Summer Week #8: Wednesday, July 30th– Group B EOs
The other day, a friend asked me what made us any different from other CSAs in the area. It’s a very interesting question. Here’s my response:
Many people signing up for a CSA erroneously think that all CSAs are pretty much the same. In some ways this is true: we are all local; we are all family farms; we are all organic (if part of FairShare); we all grow a variety of vegetables; we’re all going to give you a LOT of zucchini.
But I would like to argue that beyond that, there are many difference between what we can offer compared to some other CSAs. And these differences are ones mostly due to our longer experience (10 years!) and our longer cumulative investment in our farm.
Quality & Freshness - All farms harvest, wash, and store their vegetables. But storage systems and capabilities vary widely. When we first started, we had 1 cooler at 1 temperature and we just threw water of the floor to try and keep it humid. At year 10, we have three walk-in coolers which we can set at various temperatures and humidity levels to keep vegetables at their best while they are in wait between the field and you.
Crop Choices Some farms try to focus on providing their members with unusual, rare, and/or uncommon types of vegetables. We have taken the opposite approach. We grow a huge variety of crops, but we try to keep that ones you might not know to a minimum. We like to focus on filling your fridge with standards like broccoli and lettuce and carrots (many more coming now). And we tend to choose varietals based on their production standards, not their beauty or rarity.
Irrigation All crops need water. About 1 inch per week is preferred. Not all farms have the capability to properly irrigate their crops. So periods without rain, like the one we’re in now, can spell trouble for some. When we first began, we were using sprinklers running off a house well pump. As we grew and slowly upgraded, we still could not cover all our fields in a week’s time. At year 10, we have a high-capacity irrigation well that enables us to efficiently get the 1-inch of water down on our crops if it’s not falling from the sky.
Pest control Almost all farms, even organic ones, do use some sort of pest control. (A common misconception is that organic farms can’t use any sprays at all). There are sprays that are organically certified. What it means is that instead of being made from petrochemicals and persisting in the environment, organic sprays are derived of natural ingredients and break down quickly in the environment. Obviously these have their limits, but they are better than nothing! We have a boom sprayer that will help ensure good crops of potatoes, blight-free tomatoes, and worm-reduced (hopefully free!)sweet corn.
Local Almost all CSAs are considered “local”, but there is still a range in that continuum. Mike and I choose to purchase land relatively close to Madison so that we could truly be local. The price tag is certainly higher than land in say, Viroqua, but we wanted to be local enough that it is accessible to you, the members. We also wanted to reduce our driving as much as possible. Currently all of our food is sold within 22 miles of the farm.
Sweet Corn & Strawberries These can be difficult crops to grow organically, and so many CSAs don’t grow them. We do! Enough said.
100% from us Some farms decide simply not to grow a crop because it’s too difficult or non-profitable. But then they find themselves with customers who still want that crop. So they decide to buy-in the crop from another farm. We don’t do that. Everything you receive, we grew. And we are very, very proud of that.
Solar Power As you know, we are now a solar power farm! That means we are using the power of the sun to power our walk-in coolers, some irrigation runs, and general shed electrical usage, and even an electric tractor!
We are very proud of our farm and hope to continue to improve it every year. We hope you will continue to be part of the vital link of community, food, and farm that makes this endeavor possible.
Cassie, Mike, Kiddos, and crew