulous chefs, Jemima, Concepcion, and Maythe, to prepare lunches for the crew each Thursday until the season ends.

feast for all of us who work on the farm

the mood of Mexico extends from the farm kitchen into the colors of our farmstead

Farm Fashion: We also (sometimes) Dress for the Farm

my beloved wife Haidy and spaghetti squash celebrate the glorious colors of fall

Weather Whimsy

The fall weather is now being more like fall weather. This means that we will offer you a crop for customizing your box, but it might not be available. In the middle of the prior week, we determine what to offer you for your boxes in the upcoming week, and the weather can make a mockery of our projection.

Mixed lettuce might look promising when we offer it, but might succumb to frost; or it might keep getting rained on, hence it stays too wet to harvest; or the morning dew might be so heavy and simply might not dry off enough to harvest the lettuce on a cool, cloudy afternoon. We keep our lettuce covered to protect it from frost, but the cover will not protect it from a heavy frost. Also, the cover keeps the lettuce from drying out, so if we uncover the lettuce to encourage it to dry in order to harvest it, the lettuce might later freeze, because it’s uncovered. (Does this make you want to farm?)

Cilantro, which is very frost hardy, cannot be harvested wet or far in advance of when we give it, so it also suffers from harvest uncertainty.

Fortunately, this year we can easily substitute a foregone item with another crop of our choice (and hopefully to your liking).

You Are Reading this Newsletter

Because you are reading this newsletter, you have an idea of these challenges and you become more deeply a citizen of eating seasonally. If you are not reading this newsletter, you are apt to write the farm and ask where your promised lettuce and cilantro are. 

If You Receive Brussels Sprouts

We have finally harvested some Brussels sprouts. Some of them have blackened outer leaves. Please remove these; there will still be a lot of sprout left after you clean them. Our crew started to undertake this cleaning, but it took way too much time.

The main reason we waited this long to give the sprouts is that I wanted them to go through a frost first. The frost, which finally arrived, is a natural sweetener. Harder frosts are predicted for later this week, which will sweeten the sprouts even more. I suspect that most Brussels sprouts that you can buy in a store never encounter a frost, hence the difference shareholders often note between our sprouts and other sprouts.

Other Frost Hardy Crops

Other crops that benefit in flavor from frost include cabbage, broccoli, kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and leafy greens such as arugula and mizuna. They all have their frost limits though, and few of these can survive below the low twenties. (There is also a harvest consideration when temperatures reach to the low twenties—the crops might be buried in snow by then.)

The Power of Place

People often talk about shopping local, eating local, etc. I seldom hear people talk about staying local. That’s what I did. I’ve lived on this farm my whole life. Do I recommend staying local? It depends…it has its good points. Long-term shareholder and active farm supporter Claudia Haas shared this story with us recently about a young man who went back to local: Farming in a Tuxedo: Finding the Power of Place.

Thank you, Claudia.

I Could

I realize I could do a little more crop updating and basic housekeeping in these newsletters, but you have probably noticed that I like to get more—what’s the word?—comprehensive than that in my communications.

I woke up this morning planning to write a very different newsletter than this one, but the change of weather warranted some explanations about what is going on with your crops and your share customizing. 

You might wonder what I was planning to write. I don’t even want to summarize it, as I don’t want to compromise the meaning with a condensation of the topic. I’ll just provide a few visual hints. Next week, the final week of the main season, I might elaborate. 

The Temple of the Heart

The Art of Neighboring

some of you will remember this directory

organ in the temple of the barn loft

Overheard

“It’s not right to just cancel people. We all have darkness and light inside. We are all bad and good. Those people who get cancelled, they have good in them, too.”

Warmly,
Farmer John

0

Farmer John Writes: What Do You Say?

Harvest Week 18, October 25th – 30th, 2021


Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

In a nod to Simon And Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair, we offered parsley, sage and thyme this week. Rosemary, too? No.

What Do You Say?

I am dedicating this issue of Farm News to our supportive shareholders who have recently shared their experience of belonging to our farm. Many of these lovely messages are from Farm News blog comments, and also from our Facebook page. Besides these comments, dozens of you have written directly to the farm, sharing love, support and great stories. Below, I will share anonymously some of the fabulous and often entertaining messages that you have sent through the mail or emailed to the farm at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

I am not sharing these comments to be boastful about Angelic Organics, but rather to portray the loveliness, generosity and good will of so many of you. (I am excerpting from some of the comments due to space considerations.)

A Gift

I will start off by acknowledging a generous gift of money from a shareholder family (who want to be anonymous) that we decided to use for a festival of food for our Mexican crew, their friends and families, followed by a screening of The Real Dirt on Farmer John this past Saturday in the loft of our renovated barn.

The extraordinarily delicious food made me feel like we were spending the afternoon in Mexico

Our gifted chefs (left to right): Jemima, Maythe and Concepcion (They are also part of our field crew in our H-2A program for temporary foreign workers.)

After the feast: viewing The Real Dirt on Farmer John in the barn loft (subtitled in Spanish)

Newness

“Just wanted to thank you! This was my first year and your vegetable boxes have encouraged me to try new recipes and therefore, eat healthier. Delivery to our home has been great! We appreciate all you do to make the world a better place! Enjoy reading about the world of farming through Farmer John’s newsletters.”

Stewardship

“Thank you for your stewardship for mother Earth. May God Bless You and all those who care for our brothers and sisters in the plant and animal kingdom.”

No Waste

“We joined the CSA last year and were so impressed with the quality and variety of the crops that we figured we’d just gotten lucky and that this year probably wouldn’t match up. But it’s exceeded — even far exceeded — our experience last year! The turnips were divine, the tomatoes a treat, and the broccoli out of this world. One thing I’ll say in favor of this year’s customization feature: we haven’t wasted *anything*. Last year, sometimes we’d receive a bunch of delicate greens during a week when we weren’t going to be able to get to them quickly and they’d go bad before we could use them. This year, if we know we won’t be around to cook much during a given week, we’ll opt for hardier storage veggies. Then, the next week when we’ll be cooking/eating at home every night, we’ll go for the delicate crops and use them right away. So this new system has helped us avoid wasting such wonderful produce, which is always a shame. Looking forward to what the rest of the season (and extended season) offers!”

Right on the Farm

“Hello Farmer John, I just wanted to thank you. My son and I volunteered to pack beginning in Sept. It has been a very interesting and enjoyable experience – getting to see things right on the farm. My son was thrilled the day you allowed us to bring home pumpkins and a bag of potatoes (so was I). Thank you for your generosity I found you when I was searching for organic produce locally. My life has changed so much when I was told “you have cancer” back in 2020. So thankful I found you! We look forward to volunteering through the end of the season. Have a Beautiful day!” 

Overjoyed

“Hello Angel Organics team, 

I want to say a big THANK YOU for all the hard work you all put in to make sure that we have yummy veggies to eat!

I can tell that you get some criticism. I want to make sure that you know that there are folks who are OVERJOYED when we open our box of goodies and find thoughtful substitutions for veggies that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it.

May you all feel encouraged today!! 

My family enjoys being part of the local farm business, even in this small way of being part of your CSA.”

Sharing with the Elderly 

“Hi Farmer John, I want to say that this is our first experience with a CSA and it has been an absolute delight! I have very much enjoyed your news letters and my children have been able to discover new foods. When our box was really stuffed we were able to share our bounty with the elderly neighbors that live in our building they too love you food. Covid has taught us the importance of healthy food and instilling good food choices in our children… Thank you again for a wonderful experience and we look forward to discovering something new in our last few boxes of the season.” 

A Gift of Food and Hope

“Hello Farmer John and all you beautiful Angelic Organics people, So here it is Sunday night and I am finally sitting down to read your newsletter for this week–having enjoyed a delicious stir fry with the amazing vegetables from my box. I have to admit, I am somewhat of a silent shareholder. I’ve been a subscriber off and on since 1995, whenever I could put together enough money at once to afford it–which fortunately for me has been fairly often. So now, after reading about your experience of complaining shareholders and future downsizing, I just want to let you know what a gift you are in my life. I LOVE everything about Angelic Organics. The delicious, beautiful produce and herbs, the newsy, thoughtful and educational newsletters, your cookbook from way back in 2006, the days at the farm (especially when my children–now 23 and 26–were small), and all of you and your commitment to community. Angelic Organics keeps me hopeful and well fed, knowing that this kind of world, which understands everything as interconnected and acts out of that understanding, is possible and real, in circles beyond my own (although you are definitely part of my circle also :-)) Words aren’t really capable of conveying the fullness of my gratitude, but hopefully you get a sense of it. Please know that you are well loved–as is everything in my box! (Except maybe pea shoots but that’s another story.)” 

They Are Still Potatoes

“I read the newsletter every week on the way home with my box, and want you to know that my husband and I are VERY happy with everything we have recieved from the farm. We fully intend on getting a biweekly share for 2022, also. I appreciate everything ALL of you do to make sure these shares go out every week. (…also, I will accept any dinged potatoes, too. They are still potatoes.) I hope you all have a wonderful week, and I am SUPER excited about these fall veggies and winter squashes….”

To Think about what We’re Eating

“Farmer John and  Crew- 

We appreciate your farm, and are enjoying being members of your CSA. We joined in 2020, not because of pandemic reasons, but as we happened to be “settling down” (ie bought our first house, started our family), and want to support local, healthy, sustainable practices. We found your last ‘Farm News’ disheartening, and are disappointed people are belittling and rude to you and your staff. They clearly do not understand what you are doing; if they want perfect produce every time they should go to Whole Foods. We understand that being part of a CSA is similar to buying stocks in the market, but it is worth it for us. On a more day to day level, we enjoy the challenge of using items we wouldn’t necessarily buy. For example, we never had kabocha or buttercup squash before, but with it we made delicious soup, curry, enchiladas, and a chili. We share recipes with [my husband’s] sister (also a member of Angelic Organics). We are very busy, as we both work full time and have two kids ages 2 and 8 weeks, and getting these deliveries forces us to cook and really think about what we’re eating. I also think it’s good for our kids to understand where food actually comes from. 

We look forward to remaining members of Angelic Organics, and appreciate our experience thus far.

Thank you!” 

Sustainable

“I just want to say Thank You! for another summer of bountiful, healthful and delicious vegetables. We have been every-other-week shareholders for several years and are delighted season after season to participate in sustainable agriculture with you. Thank you so much for continuing to allow us to be part of your farm and sharing farm news with us. We love Angelic Organics.”

Outshines… Zdenek, too

“Just a quick note to tell you and your entire team how much we have enjoyed our farm share and we love hearing all the news about what goes into bringing the bounty from the land. We especially love to learn about the cast of characters and the skills they bring. As a site host it is always fun to greet Zdenek every week as he delivers the boxes. He appears like clockwork and always brings a great attitude along with a fun little anecdote or recommendation. Being a shareholder for the better part of over twenty years, we have learned about the many challenges presented in one form or another. Nonetheless the boxes have delivered time and again in appearance and flavor that outshines store-bought produce regardless if grown as conventional or organic. We also really appreciate the box customization options offered in recent years. It surprises and saddens me to hear that the office is fielding hostile or negative claims from certain shareholders. There are lots more of us who reco gnize that curveballs are part of life and even more so in your line of work, so please don’t let the disgruntled get you down. We honor and appreciate you!”

~ Site Host

Glad You are Drawing a Line

“Hi Farmer John,

I was genuinely sorry to read about this abusive behavior from a CSA shareholder. It boils my blood that any of our fellow shareholders would think this is an acceptable way to treat anyone, let alone the people who grow our food. I am glad you’re drawing a line in the dirt on that nonsense.

“We are a team” is absolutely what this CSA is all about. As long-term CSA shareholders we are supportive of whatever “new direction” you and everyone at Angelic decide to take the farm. Whether blemished or misshapen or otherwise, we look forward to enjoying “the future” cultivated by you and the Angelic team!

Thank you for all you do for us.”

Love

“Good morning,

I just wanted to let you know that we have been thrilled with everything that we have received over the years from your farm and for every jerk who calls and complains there are dozens and dozens of us who love what you do and who you are. I might not thank you often enough (sorry) but we love everything that you grow and how much love and effort goes into the farm.

Our kids have always loved getting the boxes with us to see what is in them for the week and have learned a good amount about cleaning, eating, and cooking vegetables. With a dietitian, physician and three active children in our household we always stress the importance of eating healthy and are have recommended Angelic Organics to several people over the years.

Thank you!”

Baby Bunnies

“Hi! 

I need to tell you that your carrots are the most wonderful carrots we’ve ever had, besides what we’ve grown in our own garden. 

 This year, our garden was home to one of the cutest wild cottontail rabbits ever.  There were four baby bunnies born in our perennial bed, and one decided to adopt our carrot/greens garden plots as his own bedroom and restaurant.  He also particularly enjoyed dessert in our bean plot on the other side of our suburban backyard, with a few nibbles of peas, dill, and fennel to round it out.  Thus, we replanted our carrots and greens three times, and did at least five plantings of beans!  And just now we are starting to get some beans for US to eat! 😊  Our carrots are few and far between, so I’m particularly appreciating yours!     But – you know – I can buy beans, carrots, peas, etc….  but the cutest wild bunny ever, living in our backyard delighting my husband and me and our two young children?  Priceless!  And so the girls and I specifically did those extra plantings ‘to feed the bunny’, and we’ll take the leftovers (which are ample).  😊  This is my favourite way to garden!

We are so glad to be back with you after several years of no CSA boxes!  We’ve had a few years of Imperfect Veggies boxes, while the girls were small enough that getting to a store was often a miraculous event.  But – I couldn’t agree with you more about how the CSA model is different from a warehouse veggie box delivery model.   We are excited about next year, having weekly boxes with you instead of biweekly. I love LOVE opening the box of real food with real bumps and dirt and garden smell!  

Thank you so much for having the customization option this year.  That was the deciding factor for us to come back to CSA boxes, since our garden is so much bigger now than when we had the boxes 7 or 8 years ago (before babies were born), and I am able to skip items in your box that are wildly producing in our garden and focus on items that our garden doesn’t have enough of at that point.  That way none of the work and yumminess gets wasted. 😊   …

We are loving the home delivery, and opted for the pick up option for next year only because of cost.  We all get excited when we see the delivery truck pull up!   And the liner bags fit our kitchen trash pail perfectly.  Your veggies arrive looking very happy and real and loved… and one of my daughters is delighted when an occasional bug shows up that she can examine in her bug jar. 😄   

Thanks for everything you do, and thank you for welcoming us back!  Please keep us when you downsize next year!”

Thank You

Thanks to all of you above and all the rest of you who recently shared your love and support for our farm. We are so moved and energized by this outpouring.

Also, thanks to those of you who signed up for a 2022 share this past week, and extra thanks to the many of you who did not use a discount.  We are most encouraged that you have renewed your commitment to our farm for another year.

(If you haven’t yet renewed your share for the 2022 season, and you would like to, log in to your membership account and click on on “Purchase or renew subscription”. Also, check out last week’s Farm News, Farmer John Writes: People Were Scared, for a thorough explanation of why early 2022 signups are so important.)

Overheard

“You live your life like an exclamation point.”

Warmly,
Farmer John

10

Farmer John Writes: People Were Scared

Harvest Week 17, October 18th – 23rd, 2021


2021 has been a bit of a watershed year for Angelic Organics. I will explain why.

In early 2020, we were preparing for, at best, the same number of shareholders we had served in 2019; this was about 2200 shareholders. Our share sales had been declining from a peak of 3100 shareholders in 2015 down to 2200 shareholders in 2019 (a general trend throughout the country). Our 2020 seed order and field plans were designed to feed 2200 shareholders.

(Please don’t let these numbers make you think we are a giant farm; we are a smallish farm that strives for balance between crew, production and sales.)

What Happened?

Then Covid hit. People were scared of food shortages, and we were inundated with CSA signups. How many shareholders could we possibly accommodate? We boldly decided we could handle an additional 1000 shares, knowing that it would require a huge shift in strategy. Could we get the seed? Could we find the extra help? Did we have enough equipment? Did we have the strength? We rounded up the extra seed, the extra help, the extra equipment, and found the extra strength. With the blessing of good weather, we were able to fulfill our commitment to 3200 shareholders last year, 1000 more shareholders than the previous year—resilience, I suppose.

Math detail: about 2/3 of our shareholders receive a bi-weekly (every other week) share, and 1/3 receive a weekly share, so the number of boxes we pack per week is about 2/3 the number of total shareholders we have. In 2020, we packed almost 2100 boxes per week; in 2019, we packed a little over 1400 boxes per week. In 2021, we pack about 1500 boxes per week.)

Another detail: the Covid sales spike enabled us to catch up a bit on a huge backlog of deferred maintenance, given that floods and declining sales had plagued us the prior several years. Last year, we fortified our equipment lineup, upgraded buildings, and replaced completely ruined heating and cooling systems. We also gave substantial raises to our crew. 

We Wondered

2020 was a good crop year, which we anticipated would provide good shareholder retention. What, then, should we have planned for 2021 share sales? One thousand shareholders had signed up in 2020 after the first of March and had eaten from our farm for a season. How many of them would return, out of fear or because they simply loved belonging to our farm? When March rolled around this year, we were wondering if there would be another Covid scare, wondering how many people would be signing up for shares at the last minute, due to a possible lockdown or simply the usual tardiness of certain people to join.

Were we on a roll, with citizens finally realizing the health and community benefits of belonging to a CSA? Were the years of strenuous marketing and discounting of shares finally behind us, due to epiphanies realized under the cloud of Covid?

It’s Not that Simple

CSA presents a simple picture of a shareholder signing up for a share and then getting a share of the crop. However, we plan our crop strategy in the year before and begin to execute it in mid summer the prior year with compost application, bed preparation, and cover crops. Actually, half our land is out of production two years prior to the year in which it goes into vegetables to build soil fertility with cover crops as a regenerative farming practice. We have to plan these things way in advance. 

Those two years of seeding and tending cover crops in addition to the preparation for the upcoming vegetable production costs the farm close to $100,000 a year. By January and February of the next year, the planning gets even more specific, because we have to order seed. In early March we are seeding in the greenhouse. After all of these preparations last year, when we were already seeding in the greenhouse, we got the call to grow for 1,000 more shareholders. It was almost impossible to manage, but we scrambled and we succeeded.

We Over-Planted this Year (or Past Shareholders Under-Committed?)

We calculated we would lose about half of our new 2020 shareholders in 2021, so, we planned and grew for 2800 shareholders this year. That’s why we are wholesaling some of our crops now, because we over-planted; we have 2400 shareholders, not 2800. The extra crops that we planted were for shareholder sales that never materialized. These extra crops were not paid for with share sales. 

I had always wanted to only grow for people who were part of our shareholder community, but with a shrinking community of shareholders and unpredictable share sales, I can only downsize our production or branch out into the wholesale markets.

We Are Now Doing Some Wholesaling

In order to accommodate some of the crop surplus this season, I generally reduced the price of many of our items from $5 to $4, thus facilitating more volume going into each $40 box. (Sometimes this volume was so great that we had to double-box shares.) But, still, I need to recoup the expenses of growing for so many shareholders who never materialized. That’s why we are wholesaling now. That’s why you might see our vegetables for sale in the Chicago area, for instance at Local Foods. Many CSA farms do this—combine a CSA program with a wholesaling program. 

Will we recoup the losses from over-planting? Yes, to a large degree, if the wholesalers buy all the surplus, which amounts to about 100,000 pounds of vegetables.

The Thrill of Bounty

As noted, I didn’t really want to grow for people who aren’t part of our shareholder community; however, I like abundance. I like wagons creaking with produce, bins bulging, fields brimming with crops—I like the exquisiteness, the thrill of bounty.

bok choy and lettuce

While on this topic of abundance, at the end of our spring planting season, I decided to add in an additional field of fall carrots and two additional fields of winter squash. With the dreadful weather that has often plagued us the past few years, I looked across the fields last spring and thought “things look good now, but what if the weather turns on us and we have a shortfall? We had better plant a larger cushion than usual, just in case.” I always plant a cushion of 10% extra, just in case of adversity, but these extra fields expanded the normal cushion way beyond that. Those fields have yielded about 60,000 pounds of crops, but they were only planted in case of a weather crisis; they were intended as a fallback.  Maybe this is a generous impulse; maybe it’s a paranoid impulse. It’s not the perfect CSA arrangement, because it’s a self-funded insurance against catastrophe. 

I Don’t Need a Yacht, But…

In addition, scale is important to grow efficiently, to pay the crew adequately, to take care of the buildings, the equipment, and the land. (Jeff Bezos didn’t recently buy his huge yacht by personally delivering each Amazon parcel.) So, we are wholesaling some of our crops out of necessity. Shareholders will still receive bountiful boxes. Shareholders are my priority, but if there aren’t enough of you, I have to either cut back on production or open up new channels for sales. For me, the answer is to open up new channels.

Just to background you a little bit on the expenses here, last year labor was over $500,000. Seed was over $20,000. The repairs for just one tractor were $19,000. Also, note in the paragraph further above that it costs us about $100,000 a year to maintain our soil fertility program.

lettuce harvest

A Good Arrangement

This is going to work out well. We will grow for the shareholders we love and who love us, and we can grow more for other outlets, just because we love to grow crops. We will no longer be constrained by our growth due simply to the amount of shareholder sales. We will grow everything needed for our commitment to shareholders, and we can grow more for our wholesale accounts, because scale is important, and growing is thrilling. 

I’ll add that the wholesale buyers I have approached this fall are quite enthusiastic about featuring produce from Angelic Organics farm, which has fed hundreds of thousands of people in Chicagoland their vegetables for over 30 years.

In addition, we can now be more stringent with policies in our shareholder agreement, because we won’t be depending on our CSA as our only source of sales. In other words, we will emphasize more the requirement for shareholder courtesy in our shareholder agreement, and we will be more quick to cancel rude shareholders. (If you have read recent editions of Farm News, you know that this rudeness and sense of entitlement have escalated and somewhat preoccupied and deflated us these past few years.)

We Still Need to Know

Even though we will be wholesaling some crops, we still need to plan on a certain number of shareholders for the upcoming year, because the composition of crops we grow for shareholders is different than what we will grow for wholesalers, and shareholders are our first priority. We grow a great variety of crops for shareholders and have no impulse to sell that whole range of crops into wholesale markets. We still have the need to know ahead of time how many shareholders to grow for in order to plan the optimal constellation of crops. This is why we need shareholders to join us way in advance for next year (like now), so we can plan our crops accordingly. 

In addition, the expenses leading up to the harvest season are mighty—the prior year’s field preparations, the seed orders, the winter machinery and building repairs, the administrative work, and months of field labor planting and tending the crops before the first delivery.

Thank You

Thank you to those of you who have already joined us for 2022. Your commitment is much appreciated.

Please Join Us for Next Year by Friday, October 22nd

So, please join us now if you plan to be with us next year. We are offering a 15% discount for early renewals with coupon code RENEW15, which will expire on Friday, October 22nd.

To sign up for your 2022 CSA share, log in to your membership account, then click on “Purchase or renew subscription”. (To add a 2022 fruit share to your signup, click on “Add-on Fruit Share” in the left-hand column.)

About the Discount

If you don’t need the discount and want to more fully support the farm, we invite you to pay full price. As you probably already surmise, we blur the distinction between your farm and our farm. Since we are a Community Supported Agriculture Farm, in a way you are providing the money to a member of your community who will grow, safeguard and steward your food. Community is about taking care of one another, being there for one another. Please don’t regard us as a seller, and you as a buyer. Regard us as a steward of your well-being, as we regard you as a steward of our well-being and the well-being of our farm. 

Warmly,
Farmer John