I’m going to cut to the chase– we are so excited about our spring offerings! So far all of our early season crops are working out wonderfully. Everything was planted on time (so the transplants never got root bound or experienced transplant shock and therefore just kept right on growing), weeded on time (so they were able to continue growing uninhibited), side dressed on time (given an extra dose of organic fertilizer), and thrived in good weather. This cooler weather is perfect for the lettuces and snap peas and other crops that like to mature before the heat of summer. All this is leading to easy harvests and gorgeous produce!
I’m going to go ahead and allow myself to be excited because the feeling won’t last–we will most certainly have crop failures from disease or just not having the time to properly take care of things. And the pressure is definitely mounting. This weekend Ben was holed up in the garage fixing our cultivating tractor (for the THIRD time this season!) and the weeds sure don’t wait for him to be ready.
The tractor’s clutch got fixed by Sunday night (Ben is my hero) but with the rain that followed we couldn’t jump on the tractor and cultivate right way. This is a tough feeling when we had been out of the fields for the repair for 3 days. It looks like we’ll get a couple field days in this week to hopefully get us back on track! After all, at the same time that we are harvesting for you today, we need to be planting and weeding for you for next month!
While the farm puttered along in its usual routine of harvesting, planting, seeding and weeding this week, the Dayton region’s week was anything but usual. The tornado outbreak on Memorial Day was surprising for all and devastating for many.
The good news is that in tragedy, community comes together. I was heartened to see so many helping hands while I was delivering last week’s veggies. Pallets of free water out for those in need, grills fired up serving hamburgers and hot dogs, and so many people clearing debris. I offered hand me downs to a friend whose home was in the path of one of the tornados. She declined my offer because thanks to friends, family and community she had more clothes now then she had on Monday morning. I hope everyone affected has the same experience as my friend and gets the aid they need. Collectively we can make a big difference and I trust it will be enough!
The tornado outbreak made me realize that in addition to our family, community were we live, our community of customers, Ben and I also have a community of fellow vegetable farmers. The very first people to reach out to us to make sure we were ok were not our parents, but rather our fellow co-op farmers. It is very comforting to know that we have farmer friends who have our back should we ever find ourselves in difficult situations.
Here’s to a quick and comprehensive recovery for Dayton and surrounding communities!
Spigarello is an Italian heirloom variety of broccoli. Its tender skinny stalk never produces a large tight broccoli head and instead it is harvested before any flowers form. It’s a tender green and most like a cross between kale and broccoli. You can and should eat the leaves and stem. The tender leaves can be eaten raw or can be cooked along with the stem. You can blanch it, sautéed it, have it in soups and braise it. It goes well with garlic, strong cheese, nuts and lemon. You should store all greens in a plastic bag to keep the moisture from wicking out. It should last 10 days in the fridge.
Be sure to click on the highlighted vegetables in the list above to be sent to a veggie info page specific to that vegetable.
As many of you know, we are part of a cooperative of organic farms in Ohio, and our fellow co-op member farm, Wayward Seed Farm still had beautiful sweet potatoes from his 2018 crop. We are thrilled to be able to offer these certified organic Ohio grown sweet potatoes to our CSA members to round out our first harvest of spring veggies! Adam is a wonderful grower and mentor to us!
What a spring! I feel like a broken record, but once again the drainage tile that we installed over the 30 acre farm in 2016 is proving to be a life saver. It’s definitely been a wet spring, but because our drainage has improved so much the fields have dried out in time for us to stay on top of all the bed preparation, planting, and weeding. Because of our tile, even if it rains a quarter inch we are still able to get back in quickly–sometimes even the same day!
One casualty of the wet spring we’ve never experienced before is rotting potatoes. The potatoes were one of the first things we planted and the low parts of the beds that have stayed wet pretty much from the time of planting have no potatoes coming up. I did a little digging and sure enough came across a rotten seed potato. The good news is our beds are 400 ft long, so we still have plenty of potatoes even if the first 20 feet are wiped out. Even though this has never happened before we are wondering if we should just push our potato planting date back a bit.
Setbacks in farming are inevitable that’s why our mantra is “just keep planting.” We have fields and fields of really good looking crops nearly ready to pick and have been right on time with planting the first round of summer crops. All in all we’re in excellent shape!
After a real nice cruising start to spring, we’ve had to hit the pause button to let some rain pass. It really looked like we’d be able to cruise a bit longer and plant some delicious leaf broccoli which is apparently all the rage. It seemed so promising–Wednesday we checked the fields for dryness and actually found 7 beds just dry enough to lightly till and bed shape. And our multiple weather apps all seemed to be saying that rain would come in Thursday afternoon. Perfect! Unfortunately it rained overnight Wednesday, just enough to make planting by tractor impossible. No worries– we’d plant by hand! But after planting one bed by hand, the rain really settled in we had to abandon that plan. Since then we’ve gotten about 2 inches of rain, further delaying planting, so now we not only have the rest of the leaf broccoli to plant, but another round of lettuce and spinach are ready to plant, as well as Swiss chard and kohlrabi! Yikes! We just have to cross our fingers that this week’s predicted thunderstorms miss us so that we can maybe squeak in another round of planting!
While it’s easy to stress about not knowing when the next time we’ll be able to plant will happen, I should trick my brain into being happy about all the planting we HAVE gotten done. We’ve planted an acre of potatoes (Kennebec, Harvest Moon, Desiree and Nicola), which will happily feed our CSA and market customers from the end of July to December, and several beds of onions which, if customers cook anything like I do, will serve as the start of many a meal. We’ve also planted cold-hardy springtime goodies like beets, spinach, sugar snap peas, scallions, fennel, dill, parsley, head lettuce, escarole, bok choi, cabbage, broccoli, kale and salad mix. Wow, that is a lot! And typing it out just now actually did help calm my nerves!
However, the rain not only interrupts planting, but it also keeps us from weeding all the crops I mentioned above. We did get one round of cultivating in before this wet period, so that’s great. But we were awfully close to not even getting that round of weeding in. That’s because our very old cultivating tractor, an Allis Chalmers G, wouldn’t start. This is typical for this aged tractor, after sitting in the barn all winter, but whereas in the past Ben’s always been able to fix it with a new spark plug or a gas tank, this time when he started to investigate, it became clear the G now needs a complete engine overhaul. Ben can do this–but not in April! As soon as the prognosis became clear, Ben spent several hours on tractor websites, crowd sourcing farms on Instagram and calling friends to track down a working cultivating tractor fast. The good news about these tractors is that they are very small, so when we found one Ben traveled north in our market truck and was able to bring a working tractor home the same day. After some hammering and tweaking, we took our new G out to work the very next day.
We have a few additional crew members starting up work this week and next, so once the fields dry out, we’ll have enough people to do all the work at once–planting, cultivating, and getting the next round of beds ready. That would be for summer crops like zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes, all with planting dates that are just around the corner! While I know we are all eager for that first taste of fresh veggies, I’m glad we haven’t added “harvest” to the to-do list yet. We’ve got plenty to do before that happens! Hang tight and the start of CSA will be here before we know it! (P.S. We’ll start going to 2nd Street Market with our garden starts May 11 and hopefully add fresh veggies to the offerings by Memorial Day)
Over the years we’ve conducted a few customer surveys about our CSA program to help tell us how we’re doing: what customers like about the program and where we can improve. We had over 100 responses this year and they were overwhelmingly positive. My biggest takeaway was we should keep doing what we’re doing! But I’ll break down the results in more detail in this post.
For this survey, customers rated us for overall satisfaction, vegetable quality/quantity/selection, convenience, customer support, value. For each category, respondents chose among very satisfied, satisfied, neutral, unsatisfied, very unsatisfied. They could elaborate on their responses and we also asked what we should and shouldn’t change.
Here’s how we did:
Overall satisfaction: 98% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”
Quality of vegetables: 100% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”
Quantity of vegetables: 99% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”
Selection of vegetables: 91% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”
Convenience: 94% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”
Customer service: 100% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”
Value: 98% rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied”
Given the unconventional nature of CSA, I’m not surprised the lowest-rated categories are selection of vegetables and convenience—but I’m super happy they still scored in the 90s! In a lot of ways, CSAs ask a lot from their customers. No tomatoes until August and none after the fall frost! No broccoli or cauliflower during the hot summer months! Don’t like kale? Too bad! And those garlic scapes you didn’t know what to do with the first week but learned to love the second week—those are gone until next year!
In a food landscape where it is easy to get whatever fresh vegetable you’d like whenever you’d like, the single-farm-sourced and strictly seasonal nature of CSA requires a complete retraining of how people consume food. It’s our hope that we counter this unusual way of getting vegetables with superior quality—and according to our survey results it looks like we’re doing that!
With a 100% very satisfied or satisfied rating for quality of vegetables, we feel there’s no question that our vegetables are top notch! One explanation for this good rating is that seasonal local eating lends itself to a fresher and therefore better tasting product. But I’d venture to guess that our high quality has more to do with a concerted effort to give our customers only the best! It’s great that our survey confirms what we hoped—that only high quality vegetables are leaving the farm.
I was pleased that customer service got a 100% rating. We recognize that we’re retraining consumers, so we try to provide ample support. Survey respondents pointed to our CSA blog and CSA Private Facebook Group as resources that help them use the less common vegetables. Another customer favorite that was mentioned repeatedly on the survey was our “swap box” where CSA members can swap something from their box with something in our swap box. We’ll continue to offer the swap box and whenever possible fill it with even more extra vegetables for folks to choose from.
Of the 114 respondents, only one didn’t care for the CSA and they rather apologetically admitted that they are a picky vegetable eater. For some, our produce is never going to win them over. But we feel that’s the exception and that, more often than not, we have successfully turned reluctant vegetable consumers into veggie lovers. We’ve turned the feeling — when opening the CSA box and stuffing everything into the fridge — from “overwhelmed” to “over-the-moon”.
I have a farmer friend who says it takes a few years of getting a CSA box to become a master CSA member. One respondent to our survey said, “Still learning how to use some of the vegetables, but gets less overwhelming each year” and I see this person as on the path towards CSA mastery. Once proficient, suddenly the “inconvenient” nature of CSA is thrown on its head and being given a box of vegetables hand-selected by someone other than yourself couldn’t be more convenient. When asked what we can do to improve the CSA experience, one member for whom this rings true responded: “Help with making going back to grocery stores at the end of the season so much of a chore?” Well, we can’t help there, but we can take the results of the survey and our 10 years of CSA experience and strive to make the 2019 CSA experience the best yet! If you want to sign up for our CSA do so here! And many thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey!
When folks ask what we do in the winter, I joke that winter is when we work normal 9 to 5 hours instead of the not uncommon 80 – hour work weeks that the growing season brings. Yep, we have plenty to do in the winter, so even though the fields are bare and coolers are pretty much empty, we’re busy! We need to get the fields, barns, and equipment in working order so when it’s time to hit the ground running in the spring, we are ready. Tires are changed, chains are fixed, routine maintenance completed. Some years we have extra special projects that get done in the winter and this year we are completely renovating and reorganizing our packing shed (where produce comes to be washed/processed after harvest). Over the years we have added concrete floors to sections of the barn and this winter brought a final installation. Now that the entire barn is outfitted with concrete, we can organize an efficient and roomy wash space. I’m looking forward to putting it all together in the coming weeks!
We have also started seeding for the year and the greenhouse is fired up. February 12 was the start date for seeding — a task that will now be done weekly for 25 weeks straight. By April our greenhouse will be filled to the brim with future food! Things are really shaping up and we are setting ourselves up to successfully produce more food than ever! We’ll update you with our late winter/early spring progress in the coming weeks!