Potential CSA Distribution Protocol During COVID-19 Pandemic by Farmer Dana
Farmers Derek and Jacob setting up trellising in the Hoop Tunnel for early sugar snap peas.
It is with befuddled and curious hearts that we announce that there will probably need to be some changes on the farm this season, with most major changes hopefully only lasting through the early part of the harvest season. We are using the PA Department of Agriculture for guidance and are actively consulting with other traditional CSA farms for examples and ideas. If we are being completely honest, we had hoped the coronavirus mess would be resolved by the start of harvests, but alas it appears the virus and subsequent social distancing measures will linger into May.
The purpose of on-farm and share distribution adjustments is to keep our membership safe and healthy to the best of our ability during these uncertain times. Please know we view the changes to be temporary and in connection to the current pandemic. As protective measures, closures, and social distancing rules are updated and/or relaxed we will adapt and adjust.
Please know that it is okay to enjoy some, all, or none of the changes we must make to our CSA. Take the boxed share idea, for example. I remember as a college student opening my weekly CSA box with the same gleeful anticipation of opening a wrapped gift - something to be surprised and inspired by. At the end of the day, that is what we hope to provide to you - food to delight and nourish you.
As always, we are open to your feedback regarding the new routines. Thank you for sticking with us through these strange and difficult times. We encourage our beloved members to resist feeling overwhelmed by the new procedures and want to assure you that we will make our way through this together. The harvest season doesn't begin for another month or so and we'll continue to monitor the situation as it progresses.
We have decided that boxing shares will be required to eliminate/reduce any germ sharing. Boxed shares will probably be distributed from the barn hallway where members will verbally sign-in with a farm staffer. Members will return empty share boxes on their next pick-up day. Boxes will be sanitized with a non-toxic rinse and will be unused for 1-2 weeks before being redistributed with produce. Shares will be assembled during pick-up hours. We're still trying to identify the best way to ensure members can still select the specific items most desired from the typical choice groupings (dill, cilantro, parsley; arugula, greens mix, endive; kale, chard; etc).
Pick-Up Day Time Slots
To reduce crowds forming on pick up days, and to give staff time to assemble boxed shares, members will sign up in advance for hour-long time frames in which they can pick up their shares. Signing up will take place through the calendar feature on our website the same way members sign up for workshifts. Time slots will probably open 48 hours before a scheduled pick up day and members will choose a new time slot for each pick-up. The first hour of pick up will be reserved for senior citizens and members with high risk medical conditions. To see what the sign up process may look like, follow this link, then navigate to May 11th for an example.
We plan to keep the u-pick portion of the harvest open with a few changes. A collection of quart, pint, and half-pint containers will be sent home with each member in their first boxed share of the season. These will be yours to measure and collect your u-pick crops over the course of the season (use them to measure then dispatch produce to your own bags). Members will need to bring their own scissors for cutting herbs and flowers. Please respect the 6 foot social distance minimum in the fields. The u-pick list will be displayed on the outside wall of the barn, instead of inside the barn, to facilitate social distancing.
Pandemic and Food Safety Gear
Farm staff will use necessary pandemic and food safety measures while harvesting and working around harvested crops. Whatever scientific rules and regulations are in place will be followed which may include gloves and masks, and will be worn during the harvest and handling of all farm produce. We ask members to respect the guidelines issued by Governor Wolf regarding the wearing of masks in public.
Sandbox and Farm Play
It is with profound sadness that we must postpone sandbox play at the farm until other similar places like playgrounds are opened. I find this to be a most terrible responsibility of management at the farm - to have to suspend play. The farm has always existed as a meeting place, a place to linger, to play, to enjoy. I know in the future it will continue to be this for us, that we will look back on the 2020 season as a hiccup in the CSA's long lived existence. We encourage you to still find solace in the fields, at the farm, from the upheaval in the world, for now just do it 6-feet away from each other.
We're confident that workshifts will proceed normally, albeit with safe social distancing involved, and should begin towards the end of April. For information on how to sign up, please follow this link. This will also be the process for signing up for pick up day time slots.
These are challenging times, and we expect that societal norms in regards to COVID-19 will continue to evolve over time. On the farm we are grateful to be able to work in service of our community when so many people are struggling through changed life circumstances. As we adapt we endeavor to meet what is required of us in a spirit of openness, gratitude, and good humor. Thank you for choosing us to grow the food which nourishes you and your friends and family.
Please reach out to us if you have questions and concerns.
An American Toad, adorable as always.
A Reminder to Sign Up for your 2020 CSA Share by Farmer Derek
Greens mix looking good and ready to be transplanted.
Shares are selling fast right now. Membership is 80% full (90% when including applicants). We anticipate shares will be sold out prior to the start of the harvest season. Past seasons we've kept registration open during the harvest season instead of starting a Wait List, but this season we'll probably have to set a lower limit of shares sold because of the uncertain times.
Notes From The Field Into the Fields We Grow! by Farmer Derek
Transplanting beets into a raised bed on a chilly windy day.
The planting of outdoor crops has begun! Even though it's been slightly wetter than ideal during the past two weeks there have been just enough dry weather windows to finalize raised-beds and transplant seedlings into them. Two Fridays ago was our first big day of transplanting. Into 4000 feet of pretty nice soil went about 16,000 hakurei turnips, kohlrabi, beets, chard, broccoli, broccolini, bok choy, cabbage, and peas, planted over the course of 8 solid hours. The day prior, into our movable high tunnel, went the first week of 25 successions of lettuce family crops including head lettuce, romaine, endive, escarole, and radicchio. The outdoor crops went into areas that housed winter squash or eggplant last season, which were followed by a cover crop mix of buckwheat and oats. As these cover crops break down in the soil by microbial action they release essential nutrients that were taken up while the cover crop that was growing last fall, thus providing food for the crops.
Driving the transplanter down the future onion beds to puncture the plastic and deposit water into the divots.
Two full days were spent transplanting last week. On Tuesday we transplanted salad radishes, bok choy, arugula, greens mix, kale, parsley, cilantro, radicchio, head lettuce, romaine, fennel, endive, and escarole. The following day we accomplished the immense planting of 25,000 onion seedlings, shown above. It feels like all crops are tricky to grow certified organically but onions feel especially so. They're very slow growing, don't compete against weeds well, and have serious pest and disease pressures. We plant them into raised beds covered in white plastic to deter certain pests, keep the beds cooler, and suppress weeds. Hoops are erected every 6-8 feet down each bed and 30' wide sheets of row cover go over these, anchored by many, many sandbags. Throw in the multiple high wind events we've endured recently and it makes for an anxious time. We've learned from past mistakes when we didn't anchor the sheet well enough and had large kites of cover billowing around the fields. Now, we use enough sand bags to successfully hold it in place even during extreme wind (we hope).
Pushing the antique drill seeder, sowing carrots.
A few weeks ago, before the weather turned wetter in any regard, we enjoyed what was probably the nicest conditions for early spring outdoor carrot sowing we've ever had. A literal mile of row feet of carrots was sown. Carrots can take a few weeks to germinate in the spring and require consistent moisture so we cover them with floating row cover to warm up the soil and trap moisture.
A plethora of plants in the Hoop House waiting to be transplanted.
All in all, we planted about 1.5 acres of crops over the past few weeks, which is about 12% of our annual 12 acres of production. Throw in the acre of potatoes we'll be planting whenever the soil dries out enough and that's 20% of our total yearly footprint, planted during the first month of the growing season. It's a very busy time of planting and prepping soil to accommodate and accept those plants. Dry weather is ideal. Wet weather is not. On our upcoming agenda will be potting up summer crops such as peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, husk cherries, flowers, and celery; seeding; transplanting peas, beets, chard, arugula, greens mix, potatoes, and lettuces; cultivating; and weeding. The frost-safe date is quickly approaching and very soon we'll be planting summer crops like watermelon, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes (heirloom, slicers, cherry, grape), peppers (hot and sweet), flowers (20+ varieties), and basil.
It's an exciting time on the farm. We will be monitoring the fields as the crops grow over the next few week assessing a potential harvest start date and will be in touch!