Thank-you to all the share members who have completed our survey and provided us with valuable feedback! This information is important to us and helps us make future plans and tweak our processes. For those that have not yet completed the survey, it's not too late! The survey can be found here and can be completed at any time. I'm going to share the results we have received so far, but first I thought I'd update you on the happenings around here.
Between the rainy days, we were able to get our garlic for next year planted last week. We have doubled the amount of garlic planted from this year, so we can look forward to more garlic in shares next year. I also hope to save garlic for seed next year as well, since buying in organic seed garlic can be quite expensive (for example, I paid $20/lb for certified organic seed garlic this year versus $8/lb for non-organic seed garlic!). Ian has also been busy scything down alfalfa in our hay field and spreading it on empty beds. This will break down over the winter and will add nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil. This is the time of year when there are lots of clean-up tasks to complete: irrigation and hoses to drain and put away, row covers to pack up, and the last crops to harvest. I also spent a rainy afternoon completing our seed inventory, which involved weighing any remaining seeds and recording amounts to ensure I order appropriate amounts next year.
Now, on to the survey responses. All in all, I was pleased the survey results and was not surprised by most of the suggestions for changes. So it looks like we are on the right track! I won't go into detail for every question but summarize the most relevant information. For the questions regarding your satisfaction with the share overall, our customer service, and the quality of produce, share members were either satisfied or very satisfied 90%, 95%, and 100% of the time, respectively. Yeah! In regards to customer service, a concern was raised that I was not friendly enough or promoting a sense of community among share members. These are priorities for me, so I will be sure to make improvements in this area.
The responses to the questions regarding the quantity of produce in each share, indicate that 80% of share members thought it was just right, 15% thought it was too little, and 5% thought it was too much. While the majority felt the share quantity was just right, I would prefer to see it in the 90% range. Of most importance are those that felt they received too little. I think some of this may be remedied by removing herbs from the calculated total value of the share, which leaves more space for additional vegetables. I will also pay close attention to the $ value I assign to each vegetable when planning share contents to ensure share members are getting good value. Our intention next year is to provide a 20% surplus of vegetables in each share compared to the 15% we provided this year. As mentioned in a previous post, this surplus is a 'thank-you' for paying in advance.
I must admit the that the responses regarding which vegetables people would like to see in greater or lesser quantities make me laugh. Often, for every person that wants to see more of a particular vegetable, someone else wants less of it! This just demonstrates our diverse food preferences and eating habits. It also highlights the importance of continuing with the trade-in bin and choice items to allow everyone some customization. This 50/50 split is most evident with lettuce and leafy greens. They are the item that share members either want very little of or in greater quantities. My plan for next year is to include some type of lettuce (baby leaf, head, spinach, arugula, or spicy baby brassica mix) in the majority of share weeks. Leafy greens (kale, collards, swiss chard, chinese cabbage, cabbage, and others) will also be included in the majority of share weeks. I plan to include more regular variety and choice with these items so that share members can choose their favourites and will not likely receive the exact same greens from week to week. For those that can't use weekly greens, the trade-in bin will provide different options. I also found there to be a nearly 50/50 split between those that would like more squash and those that would like less. Again, I think the trade-in bin will resolve this.
Now, for the vegetables that share members are in agreement about... Tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and onions are items that share members would like to receive in greater quantities and/or more frequently. I plan to double both the carrot and onion quantities that we planted this year. This will allow for great amount of onions in each week and more weeks of carrots over the entire season. For tomatoes, we will just do our best to avoid disease and choose resistant varieties! For potatoes, I will most likely not include any more weeks of potatoes (we actually had more than I planned this year), but I will increase the quantity received at each share, to allow share members to make larger batches of certain dishes.
When it comes to vegetables to grow less of I find there to be little agreement. I guess everyone has their one or two disliked vegetables! Rather than use this list to eliminate offering certain vegetables, I am more likely to make these vegetables one of the choice items, so share members aren't stuck with something they can't use.
All share members indicated they were pleased with the pickup location as it was convenient with ample parking. We too are very pleased so will not be changing the location or day of pickup. Several share members did indicate that it was tight timing for them to pickup their share by 6pm, so we will be extending our pickup time to 6:30pm next year (4pm start will remain the same). We will also be expanding our layout so that share members have more space to chat with each other, browse the produce, and weigh their items without feeling like they are holding up others. I also plan to have an additional helper at most pickups so that I can better balance my time between re-stocking vegetables, chatting with share members, and handing out egg shares or honey.
85% of share members indicated that organic certification was not important, whereas 10% felt it was somewhat important and 5% felt it was very important. We plan to pursue certification in the future (when following all the rules it only makes sense to be formally recognized for this) but wanted to assess how quickly we needed to move on this. Our primary reason for waiting is the additional paperwork and administrative time that is required to pursue certification - I feel like I can only bite off so much at one time! Some share members did express concern about certification raising our share prices. While it's true that organic agriculture is more costly than non-organic, the increased costs have less to do with certification costs and more to do with the higher costs of organic inputs. For example, organic seed costs are often 20% more than non-organic, organic seed potatoes and garlic can be 50 - 150% more, and inputs like organic manure, compost, and other amendments are also more expensive. Organic feed for animals can be as much as 3 x's the cost of non-organic! So, in essence, share members are already paying for organic agriculture. The cost of certification for our scale of production would be between $500 -$1000 annually, which would increase share prices only very minimally (<$15/share). All that said, based on your responses, we will make certification part of our 2 - 4 year plan, but not an immediate necessity.
Thank-you to everyone for your kind words, encouragement, and great ideas! We are already excited for next season :)
Weekly Share Contents:
Kale OR Cabbage
*Since we have a large quantity of potatoes and winter squash remaining, for the last 3 weeks of the share I will be increasing the quantity of each of these. For share members who bike or walk, you may wish to bring an extra bag or backpack to accommodate. Potato quantities will double and every share will receive an extra squash.
Here are some fun tips for using up veggies in your share! http://greatist.com/health/csa-vegetables-tips-recipes