There are a handful of questions about Stearns Farm that I’ve heard repeatedly, and that also came up in your responses to our sharer survey. I am going to attempt to address a couple of them here. Meanwhile, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions that you might have about the farm or how we do things. I love making the process of farming and our decision making more transparent!
Why did we buy in potatoes, winter squash, and onions?
The drought played the biggest part in our decision to buy in these crops in 2016. As most of you know, we planted our alliums and potatoes in our remote field down the road, which had no irrigation. We lost these crops. Meanwhile (also drought-related) the deer got into our winter squash and destroyed them all.
Buying in crops is not unprecedented, however. While we did grow our own potatoes, onions, and winter squash in past seasons, we often had to buy in extra to beef up shares. It may not have been as clear in the past that we were doing this.
Moving forward, we will no longer be growing in the field down the road. We made this decision based on two factors: 1) we had two seasons of crop failure there due to lack of irrigation, and 2) the farmer who holds the lease has decided he wants the land back.
Instead, we are planning to buy potatoes, popcorn, winter squash, and possibly sweet potatoes from Sparrow Arc, a larger farm (where we got our potatoes last season) that uses organic practices and has the capacity to grow these crops with less disease and pest pressure. It is very common for small farms to buy these particular crops in for CSA programs, so we are in good company in using this practice. It allows us to put our time and energy into the crops that we know we can grow well here on our small farm with minimal loss, while supporting a great family farm.
As we did in 2016, we will always clearly label produce that was not grown at Stearns. We will still be growing at least 30 different crops here at Stearns, so we have our work cut out for us.
Why did the farm purchase the truck this year? It seems like a waste of fuel.
First, I am happy to report that the truck uses very little fuel. We only filled it up 3 times over the course of the 2016 season. In return, the truck has increased our efficiency and made farm work significantly easier physically. Sustainability of farmer and worker health is a big part of our mission, and we feel that the truck fits in solidly with that value.
The groundwork for buying a truck had been laid by previous farm managers; it was already on the agenda when I was hired. Before the truck, Stearns didn’t have any easy way to pick up supplies, run errands, make deliveries, or to get fuel for our other equipment. Instead, the farm staff had to use their personal vehicles or rely on the generosity of others to do all of these things. Imagine putting gasoline cans in the back of your car once every couple of weeks, as well as dirty farm supplies.
Or, think of it this way. What if you had to wait to borrow a computer to write your emails each day for work, but you never knew when you’d be able to access that computer even though the emails were required and time sensitive? The truck is, for the farm staff, like a computer is for anyone who works in an office: an essential piece of equipment.
I’m not clear on the new Farmer’s Choice share option. Can you explain it?
The Farmer’s Choice is a weekly share designed to accommodate the needs of smaller households, as well as households that do not eat as much produce as is provided in the Classic Harvest (formerly “full”) share or that prefer to have more flexibility to supplement their share with supermarket or farmers market produce.
The Farmer’s Choice will be slightly larger than half of the Classic Harvest. Our goal is to have approximately 8-14 items in the Classic Harvest share and 6-9 items in the Farmer’s Choice share each week, depending on what time of the season it is.
If you choose a Farmer’s Choice share, you will get the same diversity of crops as in the Classic Harvest share, only in smaller quantities. For additional details about why we are offering the Farmer’s Choice share and what it will include, please see the FAQ in my Oct. 17, 2016 post.