Survey debrief & 2012 sign-ups!

Meet this week’s Mac veggies:

  • Salad mix
  • Kale
  • Sweet peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Radishes OR summer squash
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Yellow onions

Two items of business this week: to debrief some of the survey responses (and our subsequent thoughts), and to unveil the 2012 CSA season (and the sign-up process!).

First of all, the survey … we would still love to hear from you if you haven’t turned yours in yet, but we’ve received dozens and dozens, And, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive! People who have medium shares are loving them, and overall people have been appreciating the quality of the produce, the friendliness of our crew (Casey and Emily at pick-ups), the writing in the newsletter, and more.

We have to agree with all of these statements. We too have noted an increase in the quality of this year’s CSA over last year’s. It isn’t that last year was bad — maybe just not quite as good as we prefer. Looking back, we see some reasons in both directions.

Last year, we were pretty distracted by two things: being parents for the first time and the quarry fight. Both things were exhausting and took up more time than we ever imagined. At the same time, we realize now that we were woefully understaffed. We only had one employee, working three and a half days a week (and one more who worked one day a week just during the summer).

In contrast, this year we have two full-time employees, Jesse and Emily, bringing our total number of labor hours way up. The difference is striking, in terms of the work that gets done and how happy everyone is while doing it. Also, Jesse and Emily have brought great energy and enthusiasm to the farm — both are sticking around for another season, and we are so glad to have them! It’s hard now to imagine the farm without them, especially as we begin our new exciting expansion.

On the back of the page, we asked more questions about the future. In the near future, I wanted to know how I could make communication about the CSA more convenient. The vast majority of folks were ok with the current level of communication, but a handful of folks would enjoy receiving an email to remind about payments. This is something I’d like to do as well, since I personally appreciate such reminders! I think I’ve figured out a way to provide this service next year and will give it a try. Hopefully it works! The other options might make it into my systems in future years, but now I have an idea of what to focus on in 2012.

We also were curious about whether folks keep track of their food budget (especially for grocery items based on number of folks over 13 in household). I was amazed at how few people keep track! Casey and I have gone back and forth on how detailed we are with our personal bookkeeping, but it has been a goal for us to keep track ever since we read Your Money or Your Life back when we were first married. There are many important principles presented in this book — all of which have been ingrained into our decision making processes over the years (both for the farm and for our personal spending habits).

But a big thing for us is knowing how we spend our money and how much things cost (again, significant both for the farm and for us personally). So many times, we’ve found ourselves in the midst of a heated debate about a purchasing decision only to realize that part of why the decision feels challenging is that we don’t really have firm numbers, so keeping track of our spending has been really useful. To that end, if anyone is feeling the financial pinch (or wonders if their spending matches their values), I recommend reading Your Money or Your Life.

A few folks did offer up some firm numbers, and it was amazing to see how much budgets varied! I mean, by thousands of dollars on a per person basis! Clearly dietary choices have financial implications, which can affect different households to varying degrees. We have also learned over our years as farmers that people also just have different appetites. Some of you are hearty eaters who can go through a CSA share in two days; others incorporate it into many small meals throughout the week and watch calories carefully.

The reason we asked is in terms of our future expansion (and the eventual goal of providing more of your dietary needs) — it’s useful to know how much people are already spending so we have an idea of how much people might be willing to spend on an alternative version of their current grocery bill. The data was definitely inconclusive on this question, except to show the differences (which was in of itself fascinating).

And, finally, we asked some questions about our longer term goals of providing more of your dietary needs. A few people were hesitant about this idea, but the vast majority were very excited about both having a more diverse CSA and were willing to do pick-up on the farm! This was welcome news to us, since these ideas are exciting to us too. The potential farm-based pick-up is very much an “in-the-future” sort of idea that we will flesh out in coming years. For now, pick-up will continue to be in Mac and Newberg.

So, much for us to think about, but the surveys seemed to give us the green light to keep on keepin’ on with what we’re currently doing and what we’re planning to do. Yay!

And, now that we’ve done that important work of processing feedback, it’s time to start signing folks up for 2012! Casey and I spent some time over the last week hammering out details, which you can find explained in the 2012 season information form provided at pick-up (along with the sign-up). In brief, things will look very much the same as this year, except that Newberg will have a longer season and more share options. But, there are a few minor changes to the system, including how we designate share sizes and the payment schedule. So, please read the information carefully as you sign up.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us: farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) org or 503-474-7661.

Ready to sign up? Download the information and sign-up form here: 2012CSACommitmentForm.

In addition to debriefing surveys and putting together sign-up info, we’ve been doing a lot of “envisioning” for the new land. Last week, Casey and crew mapped out two acre fields all over the new land (the best way to tackle a large project is to break it into smaller units!!!). This weekend, Casey and I started finding homes for our perennial plantings within those fields. We also attended the Home Orchard Society’s “All About Fruit” show, where we tasted a bunch of different apples. We came home and started making lists of trees for our new orchards.

This new wave of planning still feels so unexpected! When we bought our “home” parcel five years ago, we had no idea that our farm would ever grow bigger than this space! The original 17.5 acres seemed so vast at the time.

But, it has been really fun dreaming and planning and actually working the new land. The cover crop has germinated, so there’s a carpet of green oats and clover coming up. Casey surmised this weekend that the land is probably feeling the feet of farmers more than it has in decades (given that most farming these days is done via tractor only). It was a nice simple thought regarding the many ways our organic farming will differ from the chemical management that came before us.

So, our farm’s future is unfolding, and we are so glad to have you be a part of it. We hope you will sign on for another delicious season of local vegetables (and some more fruits and even possibly some grains)!!!! Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Just a reminder — there are still several weeks left in your CSA season this year! The McMinnville season runs through November 29 and Newberg runs through November 17.

~ ~ ~

Pumpkin Patch Open House
This Sunday, October 23, 3-5 pm

Join us this Sunday for our final open house of 2011 — it’s going to be a great one with lots of fun activities planned. For the first time ever, we will have live music (from the Davis St String Band). We will also have a potato tasting, pumpkin picking, and cider to drink!

Directions to the farm: From HWY-18, take the Dayton exit. Drive through Dayton and stay heading south on HWY-221 / Wallace Rd for about seven miles. Turn LEFT onto Grand Island Rd (you will see signs for Heisers Pumpkin Patch pointing the same way). Stay on Grand Island Rd as it crosses the bridge onto the island, then at the first 4-way intersection, turn RIGHT onto SE Upper Island Rd. Our driveway is immediately on your LEFT. We’ll be gathering behind our house, which is the two-story cedar house toward the back-right of the driveway.

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