We want to start by thanking you for helping to make this season our best one yet! There are so many reasons that we love having a CSA. For starters, “preselling” our produce allows us to spend most of our energy and time focused on growing produce during the season. In a business where minutes are precious and hours priceless, this is an invaluable help to us. Those of you returning members from last year, we hope you noticed that we took your feedback seriously and tried to implement any and all of your suggestions. We were also listening to you all throughout the season and trying to respond to what we heard. Growing for a group of people that we know and see every week helps inspire us to be better. We are not just packing up the produce and shipping it off to an anonymous source. Instead, we are thinking of you every step of the way. Often times a specific individual will come to mind when we harvest a funny looking vegetable or when we have an abundance of something that we know a particular individual enjoys. We spend 45 precious minutes before CSA arranging the produce to be visually engaging because it inspires us and we hope it inspires you too! Finally, growing for a CSA that picks up at the farm allows us to grow the most tender and tasty varieties – no need to worry about packing and shipping quality at all!
This season was terrific for so many reasons, but we have to give the most credit to the weather. While it started off a little chilly, it more than made up for that. Spring, summer, and fall were sunny and temperate with rain ranging from ideal to ever so slightly droughty. As a vegetable grower with irrigation capabilities, we will take slight drought over monsoon any day! Especially when the temperatures remained as temperate as they did. Just like people, almost all vegetables love 80 degrees! Dry temperate weather helps to keep a lot of the disease pressure down (that’s why California grows so much produce). And while it does take some work to get all of our fields watered, it is definitely worth it. And it is probably why we are still swimming in tomatoes mid-way through October.
We also reached our target CSA size. When we started Uncle Bill’s four years ago, we planned on a 100-member CSA as our target size. Well we started this year at 100 members, but had to increase up to 120 as the season progressed because the produce was so prolific. This is about as big as we plan on getting. Maintaining the intimacy of our CSA is extremely important to us. If we grow the program larger than it is now, we worry that we would lose some of the personal aspects that we mentioned before. Additionally, we would have to be further removed from the growing process – and we love getting our hands dirty!
Alas, perfection is hard to achieve and there are a couple of areas we are planning on improving next year. Number one disappointment of the season was potatoes. This was particularly disappointing since we had such a great potato season the year before. Just know that next year we plan on coming back with a vengeance – potatoes for everyone! Basil took a big hit this year from an especially strong fungus that hit the state. As an organic grower, that is hard to battle. But we love basil over here so we will not give up. Next year we will experiment with some new varieties that have shown stronger disease resistance, in the event that the disease pressure is as strong as it was this year. Finally, the chickens drove us completely crazy this year, so I hope you enjoyed their eggs.
On the bright side, however, we had a couple huge successes this year with some bumper crops (butternut squash, beets, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, to name a few) and really enjoyed some of the new crops we added on this year (strawberries, seedless watermelon, sweet potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower). The sweet potatoes were definitely a deer favorite, so they did turn into more of a sweet potato fingerling instead of those typical lunkers, but on the bright side – those little fingerlings are especially tender and sweet!
We will be sending out a survey shortly to you all. We really value your feedback so please let us know what your thoughts are on this season. Thank you again for being such a great and supportive group. Cheers to a wonderful season!