Thursday, March 19, 2015

Survey Says!

 By Andrea Yoder
   It’s hard to believe our first CSA deliveries of the 2015 season are just 7 weeks away!  We’re looking forward to all the special spring vegetables including overwintered spinach, wild-harvested ramps, tangy sorrel, asparagus, and sweet overwintered parsnips.  Over the past 2 weeks we’ve enjoyed some sunny, beautiful days and welcomed warmer temperatures.  Our small year-round crew has been busy trimming the willow hedgerows & washing the last of our winter storage crops.  They’ve also worked very hard to get our first two greenhouses cleaned and sterilized.  The houses are filling up quickly and it’s refreshing to see the vibrant, new green sprouts.
Laurel & Andrea unpacking lemongrass & ginger
   Richard and I have been putting together our plans for the season.  Richard has been plotting out his field plan, planning which fields need to have minerals applied this spring, and making sure we have all the necessary supplies for the field crew to get to work when they arrive in just a little over two weeks!  I’ve been working on planting plans for greenhouse plantings and making sure we have all the seeds for the season.  There is a lot that goes into the decisions we make from year to year, including the feedback we get from you….our loyal members!  At the end of the 2014 season we asked for your feedback in the form of our end-of-season survey.  Over 600 members contributed their input and we really appreciate the information we gleaned from the survey.  We wanted to share some of the results we received and a little insight into how this impacts some of our decisions for the season.

Summer Vegetable Box
According to the survey results, 95% of members were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the box contents, overall value of their shares, and newsletter content.  The most important factors members consider when deciding whether or not to purchase a CSA share are Quality, Variety & Freshness.  This was true for not only vegetable shares, but also carried over into the fruit, cheese, & coffee shares as well.  We’re happy to see such a high rate of satisfaction and will continue to strive for producing and delivering a variety of high quality products this season.

Radish Seed Pods
 One of the challenges we face throughout the season is striking a balance with the contents of our CSA shares.  Given our long delivery season, we try to include a variety of vegetables to make your CSA experience interesting & exciting. We realize some members may be up for more of a challenge than others.  Those who are new to CSA prefer to focus on mastering their use of
more familiar vegetables such as green beans, carrots, broccoli & tomatoes.  We also find we have quite a few members who have been with us for 5 years or more and enjoy experimenting with new vegetables each year.   The feedback we received from our recent survey indicates that the majority of members are happy with the variety of the box contents.  There were some members who expressed that they would like to see some of the unusual crops we’ve grown previously included in shares again. We agree with you!  Based on member feedback several years ago we felt like perhaps members were getting tired of some of our more unusual crops.

We didn’t want to stop growing them completely, but thought we’d try rotating them in and out of the growing plan and taking a year or two off from some of these.  Some of these crops include lemongrass, Portuguese kale, Egyptian spinach, jicama, radish seed pods and some of our specialty greens.   Based on feedback from the recent survey, it sounds like it’s time to bring a few of these crops back.  This year we’re planning on growing a small amount of lemongrass as well as Portuguese kale.  I myself have missed both of these vegetables and am really looking forward to making some of my favorite dishes this year!  We are also planning to try a few new interesting greens including one called “Amara.” This is a green I read about in a cooking magazine last year, but couldn’t find a source for the seed at the time.  It originates in Africa and is also known as Ethiopian kale.  I was excited to find it in one of the catalogs we received in January and quickly added it to our order.  They are supposed to be good in salads as well as cooked and are described as having “an excellent, rich flavor.”   For those who like to keep things interesting in the kitchen, we hope you’ll enjoy some of these interesting vegetables.  If you’re not as familiar with some of these less familiar vegetables, we hope you’ll give them a try.  We’ll be sure to give you recipes and information to guide you along the way.  Who knows…you just might discover a new “favorite” vegetable this year!
   We were pleased to receive quite a few comments related to the greens we included in the boxes.  Many of the members who commented on greens stated that they really enjoyed the variety.  For many years Farmer Richard’s mantra has been…. “Eat your greens every day!” Perhaps his efforts have paid off!  Some members expressed they’d like more salad mix, spinach and some of the heartier greens such as gold & rainbow chard and kale.  Salad mix and spinach do best in the spring and fall, so their season of availability is a bit more limited.  Other salad greens such as baby arugula, sauté mix and baby kale mix are more heat tolerant and have a longer season of availability.  We will do our best to include more of these items throughout the season and try to strike a balance with the selection of greens.

Harvest Party!
   One of the basic CSA concepts is that members have an opportunity to connect directly with the farm where their food is produced.  While there are many places to purchase and source food, one of the benefits of CSA is the transparency that comes along with your food.  We encourage our members to come and visit their farm so you can see for yourself where your food is produced.  We realize it’s not feasible for everyone to visit, so we try to bring the farm to you every week through our newsletters.  We put a lot of time and energy into producing weekly newsletters to accompany each of the shares and appreciate that 70% of survey respondents who received vegetable shares read the newsletter weekly.  About 63% of respondents who received fruit shares read the fruit newsletter with each delivery.  We also received quite a few positive comments from members who appreciate the variety of content within the newsletters.  Every year we brainstorm different topics that we’d like to include throughout the season.  If you have any suggestions for topics you’d like to read about, please send them our way so we can consider them as well.
   One comment we heard frequently throughout the survey was “more recipes!” We will continue to tap into our creative culinary minds to come up with simple, tasty and interesting recipes to feature in our newsletters.  Several members commented that they’d like to see more recipes shared by our members.  So would we!  If you have a recipe you’ve tried and found to be a hit with your family, please send it our way.  We’d love to try it in our kitchen and share it with other members.

Fruit Share
   Beyond our vegetable shares, we asked for feedback regarding the other shares we offer.  With regards to the fruit share, over 75% of members who received fruit shares and answered the survey expressed that they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the variety & quality of the fruit selections last year.  Some members did comment that they were disappointed with the quality of some of the fruit selections last year and some members felt like the variety was greater in previous years.  Last season was a challenging year for many of the fruit growing regions we source our products from.  Due to weather challenges, there were times during the season when the supply of fruit was pretty limited and some selections we’ve received in previous years were crop failures last year.  With over 30 plus years of work in this industry, our fruit buyer, Rick, has developed many  good connections directly with the growers.  Even when the supply was tight and the challenge was high, Rick was able to secure fruit for our boxes.  When I met with Rick this winter I shared some of the survey feedback with him.  He was grateful for the feedback and will continue to work hard to meet the demands for both quality and variety.  He spent some time visiting growers on the west coast this past January.  He was able to meet some new folks and has his eye on a few interesting varieties we hope to include in the upcoming season.
   We continue to receive mixed feedback regarding the preferred size of the fruit share.  In 2014 we reduce the size and price of the fruit share based on feedback we had been receiving from members that there was just too much fruit in the shares.  Throughout the course of the season and in the survey results, some members expressed that they’d prefer to go back to the size of share we previously packed.  On the flip side, we continue to receive comments from some members that the share is still too large.  We did make the decision to continue with the same size share as last year, at least for the 2015 season.  We’ll reassess the share size in the fall before we make our decisions for the 2016 season.
   Thanks again to those of you who took the time to complete the survey.  We also appreciate the feedback we receive throughout the season through our conversations with members and email communication.  While we can’t accommodate every request or suggestion, we do value your input as to what is working as well as considering ways we might improve our CSA.  We’re looking forward to a new growing season and hope you’ll join us for another year of good food!

No comments: