Table Top Baby Greens –
MikeR posted 5/1/2016
Photos from Historical FIle
MikeR posted 5/1/2016
Photos from Historical FIle
Special Project Summary – Perennials – 2013
Report on status of Perennials and practices from 2013.
Also note: CH Served as ‘Farm Manager’ from July to end of Season, to cover for MR.
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.
– 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
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.
Total seed cost: $149.85
Labor*: $250.00 *25hrs @ $10/hr (conservative estimate)
Total Expense: $442.56
Market Sales: $1024.00
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.
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.
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.
Perennials Manager Summary 2012
by Colleen Harrington
It was my fifth season at North Slope Farm when we undertook “the great fruit/nut planting of 2010”. After digging 125 holes and getting these plants settled in, it was already time to jump in to the main vegetable production season. The season was flying by and the time we could put towards this new undertaking (perennials) was just bare minimum. We had numerous casualties by the end of the season.
The following spring of April 2011, when replacing dead trees, we utilized the same varieties. Time spent caring for our fruit and nut bearing “friends” did increase slightly but not nearly enough. Our trees were just surviving when they could and should be thriving.
In 2011, much of my time was spent outside of our primary production areas working to re-establish our perennial herbs in the “Corner Garden”. It made sense for me to increase my responsibilities to include all perennials.
In 2012 I took on the role of Perennials Manager. At the start of the season, my goal was to be sure all our perennials had:
These goals were part of a one year management plan which incorporates what I consider to be most “basic needs” for all perennial plantings.
Overall, it was a successful year. Our Lemon Verbena crop was excellent, with a yield of 7.6 pounds of dried herb tea per 120 square foot bed. We saw our first peaches ripen and all “basic needs” were met. As a result the survival rate of our trees increased from just over 50 % in 2010 to over 90% in 2012.
Among this seasons challenges was the “unhappy cherries” (less than half survived). We also saw severe disease and pest damage in our oldest apple trees along with a harsh spring frost which resulted in our lowest yield in years for apples. Deer pressure continues to be a threat in the form of trunk rubbing and terminal bud nibbling. The “market garden” is protected by an electric fence which had been destroyed on the entire north side. We spent a day repairing the electric fence and we were also able to erect a deer fence around the “fruit cluster” in early winter. Yeah!
The long term management strategy will build onto the “basic needs” plan as we learn more about the specific varieties we grow. We will become more familiar with specific fungal, bacterial and pest challenges here at North Slope Farm. We also hope to foster the growth of healthy plants by promoting diverse and abundant soil microbiology and by increasing overall diversity on the farm.
Additional goals for the 2013 season:
A final component of the long term plan is to double the herb production and sales each season until we reach $10,000/year. This will require identifying more production space, increasing herb seedling sales and upgrading our tea drying process.
As more of our perennial fruits and nuts come into their prime production years, our goal is to gross $20,000 per acre. However, for the next few years the focus will be on boosting health and vigor by utilizing holistic orcharding techniques.
Information about the project, including annual summaries, will be shared on our website under Special Projects; Perennials or a specific crop name.
Perennial Crops– at North Slope Farm
Prepared by MR and CH, January 2013
Intent: To increase the potential income of the farm by establishing crops that will yield a diversity of fruits, nuts and vegetables in a regenerative manner. Ideally the perennials will make use of land otherwise marginally, productive or accessible, for annual crop production. Perennials may ultimately become a primary focus of the farm, but in the beginning, tasks should be coordinated with the Farm Manager to ensure a “Wholistic Farm Plan.”
Summary as of December 2011:
When North Slope Farm was purchased in 1994, there was a single, old fruit tree growing next to the farmhouse. A crunchy, tart pear, great for storage, we refer to it, fondly, as the” farmhouse pear”. The following year, six apple trees and two Asian pear trees were planted around the farmhouse. All of these trees have grown to produce beautiful blossoms, organic looking but delicious fruits, while also providing a perfect classroom for practical’s, in pruning and observation, of the short and long term needs of these valuable members of our community.
By 2005, the main vegetable production areas were well established and incorporate perennial herbs and flowers, as well as “wild strips”; a place for our native plants, insects, birds and critters. As stewards of this land, always looking to diversify flora and fauna, the next step in this journey was to establish more fruit trees. Five apple trees were planted in the market garden and plans for a larger expansion were solidifying. Expansion of perennial plantings is often a risk, due to potential for loss. In 1997-98 we lost a new block of 40 Apple saplings, due to lack of irrigation and Rabbits chewing the bark from the trunks.
In 2010, with fifteen years of experience in vegetable and flower production, the land and its stewards were ready to get rolling on plans which would establish more diversity of berries and fruit trees within the “Market Garden” and “Corner Garden”. The plans also included the establishment of a 1/6th acre plot dedicated to fruiting perennials and a 50’x 25’ area for hazelnuts. These planting areas, known respectively as the “Fruit Cluster” and the “Sycamore Plot”, were chosen based on their proximity to infrastructure but also because these soils are least suitable for annual vegetable production.
This ambitious 2010 plan included: (Peaches) 20 Curlfree, (Pears) 3 Bosc, 3 Red Anjou, 4 Seckel, 2 Moonglow, 2 D’Anjou, (Cherry) 6 Kristen, 10 Windsor, 6 Bing, (Asian Pears) 2 Large Korean, 2 Chojuro, 2 Shinseki, 2 Hosui, (Apples) 3 Enterprise, 3 Goldrush, 3 Jonafree, (Paw Paw) 4 American, (Fig) 5 Brown Turkey, (Gooseberry) 4 Pixwell, (Hardy Kiwi) 6 male, 3 female, (Grapes) 3 Ontario, 3 Buffalo, 3 Candice, (Blackberries) 72 Chester, (Strawberries) 400ft mixed Albion, Earlyglow, Sparkle and Honeyoe, (Filberts) 3 Butler, 3 Barcelona, 3 Royal, 12 Fingerlakes.
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Future discussion: Assess production management; strengths and weakness. Assess production potential and identify limitations to operation. Identify values and costs of enterprise not reflected in hard data collected.
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Pastured Poultry: Introduction to ‘Factors to Consider’
Each week we move our chicken coops to a new section of pasture. At this time the Farm Worker is responsible for the following items:
Poultry Report 2011
Materials Reviewed: MikeR, Nov. 2011.
Regular records are kept of Feed Comsumption, Egg Yield and Special Expenses. In the winter, eggs are sold wholesale (Whole Earth Center, Bent Spoon, Zone 7) and income is tracked through regular invoicing. During the Farmers Market Season, sales are recorded at each market, and a summary of sales prepared at the end of the season.
It is our intention to use these numbers to track our real cost and income from the season of 2011, and publish the results, right here. Ultimately, this effort is intended to encourage similar cost assessment amoung the agricultural and food consumming communities. Hypothesis: If we accurately track our real costs of production, we can accurately price the product…adjusted by our real yield.
Challenges: Accounting for costs – Infrastructure, Labor, Intangebles (sometimes as benifits), Markets.
The final goal is a strong “Wholesale Value” that NorthSlopeFarm will stand by as a reasonable value for our product.
Off the cuff calculations now show very little money left to pay for labor after we’ve shelled out Thousands of Dollars for Certified Organic, Fresh Feed. Its an important topic, and the report will be published here.
MikeR, March 5, 2012
Grafted Heirloom tomatoes were trellised with the double leader technique. Each tomato plant’s leaders were pruned except for two which were clipped to its own individual string hanging from the top of the hoop house. This provided adequate airflow for the plants and made it easy to harvest in an efficient manner. We mulched the beds and aisles with hay for weed suppression and to prevent soil from contacting the plants. The outside rows were non grafted indeterminate red slicing tomatoes. We trellised and pruned them using the same method for the grafted tomatoes. Soil moisture sensors were placed in two of the rows to inform us when and how much to water. On average we watered once a week for about an hour. This changed according to the weather. On hot weeks we watered twice a week and during rainy periods we did not water at all. A humidity chamber was built for the newly grafted tomatoes. This consisted of a tent of plastic under the greenhouse table. Cardboard was placed on top of the table to block light out. This created the right environment for the grafts to heal. I learned this method from the first farm I worked at: Blooming Glen Farm.
How to Graft: Grow seedlings of heirloom and rootstock so their stems are about the thickness of a pencil. Cut the top of the root stock off. Cut a downward slit on the rootstock with a matching upward slit on the plant you want to graft. Insert the cuts together and plant into a single pot. Hold plants together with graft clips and mist the cut with a spray bottle. Place under the humidity chamber for 3 to 5 days. Pull the plants out and cut halfway through the base of the heirloom. Twist tie the plants to a skewer for support. Water the base of the plant gently to avoid soil splash. Place the plants back into the humidity chamber for another 3 to 5 days. Take the plants back out and cut all the way through. Now the root stock will be attached to the heirloom. There are some variables to this procedure. Observation of the plant’s health is vital. Slowly introduce the plant back to full sunlight before planting.
Root Stock: Maxifort
Heirloom Tomatoes: Brandywine, Striped German, Paul Robeson, and Black Prince
Non grafted Tomatoes: New Girl
4 beds planted: 2 Outside beds new girl, 2 inner beds with grafted heirlooms (1/2 of bed for each variety)
Single row planting at 18” spacing
3/4 seedlings were planted
4/22 to 4/27 tomatoes grafted
5/13 tomatoes planted
7/12 first harvest
9/23 last substantial harvest
Yield from 300 row feet of tomatoes:
Seeding – 1 hr
Grafting – 16 hrs
Planting – 1.5 hrs
Trellising – 30 hrs
Harvesting – 32 hrs
Clean up – 12 hours
Winter Production – 2010 Summary
Prepared by ST and RCM on 3/3/11
Winter production had its challenges and triumphs. We constructed low tunnels out of rebar and manually vented them if the outside temperature reached above 60 degrees or the inside tempeture rose above 80 degrees. Wind above 30mph tended to blow the plastic loose. Our outdoor tunnels did great to extend the season into December, but were not active during the heart of the winter. We seeded spinach in November under the outdoor low tunnels and checked on them in spring to find a wonderful crop. The unheated greenhouse proved to be successful for multiple cuttings. This provided the bulk of our production. Stored carrots, turnips, and radishes also helped fill our market stand.
Winter Production Costs:
Additionally, hourly wages had to be paid to the workers who took care of the crops, harvested and sold over the winter.
WP Wages: We used profit made each week to pay workers. After costs incurred by North Slope were taken out of the gross profit of each market a proportional split, based on the number of hours worked, of the profit was used to pay workers. Each week varied depending on weather conditions, market success, crop availability, etc. However, it traditionally came to at least $8/hr.
Overall, it was a pretty successful attempt to continue to grow and sell food in the winter while being able to provide some part-time work to farmers. The largest problem was weather, either while trying to harvest or trying to sell at market. If a snowstorm arrives the day of your market, there is likely to be little profit to pay an employee.
Heated Greenhouse: Seeding Dates in heated greenhouse:
Major problems we had with the table-top germination was seeding too closely together (which encouraged mold and insect problems later), water pooling at different sections of the table due to the unevenness of the surface and our peas were pecked through (perhaps by a bird foraging for food in the winter months.)
From the heated greenhouse:
From the Field: Spinach as of 3/10/11 23.5 lbs had been harvested for market and approx 5lbs for farmer consumption. Arugula in the field, the 40ft swath that developed and was sold in December was approx 19lbs. Kale and Swiss Chard had some small yields in the field but was minimal, more useful just as a display and for the die-hard chard and kale lovers. The tatsoi seeded ended up being used mostly for the end of season production.
From the unheated gothic: Though we began using the gothic before our season was over we harvested from11/24/10-2/8/11 approx 133 lbs of salad mix (romaines, oakleaves and tatsoi). Approx 15lbs of arugula from a half a bed seeded.
Summary: All in all, winter production is a difficult project. There is a lot of chance variability; cold snaps can come early and destroy your crop or blizzards can arrive on your market day each week for a month. Additionally, working out in the cold can be quite miserable when it is gray, wet, cold and windy. Washing products is also a major challenge, freezing pipes, hose line not to mention freezing veggies means there is little opportunity to wash crops. Therefore there is an added emphases on keeping crops clean in their beds and while being harvested. Then to top it off, the low temperatures combined with short day lengths means growth is nearly non-existent in the winter.
It seems the best way to grow in the winter is to utilize low tunnels to extend seasons later and earlier (before it becomes too nasty, cold and snow covered out) and to depend on greenhouses for the actual winter-time production. One of the biggest things to look at is seeding and planting at the correct time and using cold-tolerant varieties. If plants have not had a chance to mature before it gets too cold and light levels shorten too much then it is not likely that those plants will grow until day lengths grow longer. It seems as though plants need to be mature by November if you plan on harvesting from them during the winter, if not you will probably have to wait until February before they will really start growing again. Also, we found some cold-tolerant varieties were heartier than others. Our red romaine did the best of the lettuces while our green oakleaf was useless in December. Each year one can narrow down varieties that stand the test of time and cold and continue to improve upon yields.
Using a heated greenhouse to grow table top greens seems to be very challenging. The cost of propane to run all winter far exceeded the profit from what was grown. This is not the best way to use resources and energy. Next winter I would focus on planting cold hardy varieties under low tunnels and unheated greenhouses.
Fresh Eggs from North Slope Farm
December 8, 2010
If you like a fresh egg and are interested in supporting a new agricultural venture, then read on…
North Slope Farm is invested in managing small flocks of hens for the production of eggs.
If you would like to join the list of interested consumers, please email email@example.com, subject eggs. We will reply and then update you as to egg availability.
The cost per dozen is $7. Buyers clubs are encouraged and can receive reduced prices with minimum orders of 10 dozen per week. Available at Hopewell Farmers Market, Wednesdays 2-6. Local deliveries can be arranged.
During the Summer Season, the eggs are available at our farmstand and at the farmers markets we attend.
During the Winter season, the “new girls” start laying and our supply steadily builds. Our goal at North Slope is to focus on the wholesale value of the product. If the wholesale price is valid to support the production, then the situation is sustainable. Primary cost is feed. We conciously support our local feed store, that stocks Organic Feed, (Rosedale Mills, Pennington, NJ), and that item is a baseline cost. Additionally, the cost of labor, bedding and infrastructure.
North Slope Farm is committed to fostering a sustainable business from our Poultry Special Project and we encourage you to contact us if you want to invest in your food!