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Archive for April, 2014

Adam’s always saying, “Why don’t you write a blog?” And my response? “Because I see and talk to people all the time—they don’t want to hear from me.” Yet here I am, writing a blog, talking more.

Each and every Saturday, I see and talk with hundreds of people. Customers, CSA members, fellow farmers, idea seekers, perspective farmers and business owners. They’re at the market, buying or selling local goods, and from a glance, everything looks good. Farmers are selling, customers are buying, and everyone’s smiling. It’s a bustling marketplace where farmers are earning a living and customers are supporting their local economy, knowing where their food comes from, on and on—all the things you’ve read in marketing pieces (even those shared by myself) written by those us naive enough to believe our “movement” has as sound economics as it does altruistic values.

(Here comes my cynical side, and the startling reality as I see it.)

Local farmers aren’t earning a good enough of a living from selling their wares at a farmers market, and customers need to buy more of their weekly needs from those farmers. Instead, farmers leave with boxes and crates of left overs, and barely enough money (if even) to cover the labor, gasoline, insurance, and other expenses of the farm. In the most honest sense, we talk about why people don’t buy more, we complain about those who complain about our prices, and wonder what the in the world will it take for a city of more than 1 million people to do more than talk about supporting their local food producers?!

And then, building on one another’s frustration, we get mad and head down a tangent. We start talking about all the people and businesses who take advantage of the opportunities previously offered to small farms. They sell themselves as “local” or “organic.” They use words like “Community Supported Agriculture” to describe their business of buying food from distributors who buy produce from auction houses, then package and deliver it. They talk about their “farmers” in a way that sounds good to the customer. One would assume they’re the same types of farmers like Wayward, or Sippel Family Farm, or Toad Hill Farm, except they’re not. They’re large operations that grow a few products, conventionally, and sell to Kroger and Giant Eagle. Is that what you think you’re buying when you buy into one of those “CSAs”? I bet not.

But for some strange reason, those businesses keep growing and small farm CSAs like ours struggle to keep pace with previous years. Our sales are slower and we’re constantly hammered with questions about why we don’t deliver or offer the same week-to-week ordering system of their bigger and better CSA option from _____ (I’ll let you fill in the blank here). And why if they don’t like it can’t they cancel? And why is it so expensive? _____ (again, fill in the blank) offers a share for half the price, why does your share cost so much?

(I warned you that I’d go cynical on you…)

Adam and I pay ourselves what we can. We invest our resources in fixing trucks, tractors, insurance, farm rent, labor, seeds and fertilizer—all the things needed to bring the food to market that is “so expensive.” It’s called the real cost of food, and people generally don’t like it.

So I digress a little. I had no intention of being so frank (or negative), but then I get started and it’s hard to stop. I want customers to do what they say they’re going to do. For those who really know me, you’ve probably heard some of this before. For others, this may be a surprise considering my generally happy-go-lucky attitude on Saturday mornings. Point is, I want more from people. I want you to buy a CSA share from Wayward Seed or Sippel Family Farm, or some other small farm like ourselves. I want you to demand more and ask more questions. And then I want you to tell your friends, and explain to them why buying a CSA share from Wayward won’t look like your Kroger shopping trip. It looks better. It tastes better. It lasts longer. And your dollars didn’t support some middle man distribution company. Your dollars pay our farmers and enable them to steward the land that is so incredibly precious.

We are producers in a consumer world, but the secret that isn’t so secret anymore is our quality. The chains can steal our language of marketing, sustainability and locality… They can’t touch our diversity, our quality, our energy for this great craft. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get dignity for one’s work, and who deserves it more than a farmer?

Until the next time Adam makes me write something…

Jaime

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As I write this, we’re receiving about an inch of snow at the farm. We have about 150,000 plants in the greenhouse ready to get in the ground. Midwest springs are tough—especially on our rich clay and silt loam soils.

We pride ourselves on high organic matter and mineral enriched soils, but our farm lays a little wet in the spring. One of my farming idols, Jean-Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, New York has a good analogy for soil types. He compares fine sandy loam soils to “thoroughbred horses.” They warm up fast, roots grow fast, and they dry out fast. Here at Wayward we have “work horse” soils. They warm up slowly, they work up slowly, they maintain moisture and nutrition, and lastly, they are drought resistant. Both soil types have their benefits. The best farms have both.

For this reason, among others, we have been developing property in Fremont again, where Jaime and I are from. We currently have about 50 acres transitioning to organic at this location. The soils are uniformly fine, sandy loam, rich with organic matter. Oh, and it’s flat. The potatoes in our CSA share are grown on this farm and we love the smooth, scab free quality these soils produce. We believe that to create a local organic food system here in Ohio, it will take both “thoroughbred” and “work horse” soils to maintain and increase vegetable production. Understanding soil ecology is vital to our future success.

Here are some new and exciting products that we’ll be featuring in our share this spring:

Dragoon: Baby “little gem” type lettuce head. Diminutive romaine with sweet, tight hearts.

Frenzy Frisee: We are trialing this well-blanched head of frisee. Should pair well with our spring pea selection.

Spring Peas: We will be growing snow, sugar snap and English peas this spring. Adam Utley and I planted almost a quarter acre of sugar snaps just last week. With relatively good weather conditions, we’ll represent all three in the share.

Spigariello Liscia: An excellent Sicilian “leaf broccoli” similar to the sweetest kale you will ever eat! Sauté lightly—one of my favorite greens.

We have both work and regular CSA shares still available for the 2014 season! It isn’t too late, but time is running out.

CSA: We have only 50 shares left for sign up. Sign up here today to reserve your share!

Work Shares: We are currently looking for 10 more work shares, and have recently added Saturday morning hours from 7am to 12pm. It’s hard work, but greatly helps our farm succeed. To learn more about our work share, please click here or email us at farm@waywardseed.com.

Want to get your hands dirty and volunteer for the day? Want to see what a work share might be like? Join us on the farm this Saturday, April 19th from 12-5pm. The event is open to everyone. Whether you’re a city dweller, or a seasoned homesteader, or just simply curious about local farming, please join us!

Directions from Columbus:
– 70 West
– Exit State Route 29 (two exits past Hilliard Rome)
– Turn right off exit roundabout
– Continue through stoplight at Route 42
– Just past Lafayette Plain City Road, turn left into driveway (there will be a Wayward Seed sign at the driveway)

Grab some friends and make a day of it!

Until next time…

Farmer Adam

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I think the local food movement wisely built awareness through CSAs the last three decades. It forced consumers to think about their surroundings and seasonal eating in their home regions. It takes years to change the mentality of your cooking and meal planning. When is strawberry season? How do I make a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin? What in the hell is salsify? How do I use up my CSA effectively each week? And the list goes on… Sometimes it’s giving some of your share to a friend. Other times the utilitarian stir fry concept is the only way to use up those Asian greens.

I believe all of the troubleshooting and effort has made us appreciate our food and cooking more over the seasons. We found over the years that the relationship with CSA members and sharing recipes helped to combat some of our collective apathy towards cooking. Families have successfully introduced their children to new foods and widened their understanding of where food comes from. Urban communities sharing the risk and benefits of organic farming with rural communities really works. If we return to the existing distribution system of just picking out our food based on shopping lists, regardless of the seasons and relationships, I think we will lose all this momentum. Local food systems are tenuous, fledgling, and real small in scale. It is our job to continue to educate each other about these realities and work towards a more ethical, tasty future.

In my next blog, I will announce the details of a new partnership with 8 other transitional and certified organic farms in the region that I think will pave our way to greater availability of Certified Organic produce locally. It took almost six years of research and development between the grower and activist community! We are truly becoming a community of collaboration, not just competitors. I’m really excited to share all of the details soon. Congratulations to all who have toiled so tirelessly over the years to see a local, organic brand emerge.

More soon… And thanks to all of you who attended our CSA member potluck at the farm. It was nice to reconnect with folks.

Be well,

Farmer Adam

PS: Haven’t reserved your 2014 CSA share yet? Sign up here today! Your first delivery is just around the corner.

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