David


 

Eric, Jonnah, David, Barb, and Jesse Perkins

Twenty five Sandhill cranes just flew overhead. I saw them out of my office window as I sat down to write. I walked to the deck and stepped out. I could hear them calling and counted them, way up high, flying south. They are saying good-bye one more time. And twenty-five didn’t seem insignificant. We are in the 25th year on our farm having just completed season twenty-four.

We have shared this land with Sandhill cranes since moving here in 1994. They have always been special. Our farm’s first logo was a crane flying over a barn and then became a crane flying over the marsh. They return in late February, just when we are beginning our greenhouse work and leave in December just as we are sending out our last delivery.

They squawk seemingly nonstop when we are working in the hoophouse in early March, nest in our marsh and parade around the fields and roads with their young. They walk around the farm fields, seeming to claim them as their own. And then they eat what we plant; corn, melons and even potatoes!

These cranes are synonymous with this land. They were here long before us and will be here long after. The Crane has become a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times.

Goodbye from the cranes and good-bye from The Perkins Family. You mean a lot to us and we are forever grateful for your support of this farm.

With hope for the future,

Barb and David

This is it, the last weekly blog post as your farmer. My head and heart are swirling with emotion, which will likely continue to unfold for months and years to come.

The 2018 Crew. Kneeling: Ryna, Sophon, Jonnah, Standing: Sid, Jesse, Barb, Eric, Abby, David , Ning, Yun.

We didn’t do this on our own! We had the idea and initiative, but it takes a whole community! Thank You to our CSA community for the support you have provided for 24 years. A very special Thank You to those of you who have been with us for all or most of these 24 years. You had the confidence in us and in the concept. You hung in there with us as we figured it out, made mistakes, went through growing pains and in turn we used your feedback to direct change and make improvements.

Thank You to our worker shares! Hundreds of you have given your time to join us in the fields and packing shed as we tackled every hot, cold, dirty, sweaty, repetitive task. You gave it your all, you were valuable crew to the farm and we got to know each other. This farm’s labor force was built on the Worker Share program.

Thank You to our site hosts! You have very generously opened your homes and have been an integral part of this movement. You have shown patience and humor and persevered as you made phone calls, helped families and went out of your way to make sure everyone got what they needed. Particular thanks to Joe Schmitt, in addition to being a site host for 24 years, he was instrumental in helping launch the farm with his wealth of growing knowledge.

Thank You to the Cambodian crew who has been with us for 15 years! You have been the consistent work force on this farm. We value your dedication to our farm and our family. You made us feel part of the Cambodian community in Dane County.

But most of all, THANK YOU TO OUR CHILDREN. How could we ever have imagined when we started this farm, when you were in grade school and middle school, that you, along with us, would become the backbone of this CSA? We had the crazy idea to move you from your comfortable east side neighborhood to a farm! We worked day and night and weekends and felt as if we had precious little time to spend with you. But in return, you embraced what we were doing and decided to do it with us! Jesse, thank you for your proficiency with equipment and field techniques as you worked with your dad and most recently amazing crew leadership as you worked along with your mom. Thanks for carrying on the seed potato business. Eric, thank you for your attention to detail and packing shed processes which have allowed deliveries to go out smoothly week after week. Becky, thank you for the delicious and nutritious lunches you prepared for the crews and your time spent in the packing shed. Jonnah, thank you for taking over the office duties, communicating so well with members and taking our farm into the age of computers. Thanks to each of you for spending hours brainstorming and discussing ideas and concepts to move this farm forward. I know it has not always been easy working day after day with family, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

With heartfelt joy and gratitude,

Barb and David

As we prepare to make our last deliveries, we reflect on the harvest and create ideas for the future. The last Vermont Valley Community Farm CSA harvest is near, as (hopefully) everyone knows. We keep so busy getting each week’s delivery accomplished, there seems to be little time and energy for contemplation. But an era for us is ending and it most worthy of reflection.

Every year has been a challenge in one way or another. Easily this year’s primary challenge has been the relentless rain.  Mud, mud and more mud! Week after week, day after day, putting on rubber boots and rain gear; harvesting with one slimy step at a time. We are committed to make every last delivery as bountiful as we can. That is reflective of how we have approached everything we do and have done on this farm. Whether it is the harvest or the member events; our goal for our CSA is to be the best. When we started 24 years ago, there was a common misconception that it was ok for organic vegetables to be “less good”. We rejected that immediately. Our vegetables were going to be better than the non-organic! Granted, this is farming, and things go wrong, but our goal has always been unshaken. We have communicated our trials and tribulations and your responses have been wonderfully supportive.

This fall the ground is so saturated we will likely not get our fall cover crops planted for the first time ever. Even though the vegetables are ending, we will continue to care for the land. Our commitment to organic farming, and by extension your commitment, has been key to our success. We do not use the system fungicides and insecticides that make conventional produce cheaper to produce; instead we have to be better farmers. We would not have even considered giving you vegetables loaded with pesticides; we preferred them to be loaded with flavor and nutrition. Organic agriculture is changing all of agriculture, but will only continue to do so with your support. Belonging to an organic CSA or shopping at the farmers market or buying organic products at the store are choices you can make. You make a huge impact by choosing organic!

Over 10,000 households have committed to Vermont Valley over the past 24 years; many of you for lots of years, and some for all 24 years. It has made literally all the difference; we did not exist without you.  Please give another farm the same chance. There are many good CSAs and organic farmers in the area.

Thank you for all of the comments we have received, please keep them coming. Your stories about the farm are precious to us. We are forever grateful to you for choosing us to be your farmers.

Your farmers,

David and Barb

2017 Farm Crew

Twenty-three years of Vermont Valley Community Farm.  For Barb and I, we find ourselves talking about “do you remember when”. But just like family picture albums, reminiscing is ok for a little bit. So briefly, we’ve been at it from the beginning of CSA in Wisconsin. There has been exciting growth in the CSA world; lots of new farms and farmers. Different twists for every farm, each being unique. Part of our purpose has been to grow the CSA movement. We have given countless workshops, seminars, one-on-one consultations and have helped lots of beginning CSA farmers. It has been very rewarding for us. Vermont Valley has been complimented by being mimicked time and again. We have grown, innovated, learned and most recently downsized; but, enough for the past.

I tend to always look forward, how to make it better; yes, how to change next year. “Same old thing” is definitely not my game. You all have had the opportunity to read about our new plans for 2018. We asked for feedback and received it (thanks).  A lot of thought went into this, so I want to share some of that.

The local food movement has exploded during our 23 CSA years; you now have lots of choices; farmers markets everywhere, organic in every store, more and more people trying to start a farm business. This is great in many ways.  However, for some of the choices out there now, local is nothing but a clever marketing ploy; buyer-beware. All the local choices (real and fake) have impacted CSAs. CSAs across the board are experiencing membership reductions, us included. People are making other “local” choices.  CSA has impacted the food market (yeh!), but that marketplace is evolving. This means CSA is here to stay, but it needs to adapt. There has been much discussion among CSA farmers about all this. So given what is happening in the CSA world, I unearthed my prior career “analyst hat”. I was looking for what we do best.

Your Comments: Some members have said “great idea”; we agree. Others are concerned or confused. What has been fun is the “eating with the seasons” lecture we have heard a few times from concerned members; which is great to hear; it’s what we preach. So what does “eating with the seasons” mean?  Some farms strive to deliver nearly 12 months a year; we never have. For us, CSA is about supporting your farm that feeds you. It is up to the farm to make that a great experience, whatever the mix of products, farm events or length of season. The CSA model is the weekly box from your farm. Our changes are meant to treat you to the best. We are honing in on the weeks we do it best at Vermont Valley Community Farm.

I can say with complete confidence that the 20 deliveries in our 2018 season will be the best we have ever done. Why, because they are the weeks when Wisconsin offers its best. If you are still not sure, I would ask you to defer to our farming expertise. I refer back to the reminiscing section above; we know what we’re doing out here.

Thanks, and we hope you have enjoyed eating well in 2017. We will be very pleased to feed you again in 2018.

David Perkins

We have visitors from around the world come to the Farm wanting to learn more about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming model. At these visits, we have as much fun learning about our visitor as they do about us. This week a local guy, Joe Parisi, our Dane County Executive, visited along with staff Scott and Claire. Joe is a member of Vermont Valley Community Farm and we learned a bit about his interest in good food related to his Italian ancestry; Joe is a big garlic fan. At the county level, several efforts exist to promote local food production, including extension staff dedicated to small scale vegetable growers. There are many vegetable farms that have benefited; meaning more great organic food options available to you. Setting priorities is what we do, whether it is government spending or our personal spending. The Farm is fortunate to be in a community that appreciates and supports local organic food; whether you are a bigwig politician or our neighbor down the road; thanks.

David

Joe Parisi and the farm crew

Barb tells Joe about our hot peppers and tomatoes

CSA members harvesting their own basil.

CSA members harvesting their own basil.

The last half-century has witnessed a reawakening of the importance of our food; what it means to us and our communities. It started with authors and community activists; it started with all sorts of farmers, some maybe more passionate than productive. It started with a common devotion to something that had been lost, food focused on health, taste and a commitment to the earth that sustains us.

People and communities have responded. There are more and more CSA farms every year. There are farmer’s markets around every corner. Organic produce and product sections are in almost every store.  Stores that support organic food grow and expand. The desire to eat well crosses all boundaries, economic, geographic, social and political.

Health: the universal recommendation is Eat More Fruits and Vegetables. What a litany of woes would be solved if that happened! The reality is, what you get in you CSA box is just a healthy start on your vegetables. Some of us eat enough vegetables, but for most of us, the CSA box can be the learning box, the way to teach ourselves, the way to change our eating habits, in a fun, enjoyable and delicious way.

However, not only the vegetables have sprouted and grown over these many years. The notion of “local” is now THE marketing theme which has or will diminish its meaning to a non-meaning. The biggest corporate names in the food “industry” claim to be what we at Vermont Valley Community Farm are. The marketing companies are good at what they do, they know what you value. Lots of claims are made to dissuade and detract from the efforts and commitment of organic farmers.  The market has been invaded with entities looking to “cash in” on you; the people who care about what they eat. But, all the unsavory developments can readily be composted by simply continuing to get your CSA box and better yet, encouraging family and friends to join you.

Know your Farmer, Know your Food. Joining the farm gives you the opportunity to relate to a set of farmers, the land where your food comes from, and get a sense of how your food is grown. But, does it matter? From the industrial perspective of food as a commodity, it does not matter. How could it? You have scant idea where the food product came from. The industry is afraid of you knowing what is in it, let alone who grew it or how it was grown. The alternative perspective is what you have done by getting food from your CSA. You know exactly who grew the food, where it came from, and thru our stories a little better understanding of what goes into growing your food. We hope how much we care about what we are doing shows. The farm/world is in the internet age, but ultimately, contact with real people in real places is what matters, and in relation to your food, that is what CSA offers you.

Unlike the coming election where you could choose not to vote, you will vote a food choice every day.  So, what’s on your plate? Yes, it comes down to that; simple but quite powerful. You have made the choice to put your CSA on your plate; it most definitely matters. Thank you for allowing us to do what we believe in; and we hope you continue to join us.

David