Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Make a Farmer Happy

First, you have to grant us one thing - the weather can change a farmer's attitude as quick as, well, the weather can change. Raccoons come a close second for us. Or maybe deer that eat the produce the night prior to the planned pick. Otherwise, we're generally pretty level headed about all of this. There are days when we are more tired than others and some where we might like to change what we do. Otherwise, we do fine.

But, if you want to make our day, tell us (honestly) that you liked something we provided for you.

No, we are not fishing for compliments. No, we don't need you to stretch to find compliments when you don' t really think they're warranted. But, we do value feedback. And an honest compliment for some of our produce can provide a week's worth of energy.

What brought this on?

We just came back from the week 2 Thursday CSA distribution and received feedback from several people regarding the quality of produce - which was positive. Our thanks to all of you for your comments, they are useful. It was on the truck ride back to the farm that we realized just how much we appreciated hearing that the produce in our shares was truly enjoyed by those who participate in our CSA. But, why is it so helpful to us?

1. Believe it or not - we really do want our CSA members to be happy with their shares. If we get positive feedback, we get feedback that shows us that we are, indeed, achieving that goal.

2. The process of farming, for us, is a dynamic process. We are always learning, always trying to improve and always building off of prior successes and trying to avoid prior failures. The positive (and negative) comments help us to assess these approaches and hone our approach. The result, of course, is even more yummy produce for everyone involved!

3. We're human and when we are given positive reinforcement, we tend to react - well - positively.

4. As I have told students in classes I have taught - if you don't tell us what you like, you run the risk of losing those things because we don't know that it is something you want!

Some examples of things we are doing more now because of this feedback:

a. growing Crispmint Lettuce - a romaine type lettuce that is an heirloom variety. This grows well for us - especially if started in trays and transplanted. typically earlier spring and later fall, but they hold reasonably well in warmer weather too. The first batch received excellent reviews from many CSA members last year. So, we came back with more of it this year - again with positive results. Excellent production, great looking, great tasting, well-liked by many and tends to be resistent to problems. We have a winner.

b. hydro-cooling - conferences provide us with a number of ideas and a myriad of information on processes for growing, processing, marketing and farm management. One such idea was the concept of cooling greens by submersing them in well (very cold) water to get the 'field heat' out of the plant tissues. This shuts down the processes that would reduce how long the produce will last. Rapid cooling has provided us with greens that look better, taste better AND are cleaner for our CSA members. If you don't believe me, ask a few of our veteran CSA members who can remember greens from a few years ago. They were good - but not this good!

I'd like to link this one in very clearly. We believed the information in the conferences - of course. We were pretty sure this would help us. However, the deal was sealed when CSA members responded immediately last year by giving us compliments on the improvement in our greens with respect to taste, cleanliness and storing ability. There are other methods for handling greens that we could have selected if the first effort failed. But, in this case, it appears to be a success and we are working on refining rather than replacing the approach.

Our thanks and keep the feedback coming!

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