The end of season survey results are in and tallied up. At the end of each season we ask our members what they thought of the year. When we look at all of the responses together, some trends start to emerge, and that is quite helpful for us in making decisions about what to change for next season. Here is a summary of what we learned from each section of the survey:
In the first section, you let us know what you thought of the crop selection this year by telling us if you wanted more, less, or the same amount of each crop that we offered. It is interesting to see how the votes all added up so here is a link to the full crop selection survey results in case you are curious. A portion of the results are shown below. What we want is for the "Same" bar to be the largest, indicating that most people were happy with the amount they received of each crop. When the "Same" bar isn't the largest, we need to make adjustments as in the case of radishes, where the "Less" bar was the largest. Half the members still voted for the same amount or more radishes, but since the the "Less" bar was the highest, we'll be cutting back even more on radishes next season. Quite a few people also voted for less hot peppers, and since we hardly distributed any of these this year, we may be cutting out this crop altogether.
If we cut something out, the amount of other crops has to increase, so we look for crops where the "More" bar was a lot larger than the "Less" bar. Highest on this list were carrots, onions, potatoes, snap peas, swiss chard, and sweet peppers. Therefore, we will be planning to incorporate more of these crops into the 2018 memberships.
The new crops that were suggested on the wish list were edible flowers, kale, and a couple new varieties of squash. We have considered trying edible flowers in the past for their colour and novelty, but we have avoided them in favour of crops that offer more calories per square foot. Some day, we may dabble in edible flowers, but I would be surprised if we did this next season. We grew large leaf kale in 2015, and bagged baby kale separately in 2016, but in the year end surveys kale kept getting voted off of the island. That's why we cut it out of our 2017 line up. If interest in kale is growing, we could consider growing it again, but we would need to hear requests from multiple members before we return this one to our crop line up. Lastly, squash is fairly familiar crop that has been popular with our members so we will look into the new varieties suggested to see if they could be a good fit with our farm.
We shifted our pick up and delivery time earlier this season to a 5:00pm to 8:00pm time slot and this change was really well received, so we will plan to keep this the same for next season.
Our options for individual memberships still seem to be about right for our different kinds of members. The trick seems to be in communicating the differences between the Starter Kit, Standard Share, and Backyard Bounty so that people will select the membership that fits them best. If you had a Standard Share and find yourself wanting less variety or smaller quantities, then the Starter Kit could be a better choice. If you had the Starter Kit but wish you had a little more variety and larger quantities, then the Standard Share is a better choice for you.
We experimented with a new group membership called Common Ground this season. It focussed on food that was easy to eat with minimal preparation, such as salad greens, carrots, snap peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The limited crop selection and small size of this membership made it possible for us to offer a 20 week season beginning a month earlier than our regular memberships. Several of these members were interested in more variety so we will be widening this crop selection and increasing the size a little for next season. We will also be changing the distribution day to Friday, instead of Thursday. This will help us spread out the harvesting of steady crops like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers to minimize waste on the farm and give everyone a higher quality product.
This section asked members to identify their top reasons for joining the farm and also which standards of practice in our operation were most important to them. The strongest motivator people selected as their reason for joining the farm was to eat sustainably grown food. The second highest motivator was their desire to support a local business. Our standards of practice that were most important to members were the avoidance of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, our pick up and delivery system, and the updates and recipe tips we share through our regular newsletters. Really, everything unique about our operation ranked quite high here, and since these are the qualities of a food service that are hard to measure, it was rewarding to see that they were valued among our members. This gives us encouragement to keep operating with these same standards in the next season.