Farming 'Stuff' to Know

CSA Risks and Rewards

There are Risks and Rewards joining a CSA because there are many risks involved with farming-most outside the control of the farm, no matter how good a farmer he is.  You are partners with the farm and are purchasing a share of the harvest so make sure you accept, in advance, that farming is not a sure thing - it's risky.
Farmer Pete's favorite reply when asked about the 'risks' is, "Farming is a gamble. Too many unknowns and uncontrollable factors.  Each time I plant something, I think, 'I should take the thousands of dollars it takes to grow and harvest a crop, go to Vegas, bet it all in a Craps game, have a lot of fun, loose it quickly, and go home rested!' But farmers are crazy.  They love to be dirty, out doors, and watch things grow.  Most of the time, things work out really great - way better than they do in Vegas.  The CSA concept is for community members to 'share the risks- AND the rewards- of farming with the farmer himself'.
Fall season carries a higher risk factor for complete crop failure because of where we live - Hurricane Ally!  In our farming career - since 1976- we have successfully harvested all but 2 of our Fall plantings.  Granted, some of the crops were damaged and looked pretty rough, but they were totally eatable.  If you're willing to eat produce that isn't perfect looking, then CSA is most likely a great fit.
Winter's risks are weather related too.  Unexpected severe cold snaps can really damage crops.  As a general rule though, we're able to grow a lot of things all winter long.  Shorter days, less direct sunlight, colder temps, etc. do keeps crops from growing quickly though.  We have field blankets (remay) that we cover tender crops with, green houses for winter production, and a long list of roots and greens that withstand really cold temperatures.  In severe weather, you'll notice burned edges, carrots and beets without tops, browning on broccoli crowns, etc. 
Spring carries the risk of late frosts, heavy rains, and unknown diseases brought in with March winds.  One year, early 80's, we had a killing frost on April 20th.  What a disaster.  But we replanted and ended up harvesting a bounty, just later than normal.
And then there's Summer.  It's so hot here in Charleston, we struggle growing anything but Okra and weeds.  Greenhouses help divert some of the direct sunlight, but it's still hot as h...  And, we have the added bug problems in the summer months.  We have spent all Spring raising an awesome crop of bugs that get really hungry about mid-July and just give our summer crops a royal fit!  Some of you may have noticed that we don't offer a Summer Season.  Seems a bit backwards for the south, but it is what it is. 

The term "Crop Failure" generally refers to a single crop, not ALL crops being grown.  For example, we might have 6 different plantings of tomatoes along with 20 other crops.  From those 6 plantings of tomatoes, we may loose a large portion of 1 or 2 plantings due to inclement weather conditions or pest damage - crop failure - but continue to grow and harvest from all the other plantings and crops.  The same could happen to any particular crop.  Even if we should loose all 6 plantings of tomatoes, we most likely would harvest from the other 20 crops. 

If we should get a direct hit from a hurricane, nothing we planted would be harvestable - complete crop loss.  BUT, crops with short growing seasons like summer squashes, lettuces, turnips, radishes, kale, spinach, arugula, and herbs would be immediately replanted and be harvestable in 21 to 45 days.  This would seriously shorten the CSA season, but not leave members empty handed.  The basic concept of CSA - partnership between Community and Farmer - means sharing the staggering financial loss farmers have, in the past, suffered alone.  Understanding and accepting the financial risk is important and Membership requires you, the member, to sign an agreement stating that you understand the risks and are willing to accept them should there be a disaster beyond the Farmer's control.

There are lots more rewards than risks.  Members often receive way more produce each week than they expected.  They have ample to feed their families and left overs enough to share with friends and neighbors.
The biggest rewards are QUALITY, FRESHNESS, FLAVOR, HEALTH, and FUN.  CSA members learn to become adventuresome cooks, they eat things they've never tried before, they are introduced to new and different foods, veggies last so much longer and stay fresher than members are used to, and their healthy eating habits improve their lives!

Farming Facts for City Slickers

1) Produce is NOT grown in the grocery store.  It is grown in the DIRT.  "God made dirt and dirt don't hurt."  Your produce will require extra care - WASH IT.

2) Prduce is not grown indoors.  It is grown outdoors where bugs live.  There may be a bug stowaway in your share looking for a new home-yours!  Killing all the bugs requires chemicals.  Chemicals aren't good for you.  See where this train is heading?  Being able to supply you with the best organic produce means that we use organic controls first-not always as effective but not bad for you.  If faced with 'complete crop failure' due to a pesky creature we cannot control using organic methods,  we may have to make the choice to either lose the crop or use a mild non-organic product.  Ocassionally, but very rarely, we have chosen to 'use rather than lose'.  We will ALWAYS inform you if a crop can no longer be labeled 'organic'.

3) Beauty is only skin deep.  It might be ugly, but it's still got character and is totally eatable.  Fresh, green garlic is a perfect example.  It's not something most people have ever encountered.  Fresh green garlic is ugly, stinky, and dirty with long roots (all the things that make great produce a real pleasure).  When, not if, you find an item in your share that is totally unfamiliar to you, check What's In Your Share on the web site.  All items we expect to harvest are listed there, and each item is a link to information about the 'thing' you've encountered-even pictures.  Don't throw it out.  You will most likely be discarding something that will give you a very pleasant experience.

4) Veggie plants are really smart but really stubborn.  They have the incredible ability to know when to sprout, how to grow, how to produce offspring without have to be taught or trained.  BUT, when they have done what they instinctively know how to do, no matter how hard one tries, one cannot get them to do any more!.  Food, water, threats, promises, a firm talking to - whatever - they just won't do any more.  AND, it doesn't even matter to them what we NEED or WANT or have PROMISED you.  The point is, if you should see something on the "What's In My Box" web page, and it's not in your box, don't blame your farmer - it's the veggie's fault.

5) Farmers are human just like you - just dirtier.  Although a farmer is often idolized and placed on some pedestal, believe it or not, a farmer can - and occasionally does - make a mistake.  Although this doesn't seem possible, it happens.  Please, if we make a mistake, let us know in the same manner you would like us to let you know you made a mistake.