Watch as Farmers Grow
Fall Observations; October 4, 2016
As the season changes from Summer to Fall, the Farm Manager takes stock of how it went and what can be accomplished before winter sets in.
We had a busy season, having to put aside our High Tunnel Project in order to get through the other Priority Lists. We were joined by two excellent workers, Sam and Christine, who brought interest and enthusiasm along with hard work and positive focus! Markets went well, matching previous years, despite increasing competition from other new markets and the increasing availability of organic produce from mainstream distributors and therefor, most supermarkets. Production this year seemed to start well, and a number of new items were added to the crop list. Flowers seemed more abundant, but records show production may have been lower than last year. We went into the season knowing increased labor costs would scour any profits, and to date that seems to be borne out, not gonna be a profitable year. The flip side of that reality, is the production utilizing reduced tillage techniques in the field shows real promise and is exemplary of how North Slope Farm is still a leader in applying Stewardship Principles to modern practice. We have maintained production, while reducing overall tillage by a significant amount and are developing a comfort level, with the steps to take, as we move forward. Tree Fruit and Blackberry production was non-existent, though strawberries produced well. Labor costs of managing and picking the berries make me skeptical of their value to us though.
Moving forward – Its all about maintaining income at the markets to try to keep from drowning in uncovered costs. I have encouraged my crew to take advantage of off farm opportunities, as they are available, (for their personal advancement and experience), so the reduced labor time requires increased efficiency in management and production – no time to slack off, even if our natural cycle tells us to get up later, stop work earlier and eat lots of rich foods! We pushed to get a last barrage of outdoor seeding done, to last us through the first hard frosts. Now we need to (kinda late) finish establishing crops in our High Tunnels for Winter Production. Also to generate cash, we need to increase our production of micro greens and are going to attempt regular plantings on Basil in pots to sell at the markets as fresh herbs. This means turning on systems in our Seedling Greenhouse, which will add late season cost we usually avoid. To make it worth it, we need to get the seeding done, maintain moisture, temperature and generally stay on top of successions of production! Likewise we need to push market sales, our service must be excellent, products must be beautifully presented, harvesting and handling must be efficient so we have time to get other improvements and additions attended to! Cover cropping will be reduced this year, in relation to reduced tillage practices. Our Favorable Furrow method provides for the establishment of clover covers during cultivation, which ideally, survive the fallow/pasture season and all fields go into the Winter with established cover. So far this has been working, and I only anticipate chisel plowing and having to cover crop 1 acre of the 8 acres involved in active production and fallow rotation. Additionally, I hope to “tune up” poorly cover cropped areas by broadcasting seed and covering with a compost layer. This may be unrealistic with our reduced labor situation, but as harvest times decrease with the die off of tomatoes and flowers, extra time may open up, just gotta manage workers, tasks and equipment effectively.