Happy New Year! Hopefully this mid-winter has been treating you well and you’ve managed to find warmth and light amid the somewhat dreary weather we’ve been having the past couple of weeks. The farm (like many places in Ontario) saw a beautiful blanket of snow descend in late December only to be followed by rain and warm weather which has revealed the fields to us yet again (which on the bright side has meant nice walks with the dogs!). We try to remain level-headed no matter what kind of weather we have because weather can have such an impact on farm outcomes and can lead a farmer into anxiety or else into making hasty plans based on assumptions of future weather!
Snow or no snow, January brings us that much closer to the beginning of a new season and any procrastination (or holidays, illnesses, snow days) has to be overcome to get the critical work of planning done. This week we’ll place our seed orders for the 2023 garden and in just one month from now we will begin seeding in the greenhouse for spring veggie shares (that’s why we need those seeds quick!).
This year I’ve been putting work into re-vamping our crop planning system by taking fellow CSA farmer and seed saver Dan Brisebois’ (from La Ferme Cooperative Tourn-sol) crop planning workshops. For the past few years I’ve been using a crop planning app that was pretty good but had some significant gaps (and was expensive!) and I’m really grateful to Dan for making his savvy crop plan spreadsheets available to his farm community. I’m excited to have a cohesive Excel-based crop plan back in use on the farm and know it’s going to improve our planning, record-keeping and on the ground efficiency a lot (the quality of these things all took a hit when we became parents but we’re working our way back).
We’ve also been digging into the budget with our farm team planning out the upcoming year’s sales and expenses. Our farm has a very simple but not always easy goal of selling food for a price that is reasonably affordable while providing farmers with adequate income. Achieving this goal is actually complex and challenging given the context within which we operate as a small scale farm, but is one towards which we strive.
This past season was really tight with the farm not selling out of shares for the first time well, ever. And, as has been the case for all of us, costs have increased for most farm supplies (as well as a super high exchange rate with the US). We’ve had the good fortune of having skilled and exceptional farmers come back and work with us for several seasons now (this season will be Jess’ 7th year!) and correspondingly salaries need to be in line with their experience as well as worldly needs. Employing a small team of highly skilled farmers allows us to pay them better while keeping share prices low.
These considerations have all gone into the budget for the upcoming season and into the planning for share prices for 2023. Share prices will increase this year but we want our members to know that the prices reflect our intention to keep our veggies as affordable as we can make them while treating the farmers here well. We hope this is at least in part, why our members choose to get veggies from us!
Perhaps, like us, you’ve been following the trends of food prices going up and witnessing some of how large corporations like Loblaws contribute by increasing prices well beyond inflation and their own cost increases and reaping record profit even as people’s ability to afford nutritious food plummets (Soaring food prices, record profits prompt questions about Canada’s ‘cosy oligopoly‘). This kind of profiteering off something essential like food drives our ambition to offer an alternative, one where growers and eaters work in partnership and where the goal is community well-being based on an equitable and healthy food source. If you agree, spread the word! Registration for 2023 shares is upcoming and we hope you will share your positive experiences of CSA with your community.
We are finalizing details and sign up mechanisms and 2023 registration should be open within the next two weeks. Watch for an email from the farm soon and feel free to pass it on to your veggie-loving friends!2