Mid-Season Survey Response, Fall 2014

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 issues you brought up in the survey were:

1. Why are there so many greens?
2. Fruit variety
3. FAQ and our purchasing process

You will have another chance to share your feedback at the end of this season, and we would love to hear how you think we did in addressing your concerns over the next few weeks.

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, Taylor, Jenna, Blain, and Antonia

Why are there so many greens?

The answer to this one is pretty simple: greens are in season, easy to cook, and incredibly nutritious. We want to be sure you feel as though you are getting your money's worth with each share, so we put a lot of thought into finding the right balance of number of items in the share, how hearty they are, and if we have gotten them before.

Greens are in season year round, and in particular from July through December. Seasonal eating is what BMSP is all about, and the volume of greens in part reflects that. It's only an added bonus that they are SO good for you, and so easy to cook! Another popular request in the survey was for quick and easy recipes that use only a couple basic ingredients. Well, sautéed greens with garlic is top on our list of recipes that meet those criteria: all you need is a pan, some oil and some salt. You can also easily add them to almost any other dish for some color and a whole lot of flavor.

Some people mentioned that greens go bad really quickly. As long as you are storing them properly, the greens you get in your share (picked fresh every Thursday morning) should last two weeks! We'll do our best to order fewer greens for the rest of the season, but you should still expect to see kale in a few more of the shares.

Where is all the fruit?

One main reason why there has not been as much fruit variety as some of you may have hoped is 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 weekly diet. BMSP provides 75-100% of your weekly produce for 56% of you, and 50-75% for 44% of you. That's a lot! Although fruit items are delicious and definitely some of our favorites, they are very expensive per quantity compared to heartier items like greens and winter squash. Popular stone fruits like pears, peaches, and plums can be quite pricy! We do not want to spend too much on fruit if it means having fewer items in the share, although in addition to apples we did have husk cherries and were able to buy watermelons for the first time earlier this season!

Another reason that there has not been a variety of different fruit options is the seasonality of those items. Many of you asked for berries in the survey, but sadly those items are not in season any more. Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are in season in June, July, and August respectively, and our farmers no longer have them available. Stone fruit crops are still in season through October in RI, but this year they were devastated by the long, cold winter that we had and many of those orchards did not produce their usual yields.

We DO purchase apples every week for a couple reasons. First, they're delicious. Oh my goodness. So crisp. So juicy. Second, we have a great partnership with Hill Orchards. We want to support them on a weekly basis in the same way that we support Freedom Food Farm, Wishing Stone Farm, and Big Train Farm. Finally, September to December is prime apple season, in New England in particular! Nothing says fall like a perfect apple, and we are so glad for the opportunity to include this tasty snack in the share each week.


What is our purchasing process?

We have a detailed explanation of how our purchasing works here, but in brief, it works as follows. Erin calls and emails our farmers every Friday-Sunday to find out what items they will have for us in the quantities that we need that week. Once she has heard back from each farmer, she compiles a share from the full list of possible options, keeping in mind factors like prices, repetition, number of items, heartiness of items, etc. The farmers harvest the items on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, pack them up, and deliver them to us at Hillel each Thursday morning. Talk about fresh!

Why does BMSP only work with small farms? Wouldn't working with large farms make it possible to get more produce each week?

In short, sustainability. It is integral to BMSP that the produce in your shares is locally and sustainably grown. We also value our partnerships with specific farms; we only work with farmers that we know, farms that we have visited, and farms that benefit from partnering with us as much as we benefit from partnering with them. Larger farms are sometimes able to charge less per item, true, but that is because they use less sustainable growing methods to keep up with the size of their fields, and are able to distribute their produce more widely than smaller farms can.

What happens to any leftover produce at the end of the day?

We order in exact quantities to match the number of shareholders we have each season. This means that any leftover produce at the end of the day is from shares that were not picked up (*gasp!* but yes, sometimes that happens). Because it would be unfair for us to give any extras out to shareholders who are able to come at the end of the day, we donate this food through the Food Recovery Network to make sure it goes to good use. Those donations ultimately end up at either Crossroads RI or McAuley House.

Can we know the contents of each share more in advance, so we can plan?

Unfortunately not. Our farmers often don't know what they will have available for us until a few days before each Thursday, because the items are still in the fields and anything from rain to pests to an early frost could set a crop back a couple weeks at a day's notice. Sometimes what farmers have available can even change between Monday and Thursday! (Although that's pretty rare.) For items like apples that are sold not in individual units but by the bushel, it is actually impossible for us to know the exact quantity of apples per shareholder until we have the chance to count them all Thursday morning. We do our best to estimate how many it will be per person when we send our newsletter each week, but the size of the apples in each bushel can increase or decrease that number sometimes.

You can definitely be sure that we work really hard each Sunday-Tuesday to make sure that we get you the list of items in the share as soon as possible each week!

Can we get more share items like lettuce and large tomatoes?

We do our best to provide a diverse array of items throughout the season. Many popular items like cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, and tomatoes are only in season during the summer and into September. We saw this in the beginning of this fall season, with the cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and green beans. Although some farmers do still have them available now, they are too expensive for us to buy for the shares this late in the growing season. We are excited about this though, because it means that winter items like Brussels sprouts and hearty squashes will be more readily available!

Why are some items so dirty?

Easy: they came out of the ground that morning! Like my mom always says, "a little dirt never hurt anyone," and because many of our farmers use either chemical-free or organic growing methods, we know that there's nothing noxious on those veggies. (Another benefit of working only with small farms that we know!) That said, we do still recommend that you rinse your BMSP produce items before consuming them.


Post a Comment

newer post older post