Mid-Season Survey Response, Summer 2014


Fruit, Purchasing Process, and Program Impact

Thank you so much to those of you who filled out our mid-season survey! We spend a lot of time going through the responses as a team, and it is always a great opportunity for us to learn, and also to brainstorm how to make things better. We love hearing from YOU about this program, and appreciate the great ideas you share about what we can do to improve BMSP. In the feedback we got from you last week, there were a few key questions you had that we wanted to address.

The three main questions you had for us were:
1. Where is all the fruit?
2. How does our purchasing process work?
3. What has our impact been as a program?

The first and second we answer for you below, and the third we wanted to write about separately, so you can read about our program's impact HERE.

You will have another chance to share your feedback at the end of the summer season, and we would love to hear how you think we did in addressing your concerns over the next few weeks. We've also now put a feedback form at the bottom of the newsletter that will be there each week, where you can submit any suggestions you might have for us in the meantime.

Thanks so much for being a part of this season! If you still have any questions about the following points or anything else, please don't hesitate to talk to a coordinator at Market Day, or email us at info@brownmarketshares.com.

-Anna, Meg, Erin, and Taylor

Where is all the fruit?

There are a couple reasons why there has not been as much fruit as some of you may have hoped. As we are sure you remember (especially those of you who were spring shareholders as well), we had a really wet, really cold, really long winter and spring. Last season this meant that we were not able to get greens until much later than usual, and this season, it's meant that items like cucumbers and squash came a couple weeks late as well.

Unfortunately, that weather also impacted fruit growth, particularly that of peaches and plums. These stone fruits are native to warm climates to begin with, and are thus are very sensitive to low winter temperatures. Their natural early spring blossoming is also impacted by extended winters like the one we just had. [source]

Another limiting factor this season has been fruit prices. We try to put together a hearty share each week, because we know that for many of you, the food you receive from us is a significant part of your eating. BMSP provides 75-100% of your weekly produce for 41% of you, and 50-75% for 44% of you. That's a lot! We want to be sure you feel as though you are getting your money's worth. Although fruit items are delicious and definitely some of our summertime favorites, they are very expensive per quantity compared to heartier items like greens and squash. Berries in particular can be hard to accommodate in our weekly purchasing budget, although we are glad we were able to get blueberries last week! We do not want to spend too much on fruit too often if it means having fewer items in the share.

We are excited for the rest of the summer season and hope to provide you with more fruit, but are facing some of the realities of seasonal eating. We also love these items, and hope that the peach and plum crops at Hill Orchards will be ready for us to order soon. We encourage you to visit one of the many local farmers' markets in the meantime, to pick up supplemental local fruit items there.

How does our purchasing process work?

The day after each Thursday's share, our purchasing coordinator, Erin, starts contacting our farmers about the next week's share. She makes phone calls and writes emails asking each farmer what they have available. By Sunday night, having heard from everyone, she pieces together the share, often with the input of the rest of the summer coordinating team. With some farmers, we plan ahead to ensure that they'll be growing veggies in the large quantities we need for all our shareholders (there are 240 this season!). For this reason, we sometimes commit to buying certain veggies or fruits a few weeks in advance, which shapes part of that week's share ahead of time.

There are a number of factors we think about every week while choosing between different produce items. First and foremost is the need to compile a hearty share, one that provides the most sustenance possible for the cost. Another consideration is the need for variety! While there are certain staples that play a large role in the season, we like to keep the share dynamic so that shareholders get the opportunity to taste the full spectrum of local summer produce. We first fill the share with the produce available from our partner farms, the ones we know best and love and purchase from directly.

To round out the share, or to get veggies or fruits that our farmers don't have for us, we occasionally buy one or two items though Farm Fresh RI's Market Mobile. This distribution service allows us to connect with farmers beyond those with whom we work on a consistent, week-to-week basis. It's also the place where we buy our Narragansett Creamery yogurt and cheese and our Rhody Fresh milk! Market Mobile ordering is open from midnight on Sunday to midnight on Monday - so Erin's up late every Sunday to get a first look. While she's emailing back farmers and ordering on Market Mobile, she also sends an email to Seven Stars Bakery, to place our bread order for the week.

While purchasing is done by the time the newsletter gets sent on Tuesdays, Erin stays in touch with our farmers throughout the week. Every once in a while, she gets a call or an email that something didn't go right during harvesting - a veggie didn't mature quickly enough or there were simply not enough to meet the quantity ordered. Depending on the issue, she may reach back out to other farmers to make a last minute substitution. Then, on Thursdays, she's on hand at Market Day in the mornings to help receive deliveries. The next day, the process begins again!


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