Survey Says!

Last fall, as we do every year, we surveyed our on-farm CSA members to take the pulse of our program.  When it comes time to make plans and changes for the coming year, I dive head-first into your comments for guidance.  It always brings a smile to hear your wonderful compliments and comments about what the CSA means to your family and lifestyle, especially at a time of year when I miss the friendly faces that the CSA brings to the farm each week! We had a great response rate this year--122 responses from our 162 families!  Here's a run-down of what you said and a bit about what we're planning in response. User-friendliness of the Pick-up Site:
Excellent 107
Very Good 14
Fair 1
Poor 0
Very Poor 0
  Pick-up site improvements: Over a dozen people mentioned the parking *situation*, which is a constant concern of mine.  While we do not strive to pave over the farm, there is a need for better signage and terrain improvement to make coming and going less difficult.  As I prepare the budget for next year, we are devoting resources to this project for the Spring.  If you are in the gravel/grading business and want to help, give me a call! Several members suggested having veggie labels above the bins in addition to the list on the chalkboard—That’s an easy one!  We’ll have veggie labels and new number labels ready to go for the new season. I'm glad folks like the "swap bin" and Extras Area!  We will make both a weekly feature in the future. Rating the QUALITY of Produce in the share:
Excellent

117

Good

4

Fair

1

Poor

0

Very Poor

0

Rating the QUANTITY of Produce in the share:
Too much food!

0

Just about right

110

A bit less than expected

11

A lot less than expected

0

Comments regarding vegetables in the share: Here we heard many echoes of our own feelings about the harvest this season: we too lament the lower levels of lettuce, spinach, and other salad greens for a long stretch of the summer season.  We plant with the intention of providing a salad green in every share.  This year we planted on schedule, including 5 different plantings of spinach, 8 of lettuce, and 6 of salad mix.  We lost over half of our plantings to either germinate issue due to heat, poor growth and quality due to heat/drought, or (in the later season) destruction from hail.  We are investing in a new, better irrigation set-up for germinating greens and other small seeded crops, and this will assist greatly with some of the challenges we faces this season (and of course, hopefully next year will be different, but you never know!). Other veggies that got numerous votes to increase were: carrots, potatoes, melons, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet corn, and sweet potatoes.  We’ll definitely take this into account in crop planning for 2013.  Numerous members mentioned fruit and/or berries as well. We have a “nursery” planting of rasberries on the farm that we will be propagating from this season.  At that point we will establish a patch large enough to supply the CSA, although it will not be in full production until 2014.  We currently do not have plans to expand into other fruits due to space and labor issues.  I would love to source local, organic fruit to contribute to the share from other producers, but this has proven very difficult and unreliable in the past.  It’s something I would love to see more of in the share in the future and continue to research options. What can be challenging are those veggies that get as many votes to DECREASE as they do to increase!  However, this will be a great starting point to consider more choices within the share contents, or utilizing the Extras Area to distribute more of those "love or hate" crops.  Vegetables in this category were: Green beans, beets, kale, swiss chard, radishes, and eggplant. Communications Rating from the Farm:
Excellent

108

Very Good

13

Fair

1

Poor

0

Very Poor

0

Communication Improvements: Numerous members said they would like the newsletter earlier in the week, or even over the weekend, so that they can plan the week’s shopping and menu.  We will work on a better system that can perhaps address that need in balance with the need to have an accurate representation of the share (often not possible until the Tuesday harvest is complete) and a timely reminder to come retrieve your share—the other purpose of the CSA email.  Maybe a teaser email over the weekend with our best guess of the share?  We’ll figure something out! A few members said they would like more information about vegetable storage, and would benefit from photos of the vegetables as they can be confusing once they are back home.  This dovetails well with a winter project I have to create a Veggie Guide that can be referenced throughout the season instead of having that information always embedded in the newsletter where it is hard to find again.  Look for it on the website by the start of the 2013 CSA! How often are members reading the newsletter?
Every week

70

Often

30

Half the time

13

Once in a while

8

Never

0

How often are members making the recipes provided?
Every week

5

Often

26

Half the time

13

Once in a while

61

Never

17

These numbers resonate well with my own tendencies--I often read recipes but rarely follow or make them except when I test them for the newsletter!  I find myself browsing for ideas of ingredient combinations or a "concept" instead and then improvise once I'm in the kitchen.  This results in some fabulous meals (that I sometimes have trouble recreating due to the improv...) and the occasional AWFUL creation :). Website/Newsletter Suggestions: Several members mentioned having trouble printing the recipes off the website.  This was an issue last season and I thought it was resolved—back to our web guru to work on the problem!  We are going to be working to improve the formatting throughout the website.  Some requests for kid-friendly recipes came in—something to keep in mind for sure.   We will also be including more information in the weekly email itself rather than links to the website for those who have requested it. How important was the U-pick Garden to your experience?
Very Important

57

Important

30

Somewhat Important

25

Not Important

10

How often did you visit the U-pick Garden?
Every pick-up

63

Occasionally

39

Rarely

10

Never

9

U-Pick Garden Comments: Glad to hear so many positive comments about this part of the CSA!  I love seeing the flower bouquets and piles of basil leaving the field.  Some members wished for weekend hours to pick or alternatives to the after-work time slot—remember that U-pick is an option by appointment at any time by contacting the farm.  Improvements mentioned that are high on our list too:  Better signage—definitely.   More pickling cucumbers and a longer tomato season—Yes!  We’d love it too.  This year our tomatoes started producing 2 week later than usual, and frost came about 10 days earlier than usual.  We lost 1 of our 2 pickling cucumber planting to insect damage in July, but plan to continue with 2 plantings.  Overall, I thought the tomato flavors were the best I've tasted this year.  I'm continually amazed as I pull cartons of puree from the freezer how quickly and easily it becomes a most exquisite sauce or tomato soup. Other comments about herb and flower garden contents came in and will be considered—Thanks! Are you planning to renew your membership?
Yes

112

No

2

Unsure

7

If you renew, will you keep your same membership level?
Yes

102

No, I will scale up my share

3

No, I will scale down my share

4

Unsure

11

I was so glad to hear that so many families plan to join us again!  Every year is a new adventure, and it’s through the passing of seasons that I have come to relish and appreciate what one season does well (sweet tomatoes, melons, and lots of eggplant this year, for instance).   Thanks again for the well-wishes, encouragement, and good cheer.  It was such a pleasure to read your comments.  I look forward to 2013 as a year of continued improvement, great eating, and wonderful community you bring to the farm. It won't be long now until the first crops of 2013 will be seeded--reserve yours by signing up soon for the CSA!  Keep in mind that the Annual FairShare CSA Open House takes place on March 10, and always results in a flurry of sign-ups and often sells out our shares by the end of March.  Come see us there or at the 2nd Annual Oregon CSA Food Fair on March 18.  As always, feel free to contact the farm with any questions about our program.      
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