Monthly Summary– July 2011
Logs reviewed and summary prepared by MR, July 10, 2012
General Observations: Just over an inch of rain is recorded for this month, with a Heat Wave noted by mid month. Lightening storms chased the crew from the fields at least twice but the brief showers simply increased the humidity. Early in the month we were appreciative of the mild heat and weather as tales of Woe registered from the South and West – both Drought and severe Flooding. During the heatwave hours were adjusted to harvest earlier and break early, though Infrastructure and Handling continued on until their responsibilities were completed. It is a busy month, catching up with large weeds, trying to get final planting for fall production in and harvesting the newly yielding crops of Tomatoes.
Equipment 40 hrs: Mostly the Kabota, mowing, also Ford 4600 rototilling and mowing, JD2240 Chisel and Moldboard Plowing, and the IH140 bedforming. 3 hours of the Walk Behind tiller and 1 hour of weedwacking noted. Sad signs of aging equipment reared their head, the JD Loader blew its seals on one of the Cylinders which had to be rebuilt by Everitts Equipment in Ringoes. The Kabota also lost its muffler but a replacement was quickly retrieved from the Kabota Dealer in Titusville; Mid-State Equipment Co.
Administration 43 hrs: This months expense for payroll was $6,000, for 7 employees, (2 part-time). 2nd Quarter Employee wages (April-June) was $20,386 compared to Market earnings by Mid July of $39,541. So this is the time period where financially the farm starts to tread water. To get to this point the farm has “borrowed” $30,000 from Savings, which it pays back slowly over the course of the season. Training time focused on BD and Primary Tillage, as well as discussions of the responsibilities of a third year Trainee. Each Trainee must post summaries of their intended focus and a summary at the end of the Season. Notes and photos taken during the season are critical to a meaningful summary, as well as beneficial to all, in understanding the activity of others. Also of note, Black Bird Meadows (@ NSF) began harvesting crops that were sold to North Slope and resold at our Markets, initiating the practice of providing market outlet for individual “Agricultural Ventures” on the farm, undertaken by Trainees and Contract Farmers. The Farm Manager is responsible for maintaining cooperation and synergy with these ventures and it was great to have ST take on the opportunity. ST (Black Bird Meadows) also hosted the Chef/Owner of Sprig and Vine,New Hope,PA, for a farm visit as they discussed the coming harvest and delivery schedule.
Infrastructure 98 hrs: KG and RR were given review training of the finer details of moving the Chicken coops – Please see – “Pastured Poultry -Factors to consider”. Primary Tillage was a significant focus, providing trainees (mostly BD, but also CH and ST) with multiple opportunities to Chisel Plow, Rototill, Moldboard Plow and Disc as well as bedforming with the smaller tractor. Fields Veg C south and Mid were plowed and disced and Veg B mid and north were plowed and rototilled. CH noted that her first round using the ‘Cut Harrow’ (disc) she did not allow it to go deep enough and might not have been nearly as effective in churning under weeds as it should have been. A second round of Harrowing at a deeper depth was required. Veg B south had been previously plowed and this month was bedformed 4 times, over the course of the month, to maintain “stale seedbeds” with the last pass to incorporate the summer cover crop seed of SunHemp and Oats. McGearys Organic Fertilizer was also purchased from Rosedale Mills,Pennington,NJ. It was stored in the Barn, elevated on pallets, with a plastic vapor barrier below and plastic sheeting to cover. (*by next season, the unused fertilizer became a major food source for rodents – requiring alternative storage, alternative fertilizer or immediate spreading).
Greenhouse 14 hrs: The last of the greenhouse seedlings were planted out by the end of the month. Activity in this Element was weeding and mulching Yardlong Beans and Cucumbers in Ralphs House and Much trellising of Greenhouse Tomatoes in the Farmhouse Gothic. Trellising and Pruning of the Greenhouse Tomatoes was a weekly task at minimum. Irrigation was also critical. ST was monitoring the Farmhouse Gothic, using the soil moisture sensors. ST noted the reading from 34 (“Irrigate”), then 1.5 hrs of irrigation to a reading of 4 (“saturated”). Missing from the notes was how long from a reading of Saturated back to “good”? We have a history of letting the Greenhouse crops get too dry, then flooding them. About an hour every two days would probably be best, but hard to sustain with lots of other water use to coordinate.
Composting 16 hrs: 26 cubic yards of Compost spread on 12 Field Beds and 9 cyds on 6 BGB’s.
Planting 59 hrs: 7/2 seeded Flowers (10 beds), 7/6 seeded 4 varieties of Winter Squash using Minimum Tillage and Mulching Strategy, 7/20 Seeded Lettuce into Big Garden Beds (BGB), 7/27 Transplanted last of the Greenhouse Seedlings to MulchField SEsouth (beets, scallions, chard and kale), 7/28 direct seeded summer Squash and beans in Mulch SEs, 7/28 seeded Bolero Carrots in BGBs. Also seeded Sun Hemp and Oats into fallow field VegBs and lightly cultivated then rolled with ATV and Roller. A crop Failure of the Hakurai Turnips was noted due to Overseeding. The pinpoint seeder that we use was set to allow multiple seeds per divot on the axle, it was determined the appropriate setting is to singulate the seeds, ie one seed per divot on the seeder axle.
Crop Care 188 hrs: Irrigation was the watch word for the month with 34 specific entries in the Log, or more than one zone being irrigated every day. On average we can irrigate 15: 100’ drip tubes, or 16: 200’ drip tapes, for up to 4 hours, in the BGB/Field Zones or 1.5 hours per zone in the Greenhouses. Weeding of BGBs and care and cleanup of the Kale/Chard/Beet beds. Cleanup of spring beds- hoops and bags from remay tunnels long overdue. And of course; Trellising of Tomatoes! Additional attention to Tomatoes included Trampling and Rolling the vegetative growth between the Tomato beds. It was noted that a roller/Crimper that could be pulled by the ATV would be a nice, low tech method of managing fallow beds without the use of a mower or the requirement of bare soil tillage. However it is done, controlling the growth between the Tomato Beds requires a solid strategy – enough space for mower or alternative control! Hardcore cleanup of BGB edges and pathways also noted. Machetes or serrated long knives are nice for cleaning edges of crops on top of the BGBs pre harvesting/weeding (field salad, carrots).
Harvesting 417 hrs: Basil 101 bn, Beans 156 lbs, Beets 400 lbs, Carrots 525 lbs, Chard 375 bn, Eggs 75 doz, Field Salad 335 lbs, Flowers 134 bn, Garlic 72 lbs, Kale 135 bn, Parsley 115 bn, Radishes 33 lbs, Scallions 245 bn, Strawberries 12 pints, Squash 640 lbs, Tomatoes 1,520 lbs. The first tomatoes were 7/7 – 3 pints cherry tomatoes and 1/5 tray of Greenhouse Tomatoes. Bulk of the yield was at the end of the month. We moved the old box truck to its place by the Tomatoes, to be used as a shady harvest/sorting area. Green Bean harvest was assessed as approximately 100 #’s main picking per bed or 50#/100’ (half of what Rodale’s Garden Problem Solver, p18, estimates) – Assumming 50 of our beds per acre – 5,000 #’s per acre, if we want to gross $20,000/acre, our bean crop value should be a minimum of $4/# wholesale, or $6-$8/# retail! Increasing the yield must be accomplished to reduce unit cost. Carrots were also noted as yielding 135-160# per BGB. Assumming 40 BGB’s per acre; 6,000#; (1/4 the estimated yield of Rodale); Wholesale value should be $3/#. Ideally we should work towards an increased yield up to 300 #/ BGB to get our cost value more in line with market value – currently at $2.50/# retail (1.25# wholesale value).
Handling 136 hrs: The Crew rotating thru the washing station, no one expressing particular interest. Scallions has become a major ‘to do’, usually leading to a shady spot designated for stripping and bunching. One day the notes express some pleasure at “cleaning scallions poolside”! Quote from Farm Manager, “As tomatoes come on, with Flowers and Fruit, the cooler and AirConditioned Office are FULL. Our time is Fully Required, how these elements are managed can ‘make’ or ‘break’ the operation. There can be little or no waste, Freshness and Quality Must be maintained and old produce Cleared Out!” Discussion focused on maintaining a system of what produce is just harvested vs ripe and ready for market. In particular, the Tomatoes are harvested with two levels of ripeness and they must be kept separate in storage to ensure the ripe ones go to market and ripening ones move forward for next market, without extra handling (confusion).
Marketing 161 hrs: First week markets were noted as being “off” from last year $500 down at WWCFM and $1,140 down at Summit. By mid month we are making runs to Solebury Orchards for their Peaches, then nectarines and apricots, to add to the blueberries. We also purchase weekly deliveries of Organic Blueberries via Zone 7 – produce distributor. By the end of the month Cherry Grove Organic Farm decided the Hopewell Market did not yield enough sales to continue, which helped increase our sales just in time for Tomato season. The Hopewell Market was always marginally viable for multiple growers, a basic problem for small town Farmers Markets – how to bring in a diversity of producers when the demand is low. RCM noted a check of Bio-Bag inventory and confirmed that our usual supplier, DinPak.com still appears to be the best – Copy of invoice filed in Marketing Element Folder. Biodegradable Produce bags cost .10 each, and bags with handles cost .14 each, plus shipping! Non Biodegradable produce bags cost about .01 per bag. North Slope takes a major financial hit to provide our customers with Ecologically Responsible packaging; no doubt we will be rewarded in heaven.
Hopewell– $442, $575, $886, $933; Total: $2,836
WWCFM– $875, $1,100, $1,920. $1,920, $2,485; Total: $8,300
Summit– $1,361, $2,088, $2,935, 3,000, $3,360; Total: $12,744
Total July 2011 Market Income: $23,880
Special Projects 24 hrs: In cooperation with NOFA-NJ, we planted SunHemp, a trial species introduced by the NRCS for a potentially high Biomass, nitrogen fixing, summer cover crop. We seeded a field section with Sun Hemp and oats, intending late summer nitrogen fixing and weed suppression, followed by “Winter Kill” then Spring Planting next season. Also of note, Black Bird Meadows began to harvest more Napa Cabbage than the Sprig and Vine needed andNorth Slope was able to provide an additional market outlet. The discussion focused on pricing – to encourage the farmer (ST) to set their wholesale value, whichNorth Slope pays then marks up for resale at our markets. ST started with market research and established a wholesale market rate of .85/#. His cabbages averaged 1.5# or $1.28/Cabbage. NSF estimated a good Retail Rate of $3/Cabbage and offered to pay $1.5/Cabbage wholesale. This process builds on our Marketing assumption that the wholesale rate ought to allow as much as a doubling in price from Farmer’s price to retail sale. ST also noted in log, “Started Kabota [to mow special project field] and muffler fell off.” Ah, the trials and tribulations of shared equipment, it was noisy but at least it cut the grass!
Weather: Hot and Dry with T-storms threatening towards end of Month.
Week 1: mildly hot and dry.
Week 2: 90*F, hot then .8” long drizzly rain (very much needed). Then another .3”.
Week 3: Heat Wave – 105*F.
Week 4: High temps, some showers and increased Humidity to finish the month.