2008 Multi-Farm Winter Share Summary

In addition to catching up on my reading, cooking and eating lots of winter veggies and generally being lazy, I’ve been counting, summarizing, and tallying winter shareholder survey responses. It’s the first step in planning for the ’09 winter share. I thought some of you might be interested in the data, so here they are.

I’ve taken the data from a number of places: distribution records, shareholder subscription forms and surveys, distribution sign-in lists. Changes and improvements in the share will be partly based on the data and guesses about what the data mean. I’d love to include the tables I’ve made that show how satisfied shareholders were with various aspects of the CSA, as well as the content of the share. Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me figure out how to transfer that info (now residing in a Word document) to the blog. So, either give me some (easy to follow) tips about posting a table, or send me your email address and I’ll send you the Word doc.

Numbers of shareholders from each town (300 shareholders total)
Arlington (30), Belmont (69), Cambridge (47), Jamaica Plain (13), Newton (17), Somerville (21),Watertown (20)

Allston (4), Bedford (1), Beverly (3), Billerica (1), Boston, (8), Braintree (1), Brighton (2), Brookline (3), Burlington (1), Charlestown (2), Chelsea (1), Concord (2), Dorchester (3), Framingham (5), Harwich (1), Hingham (1), Hyde Park (1), Lexington (5), Lincoln (1), Lynn (1), Malden (1), Marlborough (1), Maynard (1), Medford (7), Melrose (1), Needham (1), Chelmsford (1), Quincy (2), Shrewsbury (1), Stoneham (2), Truro (1), Waltham (8), Wellesley (1), Weston (4), Winchester (3), Winthrop (1)

Involvement in Ride Share program

Sixty-three percent (190/300) shareholders walked, biked, car-pooled, formed driving cooperatives or had their share delivered by a bike delivery service.

First time in a CSA vs. previous CSA experience

35% of 186 survey responders were first time CSA shareholders
65% of survey responders had previous CSA experience

Share splitting

65% of survey responders did not split their share.
35% split their share with at least one other household

Source of information about the share
Percent of the 186 survey responders who learned about the winter CSA from:

25% – LocalHarvest.org, Localvores.org or another internet site

38% – A local farm. Referring farms included, Belmont, Caretaker, Drumlin, Food Project, Gaining Ground, Lands’ Sake, Lindentree, Newton, Picadilly, Revision, Stearns, and Waltham.

15% – friend, colleague, neighbor

Other sources of information about the winter share included community e-mail lists (new moms list, home schooling list, neighborhood and town lists), the Belmont and Winchester, MA Farmers Markets, CSA brochures at Kitchen on Common and Formaggio Kitchen.

Reasons for purchasing a Winter CSA share
Survey respondents identified these factors as “most important” and “important”, when asked their reasons for buying a winter share.

Food dollars supporting family farmers, 97%
Healthy, nutritious food, 96%
Environmental, e.g., minimizing the impact of long-distant food, 93%
Great taste of local produce, 91%
Cost, high quality produce at a fair price, 64%

What would you like MORE of in the winter share? (The most frequently named items are listed.)
Beets (9), carrots (2), celeriac (1), leeks (7), onions (9), parsnips (3), potatoes (12), turnips (5)

Over 50% of shareholders would be pleased with more leafy green vegetables. “The more greens, the better” seems to be the sentiment of most folks. There were also frequent acknowledgments about the difficulty of growing greens in the winter.

The absence of broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts, cauliflower and garlic was noted by a number of shareholders. (The first three crops failed due to disease. Garlic wasn’t planned for this share since no local garlic grower could be identified.)

What would you like LESS of in the winter share? (Again, frequently named items are listed.)
Beets (12), carrots (18), celeriac (22), leeks (2), onions (12), parsnips (9), potatoes (10), turnips (26)

What other local products would you like to see in the share?
The top choices were apples (97%), dried beans (77%) and local honey (69%). Some people expressed concern that adding eggs, cheese, maple syrup would increase the cost of the share.

Comments from shareholders (There were many comments, I’ve selected just a few that are representative.)

Getting the apples in the first share was a very welcome surprise. Although I was initially concerned about how to use all the carrots, we found some great recipes for muffins that turned into a breakfast staple for our family. I had a very tough time with all the beets (and turnips). We’re doing our best to use them, but they’re not especially versatile (although I have found some new ways to sneak the turnips into other dishes, esp. potato-based ones; beets, however, aren’t easy to hide!). Overall, I found this to be such a positive experience, and I look forward to future CSA participation! I was especially impressed with how convenient the ride-share turned out to be (I only had to do one pick-up, as we teamed up with 2 other families and took turns), as well as how quick and efficient the actual pick up at the farm was (like a well-oiled machine!). Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this, I’m left wishing there was a 4th disbursement!

This was my first farm share and overall we were extremely satisfied with it. The variety is understandably limited by New England weather. It would, however, be nice to have a larger variety of winter squashes (more acorn, hubbard, buttercup, etc). We did get a couple different kinds… but squash is one of the great vegetables that store really well. With the large influx of veggies at pick-up, it is nice to have a few you know you can just put aside for a while.

Because the winter share is once per month, foods such as cheese & eggs do not make sense. I get raw milk, pastured eggs, and local raw milk cheddar on a weekly basis via a Jamaica Plain group from a farm in Foxboro, MA. I think the Winter CSA was awesome. I pickled and canned things so that they would not go bad. I washed & packed the greens the first day I got them, wrapping them in damp paper towels in plastic bags – they would last the whole month! I might like to get certain staples that could theoretically last the winter in larger quantities (onions, potatoes, squash) But since I still have a drawer full of potatoes, and 3 or 4 squash in the basement, I’m not really sure if I would need more. Onions & garlic, definitely. Thanks again – it’s been fantastic!

We loved the encouragement to ride share & bike. That is really important to us. We liked all of the food & understand more greens may have been impossible due to the time of year. I just listed cabbage & fennel because they were least popular with our group. My son adored the notion of farm-grown popcorn instead of buying kernels in a bag at the store. I say no for the apples because after apple picking, we have so many every season. It would be great to try some local dairy and honey – it is hard to find out where to buy the local kinds. We could have managed without the banana boxes; just brought our own bags. This was our first winter share, but we had a great time doing the Drumlin Farm share over the summer. We’re all looking forward to next year, best of luck to you all! Thank you for everything, we loved the winter share!!!

Thank you again for growing and organizing. We love our winter CSA and tell everyone about it! And if they are lucky, we feed them from it.

Next Steps
The farmers involved in the winter share have all received full copies of this report, along with even more information (shareholder comments, for example) and my initial recommendations for the ’09 share. In the next few weeks we will work together to figure out what we want the ’09 share to look like. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “2008 Multi-Farm Winter Share Summary

  1. Thanks Kate, but that doesn’t seem to work. The grid lines of the table are lost, the numbers in the table gets squished together, making the table impossible to read. Have you cut-and-pasted a table into a blogger.com blog? Perhaps there’s a special trick for tables? Thanks, Gretta

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