Natural growth in business and the soil!

Dear All,

It was great to receive all the feedback on last week’s newsletter. Many about the yummy apples and some about our challenges with building a truly sustainable flock of chickens/sustainable business. It is great to find that almost everyone is resubscribing for winter. With around 100 members we have decided to stop the CSA trials for a while as we feel there are limits to growth (in every sense of the word), we want to make sure there is enough to go around and create time to re-organise and plan ahead where ever we can/need. There are still openings to join us for a 13 week seasonal share. 

Humus saves the world

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of keeping the quality of the soil up by guiding the natural internal processes in the soil, instead of grabbing for the off the shelf products (i.e. externals).  Frank is all about these internal processes (humification and denitrification) which if guided well, help form humus (i.e. natural ultimate compost form) in the soil that feeds the plants.

Graeme Sait, an Australian colleague from Frank was recently  invited by the Australian version of TED to make a presentation and here it is http://youtu.be/8Q1VnwcpW7E. He called it “Humus saves the world”.  Well worth watching!

Pick up points – Lets make it work!

In the beginning there was only one pick up point, scales and tables were brought in and members made up their own portions to make up a share.  Now we have 13 different locations, pre packed bags, set up written protocols for picking up (sent to you when you join)and much improved forms to ensure all CSA members can be sure that whatever time they get to the pick up there will be a proper share waiting for them.  

We now have a variety of pick up locations over Wellington and some work through a CSA members house (Seatoun, Upper Hutt), a commercial premises (Kilbirnie, Berhampore), or through Community Centres (Aro valley, Alicetown and Innermost Gardens).  With locations growing (Aro) and contracting (Innermost) or newly ones being set up (Tory) there are always going to be challenges and last week several sites faced one or another. From members’ and volunteer’s feedback it is clear that all centres have different challenges, but the main thing is to keep to the protocol.  

Up until the beginning of this year Alicetown was well looked after with a Transition Towns coordinator Geoffrey looking after the CSA shares; even naming the bags when the arrived! Geoff has moved to another job and by default Alicetown has since been self managed. From CSA feedback so far this seems to be working ok. Reason: relatively small and steady group, easy access, members know what they are doing and are ticking off the list (I hope).

Aro valley has grown in a space of a few months from a delivery to a cupboard to a large front hall, with over 25 CSA members picking up here.  Innermost has down sized recently with the set up of 2 locations in the Eastern suburbs.  For both Aro Valley and Innermost there is web based calendar to organize weekly CSA voluntary distributors to oversee the pickup.

Innermost used to be the one and only pick up place in Wellington for quite some time, but over the past year, with many new CSA members joining the CSA, new pick up points have been set up in town and quite a few of the original members have moved their location to a place closer to their home or work.   This now means that the CSA members used to the system, checking the roster and volunteering regularly have now dropped off the list from Innermost and moved to other locations.  

After last week’s CSA pick up it became clear to the farm that the voluntary distribution coordinator role has disappeared at Innermost and over the past weeks it seems the pickup has been mainly self managed: CSA members going into the hall outside or within the described time and helping themselves to their shares. Unlocking and locking (hopefully) the door as they come and go.  This self managed operation could work if everyone exactly new what to do, but for new members it is very disappointing to come and either not being able to get to the produce or not finding the right shares anymore.   

We have arrived at an unworkable  situation as our new CSA members have no clue about what is going on and end up arriving at locked doors, getting frustrated especially if it happens more than once and giving up on our CSA because of it!  

I appreciate feedback on what else we can do to make it work better, but please remember the more complicated and work intensive the system becomes here on the farm, the less time and money we can spend on growing good food.  One thing we could do is to add people’s mobile numbers to the delivery list, so CSA members can contact each other more easily to discuss for example that you are going to be a bit late or so.  To share phone numbers around I will need your permission

We will all have to look after the CSA and being far away from the pickup locations we, as the farmers cannot do much at times when it goes wrong like last week.. It’s here where we have to ask you to please make sure there is a working system and keep to it: only take what is yours, and tick off your name from the list if you pick up early. Bring a pen to cross out/tick off your order! 

With the introduction of potato free shares we have complicated the system and now see the need to introduce a large red stamp to indicate which shares are potato free.  Starting soon!

Also, we have to stress to please volunteer as a distributor once in a while, and at least check the roster to see if there are openings that need filling. Being a distributor is a great way to meet like minded people and discuss the CSA, exchange recipes or even introduce a swap box.

Your CSA shares this week:

Fruit Share: 1kg Apollo Feijoas and 1.5 kg Braeburn.

Small Veggie Share: 1 kg Potatoes (or 110 grams French Breakfast Raddish), a bunch of heirloom Carrots, 2-3 Leeks, 1-2 Broccoli, and either a bag of Spinach or Kale.

Large Veggie Share: 1 kg Potatoes (or 110 grams French Breakfast Raddish), a bunch of heirloom Carrots, 2-3 Leeks, 1-2 Broccoli, a bag of Mizuna salad greens, a Pak Choy, 1 heirloom Celery, a bunch of Dill and Parsley, 1 Florence Fennel,  and either a bag of Spinach or Kale.