Last Season Got you Down on CSA?: April 2019

 In CSA Newsletter

Today is April 3rd, and if it were last year, we’d be sold out!  (But since we are expanding our CSA this season, we still have room for more members.) Our retention rate is higher than normal – yay.  I think this is mostly due to our introduction of customization.  To be honest, however, I was hoping to see that retention rate climb higher. But alas, a season with 70 inches of rain makes it hard to retain CSA members. I thought I’d reach out to those members who haven’t yet renewed this season, because I have a hunch that all that rain turned them off of CSA. Here’s my attempt to discuss that issue. Figured it was worth sharing:

Another season is off to a great start.  The greenhouse is packed with flats of baby plants. We have had great soil conditions to plant cover crops on fields that will lay fallow this year.  Today we are planting are first round of potatoes – Red Norlands. Yum.  Mike and I getting used to commuting 3 minutes from one farm to the other. #jointhecrowd

We are hopeful for a really great growing season ahead… maybe without 70 inches of rain in 4 months! Hope springs eternal… it has to if you are a farmer!

We suspect that many of you on this list of the not-yet-renewed are questioning CSA a bit after last season.  2018 was the hardest growing year we’ve ever experienced in fourteen years of farming. We lost 15-20% of everything we grew due to wet conditions. And the quality of much of what we grew was not what we wanted it to be. We were slammed with constant rain.  Our plants could never really dry out (nor could our feet!). Disease had an easy time establishing itself. Our tomatoes…. well you know how poor the quality was.

The loyalists to our farm, they know that last year was an anomaly. They know that there just wasn’t anything we could do to stop the rain and its impacts on our farm. And I’m so very grateful to the support they provided us through that time… reminding us they knew it wasn’t our fault.

But if you are new to us, there’s probably no way you felt that we did a good job.  Chances are you compared your experience with our CSA to a different experience or product and found us failing. Maybe you compared us to a different farm, during a different year where there wasn’t all the rain. Or maybe you compared what we offer to what you saw at organic sections in the grocery store.

And the reality is, if we are compared to non-local outlets or other farms in different years, we just couldn’t compete last season.  The average annual rainfall in our area is 34 inches per year.  Last season we had 70 inches in just over 4 months. That’s the thing with super local. Our farm is only able to provide what the natural conditions allow.  There are certain things we can do, like managing the nutrient levels in our soils, keeping our fields clean of weeds, selecting the best varieties that balance taste and performance, spraying organically derived and approved pest controls, irrigating when it’s dry, etc.  But excess and/or constant rain?  It’s the one thing we can’t do anything about.

Last year for example, Willy St. Coop rejected some Brussels sprouts from us despite our contract, because they had some black flecks on the outer leaves due to all the rain. They opted to order from California instead.  I’m not mentioning this to fault the Coop, but rather to highlight that when a local farm gets compared to what’s on grocery store shelves, it’s not a fair comparison. Even the Willy St. Coops, avid local supporters, have the option to order from California when local quality isn’t as high as their customers require it to be.  But those of use growing right here in the area, and the CSA members joined along with us, don’t have that choice.

We totally understand if you don’t want to be along on that ride with us.   In the CSA model, farmers share both the bounty and risks of eating locally with their members. That’s why it’s called ‘community supported agriculture.’ In other words, when the tomatoes get rough, you learn to chop edges, freeze, and make sauce instead of buying from California.

This kind of arrangement is not for everyone. And if you are deciding not to renew this season because CSA isn’t for you, I just want to say thank you for hearing me out and thank you for giving it a try last season.  I hope you ate some wonderful meals, learned a bit about seasonal, local eating and continue your commitment in one way or another to local agriculture and healthy eating.

And if you are planning on renewing, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  Your commitment to eating organically and locally is a huge step in working towards a healthier body and environment.


Farmer Cassie