November 2013

Last week of the CSA

. . . Nov 26, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Last week of the CSA

The calendar may say it is still fall but these cold nights are telling me it is winter.  Winter on the farm is a time of introspection, reflection and planning.  It is time to get our household in order, literally and figuratively.  The field is wet and will likely be so until spring, so it is time to winterize our equipment and perform annual maintenance.  I am looking forward to making drapes for the house and mending jeans, reorganizing our wash/pack setup and ordering seeds.  I am not looking forward to giving the house a thorough cleaning, worrying about the animals on cold nights, and scrimping and saving over the coming months without regular income, but it is a package deal.
 
We have had a full year.   In the spring we planted perennial crops like asparagus, peaches, muscadines, blackberries and blueberries.  The big payoff is years away, but we should get the first blackberries next summer, we may steal a few asparagus stalks in the spring and maybe even a few blueberries if Randy isn’t too religious about knocking off the blossoms.  In total, we planted nearly twice the area we grew on last year and somehow managed the double load of field work with the blood, sweat and tears to show for it.  Earthworms are slowly repopulating the field.  We (unfortunately) learned about black rot and pickleworms, and discovered that squash bugs eat more than just squash.  This summer, Randy got a new all-terrain wheelchair, giving him access to more of the farm and under a broader range of conditions.  We started going to the Oxford City Market and have made connections with lots more sustainable farmers in Mississippi.  More recently, we put up a high tunnel and we are already harvesting out of it!  We found a breed of broiler chickens that we enjoy raising after becoming completely and utterly fed up with meat birds and ready to give it up.  Yes, there were some minor disasters – we almost killed all the tomato plants this spring with an unexpected freeze, two thirds of our laying hens ran away, and the corn catastrophe tops the list of crop failures – but on the whole we proclaim the 2013 growing season a success.  Of course we haven’t looked at the books yet but we have kept the lights on and the mortgage paid, so we must be doing something right.
 
More importantly, we are starting to feel like farmers.  Last year had the feeling of playing house.  I wanted to be a farmer, but I felt a bit like an imposter, waiting to see if this farming thing would take.  Now, two years in I feel the satisfaction of living a purposeful life.  The nagging question of can we make this work? is transformed into how do we make this work? because I cannot possibly imagine what I would do if not farming.  It is largely because of you, our CSA members, that we are able to farm.  Thank you.            

Whole diet CSA, Maybe One Day

. . . Nov 23, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Future Farmers?

On Friday of last week I gave a presentation on Community Supported Agriculture at the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Conference in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  I talked with a group of growers and extension agents about the CSA concept of sharing the risks and rewards of the growing season between farmers and their customers and about all the different ways farmers are putting that into practice.  One of the coolest things out there is the Whole Diet CSA.  Basically customers pay a flat fee at the beginning of the year and go to the farm and pick up whatever they will eat in that week.  That includes fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, meat and grains.  That’s right, members of these CSAs pick up all their food for the week, just like a grocery store that they have already paid for (without the aisles and aisles of processed food, of course).  I am intrigued by this, mostly because it sounds insane.  How do you plan for that?  How do these farms grow grains on a small scale?  Of course it isn’t crazy, it’s a food independent homestead expanded to feed an extended household.  A whole diet CSA takes a special kind of customer, too.  Someone who will make butter out of cream and yogurt and mozzarella out of milk, someone who mills their own grain and bakes bread.  Against my know-better self, I have to say, it sounds so romantic!  Perhaps five years from now, when we have it All Figured Out, you will see TCF launch a whole diet CSA.
 
For now, we are just trying to make our little CSA better and better.  Our greatest challenge, in my opinion, is getting a more uniform harvest throughout the year so we always have enough of everything without having a mountain of sweet potatoes (or lettuce, or bok choi) that we don’t know what to do with [sideways glance to the 600 pounds of sweet potatoes packed in our front room].  We rely on farmers markets to absorb the variance in our production, but there are a lot of farms out there that just do CSA.  Man, they must really have their act together!  Despite all the things I don’t like about CSA (having to grow stuff that I know loses money, explaining to our wonderful members when we’ve had a crop failure) we plan to grow the CSA as a proportion of our business because

  •     We love having a deeper connection with our customers
  •     We can diversify the CSA more easily to include meat
  •     Farmers markets can be variable and unpredictable and take a lot of time away from the farm
  •     The CSA provides the greatest financial security

Of course, we can only expand the CSA because of awesome people like you who choose to be our members.  Thank you for supporting us this year!