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Crop Care Summary 2013

January 20th, 2014 | Posted by Kyle in Crop Care - (Comments Off on Crop Care Summary 2013)

Crop Care Summary 2013

KG 1/08/14

My intention when taking on the Crop Care element back in the beginning of 2013 was to increase the efficiency and regularity of the crop care activities on the farm. Looking back now at the end of the season I feel as though, for the most part, that goal was accomplished. Implementation of a Crop Care Task list combined with weekly field walks was a major aid in keeping up with the requirements of the crops and the pressure of the weeds. In addition, experimentation with various techniques for cultivation and care yielded some good results in determining more efficient practices. Finally, some end of the year number crunching produced a few key insights into required equipment that could be used for future planning.

The Crop Care Task List (pictured above) is a simple sheet to be used on field walks to note anticipated crop care tasks for the coming weeks. With headings for “Crop”, “Location”, “Task”, and “Priority” all pertinent information can be recorded and any pressing tasks can be added to the farm’s task list and brought to the attention of the rest of the crew. Hanging the list in an accessible area near our daily task list also encouraged crew to observe the list. Often times activities on the farm can get focused on one area for a period of time and as a result other areas are neglected. I felt having this fuller picture of the farm available for the crew without requiring everyone to take time out of their day for a field walk helped keep everyone oriented on the whole picture of the farm. Also, anyone looking for a job to plug into could simply consult the task list for jobs based on priority and/or whether progress could be made or completed by one person. Checking finished jobs off the list is also great for a sense of accomplishment. So looking back after a season of using a checklist for crop care my conclusion is that it is worth it. It only takes 15 minutes to do the field walk and create the list, which is certainly worth it given the benefits doing so yields. I think a Crop Care Task list is something I would continue to use in the future.

 

Crop Care Equipment Numbers

Drip Tape

We use 220’ field beds, adding together all of our plantings this past season we ended up with about 80 beds for a total of 17,600’. Add to that our flower field of (30 X 75’ beds for 2250’) and you get a total length of crop beds of 19,850’. We use 8 mil drip tape at 12” spacing, which comes in 7,500’ rolls. That comes to 2.6 or so rolls for a season of growing, a 3 roll order if we’re out.

Remay

Remay is a lightweight cloth material we use to cover crops in order to protect them from cold and pest damage. With the exception of a few more delicate crops we use remay at the beginning and end of our growing season. Experience has shown that we need to cover around 16 field beds at any one time as well as a number of our Big Garden Beds (8 or more). In the past we had used different width pieces for the different jobs, single row covers for the field and wider pieces for the BGBs. However having experimented with different sizes it seems 16’ width is ideal for North Slope. It fits the BGB’s without too much excess material left in the pathways. At the same time it can fit 3 field beds, 4 if they are spaced more tightly. Covering more beds with fewer pieces is much more convenient: fewer pieces to handle and store, fewer sandbags to haul, and quicker to cover/uncover crops. We reuse what we can and labeling the remay when it’s rolled up is a big help when it comes finding the right piece. For 16 field beds and 8 BGBs we would need around 1700’ of remay, or two rolls.

Tomato Stakes

The past few years we’ve grown about 8 X 220’ rows of field tomatoes. We use a combination of metal and wooden stakes with trellising to support our tomatoes as they grow. Every two tomatoes we have a stake, and every two wooden stakes we have a metal one. See Pattern Below:

M-t-t-W-t-t-W-t-t- M-t-t-W-t-t-W-t-t- M-t-t-W-t-t-W-t-t-M

t: tomato plant

M: metal stake

W: wood stake

With the tomato plants having a 2 foot spacing, we have a stake every 4 feet. 220’/4 is 55 stakes total. Dividing 55 by 3 gets you 18.3, that’s how many metal stakes per bed and (18.3 X 2) 36.6 is how many wooden stakes per bed are required for this pattern. When creating this order we round up and add a couple extra. 20 metal per bed X 8 beds is 160 metal stakes, 40 wood X 8 beds is 320. That is our yearly need for tomato stakes to trellises our field tomatoes, checking that against our inventory we know what we need to order for the next season. Last year for example, we used a number of our metal tomato stakes to trellis our blackberries and needed to order replacements.

 

Cultivation Tools and Techniques

At North Slope we use a variety of options for the cultivation of our crops, from hand weeding on up to mechanical cultivation using tractors. This past year we added a few new tools/techniques including a backpack flame weeder and an older BSC rototiller for cultivation. Below I will explain our practice and add my observations taken over the past year.

Hand Weeding

Hand weeding is one of the more tedious jobs on the farm and one of my goals this past year while focusing on crop care was to reduce how much of it we had to do. To achieve this I tried to time other cultivation activities for maximum impact. Even with good timing however, hand weeding is a necessity. Our salad mix and other crops in the BGB’s in particular require some hand weeding at some point. The best case scenario is to hand weed after a second scuffle hoeing, were the only remaining weeds are those growing tightly interspersed with the crop. Two crew hand weeding is probably the realistic minimum, however progress will be slow and therefore it becomes hard to sustain motivation and keep up efficiency. 3-4 crew would be a better minimum, to allow for some leap-frogging down the bed. 4-6 is better, as crew can work in pairs across from each other and still jump down the bed as they reach previously weeded sections. Working with an odd number it is a good idea to take turns jumping back and forth across the bed to keep the group together. Working close enough together for a conversation greatly helps moral. We have a variety of hand hoes, diggers, choppers, etc; however those seem most useful in perennial bed hand weeding, for our BGBs it seems hands are faster.

Scuffle Hoeing

We use scuffle hoes, or stirrup hoes, from Johnny’s. These are a great tool for cultivation, and it pays to have one for every crew member as a full crew scuffle hoeing can clear a lot of weeds in an afternoon. Scuffle hoes are best used when weeds are at thread stage, before they start getting hardy, and in drier conditions if possible. Scuffle hoeing in wet conditions can be less effective or impossible and disturbed weeds my also re-root if enough moisture is available. Scuffle hoes do a shallow cultivation that doesn’t bring up too much new weed seed. Two crew minimum works well, however one person can still accomplish a lot. Two people scuffle hoeing can usually weed one BGB (110’x4’) or one field bed in about 10-15 minutes. With a larger crew of 3-6 it’s possible to very quickly cultivate a couple of beds in a few minutes of down time between jobs or spend a half or a whole day really cleaning up the farm. In the BGBs we seed in rows diagonally across the bed spaced tightly so our 3 ¼’ scuffle hoes just fit between the crop, this makes for very efficient hoeing. It seems best to hoe initially right after germination and then again 1-2 weeks later depending growth. After the second hoeing, hand weeding is usually needed but quicker as the hoeing has cleaned most of the weeds. From here with quick crops like our cut leaf salad mix, ideally the crop growth out competes the weeds and we can get to harvest without too much more crop care. With longer term crops like carrots a 3rd hoeing may be possible but another round of hand weeding is usually needed. In the field beds, regular scuffle hoeing can be effective at keeping beds clean. In my experience two people working across from each other is the best set up, with each person hoeing perpendicular to the other creating an X pattern around the crop rather than each individually trying to fully clear around a plant by themselves. Extra crew can be added to leap frog and/or focus on the bed shoulders. In any case, communication is important so everyone knows there role in the process. When the crop is too mature for mechanical tractor cultivation this system works well with the BCS pathway cultivation. In both cases removing the irrigation tube or tape is necessary to be most efficient. Irrigating after hoeing seems to really boost crop growth.

Backpack Flame Weeder

For the first time in a while at North Slope we got the old propane backpack flame weeder down from the barn top and got it working. It was a bit finicky and difficult to get going, and seemed to cut out after 30 minutes of use, however we managed to use it to good effect. Carrots are slower growing and are harder to keep weed free as the weeds will germinate first, obscuring the rows and making scuffle hoeing difficult. By flame weeding at 5-7 days after seeding but before the carrots really start germinating most of these early weeds can be killed, and since the soil is not disturbed new weed seed does not come to the surface making for lighter weeding later on. Timing is vital with flame weeding, daily observation is necessary to find the right moment. However, once, while flame weeding a bit late, after the first carrots had already begun germinating, the results were not too bad as enough of the seed was still in the ground to give us a good yield. It seemed that one tank of propane would last us 3-5 BGBs and was fairly cheap to refill. It is not necessary to burn the weeds, the heat is what kills. A fairly steady pace should be maintained, moving the flame nozzle back and forth as you walk down the bed. It takes about 10 minutes to flame weed one BGB and the head start it gives the carrots is very noticeable. It will be 2-3 weeks before scuffle hoeing is needed and by then the carrots will be well established.

Wheel Hoe

We mostly use a wide scuffle hoe attachment on our wheel hoes for cultivating field bed shoulders and pathways. The wheel hoe’s efficiency depends greatly on soil conditions and level of weed growth. In the right conditions, dry but not too dry and weeds at thread stage, it can be a breeze to clean up a field after scuffle hoeing between crops. It takes 3-4 passes to clear from bed shoulder to bed shoulder, and in good conditions it took 2 crew wheel hoeing less than an hour to clean up a 16 bed field. The wheel hoe works best when moving at a brisk pace and can be a bit of a work out. In anything but ideal conditions however, the wheel hoe can be unpleasant to use. When going out to a field for weeding it’s good to bring them and test to see if conditions are good for use, however using the BCS was faster and more versatile in all soil conditions.

The Old BCS Rototiller “El Duce”

We use a BCS walk-behind rototiller as part of our bed preparations in the BGBs. Most BCS’s rototillers depth can be set and changed fairly easily, so cultivating can be done quickly when using the shallowest setting. We had an old BCS with a number of mechanical issues, however we managed to get running and used it this past season for cultivation of field bed shoulders and pathways. The older model we have is narrower and fit nicely down our pathways even, for the most part, with mature crops. This was a great benefit, because at a certain point crops become too tall for our tractors to mechanically cultivate. With the BCS we still had a quick and efficient way to keep those mature crops weed free. Taking two passes on a pathway lets the operator focus once on each bed edge and really get close to the crop. Soil is also tossed out from the rototiller in a way that can smother weeds another couple of inches into the bed. The old BSC also has functioning differential braking, allowing for a lot of fine control to get close to the crop. Combining the BSC cultivation with scuffle hoeing for field crops seemed to be an efficient way to control weeds in mature crops. Hoe after the BSC has gone through the pathways, otherwise you may end up hoeing more than you needed to as the BCS can safely get very close to the crop.

Special Instructions for operating the old BCS (El Duce)

Some important notes and warnings for anyone planning to use the old BCS in future: the old BCS is DANGEROUS! Only attempt to use it if you are comfortable and confident with machinery! Firstly, the clutch does not work correctly. You should still engage the clutch to shift, but do not expect this to work while the machine running. It must be rolled into place for starting, and started already in gear. Doing this with two people is safer, one to control the machine while the other pulls the start cord, however it is possible for one person to start it, just be sure to get clear when it starts moving which it will do as soon as started. Secondly, the gear selector rod is missing. Use a small hammer or rock (shifter rock) to tap the gear shift into position. The gears are no longer where they should be according to the machine’s indicator, nearly all the way tapped forward you should find 3rd gear which is best for cultivation and slightly back from there you should find neutral. Remember, only shift gears with the machine off as the clutch cannot be trusted! Thirdly, the safety shut off is also not reliable. Stop the machine using the choke, always have space to continue forward or turn. Do not operate the machine in close proximity to other people or animals because you cannot rely on it to stop quickly. Fourthly, the PTO cannot be disengaged. This means the rototiller will always be spinning, so BE CAREFUL. Throttle down and lift for making turns, but keep well clear of the spinning blades. Occasionally the PTO will disengage itself while working; it can be reengaged but not reliably disengaged. Be especially careful when loading and unloading from the ATV trailer if you do so with the machine running as the rototiller will also be running. It is safer to get two people to push it up the ramp manually. Even if loading or unloading manually be aware of the machine’s weight and be sure you can get clear should it fall. Don’t try to catch it! Finally, always pay full attention while using the machine. Even more so than the newer BCS, the old one is lighter and jumps significantly when it hits a large rock and I’ve had it both move backwards towards me and shoot forwards at considerable speed. Always keep in mind where you will go to get clear of the machine should this happen. Also, the choke pin may slide out while operating, opening the choke. You will notice the sound of the engine changing, be quick to push it back or you will have to restart the machine.

Even with all those difficulties I still enjoyed using the machine and I think it’s a great cultivation option, especially with a more functional model. However, I really would not recommend anyone with any doubts or concerns to use “El Duce”, it is not worth getting hurt for.

Mechanical Cultivation- Williams Toolbar

Two years ago North Slope Farm got a new cultivating tractor, an IH 265. Before this mechanical cultivation was done with the IH140 using a series of shanks, spiders, and sweeps, all individual implements that would need to be rearranged for each job. Since the IH140 is also used for building our beds this meant a lot of time changing the setup. Having two tractors meant having to do that less often. More than this though, the new 265 has a 3-point hitch letting us make use of our Williams Toolbar. The Williams Toolbar is a steel frame with a number of adjustable spring tines and two bars on which other implements can be attached. Having one implement you can dial in for a tight cultivation and leave set up is a great time saver. It can be picked up, quickly checked and tuned and ready for the field in less than 10 minutes. And once the operator is comfortable with the toolbar, cultivating a 16 bed field can be done very quickly. We plant two rows per bed for the most part so once the crop hits a certain size it becomes difficult to cultivate the center strip using the toolbar, however the toolbar can still clear the bed edges and pathways leaving only the center strip to be scuffle hoed. When the plants become fully mature it can be difficult or impossible to cultivate using the toolbar at all, as even the retracted spring tines will rip and damage some crops. However the easy adjustability of the spring tines gives some flexibility in quickly moving between crops of different size. The Williams Toolbar can be used at all stages of the crop, until they are too large to drive over, and works well enough that it can really be the only cultivation method needed for the first few cultivations. A quick touch up scuffle hoeing helps keep the few missed weeds from maturing before the next round with the toolbar and is fairly quick. The key with the toolbar, as with all of the other cultivation options, is with timing. The toolbar will eliminate thread stage weeds and be effective slightly beyond that point to baby/adolescent stages. After that however, as we observed while experimenting with the toolbar and bare fallowing some prebuilt beds, the toolbar is not effective at killing grown weeds.

 

Summary

Taking on the Crop Care element as a focus in my third year here was a valuable experience. I got to really be involved with the various crop care tasks and develop a good understanding of the needs of the crops. Being focused on crop care also helped me to hone my knowledge of weed varieties and learn and trial effective means for dealing with them. I also had the opportunity to gain experience managing a crew in the execution of crop care jobs, keeping task oriented and efficiently moving from one job to the next making the most of limited time. More than anything, having this as my focus drove home the preeminent importance of timing with regards to cultivation. Having done the planting focus and crop plan my second year and crop care focus my third year I feel I’ve gained some good experience in some key areas of farm activity, and  I feel having chosen these to focus on has prepared me well for my future career in farming.

Monthly Summary – October 2012

October 9th, 2013 | Posted by Kyle in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – October 2012)

Monthly Summary – October 2012

Posted By: KG Date: 10/08/2012

P1110218

General Observations: For the most part October 2012 continued the smooth sailing of September, our cold-weather fall crops yielded well and gave us a nice boost in marketable product that helped soften the effect of the tomatoes tapering off. Looking at the data and writing this summary in October 2013 I can see some interesting comparisons. In 2012 tomato harvest ran from 7/13-10/5 (roughly 80 day harvest period), while our 2013 tomato harvest is running 7/24-present (75 days and counting). As of the time of writing it looks like we could get another week or so of yield.

By October last year most of the planting was finished, so we had the time to accomplish most of our fall tasks including crop care, cover-cropping and other end of season preparation and clean up tasks, while keeping up with regular harvests and markets. As the weather became colder with frequent rain we had opportunities for catching up on administrative duties and working on summarizing the data we collect throughout the season.

The rough patch came at the end of the month, with Hurricane Sandy making landfall and colliding with a Nor’easter over New Jersey. Considering the destruction wrought by the storm across the state and region, the farm came through relatively unscathed. The tally of damage was a broken window in the office, part of the walk-in cooler unit blown off, loosing the plastic on the FHG high-tunnel and damaged plastic on RH that blew off in a wind storm later that year. We also lost power, and subsequently our well water, for more than two weeks. Numerous trees were blown down, but incredibly none falling on any structures or equipment. A large branch from a willow tree that fell on the baby chick pen miraculously did not cause damage or injure any birds. Compared to others around the state, we were lucky. However our growing season was severely crippled following the storm. Already saturated fields were inundated by inches more rain and crops were damaged and lost. The lack of power and clean water meant no washing or refrigerating what we could still harvest and the widespread destruction across the state meant even when we were able to get to our markets (after many detours) we found many fewer customers who were able to attend and/or had electricity to be able to store the perishable vegetables we sell. A big thanks to those who could and did attend even as they themselves were dealing with their own part of the aftermath of the storm. It was a great morale boost and emotional support to see all the regulars, exchange stories of the storm and trade complaints about the aftermath.

Equipment 20hrs: Less time on the machines this month. This is a function of less planting and other field work as well as the saturated reality of much of last October. There was some equipment used on 10/11 as part of some final cover crop seeding. RR and KG received training on working in seed using IH265 with the Williams Tool Bar cultivator’s spring tines and the Ford towing the disc cultivator, then used ATV with roller to compress soil over the seed. On 10/24 the box truck had a minor accident in Hopewell when it collided with a lamp post. The accident was reported promptly and without issue.

Administration 101.5hrs: Time spent on administrative tasks tripled from September, but was roughly the same as October 2011. As the season is winding down and days growing shorter, darker, colder, and wetter the appeal of spending time in the office tabulating data and summarizing the season increases.

10/2- “Payroll, Email, Website updates”

10/4- BY posts October 2011 Summary, discussion on how to organize and date photos

10/9- Staff Meeting at Farmhouse w/ coffee! Agenda for meeting is to engage crew to brainstorm task list and priorities. Notes:

  • -discussion of willows, desire and need to cut back from shading greenhouses
  • -discussion of chickens, need to renovate chicken tractors
  • -need to split firewood for winter, much of wood split did not fit in wood-stove
  • -inventory of supplies and restock: irrigation, marketing, seed, greenhouse, etc.
  • -need to clean out equipment shed
  • -focus on summaries, financial data entry
  • -prep. Garlic for planting
  • -fence fruit cluster

10/16- Data entry: MR on oversight, payroll, accounting/bills; RR on greenhouse summary; KG on financial data entry into Quicken. Also our organic certification inspection took place on this day. Our inspector was kind enough to let 2nd year apprentices KG and RR take part and get some experience of the process. Notes:

  • -Cow Pots added to application as an ‘input’
  • -Manure: “not applied yet, will report as applied”
  • -RR and KG assisted audit of greenhouse and production. Swiss Chard chosen for audit, needed to track production of crop from seedling through to market sales to show it was grown by NSF. Found 220ft bed yields 480 bunches total over a several week harvest period.
  • -KG presented crop rotation map and description of rotation.
  • -Reiteration that a physical barrier must be maintained between organic and non-organic crops in truck and cooler. At minimum, cardboard that is discarded can be used.
  • -Tour of fields and production areas (greenhouses)

10/17- MR interviewing potential candidate for program next year

10/20- MR receives ‘BFF’ Award from NOFA-NJ for “Contribution and Support for NOFA’s Beginning Farmer Program”. BFF stands for Beginning Farmer Friend. Congratulations MR!

Infrastructure 104.5hrs: General clean-up jobs typically fall under the infrastructure element. In October that means a lot of things coming out of the fields to prepare for winter; used drip tape, tomato stakes and trellising string, etc. The ongoing wood splitting also falls under this element.

10/3- Tomato field clean-up, ½ field finished.

10/3 to 10/5- Cleaning out adolescent chicken pen in preparation for them moving in. A concrete block floor was installed. Chix moved in.

10/29 to 10/31- Various hurricane clean-up jobs. Much of our Remay was ruined; a note in the log reads “wet, muddy, ripped, tangled!”

Greenhouse 12hrs: By this time of the year there is not too much left to do in the greenhouses. The few hours logged were mostly clean-up although an entry on 10/2 reports that the FHG tomatoes were “pimped out”, pruned, clipped, and cleaned-up.

As the hurricane approached we opted to leave the plastic on the greenhouses and secure them as best we could. During the hurricane we observed some serious bending and racking of the Farmhouse Gothic greenhouse as the plastic was catching a lot of wind. The call was made to cut the plastic in the hope of preventing the loss of the structure. It made for an exciting time in the middle of the storm! We were able to cut the plastic using an improvised tool (harvest knife taped to a long pole) to cut along the ridge line and secure the two halves. The structure survived and the plastic was replaced the following spring.

Composting 12hrs: Some of RR home-made compost tea was applied to GH tomatoes. Also regular compost applications prior to direct seeding in the BGBs and garlic planting.

Planting 39.5 hrs: There was not much planting going on in October. The BGBs were seeded a final time on 10/13; 2 beds of salad and 1 bed spinach. 4 BGBs where also cover cropped in a rye, pea, vetch mix. On 10/18 we got our garlic planted. MR, TH, BY, RR, KG were crew for the planting. Notes remark on the beautiful weather and the increase in efficiency from the previous year. Four beds with two rows each were planted. Below is our planting sheet which contains some of the calculations we used. 2012 Garlic Planting Calculations

The space we had available was:

4 Beds X 2 Rows X 2640 inches (220ft bed length) / by our spacing of 5 inches.

This means we need 4224 garlic cloves to fill the space, rounded up to 4500 to give us a buffer.

We had 48# of our own garlic saved; on average we get 46 cloves per pound of garlic yielding 2208 cloves. From 15# of our own small garlic, yielding 88 cloves per pound, we got 1320 cloves. Together 3528 cloves of our own seed stock.

We also had 12# purchased seed garlic, at an average 42 cloves per pound yielding 504 cloves.

Final total of available garlic for planting was 4032 cloves, which was 200-500 less than we calculated for, however since the field in which the garlic was planted is prone to flooding on it’s ends it was not necessarily a bad thing to shorten the beds up.

Crop Care 117 hrs: As fall deepens the cold temperatures become more common and frosts more frequent and severe. This can give us a bit of a break with the weeds, as certain varieties will not survive the cold and everything is growing slower, but it means another crop care job moves to the forefront; Remay. Remay is a lightweight fabric row cover we use in conjunction with metal hoops to protect our crops from cold damage. It can be frustrating to handle, especially if there is any wind. This past year we started using wider sections to cover more beds with one length, and it makes the job a lot easier. Instead of using 6 pieces for 6 rows, we can use 1 piece for 6 rows. On 10/11 the log notes “First Serious Frost Warning, Cover Crops!!!”

KG carrying remay 2012

Harvesting 277hrs: Regular Wednesday (for Hopewell), Thursday and Friday (WWCFM and Summit) harvests continued. Notes:

  • 10/5 Final field tomato harvest
  • 10/10 Winter Squash harvested. Very small yield and undersized
  • 10/22 Echinacea and Nettle harvested for tea

Handling 121.5 hrs: Regular Wednesday, Thursday and Friday rinse and sorting continued. In addition, on 10/10 sorting, stripping, and breaking cloves apart of seed garlic was completed.

Marketing 165 hrs: In addition to our regular markets, CH attended the market at Gravity Hill Farm with an offering of specialty dried herb teas.

  • Hopewell– 10/3 – $346, 10/10 – $370, 10/17 – $348, 10/24 – $474        | Market Total- $1,538
  • WWCFM– 10/6 – $1458, 10/13 – $1108, 10/20 – $1322, 10/27 $1327  | Market Total- $5,215
  • Summit– 10/7 – $2644, 10/14 – $2810, 10/21 – $2975, 10/25 – $2215 | Market Total- $10,644
  • Month of October Total- $17,397
  • Year to Date Total- 114,596

Special Projects 9 hrs: Most of the special project hours this month logged by KG for the Micro Green project. Thanks to RR for helping with another late night harvest by flashlight on 10/13.

On 10/15 North Slope hosted a NOFA-NJ incubator interview and social dinner for NOFA Beginning Farmers Tom, Jonathan, and Taylor. The log reads “excellent evening, nice energy and enthusiasm” and I must agree, it was a fun time.

Weather: October was wet, and then Hurricane Sandy hit on the 29th.

Week 1: Humid and Rainy

Week 2: Rain transitioning to cold and dry. “Hard frost warning”

Week 3: Wet, strong winds and cold nights. “No hard freeze yet”

Week 4: “Sweet and mild” then “Forecast Darkening” and “Super Storm Approaching”

 

 

3rd Year Focus Introduction: Crop Care

May 15th, 2013 | Posted by Kyle in Crop Care | Training - (Comments Off on 3rd Year Focus Introduction: Crop Care)

 

Introduction to Crop Care

KG 5/15/2013

Intent-

Crop Care, especially weeding, is something that always seems to fall by wayside when the farm’s other priorities become more pressing. My intention in taking on this element in my third year is to be an advocate for our crops; trying to prioritize care where and when it is needed and keep track all of our crops’ needs. Another thing I’d like to focus on is trying to decrease worker hours spent weeding by keeping up on scuffle and wheel hoeing and making use of our mechanical cultivation options. The time spent rescuing crops from weeds by hand has a much high cost in time than if the weeds were addressed earlier. To help manage this I have created a Task List Form for a weekly field-walk in which I lay out the Crop Care jobs for the week with notes on priority and method of task completion.

Tasks and Responsibilities-

            Weed Control- Observation, prioritization, and deciding on the method of treatment for weeds, then working with the crew to accomplish tasks.

            Irrigation- Ensuring crops are receiving water regularly

            Mulching- Managing application of straw mulch. Certain crops receive straw mulch to smother weeds and prevent splash-back of soil.

            Trellising- Keeping up with the trellis needs of our crops

            Pest Control- Monitoring for pest damage in field crops and taking appropriate action

            Field Access/Field Clean Up- Keeping field edges mowed and fields clean of debris. Removing driptape, sandbags, and other items from field after use.

            Crop Cover- Managing our early/late season use of remay, plastic, hoops and sandbags

Second Year Summary: Planting Focus

February 25th, 2013 | Posted by Kyle in Planting | Training - (Comments Off on Second Year Summary: Planting Focus)

Prepared by KG on 2/25/2013

Second Year Element Summary – Planting 2012

In our second year at NSF, as part of the training program, interns are encouraged to choose a work element as a focus for the season. I chose planting because I wanted to get a thorough understanding of what is ultimately the main goal of farming; growing food. One of the motivations driving me to farm is the desire to see all aspects of the production process, to see my role in it, and to be able to take satisfaction from producing a product from start to finish. Within the farm’s system the planting element especially encompasses that scope, from planning, through production, to the final product at the end of it.

Planningplanning planting 2012

The first task for the season was to create a crop plan. The crop plan lays out a rough schedule for the course of the season and helps to keep the farm on track as the pressure mounts. My plan was based off previous crop plans, especially Steve’s (ST) from 2011 for which much documentation was available, modified by having additional land in cultivation and the analysis of the 2011 season. Following NSF’s system of succession planting and incorporating our crop rotation I created a plan that had 6 main field successions plus a field tomato planting. In addition I planned to have regular salad seedings in the BGBs every two weeks, as well as carrots, radishes, turnips, and other greens as the season suited.

 

Once I had this rough plan I could start doing some calculations for the seed order. Thanks to Rita (RR) for doing an inventory of the seed the farm had in stock, making sure we didn’t order more of something we already had too much of. Figuring out the right quantities to order could be tricky at times as there isn’t really a standardized unit of measurement for seed, even within a single seed catalog you can find some seed measured by weight and others by count and we use 3-4 sources for our seed. A rule of thumb we often used was after all the calculations, double the amount to be safe. Our initial order was around 2,000 dollars, which got us through most of the season. The season’s total was around 3,000 dollars for seed.

One of the perks of taking on the planting element is selecting varieties. NSF has a cohort of tried and true crops and varieties that need to find there way into the crop plan, but there is some room for experimentation. I was happy with both the leeks and the Napa cabbage which were added to the plan this past season. The leek seems to be a good candidate to replace the scallion as an allium we can offer; for us scallions are a drain in labor hours for harvesting and handling that the market price doesn’t reflect. Leeks on the other hand require less time to prepare for market. I’m excited to try leeks again using a technique I saw Elliot Coleman present at the NOFA-NJ winter conference that doesn’t require hilling, simply by transplanting the seedlings in deep holes the same effect is achieved. The Napa cabbage was another hit, we got a decent yield even during heat waves, but they really shined later in fall when we got some real giants and more cabbage then we knew what to do with.

Planting

Once the plan is made and the seeds have arrived the growing can begin. Our first official day of the season was March 6th, and by the 8th peas were being seeded. More peas were seeded in the field on 3/21 as was our first BGB succession and the first succession of field vegetables were transplanted out on 4/6, which was all right on time according to the plan! For the most part I feel like things went fairly smoothly, although the plan changed as the season progressed. In my memory the weather on a whole was not as wet as 2011 and we faced fewer delays due to wet fields.

The exception to this might have been our field tomato planting. We tried a new method on NSF for tomatos this past season, inspired by the practice of no-till farming we sought to use a minimal tillage technique. In place of the standard practice of preparing field beds we cut furrows through the cover cropped field, filled the furrows with compost, and transplanted directly into that. In this manner we only tilled the soil where the transplants would go, leaving as much of the field’s soil biology as undisturbed as we could. Unfortunately we used a shank that was more aggressive than we need and ended up with trenches deeper than we needed. Then in the first weeks following the transplanting we got a bit more rain than we would have liked and the furrows in our heavy clay soil held water like troughs. The result was transplant shock and nearly all of our tomatoes turned a very unhealthy looking yellow. The prospect of our field tomato succession failing was frightening as tomatoes are a huge part of our market revenue, so it wasn’t long before panic set in. I sought to plant more tomatoes, but by June it’s a bit late to start new tomato seedlings. Luckily RR had a small but diverse selection left over from her seedling sales at market. We planted tomatoes everywhere we could, both Ralphs House and Farm House Gothic, some pilfered beds from the 579 flower field, and even a small space on the fringe of the farm which hadn’t been used in some time. In the end the original tomatoes bounced back after a few weeks of dryer weather and some compost tea delivered via our new mobile water tank w/ PTO pump. The delay in growth cost us, we were a few weeks late in hitting our tomato stride, but after experiencing all those yellowing adolescent plants it was a relief just to have tomatoes producing at all.

 

The vegetable succession went more smoothly. Successions 1-3 did well and were on time. We did abandon some scallions to the weeds in the 2nd. In our 2nd and 3rd succession the kale and chard held on well past what was planned, letting us supplement the later successions. We had the idea to mow off some of the old chard above the root, MR let me try it, and the results weren’t too bad. For the 5 minutes it took to mow we got some re-growth we were able to harvest for a few more weeks. The cabbage in the 3rd succession provided some yield, even as it battled the heat of the summer. The 4th succession went a bit less smoothly, much of the direct seeded crop failed to get good germination and we were short on the transplants. This led to some lighter than ideal harvests some weeks, but with the supplemental crops from 2nd and 3rd succession we did our best to get our harvests.  A bitter-sweet windfall we got to harvest some purslane from the 4th succession field where beets had failed to germinate. We lingered in the 4th succession field, extending its use by reseeding in the beds were crops had failed. As a result we ended up planting only 5 successions total. In the 5th succession we had a lot of space for direct seeding, after my experience direct seeding the 4th succession with poor results I was anxious to try again. One weekend in mid-September I went out with a bucket of seed and the old 4-point seeder which has fallen out of favor at NSF, in what I presumed to be futile gesture, did seed 10 beds in various greens, radishes, and turnips. I remember it took me quite a while to set up the irrigation afterwards. Within a couple of weeks the field was filled with green in nice straight rows, everything was germinating! Totally bucking my expectation, the direct seeding worked better than I could have asked for. I was very proud of that final succession.

For the Big Garden Beds I wanted to really solidify salad production and they key to doing that at NSF is planting 2 beds of salad every two weeks. We ended up doing 13 successions of plantings this past season. Space in the BGBs got cramped at some points so it will be nice bringing the new BGBs into production this coming season. I felt like we did a good job of keeping on track with our salad successions as far as planting every two weeks throughout the season. We had salad at points when no one else at WWCFM did and only really missed one seeding date in late July/Early August. Really nailing down germination would be a big thing for BGB production. We also had a good amount of carrots especially late season, we kept up planting to take us into winter.

CONCLUSION

I learned a lot in this past year focusing on the planting element, this summary barely scratches the surface of the experience I had and gained. Above all, it was certainly enjoyable and fulfilling to work on an element which spans so much of the farm’s activities. By taking on the planting element I got a preview of what managing a small farm entails, and got to take a shot at doing a lot of it and learning through practice. I look forward to my third year here at North Slope and to continuing to hone and develop my skills as a farmer.

Micro Greens

February 25th, 2013 | Posted by Kyle in Micro Greens | Special Projects - (Comments Off on Micro Greens)

Special Project: Micro Greens

Prepared By KG 2/25/2013

Proposal: Explore the viability of producing micro greens on a small scale. The minimal input of worker hours and materials combined with the resulting high value product will hopefully find this technique financially sustainable.

Execution: I plan to order 4 varieties of micro greens to trial in small quantities and establish a weekly seeding and harvest cycle. Ideally harvest will take place on Fridays and/or Saturdays after work for the weekend markets. The seeding date will be approx. 10 days before harvest, possibly changing with experimentation. I will seed into soil filled trays (old trays in seed shed) and experiment with different modes of covering (soil, vermiculite) and determine which yields best results. I plan to start with 2 trays of each mix and one tray each of the herbs, 6 total trays, and adjust the scale of output based on yield and market feedback. I expect 1 tray to yield about 4-6 half pint clam shell containers. I will keep records of production costs and sales to assess the viability of the project and whether it could be expanded to include more varieties/output.

Materials:

–         Trays (already existing on farm)

–         Potting soil – can be tracked and cost determined

–         Space in Heated Greenhouse, preferable on heating mats

–         Containers for packaging – pint or ½ pint clam shells or some alternative

–         Seed – initial order would probably be around 50-60 dollars

–         Worker hours – Tracked

Varieties:

JSS 2566 Mild Micro Mix

JSS 2567 Spicy Micro Mix

JSS 944 Ital. Large Leaf Basil

JSS 919 Santo Cilantro

Summary: Having completed a season growing micro-greens, my overall conclusion is that it was financially viable on a small scale. The project ran for 20 weeks in total, with an average labor input of an hour a week. During the course of the project I developed and refined the system of production until I finally got it to a place I thought acceptable. The main issue I was dealing with was poor germination and low yield, both of which I feel I eventually got a handle on. See the Notes section for more details.

Below is an overview of the finances of the project. I’ll use the term “unit” to mean 1oz. of micro-greens packed in a clear plastic clamshell.

Expenses:

Total seed cost:            $149.85

Packaging:                    $42.71

Labor*:                        $250.00           *25hrs @ $10/hr (conservative estimate)

Total Expense:  $442.56

Income:

Market Sales:               $1024.00

Net:                             $581.44

Initially production was inefficient due to issues of poor germination and irregular yield. Since generally we sold out and were often only supplying one market, it is reasonable to expect increased sales without necessarily increasing production but by applying lessons learned this past year to increase yield. Even despite these issues starting out, the enterprise proved to be financially viable.

Notes on Technique:

Seeding and Germination– My basic technique for seeding was to broadcast seed into soil filled trays and cover with a thin layer of soil. I used the same potting mix that NSF uses for its seedlings as my growing medium. Seeding was done regularly on a weekly basis to ensure a constant supply. I struggled for a long time with irregular germination, every week varying the process slightly and taking notes on results. Eventually I started using a technique I found here where you stack the trays after watering to create a humidity trap. This technique worked great! I didn’t have any trouble with germination after switching to this method; I only wish I discovered it sooner. One thing to watch out for is to un-stack the trays at the right time, I was a day late once and lost a few trays worth of micro greens which had grown into the bottoms of the next tray in the stack.

Growing– Daily watering a must. The two week interval between seeding and harvest worked in mid-summer, but as days got shorter I ran into problems with growth. Switching to three week intervals solved the problem and would probably use a three week interval from the start in future.

Harvest– I harvested after first set of true leaves developed. Harvested using sanitized scissors into a clean rubber bin and packed the night before market, then refrigerated.


Notes on Materials:

Packaging– Used 8.oz plastic deli container. Good size, when full held approximately 1.oz of micro greens. Nice snap seal, clear to display product, flat top for label. Cost around $0.15 per unit.

Trays– Used old 11x21x2.5 inches greenhouse trays. Worked great, easy to handle and clean, plus they didn’t cost anything.

Greenhouse Space– Space wasn’t an issue as the project was started on 6/23, after a lot of space was freed up in the greenhouse. If done again next season, could maintain this size operation on a single table, although having a sunny spot is vital.

Seed– Initial ideas of having a large variety of micro green types didn’t seem practical when faced with reality. The key to having this be profitable on a small scale is keeping worker hours low, and uniformity in the process helps achieve that goal. A large selection of varieties, each with different needs and days to maturity, adds complexity. I settled on two mixes, one mild and one spicy, with similar requirements.

Improvements:

Using what I’ve learned this past year will mean an improvement in production. To make the most of this increase some marketing work can be done. Giving out free samples early on at market could help increase sales and introduce customers to the product which they may not be familiar with. In addition, I found bringing un-harvested trays to market for display was aesthetically pleasing for the stall as a whole, attracted attention to the product, and introduced the costumer to more of the process of growing the product.

Introduction to Second Year Focus

September 19th, 2012 | Posted by Kyle in Planting - (Comments Off on Introduction to Second Year Focus)

Introduction to Planting Focus

Written by KG

December 5, 2011

Intent:

Create and execute a vegetable production crop plan for the 2012 season, working with the Farm Manager to ensure compliance with the overall Farm Plan as well as the organic standards and procedures of NOFA and USDA.

Tasks/ Responsibilities:

  • -Work with the Farm Manager to create a vegetable production crop plan to meet the needs of the Farm, supplying produce for our three in-season farmer’s markets as well as our wholesale outlets (Nomad Pizza, etc.)
  • -Work with Greenhouse Manager to create a seed order for desired varieties/crops using input from previous years’ crop plans modified by actual yields and conditions on NSF as well as the Farm Managers experience
  • -Work with the Greenhouse Manager to create and execute a seedling propagation plan that fits with the Crop Plan and ensures a steady supply of transplants when needed for planting field successions
  • -Create an accessible and coherent Crop Plan using NSF’s practice of succession planting, as well as the practice using the phases of the moon to regulate the pattern and workload of plantings
  • -Incorporate cover-cropping and fallow field management into the Crop Plan
  • -Ensure the planting dates of the Crop Plan are maintained as best as possible while reacting to the challenges and opportunities of the season as it unfolds
  • -Maintain accurate and accessible planting records using and improving on the format used in previous seasons
  • -Work with the Farm Manager and Crew to ensure fields and beds are adequately prepared for planting and treated with organically certified compost and fertilizer as needed
  • -Work with the Farm Manager and Crew to ensure plantings go smoothly
  • -Create a visualization of the crop rotation plan to allow easy reference and it’s projection into the future to ease in longer term planning
  • -Maintain a set of updated, accurate, and intuitive field maps designed for ease of use in planning purposes
  • -Prepare and publish personal summary of experience and seeding dates for Season Summary posting

 

Monthly Summary May 2011

May 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Kyle in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary May 2011)

Monthly Summary – May 2011

Prepared by KG May 3, 2012

crops hardening off

crops hardening off in the hoop house

General Observations: This May, like 2010, was the second highest in terms of worker hours. That means a busy month. Added to the planting of BGBs and field succession plantings in May are the planting of our field tomatoes and flower successions. On top of all this the warm and wet weather is causing and explosion of growth both of crops and weeds, meaning more time must be spend on crop care and infrastructure keeping the crops ahead of the weeds and maintaining mowed pathways and access to crops. On 5/2 the groundhog who had been eating the seedlings on tables by the farmstand was finally captured! It was dispatched and making an effort to not waste the groundhog, stew was made. The stew was delicious, but the groundhog meat was less than enjoyable… Casey added his thoughts on the season so far to the log on 5/9. There was a power outage in the area on 5/26 that prevented some irrigation.

Administration 51 hrs: On 5/16 KG completed the May 2010 monthly summary. A rainy day on 5/17 was a good time for a staff meeting. A task list was generated; the greenhouse would need compost sifted and planned to start seeding the 4th succession, under the planting element the need to trelise grafted tomatoes in the farmhouse gothic was highlighted and 6/15 was planned for as the 3rd succession planting date. Preparation of the next successions field was also discussed. Various tasks related to cropcare were also outlined, including storing remay for the season and trellising of peas and tomatoes. On 5/24 there is a note in the log about sorting through email and creating a system of folders to keep the email better organized. There was also a note about calculating income/expenses to date. Also the regular admin duties of payroll and bill payment were performed throughout the month.

Infrastructure 68 hrs: Some of the various infrastructure work this month included a mowing of pathways and access lanes on 5/9, setting up a submain and drip-tape for the 579 Flower Field on 5/13, an intro to the weedwacker on 5/17 for first year trainees JR, RR, and KG followed by RR weedwacking around the electric fence line and posts, and the final cleaning of the farmhouse pool by RCM on 5/24. Also on 5/9 a note in the log about irrigation observes that 20 BGB drip tubes (4 beds) on full yields the ideal pressure of 12-14 PSI on average.

Equipment 57 hrs:

JD– 10     Ford– 9     IH140– 2     Kabuta– 17     Walkin Mower- 2     BCS– 4     Weedwacker– 13

On 5/2 the JD received an oil change and oil filter replacement. On 5/9 a metal plate was fabricated to allow the Walkin mower’s handle bar height to be adjustable, a note in the log reports making the operation of the mower “a little easier…”

 

planting grafted tomatoes

Planting grafted tomatoes in cleared and composed circles cut in the salad mix in the Farmhouse Gothic

Greenhouse 64 hrs:On 5/1 20 flats of basil were seeded for Nomad Pizza, a note in the log declares the greenhouses to be full and tight. On 5/4 tomato grafting was completed. See this link for more information about how our grafted tomatoes did in 2011. Between 5/14 and 5/17 the third vegi succession was seeded. On 5/17, while seeding the forth succession of seedlings for sale, the seeding shed“Quilting Circle” was established and songs were written and sung.

Composting 68 hrs: In addition to compost sifted for the greenhouse, several applications were made to field beds. On 5/10 8 beds in VEG B mid, 5/12 Tomato field beds (Maddona North) were prepared- “rip, compost, rip, till, plant”, and on 5/13 7 beds in the 579 field were composted.

Planting 127 hrs: May is a busy month for planting because in addition to the regular BGBs and a field succession planting, our tomatoes are planted into the field. 5/3 was a full planting day; direct seeding (DS) of 2 beds of salad and 2 beds of carrots into the BGBs in the AM followed by transplanting (TP) of squash, beets, and chard in the PM. On 5/6 kale and scallion TPs made it out into the field. 5/9 saw 8 apple trees added to the fruit cluster. 5/12 and 5/13 saw the grafted tomato TPs planted in the farmhouse gothic as well as 1 row of sungold tomatos planted in the field. Also on 5/13 4 beds worth of Zinnea TPs were planted in the 579 field. On 5/15 CH and MR finished replacement planting in the fruit cluster, replacing trees that had been lost over the winter. 5/26 was tomato planting day, our field tomatoes were TPed out into the field! On 5/27 some direct seeding of beans, turnips, and beets brought the 2nd vegi succession planting to completion.

Crop Care 351 hrs: Many worker hours went into crop care last May as the warm and wet weather brought with it vigorous weed growth. On 5/5 the BGBs were mowed and maintained. 5/10 saw the peas trellised. On 5/11 and 5/12 a straw mulch was laid around the strawberry plants in anticipation of fruiting, the straw acts as a weed suppressant as well as a barrier keeping the fruit out of the dirt, cleaner and easier to spot when harvesting. On 5/18 grass was cut away from the garlic to keep it from becoming overwhelmed and on 5/19 hand weeding of the BGBs took place, a note in the log calculated 5 worker hours per bed. 5/23 and 5/24 saw the asparagus beds weeded and on 5/25 BGBs and 3 field beds were scuffle hoed. Finally on 5/31 trellising of the grafted greenhouse tomatoes began.

Harvesting 214 hrs: In May last year NSF had the following crops available: Field salad, arugula, tatsoi, spinach, swiss chard, kale, fennel, radishes, peas, spring garlic from the 579 field, and for the first time available at market, our very own strawberries!

On 5/24 in the log there are extensive notes on strawberry harvesting, establishing a protocol for harvesting every 4 days ripe and 3/4ths ripe strawberries, sorting into pint and quart containers on tomato trays and topping these containers off once at market to ensure full containers overflowing with unblemished fruit for our customers to enjoy. The notes also include some detailed information comparing variety yields and fruit size.

Handling 69 hrs: On 5/5 the walk-in cooler was turned back on in preparation for the start of the WWCFM, the previous harvest having been frozen by a malfunction. Throughout the month washing took place, Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon of our crops harvested for our Hopewell and WWCFM markets.

Market 127 hrs: Our first Saturday market of the season began this month, NSF’s 8th season at WWCFM. A note on the weather says it was a “beautiful day for first market” A 5/21 note relating to marketing said we had sold out of everything, and maxed out our weekly harvest for everything except for salad.

Hopewell5/4 $338.50, 5/11 $499.25, 5/18 $394.50, 5/25 $504.00

WWCFM- 5/7 $915, 5/14 $929, 5/21 $1025, 5/26 $1040

Total May 2011 Market Income: $5645.25

Special Projects 38 hrs: On 5/2 Veg C north was plowed by ST for his special project “Blackbird Meadows” the goal of which was to supply a variety of fresh produce on a weekly basis tailored to meet the needs of the local New Hope restaurant “Sprig and Vine”. The end of May saw hay baling, collection and storage of hay bales in the seed shed for later use.

Weather:  No mention of any frost at night in the log.

Week 1: Sunny and beautiful weather, transitioning to storms and then back to sun by week’s end.

Week 2: Sunny, getting dry. Irrigation needed by the end of the week.

Week 3: “Rainy weather settling in” followed by “SATURATED” later in the week. Sunny day on the 21st.

Week 4: Rain returns after a break on the 21st. 40% chance all week delays hay cutting, but finally sunny and hot weather arriving on the 27th allows for haying before going to seed.

Monthly Summary November 2010

November 3rd, 2011 | Posted by Kyle in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary November 2010)

 Monthly Summary – November 2010

Prepared by KG November 3, 2011

2010 Winter Production

General Observations: By November we are getting late into fall and temperatures are falling below freezing many nights. WWCFM has ended with the exception of their pre-Thanksgiving market, and Summit ends the sunday before Thanksgiving as well leaving only Hopewell after that. November is the last month of the regular season and the crew must work through the colder weather and darker days to ensure there is produce for the remaining markets. Also, preparations for winter must be made to the farm. Last November also saw the beginning of a Winter Production Season as a special project by RCM and ST.

Administration 72.5 hrs: With the weather getting colder and the day to day workload on the farm lessening, November was filled with plenty of office work. On 11/9 accounting data entry was introduced and reviewed for ST and RCM. The checkbook and Quicken procedures were gone over, including file management, data entry, reports, corrections & splits, and finding and imputing income & expense data. On 11/10 ST finished entering checkbook data into Quicken and the approx. figure of $104,000 in expenses to date was calculated. Recommendations for saving money were discussed. On 11/11 CH did payroll. 11/21, a note in the log discusses the end of the primary market season and the beginning of the winter production season as well as noting lots of admin work to be done. On 11/21 MR did payroll and ST entered market date into Quicken. 11/30 meeting to discuss the past season as well as the new winter schedule. Winter hours would be Tuesday and Wednesday plus self directed work anytime with the priorities of chores, winter season tasks, marketing, cropcare/infrastructure, and a heavy load of 2009 monthly and 2009 and 2010 season summaries to be published on the website.

Infrastructure 47.5 hrs: Colder temperatures dropping below freezing on some nights necessitated some infrastructure work to prepare for the cold. On 11/2 ST and RCM received an introduction to turning the farm’s water system on and off as well as draining it. This process of draining the farm’s water system overnight and turning it back on when necessary would continue throughout the month. With winter production on-going in the greenhouses some rodent pressure was discovered and dealt with, rats were trapped on 11/5 and 11/8, a note in the log suggests looking into rat stew recipes. Chicken chores continued throughout November, with the 09 flock moved into Veg A North for pasture. The composting toilet was also cleaned this month.

Equipment 11.5 hrs:

JD- 2

IH140- 5

Walkin Mower- 2

BCS Rototiller- 2.5

Kabuta, Ford, Weedwacker- 0

On 11/4 replacement batteries for the JD were purchased. The IH140 was used to bed form in Madonna Field North in preparation for Garlic planting, furrows were cut and then compost added. On 11/18 the JD had difficulty starting, battery dead and heavy drain on new batteries. Started after being hooked to charger in the AM and ran fine. Diagnosis was that there is a short somewhere in the ignition system and the solution is to disconnect the batteries when not in use. 11/24 JD used to load compost for Ralphs house, battery disconnected after use.

Greenhouse 34 hrs: With winter production on-going much work was being done in the greenhouses, requiring daily management for temperature control. In addition to the daily greenhouse chores, on 11/11 RCM tightened up the heated greenhouse and noticed a broken heating pad smoking when plugged in.

Composting 21 hrs: Compost was applied to 8 beds in Madonna Field North in preparation for Garlic planting. Ralph’s house also received a treatment of compost in preparation for WP plantings.

Planting 47 hrs: Garlic was cleaned on 11/12 in preparation for planting, yielding 85 lbs of prime garlic cloves for seeding. The planting took place on 11/16, 8 beds were planted with a single row of Garlic, the curved side of the clove facing the bed’s edge to insure uniform stem alignment. There were two groups of plantings in the heated greenhouse for WP in November, one on 11/9 into bread and tomato trays and another round on 11/18 into flipped seedling tables lined with chicken feed bags with soil on top. Both plantings contained field salad, arugula, tatsoi and peas.

Crop Care 50.5 hrs:  Remay management was a large part of crop care in November. Plastic/Remay tunnels for winter production needed to be regularly managed to insure temperatures did not stress the crops. This process meant opening the ends of the tunnels for cooling during the day and closing them at night. A note in the log demonstrates the necessity of the regular management, when it was discovered that when opening the tunnels at 10AM the temperature was already 90*F when the high for the day was only 55*F. On 11/11 the tomato patch was cleaned up in the field, and greenhouse tomatoes were cleared from Ralph’s house by 11/24.

Harvesting 186 hrs: Arugula, Beets, Carrots, Chard, Field Salad, Kale, Peppers, Radish, Tatsoi, and Turnips were still being harvested in November, as well as a diminishing amount of greenhouse tomatoes until finally the plants were removed on the 24th.

Handling 54.5 hrs: Only 2 weekly markets for the month of November and Summit ending the Sunday before Thanksgiving meant less washing than in previous months.

Market 103 hrs:

Hopewell11/3 $430, 11/10 $445.50, 11/17 $403.60, 11/23 $470.50

WWCFM Thanksgiving Market- 11/20 $532         

Summit11/7 $2180, 11/14 $2535, 11/21 $3360

            Total September Market Income: $10,356.60

Special Projects 47 hrs: A note on 11/21 marks the end of the primary market season and the start of RCM and ST ‘s winter production season. The winter production special project which had been in planning and initial preparation before, was now getting much more daily attention. Plantings in the heated greenhouse and management of the remay/plastic tunnels were a large part of this, as well as harvest and handling for the Hopewell market. A summary of last year’s winter production special project is available here.

Weather:

Week 1: Freezing nights, milder days. Rain on the 4th.

Week 2: Cold, temperatures around freezing at night, but sunny with highs around 60 most of the week.

Week 3: Warmers nights, temperatures in the 40s. Strong winds blow through on the 17th, 35mph+ followed by a drop in temperatures.

Week 4: Cold nights continue, with forecast lows below freezing for the start of December.

Monthly Summary September 2010

September 8th, 2011 | Posted by Kyle in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary September 2010)

Monthly Summary – September 2010

Prepared by KG September 7, 2011

Oats Cover CropImage- Oats planted as cover crop on Veg B mid after bed forming

General Observations: September seems to be another month of transition. As May marked the transition from greenhouse production and season preparation to full scale production, September marked a return to the greenhouses and preparation for winter production as the last of the field successions were planted at the end of August. September is a busy month, with many priorities vying for the attention of the crew. Harvesting the remaining field successions was a key priority, as was harvesting the tomatoes which continued to yield through the month but at a reduced yield later on. In addition preparation for fall greenhouse crops and the planting of cover crops for the winter need to be done. Also, winter production was on everyone’s minds as NSF trainees were allowed to plan out and begin working on the various elements of winter production with the goal of providing fresh organic produce to our local Hopewell Market throughout the winter. On top of all this the daily chores and other needs of the farm mean that in worker hours September 2010 was the highest of the year with 1064 total hours.

Administration 52.5hrs: For administration September started with a Farm Review in the log on 9/1. Notes in the log talk about focusing on harvesting from the final field succession and a planting frenzy for direct seeded crops before the new moon on 9/8. The standard administrative duties were also performed, payroll and bill paying. Planning for winter production was another administrative project that took place last September. Interns RCM, ST, and SJ took on many of the planning responsibilities for winter production including the creation of crop plans, strategy/bed choices, seed and supply orders. On 9/29 MR trained SJ and ST on field layout and primary tillage of Madonna Field as it was divided into 3 blocks to be added into the field rotations allowing for a full season fallow for each block every other year, a bioextensive method to prevent soil from being overworked.

Infrastructure 70.5hrs: Mowing with Kabota and bushhog, diversions mowed 9/6 and 9/21. Field perimeters, as well as Veg C and D field were mowed.

Chickens: The new 2010 flock was moved into the old 2008 flock pen. The 2009 girls were moved to a fresh pasture.

Equipment 26.5hrs:

            Kabota- 4.5

            JD tractor- 5

            Ford tractor- 17

            IH tractor, Walkin Mower, BSC, Weedwacker- 0

Upon removing the backhoe for the JD tractor a leaky hydraulic hose was discovered on 9/1. On 9/15 the log mentions that there was trouble starting the JD which was solved by adjusting the charger and dosing the starter with ether.

Greenhouse 10.5hrs: Cleanup and bed preparation were the focus of greenhouse activity. The Farmhouse Gothic greenhouse was prepared for a direct seeded winter production crop, after a normal bed preparation procedure of composting, broad-forking, and rototilling the beds were irrigated to flush weeds before seeding a week later.

Composting 21hrs: Compost was sifted for greenhouse winter production seedlings. On 9/21 NSF received delivery of approx. 35 cubic yards of mulch. The big garden beds and greenhouse beds received compost prior to planting.

Planting 53.5hrs: On 9/1 two beds of salad were planted without composting or broadforking with a note in the log to observe the success of the crop without those preparations, however the follow up note was not found. Arugula and Tatsoi seeded for the new moon on 9/8. Spinach on 9/9 and carrots and radishes seeded in Ralph’s House GH on 9/11. Two more beds of salad were planted in the BGBs on 9/15.

Crop Care 155hrs: With fall almost here and winter following quickly behind getting cover crops planted and established is an important task in September. On 9/2 and 9/3 Veg B North was seeded with a cover crop of wheat and Veg B Mid was bed formed and seeded with white clover in the pathways and broadcast with oats. The practice used in Veg B Mid was particularly useful as the formed beds held their shape through the winter and could be planted in the spring without additional bedforming. Regular weeding in the BGBs and field throughout the month. The Asparagus also got some attention and was weeded on 9/16.

Harvesting 376.5hrs: Chard, Kale, Beets, Summer Squash, Peppers, Eggplant, Radishes, Field Salad, and Flowers continued to be harvested. On 9/14 the first of the winter squash was harvested. Radishes were cleared and topped on 9/16. The experimental corn plot was harvested on 9/21, yields were disappointing due to drought, for 12 field beds of corn approx. 20lbs of corn was harvested. The tomatoes continued to yield through September, however at a decreasing rate. The strong storms on 9/30 flattened lettuce and led to a lower yield of salad for the two weekend markets that followed; 14lbs. compared to 92lbs. the previous week. Calculations regarding the garlic crop were made, ¼ acre yielded 1,750 cloves of garlic or 50 lbs. bulk/ 44 lbs. cloves.

Handling 75hrs: Regular washing in preparation for the three markets NSF attends. Garlic was also cleaned, roots cut off and dirt removed from bulbs.

Market 163.5hrs:

            Hopewell–  9/1 $709, 9/8 $764, 9/14 $643, 9/21 $679, 9/28 $542

            WWCFM- 9/4 $1075.00, 9/11 $1385.00, 9/18 $1535.00, 9/25 $1545.15

            Summit–    9/5 $2440.00,  9/12 $2284.00,  9/19 $2090.00, 9/26 $2625.00

            Total September Market Income: $18,316.92

Special Projects 64hrs: The 2010 chickens got a treat when prime galensoga weed was harvested for them to eat. Rock Road East deliveries continued with the Farm Stand in offering fresh organic produce to our neighbors through September. And of course the TOMATO FIGHT took place 9/12, with lots of “fun, pizza, beer, and rotten tomatoes”. Nomad Pizza supplied the delicious brick oven pizza. 2010 Tomato Fight t-shirt sales plus contributions helped to cover the costs to NSF for hosting the event, our 5th Annual Tomato Fight. A note in the log about the tomato fight claims ST and RC “obviously were the best” and should have won awards.

Weather: Conditions throughout the month remained dry, and for the most part hotter than average, continuing the two month drought that the area had been experiencing last year.

Week 1: Hot and Dry weather, with the temperature some days reaching above 100*F. Hopes that Hurricane Earl passing off the coast will bring some rain do not pay off.

Week 2: A new front moved in, bringing cooler temperature and some windy weather. On 9/13 a notable thunderstorm was recorded in the log. “Crazy, amazing thunderstorm at sunset turned everything orange and rainbows and lightning could be seen.”

Week 3: Cool, still dry. Despite last week’s storm only .6” of rain have fallen since late August.

Week 4: The heat returns. 93*F and still dry, although forecast storms finally arrive on the last day of September and deliver a stormy first day of October.

Monthly Summary May 2010

May 18th, 2011 | Posted by Kyle in Monthly Summary - (105 Comments)

Monthly Summary – May 2010
Prepared by KG May 16th 2011
Mowing 

 General Observations: May was a very busy month. In worker hours it was the second highest of the year with a total of 1051 hours. Spring is in full swing, the vegetation around the farm is growing heartily and the weather is getting warm enough for outdoor planting to proceed as the risk of frost diminishes. With increased production comes an increased need for maintenance. Crop care, harvesting, handling and all the other elements are affected as more is being grown. May marks a shift in priority tasks, crop care and keeping on target with succession planting must take precedence while basic operations cannot be neglected. The result of this is a busier time as the farm shakes off the last of winter’s sleep and launches fully into the season’s production.

 
Administration 59hrs: The regular tasks of accounting and paying bills were attended to, as was payroll. A rainy morning was a good time for a crew meeting to discuss priorities for the month. MR reviewed by-laws and vendor regulations in preparation for a Hopewell Market Meeting. On 5/19 an accident report was made, the Hay Rake was crashed into and severely damaged by a car/truck.

 
Infrastructure 150 hrs: Lots of infrastructure work this month, by worker hours May was the heaviest of the year for infrastructure. Moving and caring for the poultry was a weekly chore with the chickens out in the field. Having the chickens in the field certainly improves their quality of life, but also exposes them to danger as was seen twice this month in fox attacks. On the 11th 7 of the ’08 chickens were lost, and on the 22nd 9 more were lost.

With everything now green and growing, maintenance of pathways and waterways became a larger task. In addition to maintaining the key arteries of the farm, beds needed to be mowed in preparation for planting.

Also in May, the pool was swept and prepared for use.

On 5/23 a problem with the farm water system was discovered, a burnt wire was found in the well pump control unit. Resetting the system frequently proved ineffective, and on 6/2 a repairman came and repaired the well. In the mean time the farmhouse water system was used to fill in as best as possible, but with some inconvenience.

Equiptment 90hrs: Lots of equipment training this month, second year interns SJ ST and RCM were trained on various equipment/practices including rototilling, tilling, disking and cultivating with a tractor.

The Kubota was serviced on 5/13, problems with the starter were troubleshot. A note in the log suggests the blades be replaced by this time next year.

JD received new application of Teflon tape which leaked at first but then held after tightening.

 
Greenhouse 69.5 hrs: With so much of the farm activity shifting to planting and crop care there was much less going on the in greenhouses this month compared to the last. By mid-month only one bed of Swiss Chard from last fall remained in Ralph’s house, the rest of the winter production was cleared.

Tomatoes were potted on and more plants seeded for seedling sales. On 5/30 the need to prepare for the seeding the next succession was mentioned in the log.

 
Composting 43hrs: Plenty of composting as field beds were being prepared for planting. BGBs and field beds being readied for planting received one trailer load per bed. Blackberries received a covering of mulch.

 
Planting 116 hrs: Lots of planting this month, with a heavy focus in the Big Garden Beds. There were two plantings of salad mix in May, as well as the planting of mixed beds of radishes with carrots and turnips with carrots. On 5/21 tomatoes were planted, in one long day of hard work all the available varieties were planted out in the field. About 100 each of Sungold, Brandywine, and Striped German as well as smaller numbers of Arbason, Crimson Sprinter, Corsalo, Cheroke Purple, and Green Zebra made it out into the field for the first time in their cowpots. On 5/25 some of the second succession was planted; Squash, Chard, and Zinnias in Veg B north.

 

Crop Care 215 hrs: With spring here and having crops out in the field weeding became a major part of the daily activity at North Slope Farm. Hand-weeding, scuffle hoeing, weed-wacking, mowing and tractor cultivating were all used to clear weeds. Strawberries were weeded and peas were trellised. A note in the log warns that “crop care could consume us all…”

 
Harvesting 129 hrs: May marked a change in harvesting as the greenhouse production came to an end and was replaced by crops from the field. Salad mix, Arugala, and Chard were harvested from the BGBs at first, with Kale left to grow larger. By the end of the month kale, garlic scapes and turnips were being harvested for market.

 
Handling 48.5hrs: Regular washing for markets, eggs washed for Bent Spoon. Strawberry plants potted on 3 to a container for sale at market along with other seedlings.

 
Market 118hrs: May 1st was the first of the Saturday markets at West Windsor, which meant now North Slope Farm was harvesting, preparing, and attending two markets a week. Seedlings helped to bolster market revenue and notes about selling out in the log indicate that overall markets this month went well. CH also set up a farm-stand file and spreadsheet to track deliveries, the farm-stand was cleaned up and display cooler turned on.

 
Special Projects 29hrs: Hay cutting in 579 field.

Cost calculations for poultry production were made comparing Winter and April feed costs to eggs produced. The cost per dozen eggs of WP was calculated to be $2.39 vs AP costs of $1.57 per dozen eggs.

 
Weather:
Week 1: May started off hot, 90* on the first of the month. By the end of the week however the weather had changed and conditions were windy and cold.
Week 2: Much colder, with some rain. Frosts overnight on the 9th and 10th caused some crop damage, loss of 50 pepinos noted in log.
Week 3: Continued cold this week, with some days of heavy rain. By the end of the week conditions were sunny and warm again.
Week 4: Warm and sunny for most of the week, conditions allowing for the tractors to get into the fields. Some heavy rainfall arrived at the end of the month, just in time to prevent the need for irrigation being used.