Trumpeter Swan Farm
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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
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Contact Phil if you have further questions: phil_hannay@kaphian.com or 612-308-2664.

Why CSA?

CSA provides an upfront commitment to a local farm for produce sales week after week during the season. This is huge from a small business perspective. We can make purchases of seed and equipment without the expense and risk of a bank loan. And more importantly, we know our produce is sold! We are not at the mercy of a rainy farmers market or an unhelpful wholesale buyer. Our produce and eggs go to our members, rain or shine.

In addition, we know our budget, so we can hire employees and commit to giving them work all season long. Last year, in addition to myself and my wife; we had our son working year-round, and 4 students working during the summer. Some years ago, the 2011 season started poorly with cold and continued rain for 6 weeks. Our CSA customers allowed us to keep our employment commitments, keeping our workers busy with other projects, knowing that eventually the rain and cold would end and we could get to work growing food. Without CSA, and no income coming in, I would have had to cut their hours significantly, or worse, laid them off until July.

Our employees live in the Buffalo area, so your money stays in the community. And these are quality summer jobs for students - full time, 40 hours per week, Monday thru Friday, daytime, with evenings and weekends off. None of the part-time and split shift and weekend work that is common these days in retail and fast food. And, contrary to popular press, we have no problem finding local employees for the quality farm work jobs that our members make possible.

Why should I buy your share?

We think you will like our program for several reasons.

Where do I pickup my share each week?

You Don't! We include FREE Home Delivery. Your box will be delivered to your doorstep. We use an insulated box with icepak to keep your items cool. As long as you are home by midnight, all will be fine.

What is your home delivery area?

In general, from Buffalo, we go North to the Mississippi River, East to I-494, South to I-394/US-12 and West to Cokato and Annandale.

Towns included are Buffalo, Monticello, Albertville, Otsego, St Michael, Rogers, Dayton, Champlin, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Wayzata, Medina, Hanover, Rockford, Maple Plain, Delano, Montrose Cokato, Annandale and Maple Lake.

Can I select what I want?

You get a "share of the harvest", so what we harvest is available to our members. We do not do farmers markets or wholesale, so its all for you. We use a CSA software package called Harvie to distribute the harvest based on your preferences. After you sign up, you set and maintain your preferences - they range from "Love it", "Like it", "Sometimes", "I'll eat it", and "Not for me".

Can I customize my box?

Yes. After Harvie creates your box based on your preferences, you will get a "Time to Customize" email which will let you look at your box contents. If the box looks good, you do nothing. You can also make changes if desired. You can take items out of your box, putting them into the "Swap Area", which are made available to other members. You can also add items to your box from the "Swap Area". You can even add items beyond your box size, using credits to pay for the extras, or if no credits available, it is put on your credit card for that delivery.

What if I only get a partial box?

You get credit on your account for any unused space in your box. This can happen in early summer, when we only have enough produce for 3 items in your half share box instead of the usual 6 items. Or in winter, when the available items are beets, potatoes, turnips and winter squash, and you have enough beets and potatoes, and remove them from your box, leaving just turnips and winter squash. Or maybe nothing this week appeals to you and you just want to empty your box and not get a delivery that week.

What are credits?

Credits can be used to add extra items to your box beyond its size. A half share box normally holds about $20 worth of produce. We keep of prices simple - $3 for a produce item, $6 for eggs, $2 for herbs. So a half share could hold 4 produce items, 1 dozen eggs, and 1 herb. Maybe you want to add an extra tray of tomatoes, or more eggs. Simply add those items, and your credits will be used to pay for those extra items. If you run out of credits, you can still add items, and pay for them with your credit card on file. You accumulate credits when you have unused space in your box, or you empty your box (skip delivery), or are in a slow harvest time like winter and early summer. Later, in mid-summer when there is plenty available, you can use your credits to get extra items.

What if I get too many credits?

We'd like everyone to carry some credits on their account. This gives you flexibility to get what you want when you want it without worrying too much about nickels and dimes, or added random charges on your credit card. Our goal is for half share members to carry about $100 in credit on their account, and full share members to carry $200. That gives you maximum flexibility. If you find that you accumulate too many credits, you can apply those to your next season's share. Likewise, if you find yourself running short of credits, you can purchase a larger share next season.

What happens if I want to skip one or more weeks?

Once in a while, you will not want your share – maybe you are on vacation, or just not able to cook that week. It’s not a big deal. You can "hold" your share and then choose to receive a "double box" the next week, or you can also donate your share to the food shelf. You can also receive a credit on your account if desired. You can schedule holds in advance.

Are you organic?

We are not certified organic. However, we keep things simple and use only normal things you’d find at a garden store. We rotate fields and incorporate cover crops. We do use fertilizer when planting, and a few crops like onions and sweet corn like some extra nitrogen. Typically, a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 for planting, and a high nitrogen fertilizer like 26-0-5 (without phosphorus) for corn or onions. Chicken manure is composted along with straw, wood chips and packaging that you return to us, and then added to the fields as well.

As we harvest produce for you to eat, we are removing from our fields the organic material and nutrients that went into our produce. That must be replaced for the next crops to grow as nicely. So we do cover crops to add organic matter to the soil and provide food for a flourishing underground world of earthworms and microbes. When the cover crops are growing actively with lots of root development, we will do a light fertilization with a balanced 17-17-17 fertilier. The cover crops soak this up like a sponge with no runoff or leaching. Those nutrients, plus other micronutrients, are pulled from the soil and will be slowly released as the earthworms and microbes decompose the disked in cover crops, making these nutrients available to our vegetable crops.

We NEVER apply fertilizer (or compost for that matter) to dormant (winter) fields. This is how nitrogen and phosphorus leach out and end up in our lakes, rivers and water supply. We apply compost and fertilizer when plants are planted, or actively growing with fully developed roots that will soak up the nutrients the moment they become available.

We ALWAYS fertilize in small doses so plants can fully utilize the nutrients without any waste.

If a herbicide or pesticide is needed, we limit them to safe biodegradable ones that require no special safety equipment or licensing and will not contaminate land or water.

We will use Roundup herbicide on tough spreading weeds like thistle and quack grass. Despite its bad press, it's actually a very environmentally friendly herbicide because it binds tightly to the soil so it can’t get into the water table, and it decomposes in a few days. We can't keep it in a tank for long as it will "spoil" just like milk - the bacteria and mold eat it up. Obviously it is not used on our crops as it would kill them. The only exception is sweet corn. Like most sweet corn growers in our area, we grow sweet corn that is resistant to glyphosate (roundup) and has the BT gene (kills earworms). This eliminates the need to use enviornmentally harmful herbicides like atrazine (gets into groundwater) or pesticides (kills bees).

We do not normally use pesticides. We prefer to tolerate insect pests – figuring that they are kept in balance by beneficial insects. Once in a while, the damaging insects get out of control (potato bugs or cabbage worms) and we will use an organic pesticide like BT or Spinosad to help control them. Spinosad, while organic, is still an broad-spectrum insecticide and thus lethal to bees, so we never use it when a plant is flowering.

What about GMO?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. The best balanced discussion of GMO that I've seen is in Wikipedia. There are very few GMO fruits and vegetables available. So when someone says their vegetables are non-GMO, they are not saying much. Everyone grows non-GMO. The only exception in our area is Sweet Corn. The Sweet Corn sold in supermarkets and farm stands, and sold by half the growers at area farmers markets, is GMO. The primary reason is to eliminate corn earworms (without spraying chemicals), which consumers no longer want to see and deal with (cut off the end of the corn and discard the worm). The GMO variety also has easier weed control. We grow the GMO variety. Growers cannot grow GMO corn if they are "Certified Organic".

Are you bee friendly?

Yes indeed. Not only bee friendly, but insect friendly! We rarely use pesticides, preferring to keep things balanced.

Bees, of course, love farms like ours. Many flowers, varied plants, and things flowering all year until frost. Its fun to watch the squash blossoms to see all the different types of bees. We see honeybees, of course, but also many types of wild bees like bumblebees and the many small bees that most people don't know exist. Even bees that only like squash blossoms. We also have unplanted areas (steeper hills, wind breaks) that have wild flowers like yarrow, golden rod and sumac, plus two sections of prairie with coneflowers and lupine. Two years ago, we built a dam to help slow down water flow in a gully. In the wall, we added rocks, plus wool mulch and landscape fabric. Why? For field mice and voles to build nests, which then become the preferred nesting spots for bumblebees in subsequent years.

Butterflies, also like this same varied habitat, and we encourage milkweed patches for Monarch butterflies.

And wasps, despite their bad press, are also welcome. Think of them as flying carnivores (just like dragonflies), but going after caterpillars like cabbage worms. They love the juicy caterpillars for feeding their babies. So we do not disturb yellow jacket and other paper wasp nests whereever possible.

Are your chickens free range? What do they eat?

Yes. During the daytime, our chickens are free to roam a fenced in area (about 3 acres of grass and woods) where they can eat grass and scratch for bugs and seeds. At night, they sleep in our barn with the door closed to protect them from predators (raccoons, foxes or wandering dogs – It’s a jungle out there). The chickens eat a commercial vegetarian layer feed plus produce scraps. They really like lettuce, strawberries and summer squash!

We also have two portable chicken coops each holding 50 hens each. They are moved around in our field as needed to provide extended range for the hens. In fact, they will be put to work, removing grass and weeds from some of our plantings.

Can I get eggs?

Eggs are another product we "harvest" on the farm, so yes, you can add eggs to your farm share. You can let the system know you want some eggs in your share, and when they are available, you will get them. Figure out, on average, how many eggs you want per week. If you average one or less than one dozen eggs per week, you can add them when needed, and not have much effect on how much produce you receive. If you determine you average more than one dozen eggs per week (like 2 or 3 dozen per week), upgrade your farm share to the next level to insure you have enough room in your box for the produce you want.

What if I just want eggs?

Not a problem. Eggs are one our farm products you can get in your box. If you do not want produce, simply let the system know do not want any fruit and vegetables added to your box. You can add the number of eggs you need. And you can get delivery every other week if desired. At the same time, you can add specific produce to your box as desired.

Members that get mostly eggs and little produce will get credits for the empty space in their box.

What’s special about your farm or produce?

The produce we deliver is planted, grown and harvested on our farm to insure the best quality. This is YOUR FARM - you can visit it, wander around and see how we grow your food. We are not a consolidator, gathering produce from different growers and delivering to you as a middleman. If you have a question, we know the answer since we planted it, we grew it and we harvested it.

Occasionally, we may add some special items grown by a neighbor, one of our employees, or even a member. One year we had some older varieties of sweet corn from one of our fellow market people. And we had some lettuce and squash from one of our employees!

We start receiving seed catalogues in December and scrutinize new varieties carefully. Sometimes we try something new and sometimes we go back to the “tried and true”. We look for what tastes the best and is the most disease resistant. We invite your feedback, good or bad.

Can I visit your farm?

YES! After all, its YOUR FARM! Someone is always around Monday thru Friday, 9AM-3PM. Just drop by. If you want to come at another time, give us a call at 612-308-2664 before you come so you know we are home. A self-guided tour is available. There are several nice spots in our pastures or along the marsh for a picnic. If you decide to become a member, you aren’t required to work at our farm (unless you really want to!).

What can I expect each week?

Typically, for products that are plentiful, everyone gets some. New arriving products like strawberries may be split into smaller portions just to make sure everyone gets the “first taste of the season”. We also have our Box Customizer. Each week, the system will create your box by looking at available produce and dividing it up based on member preferences. You can then go online, and and further refine your box if desired to add or subtract items.

One goal is to provide each item we grow to everyone at least one week during the season, so you can try something you might not normally buy like turnips or edamame soybeans. Another goal is to make available basic items like herbs, onions, potatoes and beans for as long possible, letting you choose them when you need them.

How much is a typical Full Share or Half Share?

During the peak season, a full share will be about a bushel of produce. (A large apple box is a bushel). Obviously, in the beginning, the amounts are smaller as things are just starting. However, our asparagus starts mid-May, and we typically start early crops like lettuce, spinach, green onions and radishes in a hoop house so we get those products in May as well.

In general, figure a full share is good for a family of 4 (or 2 vegetarians), and a half share is good for 2 people. We try to keep the shares reasonably sized so you are not getting too much of any one thing.

Another way to look at it - for the summer season, a share comes to about $40 per week. Now go to the grocery store and buy $40 worth of mixed produce (leaf lettuce, summer squash, snap peas or green beans, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus) and see what it looks like. Our share will be similar - but of course - fresher and tastier!

As you know, with CSA you share some of the risk of farming. If we have good planting and growing conditions, your share of the harvest will be more plentiful and varied. However, in a bad year, the yield and variety will be reduced. To give you an idea of how this might vary, here are examples of some of our baskets in 2009 (a good year) and 2011 (a not so good year). These are a typical “full share” for a week during that month. For “half share”, figure half of the amount. “Picks” are where you pick items you want to add to your basket from our collection of whatever else there is available that week. In a bad year like 2011, there were few “picks” since we had no surpluses of anything.

May 2009
1 dozen eggs
2 bunches asparagus
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch radishes
4 picks (ie. lettuce, spinach)
May 2011
1 dozen eggs
2 bunches asparagus
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch radishes
July 2009
1 dozen eggs
2 pints raspberries
1 bunch swiss chard
1 head broccoli
1 quart green beans
2 trays summer squash
2 picks (ie. arugula, turnips,
      lettuce, peas, onions)
July 2011
1 dozen eggs
2 pints raspberries
2 trays summer squash
1 head brocolli
September 2009
1 dozen eggs
1 pint raspberries
2 tray summer squash
2 qt slicing tomatoes
2 qt sauce roma tomatoes
2 qt green peppers
1 watermelon
3 picks (ie. sweet corn, beans,
      hot peppers, broccoli)
September 2011
1 dozen eggs
2 pints raspberries
2 tray summer squash
1 tray cucumbers
2 qt slicing tomatoes
1 bunch basil
1 tray garlic

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Eat food -- Not too much -- Mostly plants