FDC FRESH IDEAS
By Julie Pottier-Brown, Operations Manager
Thanks for the snow, for it means the ponds and rivers will fill upon melting in the spring. Thanks for the cold, for it means the pests will die off. I am not the weather complaining kind of New Englander, and I see the winter differently than some. The snow provides both insulation for hibernating plants and August water, for that I am happy to have real snowfall!
At this time of year, Tamara is very busy with hundreds of registrations. Steve is managing special programs such as studying the feasibility of accepting SNAP and looking into truck rentals. I am securing space in each of our three locations and chatting with growers about crops, schedules and prices.
Speaking of prices; this January, the Board of Directors voted to raise the annual membership fee for participation in the Farm Direct Coop to $65. When I first joined the Coop in 1999 (then it was called the Marblehead Eco-Farm), the membership fee was $25. It was raised to $40 in 2000, then to $50 in 2008 where it remained for 5 years. The cost of insurance, labor and trucking (both rentals and gas) has all increased over these years. We had to make a change to keep up with expenses.
We have always separated the costs of the membership fee and the prices of the produce, so that the share prices only increase when the prices of the produce we purchase increases. We have always tried our best to not raise both share costs and membership fees in a single calendar year. We have indeed held steady the cost of the small and large fruit and vegetable shares, as well as the bread, cheese and chef shares this year.
I asked a few of our primary growers to write a bit about what they are doing in the off-season. Here are a few responses:
From Rob and Meghan - Riverland Farm, Sunderland, MA:
"We are away right now enjoying a little vacation time. What are we doing this winter....We are just finishing up with the last of our crops in storage, seeds and supplies have been ordered. We'll be starting up the greenhouse next week. We have an equipment repair list that's longer than my arm, that we'll begin to attack when we get back. We just bought a greenhouse from a rundown nursery in eastern MA that we'll be dismantling and moving in a couple of weeks. We'll be renovating one of our barn spaces to add additional cooler space, especially necessary when we get into the fall and winter months. We'll be making a trip down to PA and NJ to pick up some farm equipment and go to a farm auction. We'll be doing a big marketing push to sell shares in March.Time to start thinking like we're not on vacation I guess :) ."
And from Rita and Brooke - Herb Farmacy, Salisbury, MA:
"Our winter months are busy - we are participating in 3 winter farmer markets (Newburyport, Exeter, NH and Rollingsford, NH) where we sell our herbal goodies (vinegars, salts, sugars, dried herb mixes, lotions, lip balms, etc.). In addition, we heat one greenhouse and grow micro-greens, lettuce mixes, cilantro, dill, pea tendrils, radishes and other cold weather, low sunlight crops, which we also sell at the markets. We have "finished" ordering our flower, herb and veggie seeds in January and have already started our seeding for the upcoming season - lemongrass, lavender, white sage, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, chives are on today's list to seed ... so by the end of the day, we should have seeded around 4500 plants. This summer, we are planning to put up a greenhouse in our field - it will be unheated and used to grow in-ground winter greens. Since this type of growing is new to us, we have attended several NOFA sponsored workshops at Natick Community Farm and First Light Farm to help us learn more about everything from greenhouse structures to plant varieties. And of course, the recent snow storms have us shoveling a lot of snow! And I forgot, we are also going to bee school."
I didn't hear back from anyone else in time for this newsletter, but before we know it, it will be time for asparagus!
I hope to see you at the annual meeting in March - the BEST food at a pot luck ever!