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Friday, December 20, 2013

Reminder: Renewals are due January 3rd

We hope you all are enjoying the winter weather we've been getting lately (or at least enjoying hunkering down at home drinking hot chocolate!). We wanted to remind all shareholders that the $325 deposit to secure your share for next season is due January 3rd. After the third, we will begin offering shares to folks on our wait list. All shareholders should have gotten a renewal form either at your last pick-up, or in the mail the following week.  If you are missing your renewal form, or if you need to make alternative payment arrangements, please contact our office manager Maura Mastrogiovanni at or by calling the farm at 978-356-5728.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shareholder Meeting Re-Cap

Thank you to everyone who attended our shareholder meeting Wednesday night.  For us, this kind of direct personal feedback is rewarding, energizing and a fantastic way to focus on the issues that our members really care about.  We hope the experience was as positive for all of you as it was for us. CSA is more than just an economic exchange with the standard producer/consumer relationship (although we do very much depend on  the sale of shares to continue funding and improving the farm!) - it is also about building a community around the farming experience.  The farmers rely on their shareholders to "cultivate" and strengthen these community relationships.  Thank you all for the part you contribute!

For those who didn't get a chance to attend the meeting, below is a recap of some of the issues that our members felt were most important. If you would like to view a copy of the slideshow, please email Lise at

Weeds in the PYO fields: Pick-your-own fields have been a challenge to maintain in the past several seasons. With over 4 acres of our fields dedicated to pick-your-own crops, the size of the PYO operation has surpassed the capacity of our staff to properly manage. Some PYO crops are succession plantings intended for a shorter window of harvest (like beans, peas or some annual herbs), while longer season crops like tomatoes tend to burn out much faster due to heavy foot traffic, erratic harvesting and the abundance of vectors of plant disease inherent in PYO. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day and we tend to prioritize weeding crops with greater longevity and with the potential to ensure an abundance of choices in the shareroom over the course of the season.

We feel like we made some inroads this season into getting a better handle on the PYO weeds, but there's definitely still a lot of work to do! Two obvious solutions would be to either dramatically raise the share price to cover the costs of hiring the extra workers needed to maintain the PYO fields, or dramatically cut back what we offer in the PYO fields. We've opted instead to slightly cut back on plantings and focus our efforts on improving the efficiency of our systems. For instance, this past season we tried out a new strawberry growing technique in which we planted some of next season's strawberries in the fall rather than the spring, thus avoiding the height of the weed season for the 6 beds that were planted in September. In our crop planning for next year, we've looked at adjusting the varieties and plant spacing of certain crops to make them more conducive to tractor cultivation (which is far more efficient that hand-weeding).  

One suggestion we have heard from shareholders, both at the meeting and in the past few seasons is to recruit more shareholder volunteers to help weed our PYO fields. This past year, we offered up the option to shareholders to come volunteer in the PYO fields Saturday mornings, as gathering a critical mass of helping hands is really the most efficient way to get hand-weeding projects done. Unfortunately, no one took us up on that this year, but we'll try to do a better job publicizing for next season. We would also love to hear suggestions about how to entice more folks out in the field to help us with weeding!

Heirloom and Paste Tomatoes removed from PYO:  Some members miss having these options in the pick-your-own field. Cutting the heirloom and paste tomatoes out of the PYO fields this year is one of the many adjustments we made to more efficiently allocate the crew's labor. Tomatoes are one of the most labor-intensive crops we grow and one of the most sensitive to diseases and the pressures of heavy foot traffic. We've found that over the years, the PYO heirloom and paste tomatoes were a poor investment of time when you looked at the yields that shareholders were getting out of them. Taking that segment of the PYO crops out allowed us to more efficiently use our time (which is a big deal when you work as many hours as we do!), and probably contributed to improving our tomato harvest and the length of our tomato season, but it also freed up a little more time to help us better care for other crops. Because we know how fond many folks are of sauce tomatoes, we made them available with the regular share, and we gave shareholders the option of purchasing extra tomatoes at a bulk rate for canning. The additional money earned from selling bulk tomatoes helps us to reinvest in the farm and hire more help, which ultimately contributes to the long-term financial (and ecological) sustainability of the farm. Even without the heirloom and paste tomatoes in the PYO fields, we're confident that our PYO offerings are extremely generous and represent an excellent value to our shareholders.

Overstuffed bags in the shareroom and overpicking in the PYO fields: Some folks have expressed concern that not everyone in the CSA is following the designated limits in the shareroom and in the PYO fields. One particular example cited was the use of bags in the shareroom that were larger than the designated share size bag. Our policy is that if you bring a non-standard sized bag to pick up your share, we will ask you to line your bag with one of regular sized bags and just fill that smaller bag in order to ensure that everyone is getting the same share size. There were also concerns raised about folks sometimes picking more than their limits in the PYO fields, particularly on Saturdays when there is a lighter staff presence.

This is a tricky thing for us to manage as farmers. We do not have the resources to monitor every single bag that comes into the shareroom or every person that enters the pick-your-own field, nor do we want to create an unwelcoming feeling at the farm where our shareholders feel like they are constantly being watched. For this reason, we rely heavily on the honor system and a sense of responsibility towards the farm community among our shareholders to ensure an equitable distribution amongst our shareholders. If one of our staff members sees something egregious, we will of course do our best to address the situation, but most of the time we rely on all of you to honor the spirit of community at the CSA. I think that for the most part, this works out very well!

That sums up the main issues we discussed at the meeting. If any of you have additional concerns or suggestions about how we can improve the CSA, please don't hesitate to contact either Lise ( or Ryan ( We love hearing from you!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seasons Meetings! Appleton Farms Shareholder Meeting that is...

This coming Wednesday the 11th of December we will be having our first annual shareholders meeting from 5:30-6:30 at the Appleton Farms Visitor Center.  All of our shareholders from this past season are invited to attend.  This is your chance to meet and mingle with the glamorous (albeit often mud stained) farmers who run the CSA and give them your feed back about the season.  Come and tell us what you liked and give us input on what you'd like us to improve.  This gives us a chance to respond directly and personally to any questions you might have about why we do the enigmatic things we do.  Come share our arcane knowledge!  Light refreshments and a slideshow will be provided and we will talk a little bit about our preliminary plans for next season.  E-mail if you are interested in attending.  We look forward to seeing you there.