Reflecting on 2019 and Looking Ahead to 2020

The farmers and crew had a wonderful time celebrating the harvest season with our CSA members on Saturday evening. During the party, we took a few minutes to reflect on some of the innovations and new technologies of the 2019 season, as well as look forward to planned developments of the 2020 season. We thought we'd summarize some of those reflections on our blog this week for the folks who either couldn't join us or were too busy enjoying the festivities to hear the comments!

During the past growing season, the farm took some big steps toward improving its overall efficiency by investing in a set of walkie talkies. Gone are the days of fumbling for a cell phone with muddy hands, hoping that the person on the other end will hear the alert. Walkie talkies have opened the channels of communication, enabling crew members to be in touch with simple questions or significant concerns, as they happen. Talk about a revolution!

The farm also invested in a paper pot tranplanter this season, which has gone a long way toward improving the number of sore backs on the farm. The basic premise of the technology is that plants are started in paper trays (instead of the usual plastic greenhouse tray). When the seedlings are ready to be planted in the field, the trays are placed one-by-one on the transplanter. The paper trays unravel into a chain, travel through the transplanter and are bedded into the soil. There are continual refinements to be explored, but the overall, the paper pot transplanter is a net positive for the farm!

The farm has traveled further down the path on its journey to reducing soil tillage and improving overall soil quality. We built a compost cart that straddles our beds, allowing the crew to spread compost in a more easeful and efficient way. We also explored team building, with the help of a CSA member, which has gone a long way toward improving team dynamics and making the people side of the farm more cohesive.

As the farm approaches the end of its eighth growing season and forth year as a CSA farm, it's exciting to think about all of the future possibilities. During the 2020 season, we plan to continue to focus on regenerating our soil resource by refining both the timing and amount of our tillage practices. We are also beginning the process of working with a soil consultant as another way to understand our soil from a chemistry perspective. We also have plans to construct a second high tunnel, which will allow us to rotate our hot season crops and grow more cool season crops in the winter.

Quite possibly the most exciting development of the 2020 growing season is the decision to invest in CSA management software called "Harvie." With Harvie, members will be able to set their preferences before the season starts, which gives us the chance to get to know our CSA members better and grow more of the things that they really want in their boxes. Then, each week during the season, we'll enter the items and amounts that we project we'll have for the shares in any given week and Harvie will create a custom box for each member! Folks will have time to swap out items from their box for other items that remain available in the inventory before the final box contents are set. Members will also be able to add-on additional produce and meat to their box each week, making Against the Grain's CSA a much more tailored experience. We're sure that there will be a learning curve with the software, but the farm is up for the challenge and excited about serving its CSA members in a new way!