Sharing Risk and Bounty: Community Supported Agriculture

A neighbor recently expressed how much she likes driving by, and seeing the farm develop over time. “I like it so much I probably should be paying for it!” Mari joked “It may come to that!”

We glance back at our logo. Five seasons into “farming relationships”, our herds and flocks continue to spread fertility without sending excess nutrients or pollutants down the watershed. Our neighbors are engaged. Katie Pedrick’s “Grumpy When Hungry” blog entry of last week is a delight!  We are confident our approach is wealth creating, though in four years of selling our food we also know we’ve seen too much red ink. That isn’t as worrisome as the fact that this is typical for most farms, even in this new era.

And the positive feedback couldn’t have come at a better time. As the harvest comes in, the impact of the some of the wettest May, June and July weather ever recorded is obvious. Our onions had the bad luck of being in our newest, wettest field this year. Their volume is a tiny fraction of last year’s. And whereas last year we had 330 pounds of shallots, this year we have only five successful bulbs! And the garlic is affected too and the lesser harvest is already not storing too well. We are always keen to hear your feedback on quality and have the following “satisfaction guaranteed”policy.

Garlic field in cover crop, preparing for a better year to come

Overall we still feel lucky. Many farms have lost their onions as well and others were flooded out of business. C.S.A.s are a critical way to mitigate some of this risk. They typically provide the upfront cash farmers need to buy seed and labor. They also classically form a risk-sharing agreement to share losses. In our case we changed the classic growing season CSA model to a free-choice, year-round offer. We don’t just pack boxes comprised of what we’ve grown, folks choose.

Still readers of this blog and members of our Farm Share programs ride the lows and highs with us. And whether an empty niche in a CSA box or a missing basket on the farmshare table, all of us look to the “aromatics” to get most of our favorite dishes started. So this is a major set-back. We are looking at options for buying in some organically raised onions and garlic, since they are such staples. But as you pick out less than ideal onions in the weeks ahead, know that your holding an onion that did what it could while others around it perished! We will look to all of you to also augment recipes creatively and share tips and learning as we all adapt. Thank you for your resilience. And may onions be seen with new appreciation!