Thursday, September 19, 2019

Gathering at the Gateway to Autumn

editorial note: The following was sent to our customer list via email midweek.  We realize there are others who are interested and are not in our email distribution stream.
Important GFF details follow and we would appreciate it if you read through this particular email so we can avoid the spread of misinformation and miscommunication between us and interested persons!  There are TWO items of importance here.

1. Gathering at the Gateway to Autumn at the Genuine Faux Farm
If you plan to attend, please RSVP so we can plan to have enough turkey for everyone.
Sunday, Sept 22. 
11:30 am - 3:00 pm
Food at 12:30 pm
Potluck event.  We will provide a roast turkey, buns and other items to make roast turkey sandwiches.  We would like attendees to bring items to supplement the meal.
We do have plates and tableware, though it would not hurt if you brought your own.  Please bring lawn chairs.
We are celebrating our 15th and final season of the GFF CSA program and we would be honored by your presence to help us close a chapter of our farm's life and consider options for our farm's future.

2. Final CSA Season.
We have apparently gotten some attention by stating that our Sunday Gathering will be celebrating our 15th and final season of the GFF CSA.  If we have not yet gotten your attention yet (or if we just got it recently), please give it to us now so we can be sure that everyone who receives these emails or reads this blog post understands what is happening.
The only certain things are:
1. We will not continue as we have with the program.  Numbers have continued to decline and the model doesn't seem to fit the farmers or our farm as it once did.
2  We must change if the farm is to survive.
3. We know that the uncertainty and diminished reach of local farmers markets is not a solution either.
4. We still want to operate the farm in some fashion, continuing to use our certified organic, sustainable methods to grow quality food, ideally for local consumption.
5. We do not wish to sever ties with those who have supported us.
6. We respect your input and welcome it.
7. Many options ARE on the table, including exiting farming entirely and taking a year off of CSA and returning in the future is also possible, though unlikely.

So, this does not necessarily mean that we are giving you a final 'good-bye.'  We are considering continuing to offer eggs, poultry and vegetables, but doing so as 'flash sales' and/or by using a credit system with those who might enjoy continuing to receive food products from us.  But, this is by no means certain.  After all, we still have the current season to deal with.

We appreciate your attention thus far and we'd love it if you would continue to give us your time for just a bit longer.  I apologize for length, but this is important to us and hopefully to you as well.

Why are we doing this?
You deserve to hear the 'why' of it.  You have been the farm's extended family and we would like to help you see where we are at.

First, we do love growing things and we believe we have developed a decent skill set and acquired a fine complement of tools to do the work.  We do not mind hard work.  We can tolerate setbacks.  We believe farms like ours are important.

But, we are also smart enough to realize when we are beating our heads against a wall that is only getting stronger.  Here is what we are fighting right now:
a. the climate is changing and our weather patterns are challenging 
Tammy and I have ideas about how we can change things on our farm so it can continue to produce.  But, we cannot do those things AND maintain a full CSA program.  We have to release some of the pressures of growing that the current CSA model creates so we can address these issues.  For example, we will need to create permanent raised areas on our farm to keep the roots of our crops out of the water table.  The list is long and will take some time to implement it all.

b. chemical misapplication and overuse is getting worse, not better
We see more and more evidence in our crops of growth inhibitors - agricultural chemicals that don't necessarily kill our plants, but they stunt their growth.  We continue to see a decline in pollinators and beneficial insects, despite increasing our flower plantings (among other things).  There might be some things we can do here as well.  But, again, it is difficult to find the time to make these changes if we are trying to grow enough product to maintain CSA shares.
c. it's getting harder to produce the volumes of quality produce that we are used to growing
We have the normal reasons to struggle.  Weather.  Weeds. Pests.  Diseases.  Time.  And our own human shortcomings.  We have always expected these challenges and we still believe we can address them with reasonable success.  But, when your zucchini crop struggles, you have to pay attention!  Look at a and b above and that gives clues as to some of the reasons.  The deck is stacked against consistency in successful vegetable crops in Iowa at this time.

d. the idea that local foods and organic foods are strong and getting stronger is old news and not accurate in Iowa
We were well-placed when we started because CSA and farmers market were growing in strength at the time.  In the past few years, the small segment of the population that believes local foods are important are being split between direct sales from local farms and items labeled local and organic at grocery stores and larger outlets.  Add to that a trend for less food preparation at home and the rise of national home-delivery food services and a willingness to accept the words 'local and organic' as accurate without verification and we have a problem.  In short, the small dedicated portion of the population hasn't grown all that much and they are dividing their attention between many more suitors. 

e. it is even less clear how a farm reaches customers than when we started
There was a time not long ago when the number of methods for reaching out to the public to promote something were fairly limited.  The advantage of that was that everyone (customers and purveyors alike) knew where to go.  That's not so clear anymore.  Yellow pages?  What's that?  

f. CSA is a difficult model to grow for in the first place
Simply put, you can't become an expert at every crop.  But, CSA tends to force you to TRY to do just that.  We still believe that diverse crops are a positive.  But, when you look at a through c above, it isn't possible to respond to those problems successfully with every crop.  At least it isn't for us - there just isn't enough of us to go around and make that happen.  Clearly, we need to cut our grow list in order to set ours up for the possibility of success.

g. Our adjustments over the last few years have failed and perhaps alienated some of you.
And for that, we apologize.  But, the Genuine Faux Farm CSA was once 120 members strong and is now sitting in the 40's for members  We had to consider and implement changes in hopes of regaining membership.  We missed on our adaptations and accept that, but it doesn't make sense to keep flailing about if the trends are consistent.

To be clear - this is not about blame.  It is about realities.  If what we do isn't working, we need to change.  So here we are.  Looking to change.

Would you be willing to help guide this change?
And, whether you are or not willing to do so - we still thank you ALL for supporting our farm in the past, present and, perhaps, the future.

Rob and Tammy Faux
Genuine Faux Farm
Tripoli, IA

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