Walkers Fresh Veggies

  (Paw Paw, Michigan)
Fresh naturally grown veggies produced for you, provided weekly for CSA memebers.
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Fall has arrived with the end of our CSA season

We have had our first snow, it fell the week just after we completed our 20 week distribution season for our CSA members. We have had a great overall season this year. As always, there were a few weather glitches along the way, but all in all we were blessed with good sweet corn, tomatoes and potatoes this year. We also had the best pickle crops ever and an abundance of green beans.  Our fall crops ended up in a drought and did not measure up to the bumper crops of watermelon, cantaloupe and fall squash we had last year, but we had enough to support our CSA shares with all but cantaloupe.  Cauliflower remains in the field as it is just not ready yet!  We had so many green beans late that we were able to provide hefty shares of beans right up to the last distribution for our CSA members and we sent around an additional 1200 lbs of fresh green beans to the Food Bank in Battle Creek!

 Looking ahead we want to continue to grow our CSA membership this coming season.  We plan to continue to offer free delivery within our large distribution area, and will maintain a low membership fee for all. Our shares contain veggies that require relatively high harvest labor to provide. The small yellow sweet cherry tomatoes and green beans are high labor for harvest items.  Many CSA's do not provide nearly as much of these items due to cost at harvest time.  We have found these items to be very popular and will continue to provide them regardless of the labor cost involved.  We need to budget money's from the subscription fees received to be available through the summer for gas for delivery, harvest labor and packing labor.  There is no way one or two people can take care of the crops, hand harvest 130 shares of everything that goes in a box, pack and deliver on time by ourselves. We need helpers to accomplish this task in a timely manner.  The membership as a rule is not in a position to provide this help or even pick-up their share, and for the most part prefers to have these services provided along with the veggies produced.  We therefore include the costs for these desired services in our fee.  So -- when comparing prices --- remember a good portion of what goes into a share is there for pick, pack & delivery.     

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Eliminate waste and give CSA Members a choice

We have decided that we need to do a better job of providing our CSA members with what they can actually use. We find that while one member may not ever use Kohlrabi, another rmay love it and really be disapointed if we stop growing it.   We also find that if we reduce the variety of crops we grow to those that are favorites to everyone we would likley only be growing five or six crops, and limiting the length of our season. 

We are asking our members to provide a list of those crops they just don't want, also a list of those they realy like.   I plan to create a database that I can print out like a packing list so we will be able to custom pack the boxes with each members name on the box. This way no member has to get something they can't use, and then have to waste it. We will have a better idea what to plant, and make better use of our resources, just growing what will actually be used. 

I do not think that any crop will be eliminated totaly with this approach, but I can already tell we will need to plant more lettuce and less of the other leafy greens, more zucchini and even less yellow squash. 

This is going to make packing day a bit more complex for us, but I am thinking that only offering a set package is limiting the number of people that participate, because most people have such an aversion to waste that they become discouraged if any program that puts them in a position of having to discard part of thier distribution.  By adding this service along with the home delivery we have the best possible choice for anyone in our area that is looking for a CSA home. 

 

 
 

April 2012 Newsletter

Hi Everyone!

I said I would write a newsletter when we got a rain break – so here goes…….

Today I am replacing the exhaust gasket on the old Ford tractor –working in the garage. I had to stop for a bit to let the oil soak into the threads on the bolts that hold the manifold onto the engine block. So I have a minute to write.

Last week we (my daughter Corine and I ) got all the early green cabbage and two kinds of broccoli planted –this was 75 flats (72 plants each) and filled about 1 ½ acres. We also put in 8 rows of red potatoes and 3 rows of white potatoes. This is a little over half the potatoes we had last year. The broccoli suffered some from the two frosts we had last week –I will check it latter today and see how it is doing now that we have had some rain.

After we got the transplanting done I had time to disc the remaining portion of the field across the road and plant more lettuce and carrots. I also put in some dill and turnips and a second planting of spinach. This rain came just at the perfect time for all these crops –they are seeded so shallow in the soil that they need water right away to germinate.

The lettuce I seeded in flats in the greenhouse is coming up and the Kale is about 3 inches tall already. Everything but a small amount of parsley and thyme has been transplanted into flats and the next job for the greenhouse will be all the vine crops. We will seed those at the end of April or first of May and are planning on filling the back greenhouse with watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, summer squash, pati pan squash, and a few specialty squashes. We also seed the late fall crops then too. We will seed late broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. (I am thinking it will work better to transplant kale out of the greenhouse than to try and direct seed it in the field).

Next week I plan on working all the fields over with the field cultivator to keep the moisture retained in the ground, and kill any small weeds that may be getting started.

We have a nice group of people that have subscribed for this year’s membership and we are reaching a point where we would like to be for size this year. We have enough New members to replace all those who have let me know from last year that they are moving or for whatever other reason will not be subscribing this year.

There are a few of last years members who have not let me know either way what their plans are for this year, and since we have passed the April 15 date, anyone is welcome to take their place as CSA member.

In addition I have decided that I would like to keep our total membership to around 80 shares. This is a reduction of about 30 members from last year. This size would allow us to do better job packing and provide better service to our members. I am looking at selling any excess produce we may have this year to other CSA Farms that might need it. We usually have quite a few people subscribe in the end of April and into May. If you have not already subscribed and are planning on doing so you need to let me know, we passed the April 15 date, and at this point it is first come first serve. We still have some room left, but should easily be filled by mid-May.

Subscription rates paid by check are lower than if purchased online through the localharvest store – this is due to the localharvest store commission. LocalHarvest charges us a commission for the service they provide, so we are passing on a portion of that fee in the online store rates.. The subscription rates by check are $250 for a Half share, $320 for a Basic share & $400 for the Full size share.

I think we will begin delivery on June 7 this year – there should be at least enough stuff ready to pack some veggies for the first taste of spring, then the following weeks there ought to be enough to fill the boxes fairly well. This start date will give us a 22-week delivery season. This is 4 or 5 weeks more than last year. Your first box may not be way full – but whatever is ready will go to waste if we do not make a distribution at that time.

Corine and I went over to the field and checked on the broccoli & cabbage, and it is doing well. Some of the rows that were planted earliest look a bit more stressed by the frost than the later planted rows, but they all look like they will be fine. The rain came at a very good time for these plants. We are very pleased with how these are doing and glad we got them in before this rain. Packman broccoli takes about 55 days from transplant date to mature – this puts our potential first harvest date at June 10. This would be in time for the second distribution box!

Have a great day!

Your veggigrower,

Mark & Carolyn Walker

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March heat wave Update!

Walkers Fresh Veggies CSA -- UPDATE

Hi Everyone,

This weather sure is crazy. I now have been over all the ground with the disc., have chisel plowed all the heavy ground. The field across the road has been moldboard plowed and disced twice.

I have planted ¾ acre of spring crops. These are crops the cold weather will not hurt (it is likely to turn cold again).

I have in 8 rows swiss chard, 12 rows beets, 1 row mustard, 4 rows turnips, 4 rows rutabaga, 18 rows of carrots, and 2 rows of mixed lettuce. These rows are at least 250 feet long.

I have to wait on the radishes and green onions because they grow much faster than the greens, and I want them to be ready about the same time.

In the greenhouse we have all the seeds germinated and doing nicely, seeded some lavender that is not up yet. We are going to transplant the early tomatoes into flats as soon as it rains and we can’t work outside. Also need to move all the first broccoli and cabbage into the big greenhouse so it gets more sun and we free up some room in the first greenhouse to put peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant when they are big enough to transplant.

A little rain would be OK right now – just not a downpour –that could crust over the ground and make it hard for the greens and beets and carrots to emerge. (This is the big risk right now –the soil crusting over).

Just a reminder! ! Returning members subscriptions due by April 15.

We need to know who we have. We have just as many new members as we have returning members right at this point.

 

Right now we are three weeks ahead of normal with the growing season – peaches are in bloom –they will most likely be froze out and we will have no peaches. Apples and plums are about ready to bloom –I hope they hold off for awhile. Rhubarb is up -- it shouldn’t be up for another 3 to 4 weeks. The early broccoli and cabbage in the greenhouse is already 4 inches tall. We will likely be planting corn and green beans in mid April this year.

Gotta go now – I am going to chisel plow more ground today.

I will keep you informed, have a great day!

Your veggigrower, Mark and Carolyn Walker

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March CSA Newsletter

Walkers Fresh Veggies CSA Newsletter March 2012

Hi Everyone!

We have been invited to speak at a luncheon that is being held in St. Joe on March 7th.

We, along with four or five other local (Southwestern Michigan) CSA’s will present our farms to a group of local consumers interested in learning about Community Supported Agriculture.

I have been preparing a display, and trying to put together a presentation.

I hope all goes well and we are able to inform as many people as possible about what CSA is and how it promotes the increase in production of local grown food. How it helps to ensure food production is not just left to the large corporations, helps stabilize our local economy, and even puts some local people back to work.

I am going to pick-up the soil for the greenhouses today (Tuesday) and will then be able to start planting broccoli, cabbage and early tomatoes. I have already washed the old flats and dipped them in bleach to kill any root rot that may be on them. We are using all new inserts (these are the little individual cells each plant grows in) this year. We will have to fire up the LP Gas heaters due to the return of winter – but we can’t wait any longer if we want broccoli in time for June distribution.

Response to the Winter Greens add-on has been fantastic and I must resist the temptation to move to quickly and try to plant more than the first two greenhouses. We have never grown these crops in the winter and must keep this at a trial level until we learn what the pitfalls may be. But; it is very nice to see people so excited about fresh green veggies – I really think this may be a great addition to our CSA farm, and a way to utilize the greenhouses that currently sit idle from July through February. We may even want to add a High Tunnel for early spring production at some point. It is quite possible to envision a CSA that has distributions for 10 months of the year with only February and March for downtime.

Recently I was shopping with my wife in one of the large supermarkets –I hate shopping -- but I like to see what is going on in the produce area. Wow! I sure wish I could sell my stuff for the prices they get in the store! I am very proud of the value we are able to offer our CSA members, our Stand customers and even our Farmers Market customers. I know that for more than just a few of our members the subscription fee is not always easy to fudge out of their weekly budget, but I want to say that it is well worth it, I don’t see how you could go wrong unless you just want to eat at your fast food restaurant every day. The $.99 heart attack special is a cheaper source of calories, but you are what you eat – if you eat healthy – you will tend to be healthy.

One trip to the Doctor can cost as much as the entire season subscription fee for a share of great tasting, healthful veggies. So, my friends, be smart –don’t shortchange yourselves in what you eat, because medications do not make up for unhealthy eating. Our focus going forward is to produce food for health, and for taste – I believe the two go hand in hand, and I believe most people want this and are looking for it.

Gasoline price – what will $5.00 gasoline do to our CSA? We have already taken the likelihood of $5 gas into account in our planning. Our means of coping with this is to have enough members in route to make our delivery process as economical as possible. If we can keep the distance between members down to an average of 2 or 3 miles we can deliver for a reasonable cost to us. At these distances the delivery cost of our time is still much greater than for fuel. So – tell your neighbors about us –it helps keep the delivery cost down and makes it possible for us to provide delivery with no added charge. In the end, it makes more sense for one truck to drive a planned route and drop off a box every two miles than for 50 vehicles to drive ten or more miles each to pick-up their shares at our home farm.

Many thanks to the faithful members who have already subscribed again for this year. The support provided in these early months of the year are so very important to our success, and we want you to know we do appreciate your support. All the land rent and the property taxes have been paid, all the seed (except for the potato and onion sets, we pick up in Zealand) have been purchased, and most of the machinery has been repaired and is now ready to go for the year. The next big costs we will have will come later as we begin to plant, and fuel is one of the biggest.

I am going to keep it short and get back to you again in a couple of weeks.

Best wishes from your veggigrowers,

Mark & Carolyn Walker

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Walkers Fresh Veggies CSA February 2012 Newsletter

Walkers Fresh Veggies - CSA  February 2012 Newsletter

Hi Everyone!

I just did an inventory of seeds I have on hand left over from last year and found I have the following seeds available to plant (these are additional crops not listed in my previous newsletter):
Spinach, Basil, Dill, radish, turnips, carrots, rutabaga, romaine lettuce, mustard and okra.  I have a piece of ground across the road from our house that I could run water to  -- need a long line, the field is back off the road about 800 feet.  I may have found a free source for some irrigation tubing from my sister in Dewitt.  Irrigation would be essential for these crops planted in this particular field, as it would most likely experience a dry period long enough to damage these type of crops if no irrigation was available. My plan is to run irrigation over to the field and plant these crops along with a good amount of green onion bulbs and the beets and swiss chard that were bought this year.  The field is 1 ½ acres total, but I think the portion used for these crops would be around ¾ acre.  We would be trying to produce enough greens and roots for three or four distributions - not all types in any one distribution.  I am not making any promises - but if all goes well we could have an early distribution in June -I will keep you posted as to our progress.
I also have ordered 2000 Superstar White Sweet onion plants -these will be planted in 6 rows at our home place back by the long greenhouse (we can irrigate them there and it is protected from the wind).  We will try and have around three distributions that include these nice onions with them.  We also ordered 500 sweet potato plants -these go in the field around May 15.  Sweet Potato is a new crop for us and we have no idea what if anything we will get from these 500 plants, but we need to try something new each year, so this year our new crop is sweet potato.

We did OK in January with our returning subscribers and also added a few new members as well.  We need to pay all our land rents and real estate taxes in February also must pay for some tractor parts.  Last year we had 22 people subscribe during the month of February- we are hoping for a similar response this year.  Many thanks to the returning members who have sent in their subscriptions so far, we really appreciate your support.

The special cultivator attachment for weeding between the plants in the row is complete and I did a "test" run in the driveway and it worked OK.  Now I am working on replacing the radiator on that same tractor. This is an old 1946 Ford 2N tractor -it works great for planting and cultivating, and runs very well even though it is 66 years old this year.

I have ordered a load (30 compressed bags 3.8 cu ft each) of growing medium for the flats in the greenhouse.  This is a bit more expensive that what I have used in the past, but should eliminate disease and weed problems and the inconsistency in pH we have experienced in the past.

I am considering doing a project intended to extend our growing season into the fall. We would accomplish this by planting some greens like lettuce mix and chard late into one of our greenhouses. We would have some expense for growing medium (soil) and heat (LP Gas).  What I need to know is how much interest would there be for Greens and /or tomatoes during the months of November through January?    Would members be willing to buy an add on of around $10 to $12 per week for these fresh veggies if they could be grown this way?    Anyone interested please reply to this e-mail with your thoughts.  I have no other markets for these crops at these times of the year due to the stand and farmers markets being closed, so I would only do them if there is enough interest from our CSA members to make it economical to achieve.

If there are any members who are in need of a budget plan to pay the subscription fee we are going to allow the following plan for February:
· Pay an initial payment of 25% of the subscription fee for your chosen share size.
· Pay monthly on account so that your subscription is paid in full by June 1, 2012
· No additional charges will be added to pay this way if first payment is made in February.

We also have our online store open in Localharvest where you can use a credit card to pay your subscription fee. (Rates are a bit higher to offset the commission we must pay to use their store)

I hope you are having a good winter, we are looking forward to spring,
Your Veggigrowers,   
Mark & Carolyn

Walkers Fresh Veggies
41688 Paw Paw RD
Paw Paw, MI 49079




 
 
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