By Stacey Fiener, Owner/Farmer of My Fine Homestead
The tasks vary from farm to farm however these are our daily and weekly tasks at our farm, My Fine Homestead.
Harvest days are long days, but fun because harvest is the culmination of growing produce. It is also a day to look forward to because others arrive to help us. There is a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie that makes the work go quickly. We spend the morning and afternoon picking, pulling, digging, cutting, and collecting vegetables. As we harvest, we cover the crates with thin, wet white flour sack towels to protect produce from the heat until it is delivered to the pack shed. Once there, it is soaked to remove the heat from the field, rinsed, bagged (if necessary), and stored in the walk-in cooler.
After that is done for all the crops harvested that day, I print labels. Bill, and whoever is helping, counts out and assembles boxes. Next, labels are taped to the appropriate size box. Then the fun begins, the washed and cooled produce is brought back out of the cooler to be distributed. This is when we find out how well we did counting items in the field. If we’ve done a good job, we have the correct number. If not, someone hustles to the field to get more amid good-natured calls of, “It wasn’t me that messed up!”, or “I got all mine!” Then with all the produce accounted for, boxes are closed up and sorted in stacks according to their delivery location. We load the boxes in the cooler – first delivered are first in so they are the last loaded into the van the next morning.
All that is left is to shut the lights off in the pack shed. Harvest day is done.
Wednesday is delivery day the various pick up sites. I get up early to put the weekly newsletter together. I try to get most of it done pre-dawn before I’m distracted by the rest of my family as they get up for the day.
I list the box contents, any announcements, add a recipe or two, and write this part – what has been happening on the farm. This section gives you a window into the work we do. My goal is to connect you to us, your farmers, our practices, and ultimately to your food. After the newsletter is sent out, we load the van. Bill and Liam line the back of the van with a combination of styrofoam insulation and bubble-wrap to keep the produce cool. We load the boxes, and after a final check with the kids, we’re off! (Saturdays are similar except the newsletter is done already, and we deliver to only one stop – the Spring Green Farmers Market.)
By evening the boxes will be in your hands, and we will be on our way home. Tired but satisfied. Harvest and delivery days are busy yet rewarding.
by Angela Jenkins, LENA President
A few months ago, I had this idea, an idea that was stewing and is now becoming a reality! My family and I are CSA members for the past few years through my work in what is called a workplace CSA. We have always been interested in the concept but never had the guts to pull the trigger until the second season it was offered. This was largely due to a dear co-worker who graciously offered her produce with me throughout that season. She was either going to be out of town or there were simply too much for her and her roommate to consume. It was rather strange but each week, I brought home a large bag filled with fresh, organic vegetables which we enjoyed. Then my co-worker asked if we would be interested in splitting a share for the next season. I hadn't thought about it but after some discussions with the family, we've decided to go for it. It is then I learned about the healthcare rebate from our health insurance which saved us some money. The farm had other offerings (e.g. organic free-range eggs) in addition to produce which I took advantage. Before long, we were accustomed to the process and routine; box of fresh, in-season, organic produce delivered once weekly with our fresh eggs. Prior to this, I've never been a meal planner but inevitably, I had to modify my cooking behavior in order to consume the fresh veggies we receive on a weekly basis. It was a challenge initially but it didn't take long before we got used to the new routine. You see, the farm publishes weekly newsletter to its members with information around the farm and of course, the vegetables for the week. This way, you know what you'll be receiving and can plan accordingly. It became a routine where we look forward to the newsletter weekly and plan meals for the upcoming week. I loved it! I mean, it was great! Other than the occasional item here and there, we've eliminated vegetables from our grocery list. How great is that?! I think it is.
Then I had this idea. What if we start a public CSA site right here in the neighborhood?! Wouldn't that be great? To be able to share the same experience we had with friends and neighbors? I brought this up casually with a few neighbors and surprisingly, the reactions were overwhelmingly positive. I've never organized something like this before and I didn't know where to begin but I mustered up the courage to contact the FairShare CSA Coalition office. We invited the Executive Director, Erika Jones to share information about CSA and FairShare to one of the LENA meetings. She helped us create a survey to gather interest in the neighborhood with the premise that if there is enough interest, we would pursue the opportunity. Well, you've spoken and here we are.
Based on the survey results and with help from our friends at the FairShare, we've identified a farm that meets our needs; My Fine Homestead, located just west of Muscoda in Blue River. I've had the opportunity to meet the farmers, Stacey Fiener and Bill Meyer last week. They were kind enough to come to meet me at the Monona Community Center where my 4 year old had her final ballet class. Both Stacey and Bill are equally as excited as I am in building this relationship. Here are some of the details discussed:
*notification can be sent via text or email (please specify)
Thank you Carrie and Erika at FairShare for your assistance and Pastor Lex at the Lake Edge UCC for agreeing to let us use the facility as a pick up location. There is a secondary goal and I have ideas in how we may contribute to the Allis nutrition program. More information to come on that. Until then, please feel free to spread the word and I can't wait for the upcoming season to begin!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Tell me about FairShare CSA Coalition
A. FairShare CSA Coalition aim to support and connect CSA farmers to us (CSA members).
Q. Are all CSA farmers FairShare members?
A. No. The FairShare farmers have been through a peer-reviewed application and interview process to ensure their ability to provide the highest quality foods and customer service. The farms must be certified organic or are practicing organic farming techniques (i.e. in transition to be certified).
Q. What financial assistance are available?
A. All FairShare farms participates in the financial assistance in addition to health care plan reimbursements (limited to produce and fruit only). Eligible households may apply for assistance via the Partner Share Program from FairShare.
Q. How does the healthcare reimbursement work?
A. Learn more about this on the FairShare website: Health Insurance Rebate.**
Q. What types of shares are available and how much?
A. Depends on the farms however My Fine Homestead offers many options year-round. Check out their website for information.
Q. Is this only available to Lake Edge neighbors?
A. No - this is open for all who wish to support local farms and in having fresh, seasonal farm products delivered weekly.
Q. I have an extensive garden during the growing season. What options are available to me?
A. The farm offers spring and winter shares along with other goodies such as meat, eggs, and sweet shares.
FairShare CSA Coalition: http://www.csacoalition.org/
**Contact Carrie Sedlak at firstname.lastname@example.org or Erika Jones at email@example.com for questions re: Heatlh Insurance Rebates
Articles are written and submitted by members of the Lake Edge Neighborhood Association, residents, business owners, community members, and elected officials in the Lake Edge neighborhood or vicinity.