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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

 

First Year Application page 1 of 2

July 23rd, 2012 | Posted by miker in Administration - (Comments Off on First Year Application page 1 of 2)

North Slope Farm and Stewardship Guild

386 Rock Road East, Lambertville, NJ  08530

609-460-4636

 Application to participate in 2012 Season, March 6 through November 30.

 

Name: _______________________________________

 Address: ______________________________________________

             ________________________________________________

             ________________________________________________

 Telephone and email: ___________________________________

 Please indicate position you are interested in:

1)      Experienced (3 years) Wage Laborer ______

2)      Stewardship Guild Training Program ______

 Please briefly list your work experience; where, when, how long:

 

 Specifically, why are you interested in working at North Slope Farm?

 What is your availability? Days and hours:

  What, if any, limitations do you anticipate in performing your work.

 Do you need Housing?

 To qualify for higher than minimum wage ($7.25/hour) please provide references:

Name:

Business:

Telephone:

Name:

Business:

Telephone

 

Please complete and return to address above

First Year Application page 2 of 2; Trainee Assessment Form

July 23rd, 2012 | Posted by miker in Administration - (Comments Off on First Year Application page 2 of 2; Trainee Assessment Form)

Trainee Assessment Form:

DATE:_______________

Please fill in the first two columns below with a value from 1 – 5, describing your level of experience with the types of equipment and farm elements.

  (one = no experience — five = experienced)

 

      To be filled out by year end
Farm Current Desired Dates of  
Elements Experience Experience Training  
Equipment        

JD 2240

       

Ford 4600

       

IH 140

       

Walkin Mower

       

BCS Rototiller

       

Weedwacker

       
Administration        
Infrastructure        
Greenhouse        
Composting        
Planting        
Crop Care        
Harvesting        
Washing        
Marketing        

 Please List the elements above that you would like to learn more about.

 

– For Second Year, briefly state what element you would like to take responsibility for.  Outline the responsibilities you would be willing to commit to.

 

 – For Third Year, describe a valuable product or service you would be interested in managing, producing or creating.  Please name your ‘Special Project’.

Assessment of Winter Market 2010 into 2011

March 5th, 2012 | Posted by miker in Marketing - (Comments Off on Assessment of Winter Market 2010 into 2011)

Assessment of Winter Market 2010-2011

Prepared by RCM, November 2011.

Reviewed and Edited by MikeR.

 

Full Text to be loaded (languishing on editors desk), below is a quote from Robin’s conclusion:

“..for the winter Market, I feel as though the physical costs can be regenerated.  What it comes down to, is someone interested in doing the leg work, without much income in return?”

Third Year Summary- Greenhouse Manager

December 6th, 2011 | Posted by Robin in Greenhouse - (Comments Off on Third Year Summary- Greenhouse Manager)

THIRD YEAR FOCUS- Greenhouse Manager

Prepared 12/6/11 by RC

This year was my second year serving as greenhouse manager at North Slope Farm.  It gave me an opportunity to try to maximize efficiency within our greenhouses.  I was able to practice my management skills to perfect, to the best of my abilities, the routines of the greenhouse production.  Dealing with two hoop houses, the Farmhouse Gothic and Ralph’s House as well as one heated greenhouse, used primarily for seedlings, gives an opportunity to manage over many different projects in a season.  This year was no different; we had a wide variety of activities occurring throughout the year.

The Farmhouse Gothic had been designated to tomato growing.  Our crop care manager was set on furthering his and North Slope’s experience with grafted tomatoes so he took the reins of the hoop house and grew towering tomato plants of heirloom and red slicing varieties.  After the tomatoes completion, the Farmhouse Gothic held radishes and attempts at late summer squash which were cleared out to house layer chickens over the winter.  This gives the girls a nice protected spot to roam over the winter months.  As snow accumulates outside the chickens will be able to walk on the ground and scratch up bugs and dirt. 

Ralph’s House, the other hoop house, had an early start to the spring with plants of kale, swiss chard, scallions and fennel that had been transplanted the previous fall.  During the summer Ralph’s House primarily held pole beans, including a very cool variety called yard-long beans.  These beans were not quite a ‘yard’ long but more like a foot and a half and quite tasty.  Now as fall sets in Ralph’s House has been converted to a winter green haven, full of kale, swiss chard, radishes and peas for tasty treats for farmers and the local Hopewell market that goes year round every Wednesday afternoon (2-6) at the Hopewell train station. 

My major focus as greenhouse manager was on the heated seedling greenhouse.  Planning out a constant healthy flow of seedlings is always a challenge.  One can always plan out a detailed step by step run down of what happens when and in what amounts but weather, animals and poor germination can always throw any well thought out plan off.  Of course, as in any year we faced all these problems.  To start the general plan for the farm was to start early and hopefully get plants growing out in the field in early April.  This ambitious goal faced many challenges.  The seedlings in the greenhouse faced the dangers of rodent attacks.  Despite seedlings being positioned high up on germinating tables, these savory fresh green sprouts attracted constant attention from rodents and other pests in the cold month of March.  When most other food sources were gone during this cold month, the heated greenhouse seemed to become a haven for pests who liked to chomp away at our tender young plants.  Even after setting traps, covering trays with remay and setting in place mouse guards (slick sheets of metal that the rodents can not climb) around table legs we still had a lot of seedling loss from rodents, especially of our squash plants which had to be reseeded many times.

Additionally, at the beginning of the year we found the weather outdoors to be challenging.  The spring was wet (as most springs are) but our fields did not start to drain until well into April, far past our goals for planting.  The wet spring caused similar issues on other farms in the area, impeding many farmer’s starting dates but with our clay soil and slow draining fields it became quite a nuisance.  As a result of the rainy weather, much of the first succession of seedlings planted for the field never made it beyond the germination tables.  Instead, the second succession of seedlings became the first set to touch ground.  Yet even the second set had to be transplanted in our big garden beds which are better draining beds then our traditional field beds and do not need tractors to cultivate them.  These garden beds are usually reserved for direct transplanting of salad, arugula, tat soi, carrots, radishes and turnips.  However, they were very useful for transplanting our second succession while we waited for the traditional field beds to dry enough for tractors to prepare for planting.

In a sort of mirror image of the spring, the fall also brought some devastating rains.  The floods of hurricane Irene and later storms brought similar wet conditions to our fall fields as we experienced in early spring.  Once again our field production was halted, with mud pits were field beds once laid, transplanting a final succession was again thrown off course.  Instead a later set of seedlings needed to be seeded, after our initial crop plan would have ended.  These seedlings were transplanted again into the well draining big garden beds.  These experiences come to show that again and again plans have to be revised to suit environmental issues and dilemmas; one always has to prepare for the worse.  Also, these experiences point to the validity of having different growing conditions to be utilized when necessary.  In our case the two different types of field beds allowed us to make use of seedlings that else wise would have gone to waste.  It seems a good idea of any farm to have a wetter and dryer field option to help combat bad weather throughout the year.   

Seedling sales are the other major aspect of greenhouse management.  In the germination greenhouse we grow seedlings for special orders and for selling at markets.  This year I planned out numerous successions of seedlings for sale to hopefully keep them young and vibrant.  If they live in a pot too long they can get diseased and worn down and their roots can get bound and not transplanted easily.  Though we use cow pots, which allow the roots to grow threw the manure based pot walls, which help reduce damage to the plants, they still do need to be planted in the grown to be fully healthy plant.  Therefore we seeded a number of successions of plants, which seemed to help keep our seedlings in good shape.  With special wholesale orders to places like Whole Earth in Princeton and The Kitchen Garden we were able to make extra money at the start of the year before our crop plants took off.  Also, when we look at the work the greenhouse did strictly for North Slope Farm, providing seedlings for the season, we can consider the flats grown for NSF as a distinct “seedling order”.  In this way we can evaluate the value of the functioning greenhouse in money earned and saved by growing seedlings.

This 2011 season faired reasonably for the seedling market. 

Seedling Summary

           Wholesale Accounts: yielded $2,573 gross

            Farmer Markets: yielded $2000 gross

            NSF total #s     : cowpots- 1961 pots (approx $3922 worth)

                                         : trays- 539 trays (approx $5,390 worth)

When looking at the overall products produced in the heated greenhouse and their worth to the farm (in cash and in seedlings for the field) it seems that the heated greenhouse alone stands to bring at least a $14,000 value to the farm. 

SUMMARY

The biggest challenge in preparing seedlings for sale is to be able to constantly have healthy seedlings people want.  At times one may expect certain varieties to be more popular than others and be surprised by the customer’s lack of interest.  However, it seems that one can never have too many sun gold cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums and basil (the three most popular items for wholesale and resale markets).  It is key to always keep a constant supply ready for sale each week.  Space to store all seedlings for sale and field has to be well managed and all table space, including tables outdoors must be utilized.  The greenhouse becomes quite a juggling act in the beginning of the season and many hours are spent watering and caring for these baby plants but if taken care of properly it is quite rewarding to see them grow.

CONCLUSION

The greenhouse has been a great way to plug into the heart of a farm.  Being able to adequately plan and organize seedlings has been quite a venture and a wonderful learning experience.  It is always a challenge to be able to produce a healthy seedling at its peak, ready to go the moment the weather and field conditions will corporate.  Of course, it does not always go as planned and is always a little sad to have to throw unhealthy and old seedlings in the compost pile but when you plant and see a healthy seedling grow into a nutritious bountiful plant, it is quite rewarding.  Planning the greenhouse seeding schedule helps to coordinate an entire farm and is a great experience to be taken to future work at another farm or my own one day.  Organizing the greenhouse also teaches one patience; you can not rush nature but if you work hard you can hopefully find the best balance to produce the healthiest plants possible.

Crop Plan Intro 2011 & Third Year Summmary

October 6th, 2011 | Posted by steven in Planting - (Comments Off on Crop Plan Intro 2011 & Third Year Summmary)

Crop Plan Intro 2011 & Third Year Summary

Field Map
Prepared by ST on 10/6/11

The goal of producing the Crop Plan for NSF is to create documents that will aid in planting vegetables for three farmers markets. The plan will be based on the 2010 plan which gave us a good record of what and when vegetables were grown. This information also aids in our crop rotation plan. In 2011 new fields were opened up from fallow ground and new employees were added to the farm crew. Creating simple maps that include important information of the plan is vital for accurate record keeping. Calculating the amount of beds to be planted and where and when they would be planted is where I started.

Producing the crop plan will provide me an intimate relationship with crop varieties and quantities needed to run a successful small farm operation. In years past I have been involved with greenhouse production, crop care, planting, and marketing. My desire to create the crop plan has come from the dream to one day own a farm (or mange one) in the future. Deciding how much to plant, where to plant, and when to plant can be produced on paper; however the variability of the season always plays a factor. I have read many books on the subject (Eliot Coleman and John Jeavons being a huge influence) but actually implementing the plan in reality is the experiential learning I am searching for. This past season we experimented with winter production and extending the season. The results of that special project can be found on this website under “Special Projects”. This taught me that with perseverance and dedication good results will show however there are always realistic barriers in the way.

DSCF0284
Grafted tomatoes in a hoop house will be another minor focus. Last year I experimented with this process with moderate success. This year I was determined to prove this method was valid and had the opportunity to grow in the farmhouse gothic hoop house, which had prime conditions for sunlight, size, and the ability to trellis the plants to 14 feet tall. The goal is to track worker hours and yield which will give us hard numbers to base its feasibility.

I love the local food industry, organic farming, and how they are all connected. Last winter I decided to take a part time job at a restaurant in New Hope, PA called Sprig and Vine. I worked as a dishwasher to understand the back of the house operations. During my work there I was able to form a relationship with the chef. It was not glamorous work but we had lively conversations about unique vegetables and local farming. Through talking with the chef and pouring over seed catalogs while working on the crop plan I had a eureka moment; growing vegetables for one local restaurant on a half acre. I discussed with MR and he provided guidance and support to “rent” a half acre from North Slope Farm. Alongside working on the crop plan for NSF I also created a plan for my own agricultural enterprise Blackbird Meadows.

Summary

This season had its challenges with unfavorable weather. The spring was very wet which led to a delay in being able to plow the ground. During the middle of the season we experienced very little rain with high temperatures. The end of the season went out with a bang as hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee left most of the Northeast flooded. Some of our crops got damaged and it ended the high yields on our tomatoes. The rain did not stop through September which left our fields fully saturated and we ended up with the same challenges as the beginning of the season. The crop plan was written during the winter without the knowledge of what the weather would be like. Dates for seeding in the greenhouse and out in the field would be our guideline to stay on track to supply for three farmers markets.

North Slope Farm has big garden beds, field beds, two hoop houses, and a heated greenhouse. The BigGarden Beds are 4 foot wide by 100 foot long. They are raised beds that get prepared with heavy compost application, broad forked by hand, and then roto tilled with a walk behind tractor. We build the soil with these techniques and they have proved useful by having good drainage and high germination rates. We generally plant lettuce, arugula, spinach, tat soi, and carrots in these beds. Sometimes quick crops such as radishes and turnips are also planted. We seed across the bed for easier hoeing and a higher intensity of crops. Our field beds are about 220 feet long and about 16 rows across. This equates to fields that are divided up into plots under a half acre. Each succession we plant takes up one of those plots. This allows for proper management for crop rotations. The hoop houses are used to extend the season. This year we planted grafted tomatoes in one hoop house and used the other hoop house to start the season with vegetables planted in the winter and to grow yardlong beans during the summer. Our heated greenhouse is for our seedlings for sale and to transplant out in the field.

We plant by phases of the moon. There is a lot of mysticism that surrounds this method but to me it has a very sobering effect on how to plan for the year. During the new moon we plant direct seeded crops in the greenhouse for transplants or out in the field (green beans, radish, turnips, carrots, lettuce, etc.). During the full moon we transplant our seedlings out in the field. Since the moon has an effect on gravity it is believed that the new moon keeps water closer to the surface due to lack of gravitational pull (which helps germination of direct seeded crops) and draws water down to the roots of transplanted crops during the full moon. These theories are being practicesed  more indepthly through Biodynamics.

The plan for the field needed to be changed at the start of the season. The wet spring forced us to plant field crops into the big garden beds. We practiced intercropping kale with radishes and swiss chard with turnips. A month later we were able to get into the field to continue our original plan. Some seeding gaps in the plan reflect low yields and not enough vegetables for the market. We have determined that planting lettuce in our big garden beds will give us a constant supply of lettuce for the market, almost not having enough some weeks. There was a gap in planting lettuce by a month and a half. We felt the missed lettuce as did the customers at the market! Our 5th succession was also behind. We kept the 5th succession in the crop plan open to interpretation as the season went on. This proved ineffective because it produced another gap in seeding which left us short on supply around late august. The dates of seeded vegetables can be seen in the harvest summary. It is important to write out the full plan even if it changes to keep everyone on track. During July it is very busy. Tomatoes require a lot of attention and the farm is buzzing with activity. This is the time that following a plan drawn out during the slow winter months would provide beneficial guidance for the farm.

The grafted tomatoes were successful. We had tomatoes early, they were efficient to harvest, and produced a good yield for such a small space. For more information check the hoop house tomato post on this website.

Blackbird Meadows taught me a lot this year. I produced for one restaurant mostly by myself. I had about ¼ acre in production while the rest was in cover crop of clover, oats, and oilseed radish. I formed 25 beds on the half acre plot and planted vegetables in every other row. The other rows were planted in cover crop. This was an experiment that yielded mixed results. The downside was more management to the cover crops that did not produce income. The positive side resulted in weed suppression and hopefully better fertility and soil for next year. Working on the field after work at NSF and almost every weekend proved to me that agriculture is my passion. I was able to grow crops I was interested in (Chinese cabbage, baby carrots, head lettuce) and understand the weekly demands of a restaurant. This helped me fully realize the importance of a crop plan for projecting yields and keeping a steady supply of vegetables throughout the season. Blackbird Meadows ended early due to running out of space and challenging weather at the end of the season. I feel it was successful in truly understanding what it takes to run a small farm. I produced a website and documented everything I grew and harvested. This was a great addition to my resume and gave me the confidence to seek opportunities that will help me grow as a farmer.

Important Dates:

3/4 – Seedlings first started in Heated Greenhouse

3/4 – Seeding for grated Tomatoes

4/6 – Planting for peas direct seeded in field

5/3 – First succession of carrots

6/1 – Missed opportunity to plant lettuce

6/29 – Crop failure for Radish and turnips (too hot)

7/1 – Missed opportunity for 5th succession transplants

7/6 – Winter Squash direct seeded

7/8 – First tomato harvest from Hoop House

8/23 – Last succession of transplants for the field

– Arugula amd Tat soi direct seeded in big garden beds

Administration Introduction

March 31st, 2011 | Posted by miker in Administration - (1 Comments)

Administration – Introduction

Office Orientation:                          

Workspaces:

  • Systems Management Desk
  • Computer and Projects Desk
  • Farm Managers Desk
  • Filing Drawers and System
  • Postings, Messages and Chalk Board

Time Tracking:  (See Time Sheet by Element)  Record hours by element, (form on Systems Desk).  HalfDay; is any day where you work 4 hours or less.  FullDay; if you work 6 hours or more, you are entitled to a total of one hour “personal time” that is paid, (usually we take 1 hour lunch breaks, but you are free to structure your break time to meet your needs.)  Record your “lunch hour” with the days, primary activity.

Systems Data Management:                       

Bookkeeping

  • Bills and Receipts
  • Master Data Form File
  • Harvest Records
  • Planting and Seed Records

Office Equipment:                                         

  • Computer
  • Printer / Copier / Fax
  • Telephone
  • Message access #: ____ , Passcode: ____
  • Heater / Air Conditioner

Notes and Questions:

 

Computer Use and CodesAccess Email, WordPress and Flickr.  “ WEB” Folder in Filing Cabinet

The Email, WordPress and Flickr gateways are located on desktop and in the favorites dropdown list.

 Security Statement:  To promote easy access by our Guild Community, you have full privileges of editing pictures, text and content in these programs.  Always LOG OUT before closing these web sites and you will help protect our system.  Do not change your username or password without notifying the farm manager, the farm will always need to maintain management of your access.  Do not jeopardize our computer system by accessing web sites that may not be safe.  Only download material whose origin you know and trust.  Your actions on this computer are noted and tracked, protect our on-line reputation by acting responsibly.

 Your UserName:

Your Password:

Frost Seeding in March

March 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Planting - (125 Comments)

Frost Seeding – Medium Red Clover into recovering fields

Seeded March 2, 2011, by MR

Using manual seed spinner, seeding at an approx. rate of 10 pounds (#) per acre.  Utilized opening at reccomended (on spinner) setting; aprox 1/8th inch.

To provide even spread of the seed, at 10#/acre, I had to run.  I was overdressed, particularly the calf high rubber boots.  It took ~1.5 hours for ~4 acres, and by the end the ground was softening.

Conditions were frozen overnight but forcast for warming, with rain to follow.  As it turns out the next two mornings were more frost heaved and would have been better.  Then the rain event was a “gully washer”.   I can only hope that half of the seed I spread was not simply washed away.

Every seed planted requires faith.  Considering the heavy ground cover of the fields seeded, there is good likelyhood the seed has lodged itself, and I have faith they will add to the dynamisim of the flora and fauna.  With  luck, we might get a few years cuttings of clover, for the chickens in winter, mulch and/or compost.

Clover is a traditional choice in our region as a hay crop for livestock.    Red clover flowers may be too small for Honey Bees but it produces good biomass for cutting.  White clover is an important food source for Honey Bees, stands up to “traffic” and repeated mowing.  We use Red clover for fodder/mulch cutting and white clover for pathways and pasture mixes.

Our best luck establishing clover has been mixed with spring oats and seeded early summer into a field that had been spring plowed, rested, then harrowed.  Conditions were good, cool and moist.  The oats were mowed off and left as mulch and the clover thrived, until plowing and planting the following season.  The resulting ‘Field Tillith’ or ‘texture of the soil after plowing’ was the best we have ever had.  I strongly reccomend the use of clover in fields that have a full season to grow before tillage.  I also believe clover can be a strong ally in the effort to improve soil structure by planting it in pathways, and between permanent beds.  We need to experiment with more varieties, the NRCS often reccomends Alsaike(sp?) for wetter soils.

Stewardship Capital

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Administration - (Comments Off on Stewardship Capital)

Stewardship Capital

Stewardship Guild Mission

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Administration | Training - (Comments Off on Stewardship Guild Mission)

Stewardship Guild

Established 2006

Mission

The Goals of the Stewardship Guild are:

  • To define and test concepts of Stewardship
  • To define and promote stewardship of Valuable Resources
  • To train individuals in Stewardship practices
  • To support Stewardship Activities

Stewardship:

  • Active involvement in basic community affairs with the intent to identify valuable resources and promote strategies to foster regenerative management of them.
  • Current Project: North Slope Farm is a fifty acre property located in Central Western New Jersey.  There is intensive pressure on land owners to utilize their development rights or lose them.  There are multiple pressures that discourage investment in sound land management practices, (cost w/o market value, and municipal/State imminent domain seizures).  The challenge is how much to invest in agriculture in an economic and cultural environment that does not support it?  How to direct resources into a project that might not yield cash return but could achieve stewardship of valuable resources.  In this case,  the valuable resources include; worker housing, property rights, small scale business enterprises, public access to government process and community development.

Valuable Resources:

  • Resources, existing or potential, that are valuable, as defined by their function, accessibility and future projections.

Training in Stewardship Practices:

  • The guild will focus on identifying and promoting opportunities for individuals and groups to participate in Stewardship Activities.
  • See training opportunities at North Slope Farm.

Stewardship Activities:

  • Activities that promote and foster regenerative management of valuable resources.