December 31, 2010

Core Meeting with the Farmers

Several of the CSA Core members — those of us who help to organize the CSA — were able to meet with Farmer Julia earlier this month to go over our survey responses and to start making plans for 2011.

Farmers Heather and Julia from Woodbridge Farm.

Farmer Heather also joined us — she's been working at Woodbridge Farm for two years and will be taking on a greater role next year growing the vegetables while Julia hopes to spend more time overseeing the general health of the farm and problem solving specific issues.

They'll be working with a program this year called the Real Food Campaign which will provide scientific analysis of their soil and veggies to help the farmers produce high vitamin and mineral content food. The analysis will tell them what nutrients they need to add to the soil, with the goal of improving the quality of their crops.

Last year's irrigation problem put on a strain on their entire crop. Julia and Dave rented a field from a nearby farmer, who told them that when he used to farm those fields, he used the pond on his land for irrigation. Unknown to all, the pond had filled in with sediment quite a lot since then, so they found themselves to be basically pumping mud at some point, and had already done quite a lot of damage to the crop by the time the problem was discovered. They tried to salvage what they could, but as we know, results were poor. The difficulty of managing this second farm impacted their ability to keep their own land maintained, and the overall crop suffered greatly.

The solution for 2011 is quite simple: they will not be renting the extra field this year. In addition to the water problem, it stretched their labor resources too far to have to go off site on a regular basis. Their own land has a very deep well with which they have had no problems, and they are adding a drip tape irrigation system to their fields. Overall, their hope is that refocusing on less land will bring a better yield overall and bigger and more nutritious vegetables.

The other major problem from 2010 that we were able to discuss was the many late deliveries. Julia acknowledged that some staffing issues on the farm made for their Tuesdays inefficient, and expressed confidence that this year's hires would be better at simply getting the truck packed in time for Dave to make the long trip to New York. We made it clear that we are very reluctant to start distribution any later than 5:00 since there are several CSA members for whom even 5:00 is already too late.

We did agree to create a better system for informing all members when traffic unavoidably delays Dave's arrival, including a way to get shares to members who are unable to come back to distribution. And Julia agreed that she could get someone at the farm to email us the share breakdown before Dave shows up so that the whiteboard and labels for the veg bins can be setup in advance, allowing distribution to start much faster once Dave does arrive.

Finally, we agreed that there needs to be a better effort all around to communicate farm issues to the CSA members. Julia's emails are often very informative, but we get too few of them during the season. But also, when Julia sent the core an email last summer about their irrigation problem, the Core members did not do a good enough job getting that information out to our members. We'll be using the website more, sending more emails to members, and the farm will get more information to us (possibly with their own Facebook page).

We'll have an update from Julia in January about what crops they plan on growing in 2011 — they are already planting in the greenhouse.

Finally, a bit of cheese news: cheese will continue to be a similar (small) number of varieties, that's just all they're set up for right now. We'll make sure to get better descriptions of those cheeses, though, so everyone knows exactly what they're eating.