Hello Food Farmers,
Well, here we are nearing the end of another year, our 19th as a CSA. We wrapped up a great fall harvest season in mid-November. Our tasks the past several weeks have been to clean out and organize buildings, put equipment away, check the antifreeze and disconnect tractor batteries, drain water lines, move the laying hens to their winter quarters and generally prepare the physical farm operations for winter. Even as we have done this, we’re also moving into planning season. The Core Group has gotten together to take a look at survey results and discuss how the summer season went. John, Dave and I met to assess some of the new things we tried and start thinking about ideas for next year. We were pleased with the response to the Noreaster green bean experiment and greenhouse cuke production, and hope to be able to dedicate greenhouse space to these items next year as well. We thought we were done building greenhouses for a while, but it seems like every time we build one we immediately fill it up with new crops. The greenhouses are what really saved the CSA boxes this early summer since they weren’t affected by the flooding the way outdoor crops were.
Despite the chaos and unpredictability of this growing season, we delivered over 126,000 lb. of vegetables this year! We’re incredibly thankful for the financial stability of being a CSA in a year like this. All in all, the year has turned out quite well financially for the farm, but there were a few months in early summer when that certainly did not seem likely. Having the stable support of our members allowed us not to panic or cut corners, but instead keep our thinking long-term, put our heads down and forge ahead. The work load and stress were extraordinary this year, but it’s gratifying to now look back and see that it was worthwhile.
Once again, we had tremendous volunteer help this season, if you happen to run into any of the folks listed in my previous post, please give them a pat on the back for helping to get your veggies out of the ground and into kitchens all over the area. Special recognition needs to go to Sandy Dugan and Patricia Clure. They worked countless hours this year, especially during peak harvest season in October and November, doing some of the most physical labor on the farm as we harvested, washed, and sorted over 60,000 lb. of produce for winter storage. It’s not too early to be thinking about next summer—if you’re interested in helping out for a morning, afternoon, or even a few days a week just let us know. We’ll also be looking for another intern for next year, so if you know of someone interested in working out here full-time next season please give us a call. Jeanne Jewell is going to be back for a second year, but she can’t do it all herself!
I’d also like to give a quick update on a few items we reported on in our spring newsletter. First, the solar panels are now fully operational! We installed a 10kW system that we expect to produce about 75% of our total usage. Operating the farm on renewable energy has been an important long-term goal of ours for years, and we’re incredibly excited to make such a significant step in that direction.
Second, the new initiatives we’ve been participating in to expand the reach of local foods have been making progress this season. The farm will have sent more than 6,000 lb. of carrots to UMD and Essentia Health by the end of the year through the Food Hub pilot project for institutional purchasing. We’ve also sent more than 2,000 lb. of produce the Damiano Soup Kitchen through the Harvest for the Hungry program and 1,400 lb. to the College of St. Scholastica for the Thanksgiving buffet at the DECC. We’ll be meeting with the institutions again in a few weeks to begin planning for next year, and will hopefully be able to expand what they are able to offer next year.
As recognition grows that food produced in our area is just better—economically, socially, environmentally and tastefully!—we’re doing our best to increase supply by expanding our own operation and by supporting new farmers. No question about it, 2012 was a tough year to be a farmer, but we continue to be excited about what we do and are ever appreciative of you who support the production of healthy local food.