Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 1, 2011

Planning for the Farm in 2012

We’re wrapping up 2011 here on the farm. We’ve sold the last turkey. We have only a couple more pigs to go off to the butcher. We still have the farrowing of Fern and Willow to get through. And we’re probably a cord and half of wood from having heat until early April.

Now we’re turning our minds to and crunching the numbers for the year to come. The produce CSA was a two time loser money-wise, both last year and this.With three times the enrollment volume of  2011, we could break even on the endeavor. With five times the enrollment volume, we could afford an interning garden manager. But we would also have to invest in a refrigerated truck (insurance, fuel and maintenance too), and find a way to make the 280 mile weekly round trip less invasive to the farm’s own demanding schedule. In addition,  providing a fully diversified market basket of produce 20 weeks in row was a challenge to which we rose but never met to our own satisfaction. So we’re tabling the produce CSA for next year.

Will we still grow vegetables in our gardens? Yes, we will. But we’ll be able to choose to grow to our strengths and grow for commercial contracts. We’ve got our heads wrapped around the cultivation of peppers in our growing zone. We understand the commitment involved in growing tomatoes. We can hardly keep up with the beans we’re able to produce. And our lettuces are appallingly productive for impressive lengths of the growing season–I’ve eaten lettuce from our garden both in August and December. And then there’s the garlic. Lots of garlic.

Under the tutelage of the incomparable garden guru, we have sixteen varietals of garlic in a quarter acre plot. Nearly all of them are hard-necks, and they will produce scapes. How tasty are scapes? Sooo tasty. Really. This summer I served them in practically every meal for about three weeks during the peak of their season. And no complained. Not once. Though there was a fair amount of mooing when the season was over.

As well, we want to grow more herbs in good volume. From two hundred row feet of Genovese basil, we harvested 58 lbs in three months. And none of it went to waste. Herbs are rewarding to grow, and some are perennials–which saves on seed costs and the labor of reseeding too. We’re already established with a few commercial kitchens, and we’re working to expand our client list. Nobody doesn’t want organically produced fresh herbs grown to order. Let alone edible flowers. They offer so much visual appeal on a plate, and most of the edible flowers are cottage garden plants which require only sun, minimal weeding and occasional watering to do their best.

We’re absolutely committed to increasing our herd of pigs next year. We’re satisfied with the quality of our pastured, heritage breed Tamworth crosses, and we’re finding the market for them is developing almost as quickly as we can raise the pigs to their maturity. We’re still looking for ways to improve their supplemental feed. And we’re considering the labor and materials which would go into expanding their pasturing in order to offer them fresh foraging sites more frequently than we’ve been able to do in the past.

The farm is on the fence about turkeys, and even broiler chickens, for next year. We would like to see the region supplied with a Mobile Processing Unit (a slaughtering facility on wheels, literally) before we undertook to raise birds for meat again. MPUs don’t have to be expensive, but there are certain facilities even the most basic version provides to make getting birds to market more efficient and sanitary both.

We’re looking at expanding the number of our beehives in order to be able to offer comb honey in volume. But we have some concerns over anaphylactic shock reactions on the part of our staff. We’re about 20 minutes hard driving from the nearest hospital. So this is a development about which we’re on the fence.

Then there’s the matter of retreats, workshops and weddings (oh my). Given the idyllic situation of our farm,  its guaranteed dry months from early June to early August, its low humidity and absence of mosquitoes, its many beds and bathrooms, it’s a probability we could increase our B&B income dramatically by marketing to groups and gatherings.

Of course, none of this is set in stone just yet. So if you’ve got any ideas of your own, feel free to share.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: