Hello patient readers and customers,
Well, we are dragging ourselves to the final stages of the worst season we’ve seen in our 46 years of farming. Ever since early May we’ve seen unprecedented rain, which really hasn’t let up over all those five months! For instance, in September we got 9 inches, and now we’re expecting rain through tomorrow.
What that’s meant to you, the customer, may not be obvious. We still have what seem to be normal markets every week, with lots of good produce for sale. But with such a variety as we typically have, some of you don’t notice the absence of some of our normal items. And we do try to make up for shortages by sourcing from our coop members or other local growers.
But the big problem is the financial impact of very reduced quantities of our mainstream, bread-and-butter items, like corn, tomatoes, beans, etc., and never enough quantities for our wholesale market. We invested lots of money to establish and cultivate those crops, then saw very inadequate sales numbers— no ability to repay spring loans. At the bottom line are the biggest losses we’ve ever seen.
So what next? We’ve been worrying and wondering. But a couple of weeks ago we did come up with a last-ditch plan that gives us some hope that we can keep going into another season.
The plan is two-pronged: first, cropping (what we plant and how much). We must control the risks of our extremely diversified cropping (over 50 different crops!) and acreage (if 20 acres is risky, then 30 is a lot riskier).
So we will stop planting many of our riskier crops next spring, and instead source them from other local growers, or just not have them for sale. (Would you really miss bokchoy, or fennel?). And by thus reducing total acreage, we can reduce spring payroll (biggest risk) and stop using some of our riskier, flood-prone locations.
The other prong is marketing. Our new market in Chevy Chase should give us significantly more retail sales, and if those sales are of items like our neighbors’ apples, that we don’t grow (risk), then that should help.
The big conclusion we hope everyone reaches is that if consumers want to have the real pleasures and benefits of fresher, locally and organically-grown food, then they can’t expect it to be cheap. The risks of growing produce in the climate of the northeastern U.S. are just too great. (Remember a couple of weeks ago I talked about our competitors in California who go for months with not a drop of rain?)
Thanks for reading. Your reward for tolerating this gloomy tale is a SECRET WORD! It is: “risk”. (5% discount!).
See you Saturday.