2018 Annual Report to Shareholders

Scott Sigurdson Shareholder Reports

As the season winds down at Indian Creek, most of our outdoor work complete, we like to take  time to reflect on the season we are putting to bed. A highlight and delight for us, was meeting so many of you each week at the farm stand and at Open Farm Day 2018. Some, the veterans of previous CSA programs had a clear idea what you were getting yourself into. For others it was a first foray into the world of local, organic produce. Either way, it was a revolutionary, empowering act of shopping. We hope we were able to live up to your expectations?

The year in review

Ground zero| Each year we set goals; the number of shares we will offer, the amount of produce we hope to grow, the number of staff we need to attract, and above all else, the experience we attempt to craft for our shareholder families.

In 2018 we aimed for 200 shares. By mid march we had reached 160 reservations. It’s intimidating when you stop to consider that each person with a reservation will arrive with expectations and several empty grocery bags to fill each week, all season long. At 160 members, we had reached the outer limit of our comfort zone. We chickened out and capped our membership. Whew! In 2017 we had 100 shareholders.

Mother nature never plays the same tune twice. Its up to us as growers learn the new step and keep up. These were the players on our stage this season;

Drought | The 2018 season began with a two month drought. At the feed store there was  muttering about dust and ashes,  the season’s prophesy. We are fortunate to have a robust irrigation system at Indian Creek. Yet many of our long season crops were not equipped. The corn and garlic patches in particular. The garlic with its  six inches of organic straw mulch did just fine. Better than fine, a bumper crop! The corn … well, not so much. In August our corn patch had yet to reach waist height, the cobs formed were miniscule. We assumed it needed more time to size up. The weeds were the only plants that sized up. On the upside, our irrigated crops did very well and the drought delayed some of the problem associated with wet weather until much later in the season. Silver lining …

Heat wave| On the heels of the drought came a record setting heat wave.  Well irrigated, we enjoyed a a bumper crop of melons as a result.  The cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini were powerhouses most of the season as a result too. The heat did result in some problems however. Foremost among them was the ongoing lettuce crisis. Much of our lettuce came to maturity well ahead of schedule, a few plantings were lost to bolting, and lettuce will not germinate in 30°C+ weather. Because we over plant, and germinated seed in our walk in cooler, we had ample supplies of lettuce each week and more than we knew what to do with at the end. One unfortunate consequence of the heat wave was tomato shelf life. Stored at “room” temperature their shelf life was reduced to days. When we tried to preserve them in the walk in cooler the texture was affected by the cold. We are building a climate controlled section in our cooler especially for tomatoes next season!

Plague of locusts| Sorry, I can’t resist a catchy subhead! There were no locusts this year. Although  insects are yet another track on the album Mother nature plays for us each year. Two years ago it was cucumber beetles, last year it was flea beetles, this year it was slugs and earwigs. We lost more than one planting of nappa cabbage to these insects in 2018. They left their mark on several others Asian greens as well. That little missing bite or hole on your arugula, bok choy or cabbage? We call it Mother Natures Organic Certification Program, and our dues are all paid up!

I would like to re-iterate that, at Indian Creek, we do not wage war on insects. We rely entirely upon crop rotations, partitions and physical barriers to protect crops. When insects get really enthusiastic we may introduce natural biological controls to restore balance, such as lady bugs,  parasitic wasps and beneficial bacterias. Despite being a nuisance at times, and the result of some crop loss, even the “pests” are an integral and  necessary part of the ecosystem we attempt to protect, foster and sustain at Indian Creek.

Volunteers | Far from being the fourth horseman, we rely heavily on the efforts of volunteers or what we have come to term work shares. These are a diverse and motivated group of people, who have committed to to a weekly four hour shift at Indian Creek Orchard Gardens. They receive their share as remuneration. We employ over a dozen work share volunteers to keep our prices affordable and our operation viable. Its also a joy to find oneself in the midst of a dozen enthusiastic volunteers on harvest days. Volunteers come with some caveats however; they vanish on long weekends, require ongoing calibration, and generally lack experience. Most harvest days I spend as much time managing and coaching as harvesting. It was mid July before we had anything resembling standardized carrot or beet bunches. But we could not do it without them. We are  grateful for their cheery faces and early arrivals. Thank you for your patience earlier in the season.

Summary | There you have it, despite drought, heatwave, our dance with the “locusts” and because of enthusiastic volunteers we managed to provide 14 or 18 weeks of continuous, safe, nutrient dense, naturally grown local produce for 160 families. Most weeks we included more items per share than what was promised in our marketing. Never less. We over delivered! And for the many who choose to collect your shares at our farm stand, you met your farmers each week and closed the loop in your food supply chain. You also enjoyed a grounding country farm experience each week, your children participated in their own food selection and you got to know our dogs.

Oh yes! Our romaine was safe to eat all season long!

Outlook

This time of year, in concert with reflection on the year gone by, we begin to hatch our plans for next year. Having listened to you at the farm stand, read your emails, collated your survey results, we have a pretty good idea of what worked and what did not. We are now beginning  to compose our shareholder experience for 2019.

For 2019; we are adding new varieties to almost every category, expanding selections, refining our menu of heirloom tomato varieties, and releasing three exciting new porcelain garlic varieties we propagated this year.  We are also optimistic that the orchard  will begin to produce in earnest, filling the farm stand with fresh organic fruit as well as vegetables. As the fruit trees grow they occupy an ever increasing portion of our growing area and will become a larger part of what goes on at Indian Creek. In consequence, we are reducing the number of vegetable shares on offer for next season from 160 to 125. This, to ensure that our shareholders continue to receive  value and to allow us more time in the orchard. Our goal is to provide you with greater selection and lower prices than you could find at a farmers market, yet earn more than we would if we sold wholesale. Its a win win for everyone.

Thank you again for all your support and confidence in us. Marisa and I will look for you when the barn swallows return.