December 2, 2013
An Open Letter to Yokna Bottoms Farm Friends and Supporters,
That staff and crew of Yokna Bottoms Farm would like to thank you for your support during our 2013 growing season. We are proud to be concluding our fourth season of providing fresh, Certified Naturally Grown, produce to the Oxford community. Our CSA program has grown from a 25 family CSA growing food on less than a half an acre in 2010, to a 130 family, 6 acre farm with three full time employees. We are sincerely grateful for your participation in our farm. Following is a brief summary of the 2013 season and some brief thoughts on our plans for 2014. We welcome any feedback as we work to improve our quality and service, and plan for the 2014 season.
The 2013 season is best described as a difficult success for us. The wet spring with 22” of rain between March 1 and May 15 combined with cool temperatures into June were a challenge for us. We lost nearly all of our potato crop and many other crops produced at a minimal level. In addition, our summer season was late by almost a month and our summer crops did not fully produce until the end of July. By the middle of July, our average weekly points were just under 18. Fortunately, we had favorable growing conditions for the rest of the year and we ended up with excellent crop production from August through November. This past season, we completed 62 consecutive Tuesday distribution/markets and Friday distributions before missing one on November 22nd because of 4” of rain the night before and two staff members with the flu. In addition, we sold food for 26 weeks at the Midtown Farmers Market. Regardless, we ended the season on a high note the following Tuesday before Thanksgiving by distributing almost 80, 24 point shares. We ended the season with an average of just over 20 points per week for each full food-shareholder and 10 points per week for each half food-shareholder. Thus, full shareholders received approximately $640 worth of produce and half shareholders approximately $320.
As the owner of the farm but also a full time faculty member at the University of Mississippi, I must give the credit for this year’s success to our amazing staff. The consistent effort and behind the scene marketing and communication required to grow, harvest, wash and prepare, and deliver the food consistently week after week requires intense commitment and a remarkable work ethic. My appreciation and gratitude to Betsy Chapman, Jeff Stone, Nathan Richardson, and Benjamin Koltai is beyond measure or expression. These four individuals have worked incredibly hard, day after day, for long hours in the cold, rain, mud, and intense Mississippi summer heat to successfully grow food and prove that organic agriculture is a viable economic activity in north Mississippi. If you feel the same gratitude, I hope you will let these individuals know how much you appreciate their effort to grow healthy food for you and your family!
We also owe tremendous gratitude to the long list of volunteers and part-time field hands who have supported the farm:
Kelly Marcy Nathan Zerangue Michelle Zerangue
Nathanial Stone John Daughaday Shaundi Wall
Katelynn Dillard Kimberly Spiegel Jamo Gait
WWOOF and HELP X Volunteers:
Loic Ney (France) Anthony Peron (France) Elizabeth Uitvulgt (Minnesotta)
Michael Lewis (Missouri) Sarah Lewis (Scotland) Meg O Neil (Ireland)
Aoife O Sullivan (Ireland) Corey Schattgen (Missouri) Rachel Bollens (Washington)
Maddy Lynch (Pennsylvania) Morgan Harvey (California) John Arthur Eaves (Mississippi)
Christine Pennington (Germany) Guiohm Deruffi (France) Francisco Ferreira (Brazil)
Off the farm, 2013 was a tremendous year for the development of our local food economy. The year started with the opening of the new Oxford City Market on West Oxford Loup. Combined with growth in the Midtown Market, 2013 saw a large increase in the number of vendors and the amount of local produce and value added products available for direct sale in Oxford. In addition, we pushed the expansion of the direct sale of fresh produce from the beginning of May to early April and the end of October until Thanksgiving. Last March, Oxford hosted the first Mississippi Food Summit followed by the Sustainable Living Conference hosted by the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi. The Food Summit, held in the Powerhouse, featured Mark Winnie, Mary Berry, and a special talk by University of Mississippi Chancellor, Dan Jones. In addition, Sunny Young initiated and promoted the rapid growth of Good Food for Oxford Schools. Oxford is now a leader in state-wide efforts to provide healthy local food in schools and integrate local farms, school gardens and greenhouses, and food clubs into the school curriculum. This year also saw the rapid growth of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN). MSAN became official with the election of a statewide Board of Directors last month. Yokna Bottoms has been honored to be selected as a 2014 MSAN “Demonstration Farm.” Serving as a demonstration farm will allow us to share what we are doing with a much larger audience and receive considerable support and assistance from a statewide network. Finally, we are especially pleased to have two new natural growers joining our local food economy this past year: Tubby Creek Farm in Ashland and Mudline Farm in Water Valley. Both of these farms are run by experienced natural farmers who are committed to local food in our area. All of these yearly highlights suggest Oxford is rapidly becoming the leading community in Mississippi for the development of sustainable agriculture and local food economies in Mississippi.
After four years of rapid growth, we are going to take a year to focus on improving our existing fields and farming practices. We are going to cap our CSA shares at 100 shares and work to improve the quantity and variety of food available for sale at local markets. We plan to upgrade our food processing, washing, and storage facilities. An upgrade of our irrigation system is also being discussed. In addition, we plan to continue to improve our planting, cultivating, pest management, trellising, and harvesting systems. Finally, we plan to continue doing everything we can to keep feeding our soil so it will feed us.
In closing, we want to thank you for your support of Yokna Bottoms Farm. Your patronage makes the farm possible and shows our community that we do have choices in the food we buy. We hope you will consider purchasing a 2014 food-share but more importantly, we hope you will continue to purchase and consume local food. It makes a big difference in the quality of life in our community.
Douglas R. Davis