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2017 CSA Season Wrap Up

Posted 10/10/2017 7:39am by Jenna Untiedt.

As the 2017 CSA season comes to an end, id like to take a little bit of time to recap the season. This is my 5th season running our CSA program and our 7th CSA season in total. By far, this was the most challenging season for me. As I try to figure out how to improve the program, I think it is important to look back at the season and see what took place.

In all honesty, I think the state of the world has put pressure on each and every one of us. There are so many extremes taking place in the world, that I truly believe it is having an affect on all of us. I have worked with customers my entire life, and I can honestly say that 2017 was the most challenging I have ever had. By no means am I calling anyone out on this, because I am probably just as guilty as a consumer, but I truly think we can do better. In a world that has a lot of complex issues going on at the same time, I think it is a time to come together as communities and build each other up instead of tear each other down. 

As a business, we are facing extreme labor shortages that have caused us to close down over 25% of our retail locations this season. We left more crops in the field this year than any other season because we simply can not afford to harvest everything. As a grower, we are working at the state level to combat some of the labor issues, but we are entering year 3 at the legislature and in all honesty we are tired and these are costly battles we continue to fight. We will not give up as we are working with a group of about 25 growers who are also experiencing the same issues. Minnesota lost two large fresh produce producers last season and we are on the verge of losing many more if the state won't listen. We believe there is a need and want for locally grown produce, but some farmers are beginning to think otherwise. If we continue to lose growers, soon we will become totally dependent on produce coming from other states or even over seas. We will keep you updated throughout the winter on our progress. 

Farming is still very unpredictable. We build out many different variations of what each CSA box will look like based on our planting schedules, but at the end of the day we truly have no control. This is still a lesson we are teaching many consumers. In addition to this, we never try to send bad produce. Occasionally, something may slip through when packing the shares, but we never purposefully send bad produce. This was a common theme this season. If members were unhappy, very few communicated until it had escalated to the point of anger. We have always asked members to let us know if something is not up to their standard and we would replace it no questions asked. Please remember we guarantee everything, we just need to know about it in order to fix it. We can't operate without happy customers, so we do our very best to fix any issues we have. 

Have you watched the news lately where they talk about the trend of 'Ugly Produce?' I am still trying to understand this as a grower because if our produce isn't perfect, it is often rejected. As we try to feed the population with locally grown produce, not everything is going to be photo shoot perfection, but it still has great flavor. As Americans, we have access to the most food, but yet we waste the most food too. While I wish everything was 100% perfect all the time, I encourage everyone to try using all their produce. What I mean by that is if something has a spot on it, you can still use it! Tomatoes are a prime example.....if the tomato develops a black spot which is very common at this time of year, it is still edible. Simply cut around the spot and eat the rest of the tomato. If you let something sit too long in the fridge such as zucchini, I encourage you to slice it up and throw it into soup. As someone who grew up on a farm, we very rarely ate the #1 produce that we send to customers or our stores. Rather, we ate the #2s which often end up in the compost piles. Everything still has great flavor, but just might not be as pretty. At the end of the day, it costs the exact same to produce a #1 product as it does a #2. 

Farm tours continue to be very popular. We added several dates this season to accommodate as many people as possible. Throughout the month of July we saw over 1000 people at the farm. While the tours happen at our busiest time of the season, we truly believe they are important. So many individuals are so far removed from where their food comes from that we feel the need to educate as many people as possible. Farming is very much a science that is continually changing. We are continuously changing how we grow crops each season in order to grow the highest quality produce we can for all of our customers. Thank you to everyone who took the time to come visit the farm during the tour weekends. 

We are truly thankful for each and every one of you. Without you, we would not be able to do what we do. Our entire team has great pride in everything we do and we give it 100% all the time. With that being said, we have launched our 2018 CSA program. By signing up early, you allow us to continue to expand our high tunnels, work to combat our labor issues, and plan for next season. Thank you all for letting us grow for you!