Farm News

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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

8

Farmer John Writes: Something to Do

Harvest Week 16, October 11th – 16th


Extended Season Vegetable Shares are Available

Shareholders, you can still sign up for an extended season vegetable share. Our fall crops are better than ever, so you can expect to receive glorious customized boxes of vegetables right into early December. Available as a weekly share (4 boxes) or a bi-weekly share (2 boxes). $40 per box. (Sorry, we are no longer selling extended season fruit shares this season.)

In the extended season, you will likely receive generous amounts of carrots, winter squash, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, daikon radishes, beets, kohlrabi, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and–weather depending–all sorts of head lettuce and baby greens.

part of our spaghetti and butternut squash harvest

Sign Up for Your Extended Season Share

Before you sign up for an extended season vegetable share, please review these two instructions:

  1. You might already have an extended season vegetable share. If you don’t remember whether you have a 2021 extended season vegetable share, log in to your membership account and click on “View/Modify Subscriptions” to see all of your shares. 
  2. If you do not have a 2021 extended season vegetable share and you want to sign up for one, be sure to select the 2021 extended season vegetable share option when you sign up. We have had some shareholders sign up for a 2022 extended season share by mistake.

To sign up for your extended season share, log in to your membership account and click on “Purchase or renew subscription”, and select “2021 Extended Season Vegetable Share”.

Just a Few Pumpkins and Gourds Left for Shareholders

Shareholders, if you have been meaning to come to the farm to get your 2 pumpkins and 5 gourds, they are almost gone. We can’t guarantee that there will still be pumpkins and gourds for you since we don’t know how many shareholders will still come out to get their pumpkins and gourds.

pumpkins and gourds are almost gone

Organic Inspection Coming Up

Later this month, we will have our annual organic inspection by MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association). There are other ways besides certifying organic to make people at ease with what they are eating, such as simply approving their food.

Imagine only eating Approved Food

Imagine eating only Approved Food and Candy with the Seasons

How Is Your Farmer?

In the film The Real Dirt on Farmer John, my mother says about her vegetable stand, “It gives me something to do, John. It does. It gives me something to do.”

When people ask how I am, and I say “I’m too busy,” they often say “busy is good.” I suppose they are right, that busy is good, but too busy is not better than busy. Too busy is probably not as good as busy.

I did quite a bit of lateral delegation this year, offloading responsibilities to Nathan, Pollo, Victor and Amanda. Also, my wife Haidy, whose health is gradually improving, handles many administrative tasks. I still work as hard as before, but less is undone. (That’s quite the metric for an improvement of a busy work life, no?) Still, having less undone is an upgrade and a relief.

I don’t suppose that I could ever delegate enough so that everything gets done, because on a farm, everything never gets done; only more or less of everything gets done. 

There is always something to fix, adjust, polish, revamp, tune, tweak, paint, grease, inflate, hang, lower, replace, refurbish, fill, smooth, mow, tie, steady, fashion, accelerate, brighten, dim, solder, deflate, wax, measure, oil, sweep, brush, shake, jimmy, flatten, top, hoist, test, clean, raise, shovel, discard, label, tighten, winch, weld, scrape, sharpen, cinch, loosen, crank, install, set, tether, strap, organize, straighten, decelerate, lift, patch, drill, bolster, caulk, bend, discard, sort, center, trim, clip, illuminate, broaden, drain, level, extend, curve, extract, balance, chain, crank, edge, latch, thread, plane, file, lengthen, dig, chisel, heft, plug, saw, trim, solder, wire, secure, prune, torque, or procure. (No, I did not consult a thesaurus to create this list.) 

Notice I did not even mention above the main things we do: till, compost, plant, weed, harvest, pack, and deliver.

A lot of people show up here and talk about how idyllic the farm is. I suppose such a case could be made, but I never claim such. I think about, how like the Fulton Street Fish Market in Manhattan, which used to hop, roar, clank and bustle, this farm throbs with life, hustle, and shouts.

carrots, painting that needs to be done, and roof shingles that need replacing

From a Shareholder 

“Love your potato digging reference [in Week 14 Farm News]. One of my earliest and fondest memories is digging potatoes at a neighbor’s farm near our converted one room schoolhouse near Polo Illinois. What a delight. The same neighbor/farmer (Mr. Wilson) tilled our 1 acre vegetable garden with his tractor. His wife sometimes took care of us when my mom was working. I remember the love they expressed to us kids and the wonder of unearthing potatoes on their farm garden followed by eating same with home churned butter from their dairy cows. And their cuckoo clock – I never ceased to wonder at its mechanical heart and ingenious interaction with gravity. (Not a AA battery in sight). The Wilson’s were the salt of the earth – how blessed we were to have them as neighbors. Each box a shareholder receives contains very much the same gift. Savor it folks – people like the Wilson’s, Farmer John and his crew are now very few and very far between.”

~ Shareholder Jeff Milroy

(Jeff often sends us heartening and insightful messages.)

Overheard

Our Driver Zdenek, leaving the farm to make deliveries: “One of the sites that I deliver to has a car with a flat tire in the garage. It’s been flat for a long time. I’m going to put air in it. I have an air tank in the truck.”

Farmer: “You going to tell ‘em?”

Zdenek: “No, I’m not doing it for praise. The tire needs air.”

From a Shareholder About Zdenek 

(For back story, refer to Farm News, Week 9, On Life and Death.)

“We pick up our share at Oak Park South. Today I admired the screws that Zdenek put in the stairs. Today he had placed some empty boxes to shield the sun since it was so hot. He’s a gem. Hopefully I’ll meet him one day.”

Overread

Subject of a recent email to the farm: “Everything is illuminated, John”

Reply: “I thought the subject was a spiritual reference.” 

(It was really a pitch for LED lighting.)

Warmly,
Farmer John

16

Farmer John Writes: We Are a Team

Harvest Week 15, October 4 – 9th, 2021


Weather

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.

seeding hay into dust

Check out Week 13 Farm News, Healing the Past, to learn more about this field.

Water

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? 

water makes your vegetables

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. 

The Future

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.

Transition

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.

bok choy

We harvested our potatoes and carrots free of mud, which is a great benefit for the harvest itself and also for storage.

Amanda at the hydraulic controls of the potato harvester

a stream of carrots

The mild frost-free weather is also helpful for our winter squash harvest. 

spaghetti squash

Pollo remodels a harvest wagon for squash storage

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.

broccoli head and Amanda’s head

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.

Overheard

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.”

Warmly,
Farmer John

6

Farmer John Writes: The Hill of the Unknown

Harvest Week 14, September 27th – October 2nd, 2021


We had a super Field Day a couple of Saturdays back. Fabulous food; sun; hayrides; pumpkin, gourd and flower harvesting; mingling. It was about as perfect as a Field Day can be.

pumpkin fun

The crew cut the pumpkin and gourd stems ahead of the Field Day, so that shareholders could select the colorful orbs and carry them to the hay wagon without having to wield a knife or clippers to free them from their vines. As adults and kids searched for their favorites, they got a feeling for how these ornamental delights grow in random arrangements in the field. It’s important, especially for kids, to experience first-hand the random distribution of these treasures in a natural setting, as opposed to in rows or bins at the grocery store.

Still, the pumpkins and gourds were there for the taking, not quite handed to the shareholders, but made easily available. 

When It Seems Like Just Dirt

There was also digging for potatoes at the Field Day. Unlike pumpkins, potatoes don’t announce their whereabouts. There are hills of soil wherein lie potatoes, hidden. Where in these mounds do the potatoes lie? No one knows. 

potato hills

Adults and kids alike found joy rooting in the piles of dirt for a potato, and then finding it. There’s a gloriousness, a feeling of triumph in the find of each potato.

discovery

potato farmers

Farmer John & Louis

Prior to this joyful unearthing of the potato, there was seemingly nothing there. But there was a potato, a treasure. 

A Cupholder

I had a car without a cupholder. This bothered me. I often lamented its absence of a cupholder. One day, feeling especially remorseful and resentful about this cupholder absence, I started seriously complaining about it, flailing my arms. I noisily said, “How can there not be a cupholder in this car?” I grabbed a protrusion in the dash. “It would be right here, but no!” I mockingly pulled on the protrusion, and out slid a cupholder.

A Worldwide Wonder

The Beatles did not know beforehand that they would unearth world fame and beget cultural transformation (in spite of pushback and discouragement from friends and family). They delved into the hill of the unknown, and discovered how to change the world.

Might Be Something There

Consider what is there in life, business, relationships, design, and romance that is unconsidered and unrealized. Consider the many great inventions, musical innovations, religious movements, gold mines, and business transformations that resided once as undiscovered, unimagined ideas. 

Consider the intrinsic joy of finding potatoes. Perhaps the joy comes from being reminded that where there might be nothing, there might instead be something. Only with searching will one know if there is something there to be discovered. (Much of the content of this newsletter comes out of apparent nothingness, which I mysteriously access week after week.)

Got a hunch? An impulse? A wild idea? Do you keep it buried, unmanifest, unexplored? The potato-unearthing shareholders at our Field Day just might have discovered a dream on their way home and pursued it.

Before and After

Before digging for potatoes, Haidy and I would never have dreamt of this beautiful case for the iPhone

Unearthed Praises

The Week 12 issue of Farm News, This Farm Was Made for Sharing, unearthed many messages of encouragement and affirmation from our shareholders. We received many beautiful, supportive comments from shareholders on the blog post, as well as a lot of wonderful emails and comments on Facebook. Wow. We are so thrilled and moved by your love and support. Thank you.

Some of you shared great ideas for strengthening our CSA through more rigorous enforcement of policies and also through changing some of our policies. We will review these suggestions come winter, and will likely implement many of them. 

Examples of Supportive Shareholder Comments

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

   ~ Shareholder Claudia

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

    ~ Shareholder Marlene

I encourage you to read the numerous additional shareholder comments on the blog post This Farm Was Made for Sharing.

Before All of That

Before I wrote This Farm Was Made for Sharing, a long-time shareholder couple sent a gift of $500 to the farm. (They want to be anonymous.) It just showed up in the mail, a wonderful surprise. We plan to treat the crew to a catered lunch and a screening of The Real Dirt on Farmer John as a result of this gift

Like the cupholder, the film about the farm and my life, the trajectory of the Beatles, and the hiding potatoes, this gift reminds me that we often don’t know what’s there, hidden, that is on its way into our lives.

Come Get Your Pumpkins and Gourds

For those of you shareholders who haven’t yet received pumpkins and gourds, stop by the farm to select up to 2 pumpkins and 5 gourds per family. We also encourage you to venture to the U-Pick Garden west of the farmstead to pick a magnificent bouquet of flowers; these flowers will succumb to a frost soon, so either you or the frost will get them. (Find clippers and bags in the shareholder cooler between the two barns.)

no random distribution of pumpkins here

We Sometimes Substitute an Item

It is impossible to impeccably forecast what will be available for your box. We get it about 95% right, but between when we project what’s available for you and when we pack your box, crops bolt, get eaten by bugs, spoil due to weather, or are miscounted when harvested. We do our best, and when it’s not good enough, we do our best to adjust to the new circumstances, for example substituting a different herb for an intended herb, or butternut squash because we ran out of kabocha squash. 

Potato Harvest

Our Field Day visitors did their best to harvest potatoes, but to finish the job, we figured we better put our potato harvest machine in action.

We Don’t Wash the Potatoes

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.

Potato Varieties

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.

Overheard

A couple exits a post office.

Woman: “Doesn’t it feel great to mail a package?”

Man: “Sure does. Imagine how Jeff Bezos feels…every nanosecond.”

(Many of Bezos’ friends discouraged him from founding Amazon; they knew it wouldn’t work.)

Warmly,
Farmer John

 

2

Farmer John Writes: Healing the Past

Harvest Week 13, September 20th – 25th, 2021


Please Set Your Preferences for Winter Squash Varieties

In case you missed last week’s newsletter–please go to your membership account, click on “Item Preferences”, and set your preferences for the different types of winter squash that we grow, which have now been added to our list of crops. Your preferences will be automatically saved. (Note: It’s quite the challenge to know just how much of each winter squash variety we have to offer, so, occasionally, you might customize your share with one variety, and we might need to substitute with another variety, ideally a similar variety.)

Great Field Day

We enjoyed a festive Field Day here this past Saturday; everything about it seemed perfect. I will probably write more about it next week, given how extraordinary it was. For those of you who didn’t come but still want pumpkins and gourds, we’ll bring them up to the buildings soon and will let you know by email when you can come get some.

Teamwork

There is a lot of work that has to be done here to grow the crops, harvest, pack and deliver them. Outside of that, there is an enormous amount of more systemic work to do: build compost piles; prepare fields for the upcoming season; maintain and repair buildings and equipment, etc. How we can actually go beyond the day-to-day demands and get to some of the other work here is because of a confluence of skills, willingness, and equipment. 

Victor the Victor

To get a picture of a major player in this confluence, meet Victor Magaña, our crew leader and extraordinary mechanic. Victor has been working here for 11 years. I don’t believe he has ever shied away from a challenge. I ask him to do something challenging, fine, he’ll do it. If he can’t do it, he’ll do it anyway. If he still can’t do it, he’ll watch videos on how to do it. If he still can’t do it, he’ll call around to figure out how to do it. And he’s not one of those people who will get bogged down doing a difficult or seemingly impossible job and spend an inordinate amount of time on it. He works at an almost unimaginably fast pace–his hands often a blur of motion, his tall, lean form a streak across the fields or the farmstead.

Victor assesses the corn

Fun?

On a recent Saturday, Victor showed up at 6:30 a.m. sporting his usual cheerful (and yes, mischievous) smile. I presented the morning’s harvest tasks to him (the crew does not work on Saturday afternoons). It seemed an almost impossible directive to fulfill—harvest winter squash, chard, eggplant, peppers, parsley, dill; just explaining it to Victor made me slump from the enormity. After I finished going over the tasks, Victor said, “this will be fun!” Victor is indomitable. 

Saturday morning’s work

Is it Art?

A little elaboration on the role of crew leader. It requires an extremely rare combination of common sense, stamina, flexibility, firmness, conviviality, and intuition. Every moment of managing the crew is different from the next moment, and the next, and the next. No manual or standard operating procedure is ever going to capture and organize what it takes to run a crew on this diversified vegetable operation. Just a single crop is often different from one day to the next. Bunches often need to vary in size, due to more leaves or less leaves available, or bigger leaves or smaller leaves, or minimal insect damage or extensive insect damage, or heavy blight damage or no blight damage. Maybe there are two crews working in two parts of the farm. Instructions need to be given, standards upheld, judgments made—will the one crew do it well enough, thoroughly enough, consistently enough for Victor to go be with the other crew? Will the crew grading tomatoes be too lenient, too stringent? Will they compost enough? Will they compost too much? Will there be enough for the pack? And it all has to be done fast. Decisions have to be made fast. We need how much? How many? How big? How soon? 

Victor evaluates on the fly, a continuous improvisation, doing what that moment requires, then that moment, then the next. I consider it one of the highest forms of art. 

Victor harvests basil with the crew

That’s Not All

I’ll add that Victor seeds all the carrots, baby greens, cilantro, dill, radishes and turnips here, almost always with great results. And while he is running the crew, he is keeping machinery going, tires fixed, carburetors and points adjusted—yes, he is a rarity, an inspiration for the crew and an enormous blessing for the farm. (I’ll add that he is extremely funny, and he has many of us laughing hard several times a day.)

Victor seeds radishes with the Allis G

Farm Freedom

Besides writing about Victor because he is extraordinary and should be celebrated, I’m writing about Victor to get to how, because he handles so much of the day-to-day tasks here, we are able to free up Pollo to get to other things that have been eluding us. (For more about Pollo, read Farm News Week 10, The Wrong Kiss.)

Pollo Deleted the Ditches

One big job that Pollo did due to this freedom was tear up 14 acres of pasture and 4 acres of hay ground where the seeding had worn out, and re-seed it with grass, clover and alfalfa. This was land that I used to own, land that I had not worked in 40 years. My sister Carol bought that land from me, and still owns it. (For elaboration on this time lapse, watch The Real Dirt on Farmer John.) 

Pollo tears up old seeding

There were ditches in the slopes that Pollo filled in and seeded, ditches that were not there 40 years ago, because I had then contour farmed those fields to prevent erosion. I even received the Boone County Conservation Farmer of the Year award in the late 70’s for my soil conservation practices.

These ditches had formed later due to 20 years of conventional farming practices that took place after I had to sell off that land. After those 20 years, the land had provided hay and pasture to the Angelic Organics Learning Center. Those 20 years of their being in hay and pasture had not healed these scars. Driving a truck or tractor through the field and hitting one of these ditches gave a tremendous jolt, threatening damage to axles, tie rods, shocks and tires.

I believe we now have these ditches filled in and smoothed out well enough so the water from a heavy rain will no longer gush down them and further erode the hill. We will now think of them as waterways, as opposed to ditches.

once a ditch, now filled with soil and seeded and on its way to becoming a waterway

grass waterways will slow the water that threatens erosion on this 14-acre slope

In case you wonder what I plan to do with these fields in the future, I’m not sure. I was thinking about putting the larger field into vegetables, but our level of shareholder sales won’t justify such expansion at this time. For now, I just rest easier knowing that, by the time you are reading this, restorative cover crops will likely be sprouting on this land, with the possibility of pasture, making hay, or producing vegetables in the future. 

Pollo Resolved the Ruts

Now to another part of the farm. As long-term shareholders know, we recently had three consecutive seasons of extreme mud here. (Read Farm News, Week 15, 2019, Before the Fronds Wilt for an example of the mud.) We had to work the ground wetter than we wanted, but we figured it was better to feed our shareholders every week than to wait for ideal soil conditions (which didn’t arrive month after month.) When the tractor would get to the end of the bed, known as the headland, and the implement was raised out of the ground, the combined weight of the tractor and the implement would make deep ruts in the ends of the fields, creating a sort of washboard in our headlands. Driving along these headlands, and especially mowing them, was a wildly bumpy, borderline violent ride.

Last week, Pollo tore up these ruts with our subsoiler, smoothed them out with our rotavator, and seeded them—a very bumpy job that took days to accomplish. It was extra challenging due to the extremely dry and compacted soil of our headlands. How did Pollo get to it? Victor was running the crew, freeing up Pollo to do farm upkeep—teamwork.

dry, rutted headlands subsoiled by Pollo, before rotovating and seeding; cover crop of fall peas in background

A Smoother Future

These wounds from the past—ruts and ditches—are interesting to consider: how the past can plague us in the present, toss us around and jostle us. It’s important to find the time to heal them. 

Overheard at the Health Food Store

Customer: “My dad died. And my brother is an alcoholic, which makes things more complicated. Too bad we can’t choose which family members to keep.”

Store Employee: “Oh, I hear you on that.”

Warmly,
Farmer John

39

Farmer John Writes: This Farm Was Made for Sharing

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


Please Set Your Preferences for Winter Squash Varieties

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

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

delicata squash

Fall Field Day and Covid 

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

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

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

For more details, visit our Field Day web page.

We Are Blessed in Many Ways

We have many dedicated, enthusiastic, and appreciative shareholders.

In Some Ways, We Have a Mixed Blessing

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

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

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

Please Read Upcoming Refresher Email

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

We Are Not So Blessed in Other Ways

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

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

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

Drawbacks with this way of joining our farm:

1) People don’t carefully read the information.

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

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

From a disgruntled shareholder:

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

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

Shared Risk, Shared Reward
The farm does its very best to bring me a beautiful and bountiful box each week, but since the farm’s boss, nature, provides no guarantees — the farm can’t offer any either. One of the principles of a Community Supported Agriculture program is that I share, through my vegetable share, the farmer’s experience of nature’s blessings and mischief.”

From a disgruntled shareholder:

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

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

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

From a disgruntled shareholder:

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

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

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

From a disgruntled shareholder: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Original Loveliness

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

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

Back to Blessed: Comments from Appreciative Shareholders

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

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

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

What to Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

More later.

Warmly,
Farmer John

14

Farmer John Writes: A Life in the Day of a Farmer

Harvest Week 11, September 6th – 11th, 2021


I will share with you a day of recent activity on the farm, along with attendant considerations, doubts, sureties, and vacillations.

Early September is about the last chance to get in crops that will mature in the fall. Last Thursday, the second day of September, we transplanted 14,000 seedlings of lettuce, 4,500 seedlings of choy, 1,500 seedlings of Chinese cabbage. That was a lot of transplanting to do in one day—the most we have ever done in a day—and that was a small part of what we did that Thursday. The crew finished at 3:55 pm, 5 minutes before our normal quitting time. At 4 pm, we turned on the irrigator.

the crew transplants lettuce; Victor seeds baby greens in the background

Amanda drives the transplanter

Victor seeded 16 500-foot-long beds of baby lettuce, radishes, turnips, arugula, cilantro, dill, and spinach—the most we have ever seeded here in a day. He finished at 3:40 pm. But he wasn’t just seeding that day; he was also supervising the crew on tomato, carrot and arugula harvests.

Victor seeds radishes

Pollo spread compost on 5 fields that will be in vegetables next year, and seeded them to a cover crop of fall peas. That wraps up all the field preparations this year for next year’s crops. (Many of the fields are already lush with fertility-building peas.) Oh, yeah, and he lifted a bed of carrots that morning. In the afternoon, he ran the greens harvester to bring in a crop of arugula. 

Pollo finished seeding the cover crop of peas at 6 pm, 2 hours after our regular quitting time, but hey, it’s a farm, and Pollo knows what it takes to run a farm; it takes doing what has to be done.

The rest of the crew harvested and washed about 800 bunches of carrots. They harvested a few thousand tomatoes. They separated bulbs of garlic into cloves for our late fall seeding of garlic. They harvested arugula.

Armando and Giovanni wash carrots

Socrates, Armando, Luis and Andres harvest arugula

Neftali, Andres, and Jimena with their tomato harvest

This all might read like a pleasant dream, like a well-oiled, highly coordinated farm, with people doing their jobs, and tasks happening on time. But, let’s back up a bit—why did things happen on time? How many trucks, tractors, implements and other equipment had to work reliably in order to get all this work done that day? 4 trucks, 5 tractors, a greens harvester, trailer, wagons, undercutter, compost spreader, Bobcat loader, bunch washer, several coolers, 2 well pumps, grain drill, transplanter, seeder, rotovator, irrigator. These all had to work that day.

Why did these machines work? Because Victor has a shop directive in the winter: make everything able to work all season long, no breakdowns, no downtime—everything has to always work all season long. Victor, Pollo and I know that this is a fantasy goal, but a worthwhile one. Every winter, more and more, Victor gets the equipment into better condition, makes it more reliable.

Do we ever have a mechanical problem during the season? Sure, but fewer than before, and Victor solves problems on the fly with blistering speed—Pollo, too. How can we be so lucky to have people like this on our farm? Such people are almost impossible to find, but here they are, year after year. 

Why else did we get all that work done on Thursday? Because we had the foresight to go through a myriad of bureaucratic hurdles in order to host legal guest workers from Mexico on the farm. If we had not arranged for them to work here, we would not have even made it to last Thursday. We would not have had the workers to get the work done this season. The workers aren’t out there locally. They aren’t available. They aren’t interested, aren’t willing. 

Why else did we break those seeding and transplanting records on Thursday? Because we had a solid plan the day before. We knew just where we were going to transplant and where we were going to seed. We had the seed on hand. However, by early Thursday morning, that plan was changed into a new plan. Why? 

There are two reasons why the crops we plant in early September might never make it to your box. It might be too cold. It might be too dry. We could get the crops into the dry ground on Thursday, but we needed to get them growing right away. Rain was forecast for that night. We had to get them into the ground before the rain that night, but what if it didn’t rain that night? (It didn’t.) If it didn’t rain, the crops would not grow; in fact, the transplants would be wilting the next day.

On Thursday morning, I decided to put all the crops into two fields that we could easily irrigate—on our former sweet corn ground, as opposed to the Wednesday afternoon plan to scatter them in different locations throughout the farm We had to get them in before the rain, but, if it didn’t rain, we had to get them irrigated before it didn’t rain. To heighten the stakes, all the transplanting had to be done that day, because if it did rain that night, the delay of transplanting for a few days due to mud would increase the likelihood that these crops would never see the inside of your box, due to upcoming cold fall weather. (A lot to juggle, eh?)

irrigating before the rain that didn’t come

This farm cannot run on a hope that it will rain, or a hope that it won’t rain. It’s as though we exist in multiple realities—that things will work out and that things won’t work out. There is so often a need for more rain to support the crops; or no rain so the crops can be planted; or less rain so the ground does not become saturated or flooded. There is need for more heat, to mature the crops; less heat, to spare the workers. It’s an interesting space to inhabit, this space of various, often conflicting simultaneous needs and wants. 

Farming is an ongoing training in being effective while in a vast range of realities, possibilities, hopes, and desires. It thwarts the whole idea of rights and entitlements, because nothing is fair about the weather, and nothing is unfair about the weather. Both pessimism and optimism are punished and rewarded on a farm. Anticipating a letup in rains might be punished with flooding, and it might be rewarded with sunshine. The weather does what it does. It interrupts. It facilitates. It batters. It rains down ruin and it rains down plenty. Does one deserve something different than what the weather hands them?

To conclude, last Thursday, we did the work we did because we were prepared and flexible (we had a plan and we changed it); we had the equipment and the equipment worked; we had dry soil; and we had a willing and enthusiastic crew. And think of all that work going on concurrently, with different constellations of workers and equipment forming and re-forming throughout the day. 

You might read this thinking humanity would be better off to be fed by 3-D printers or robots and hazmatted technicians in antiseptic vertical farms. You might think that the skills and equipment needed to keep this farm going are archaic, that the labor here is being exploited, and the soil vandalized.  

Or perhaps the account of this day is poetic to you, husky and rugged, with dust and shouts swirling through the air, trucks and tractors purring and roaring, wagons creaking with carrots and tomatoes, arugula whizzing into crates, seed streaming into rich soil, transplants gliding into the fertile earth.

This is how your box comes about week after week. We feel fortunate for the opportunity.

Shareholders–Come to our Fall Field Day on Saturday, September 18th

We’ll have a potluck lunch, hay rides, free pumpkins and gourds, and maybe bluegrass music (stay tuned about the music—we’ll let you know when we know.) Learn more on our Field Day web page.

Overheard

“There is a cute mouse living in the house. It probably shouldn’t be here. We need one of those humane traps. I wonder what kind of cheese she likes. Gruyere, perhaps. I am making quiche soon—maybe she would enjoy a miniature quiche. She should have a nice doorway for entering her temporary cage, a portal—arched.”

Warmly,
Farmer John

10

Farmer John Writes: The Wrong Kiss

Harvest Week 10, August 30th – September 4th, 2021


Fall Field Day on Saturday, September 18th

Shareholders–we hope you will attend our Fall Field Day on Saturday, September 18th. We will have a great crop of pumpkins and gourds for you to choose from. Learn more on our Field Day web page. Also, we just might be offering live bluegrass music—details on that soon. 

U-Pick Garden

Shareholders, you are also most welcome to come pick beans, flowers and herbs from our U-Pick garden. Check details on our U-Pick Garden web page.

Crop Update

Zucchini and summer squash are done. Melons will probably end this week. Sweet corn will end next week. Lots of other crops will be available: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, carrots, garlic, kale, leeks, onions, herbs, baby greens, head lettuce, and soon the fall crops—broccoli, winter squash, beets, kohlrabi, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and more…I don’t think we’ve ever experienced such a bountiful crop year as this one.

basil, eggplant, pepper and tomato fields

best leeks in years

The Wrong Kiss

For many years, most of the work on this farm has been done by Mexicans. It’s pretty hard to find anyone else to do the work. 

I have spent a lot of time in Mexico on and off since the early 70’s. It’s a country very dear to me, so I am happy that some of the spirit and vitality of that country can be welcomed here on our farm. (Fortunately, we can now host foreign workers here through the government sponsored H-2A program. If that were not the case, I don’t know how we would be getting the work done this year.)

Pack Volunteer Coordinator Don Glasenapp paints a farm building (2019). Colors inspired by Mexico.

I recently asked a field worker here if he knew how to build fence.

“Yeah.”

“From where, Mexico?”

“Yeah, we’d go into the forest and make posts out of trees, the straight trees.”

“With an axe?”

“Yeah.”

“Your family’s forest?”

“Everyone’s. It belonged to everyone. Everyone could go there to get what they needed. But not anymore. The Mexicans who moved to the U.S. stopped it.”

“How could they stop it?”

“They make the police in our town give tickets to people who go into the forest. They decided the forest is theirs.”

“So that’s a lesson they learned by coming to the States…oh, my. If we get burros here,” I continued, “we’ll need to build a fence. You had how many burros in Mexico?”

“Five.”

“Did you ride them?”

“Mostly we just used them to carry corn and wood home from the places we could not reach any other way.”

“Did they have names?”

“Just Burro.”

The field worker’s name is Pollo. He’s not only a field worker…he’s also our main machinery operator and our main carpenter. It’s not easy to write about Pollo—he’s vast; he’s cosmic; he’s enigmatic; he’s insightful, wise, intuitive, and unassuming. He seems to have a photographic memory. He’s careful, deliberate, steady, a quiet leader. I marvel at Pollo pretty much every day. He has been working on the farm for 22 years. 

Pollo in foreground

Every few years, I ask Pollo an important question, such as “What’s your thinking about God these days?” or “Do you believe love exists?” or “Do you believe in reincarnation?” 

To the reincarnation question, he said recently, “is that when you have more than one life?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not sure. I know that sometimes I need to do something that I have never done before, and I know how to do it. Where did that come from?”

Often, people who hear me refer to him as Pollo think that some disparaging, culturally insensitive name has been assigned to him, since Pollo means chicken in English.

“How’d you get your name, Pollo?” I asked recently. It had probably been 8 years or so since I had last asked him. I wanted to refresh myself on the details.

“There was a homeless guy in my town. Everyone called him Pollo. He roped plastic bottles to his body and carried all his possessions in his bottles. When I used to hunt, I would do the same thing, rope bottles to myself and carry my ammunition and my food that way. I also strapped a flashlight to my head, just like Pollo did. So, people called me Pollo, too.”

“Do you like the name Pollo?”

“Yes.”

In the early 2000’s, I visited Pollo’s town in Guanajuato. Its name is La Luz. 

landscape near La Luz

It seemed more like I was visiting the town in the early 1900’s.

approach to La Luz

Men in huge sombreros sat on the sidewalks, leaning against ancient adobe storefronts. They studied me curiously as I slowly drove by, nodded, sang “Adios!” into my open car window.

I was warmly greeted by Pollo’s parents and his wife, Carmella. They showed me around their farmstead, which was situated at the outskirts of the town. I met their chickens and their burros. I saw their treasure of ear corn in a room in their home, piled high and proud and golden.

La Luz

That evening, the family had an impromptu fiesta for me in a nearby grove of trees. Pollo’s wife took on the role of hostess. People from throughout La Luz came to the fiesta, stared at me, smiled, laughed. No one spoke English. I knew almost no Spanish. 

After the fiesta, I prepared to say goodbye. I went to kiss Carmella on the cheek.  Her look became increasingly alarmed as my lips neared her cheek.

I had been living an hour and a half away in San Miguel de Allende—a cosmopolitan Spanish Colonial town that drew people from all over the world, a town where people greet and depart one another with a kiss to the cheek, maybe both cheeks, sometimes a third kiss, sometimes even a 4th. Sometimes the cheek is just grazed by the other person’s cheek, so it’s not always a kiss. But sometimes the cheek receives a cute, quick little smooch, which is common in San Miguel.

Carmella began to turn her head away from me. The villagers were watching. I am so used to the kiss on the cheeks. Should I stop my trajectory? Should I continue? 

Carmella turned her face more and more away from me. Perhaps it was simply habit, but I kept going in. My kiss landed on her ear—a smooch to her ear.

In front of the villagers, I had just kissed the ear of Pollo’s wife.

I looked around at the villagers.

They seemed frozen in their expressions, transfixed.

I nodded towards them, waved, faked a warm departing smile, slinked through the trees to my car, and headed back towards San Miguel.

Carmella now lives in nearby Beloit. I see her every so often and wonder what she remembers about my kiss to her ear.

Overheard in the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland

Receptionist: “A couple times a year, someone will come in here and claim they are the reincarnation of Rudolf Steiner.”

Visitor: “What do you say to that?”

Receptionist: “What can I say?”

Warmly,
Farmer John

5

Farmer John Writes: On Life and Death

Harvest Week 9, August 23rd – 28th, 2021


Today I shall undertake a topic that, at first glance, might seem unpleasant, or even inappropriate. The topic is death, though it also will include its counterpart, life. 

Having grown up on a farm, the life and death processes are familiar to me: grain grows in order to ripen and grain dies in order to ripen; hogs are born in order to be eaten; weeds are killed in order for crops to flourish. These are not experiences accessible to most today, with most people so disconnected from the farms and the land in general.

where’d he go?

I realize a discussion of death could fall into the category of other often-uncomfortable topics like money, sex, digestion, and maybe even God. I have noticed how certain people, when I have inquired if they have a will or some other sort of estate plan, fidget, look around in discomfort, perhaps even turn an ashen gray, as though foreshadowing their end time. 

That’s a Big Expensive Building

We have quite the range of health care available today—immediate care, women’s health, men’s health, sexual health, dental health, family health, mental health, physical fitness, behavioral health, optical health, spinal care, cancer care, cardiac care, addiction treatment…I suppose this list could go on for the rest of the newsletter. (If you really want more, Mayo Clinic offers an alphabetized comprehensive guide on hundreds of conditions.)

My point here, though, is to draw attention to the edifices that are often built to represent the availability of health care. They are frequently imposing structures, likely designed to be re-assuring that the most modern health care is available therein.

For many years, upon gazing at certain of these structures, I have often been visited with a feeling of Ancient Egypt. “Why do these edifices invoke in me this feeling?” I have asked myself. “They certainly don’t have an architectural style that is reminiscent of Ancient Egypt.” Still, looking at these massive edifices, I have felt something related to Ancient Egypt, even to the point of saying to myself, “ah, that structure is so Egyptian. Something about it inwardly harks back to Ancient Egypt.”

Ancient Egypt, really?

It’s a Wrap

I received clarification of this mysterious feeling upon reading a book of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, Egyptian Myths and Mysteries, in which Steiner elaborated on the Egyptian ritual of mummification. Mummification was a method for preserving life forces after death. 

It’s a Jab

Today, great effort is expended to preserve life forces before death. The Ancient Egyptians endeavored to prolong life after death; modern medicine endeavors to prolong life before death. Is life so fabulous that people strive to continue it, or is death so terrifying that people strive to avoid it?

Overheard: “She Doesn’t Look Sick”

My mother asked me to stop at a funeral home so she could pay her respects to a deceased neighbor. She was in the funeral home for a few minutes, got back into the car and said, “My gosh, she doesn’t look sick at all. Everyone said she looked sick these past few months. She looks fine to me.” An Ancient Egyptian throwback? A contemporary triumph? Both?

Early Morning

Most mornings before plunging into farm work, I do an exercise suggested by Rudolf Steiner to behold both life and death, or perhaps, I should say, to experience the forces of life and the forces of death. 

Here is Steiner’s recommendation:

“To begin with, the attention of the soul is directed to certain events in the world that surrounds us. Such events are, on the one hand, life that is budding, growing, and flourishing, and on the other hand, all phenomena connected with fading, decaying, and withering…

“The point is that the attention should be directed with perfect inner balance upon both phenomena. If the necessary tranquility be attained and you surrender yourself to the feeling which expands to life in the soul, then, in due time, the following experience will ensue. Thoughts and feelings of a new kind and unknown before will be noticed uprising in the soul. Indeed, the more often the attention be fixed alternately upon something growing, blossoming and flourishing, and upon something else that is fading and decaying, the more vivid will these feelings become. A quite definite form of feeling is connected with growth and expansion, and another equally definite with all that is fading and decaying. 

“It should be emphasized that the student must never lose [one]self in speculations on the meaning of one thing or another. Such intellectualizing will only draw [the student] away from the right road. [The person] should look out on the world with keen, healthy senses and quickened power of observation, and then give [one]self up to the feeling that arises within him. [The student] should not try to make out, through intellectual speculation, the meaning of things, but rather allow the things to disclose themselves. ”

     ~ Rudolf Steiner

Anew

For several months now, I have been beholding separately in the early morning a blooming flower and a dead tree. By bringing a certain attitude or feeling to this process, my experience of the forces of life and death are gradually transforming, not into a preference or an opinion, but into an acceptance and a reverence. These are not concepts or ideas; these are revelations, truths that exist at a fundamental level of existence.

In Farm News, Week 6, But I’m Farming, I wrote “…farming, like the rest of life, is a continual process of dying and becoming, of growth and decay, of building up and tearing down. This dead farm somehow came back to life in a new way—an ancient story that crosses many cultural boundaries and epochs, a story of redemption.

“How did this happen?  The farm died. A (subterranean?) process ensued. There was a resurrection. The death of the farm was needed for the farm to arise in a new way.”

Today, you eat life from a once dead farm.

It is only because of death that there is life, and only because of life that there is death.

The U-Pick Garden is Alive and Ready for You

Shareholders, come out to our U-Pick Garden west of the barns for green beans, flowers and herbs (notably thyme and sage). Check here for details: www.angelicorganics.com/shareholder-u-pick/ 

flowers for you

green beans for you

New Customizing Policy

It’s quite the interesting challenge to forecast in advance what we will have available for you to customize your box with in the upcoming week. Most of the time, we have everything available that we say will be available, but not every single time. From now on, if we run out of something that is scheduled to go into your box, we will simply substitute as comparable an item as possible, as opposed to tracking you down to offer you an apology and a credit. This new policy will help us to keep things in balance.

The Melons

I think our melon quality this year is a bit lower than usual. Perhaps this has to do because of the heavy rains that came when the melons were forming. 

The Tomatoes

We transport our tomatoes to you in our share boxes. Some might get knicked; some might get bruised or squished. We can’t protect them any more than we do. It’s just part of the CSA program. Some shareholders want perfect produce; some shareholders want or at least accept imperfect produce, to avoid food waste. Vegetables are like people, in that even the best of them are likely to have flaws.

Driver Praises

“Just wanted to let you know we have been super pleased with our [home] delivery service this year. Our delivery person [Michael] is always friendly and courteous – he even puts our box in the cooler on our porch to keep things fresh in the summer heat. A+ service. Oh and the produce has been terrific of course. Really looking forward to cooking up the sweet corn tonight!”

~ Shareholder Kevin

 

“This morning our doorbell rang. Unusual because usually the boxes are delivered to our south Oak Park dropsite without fanfare. Sometimes I don’t know the delivery has happened! Anyway, there is Zdenek holding a box of screws and a drill. “You have some stair boards a little loose, do you mind if I just put a few screws in and tighten them up?” So simple! I can’t explain how sweet his offer was! For my husband and I, we only see that we have to paint and eventually replace the stairs. Zdenek with his quick, simple, and generous offer, just gave our stairs new life! And he always puts our box closest to the front door for easy access. He is truly a mensch!”

~ Shareholder and Site Host Laurel

Warmly,
Farmer John