Watch as Farmers Grow
Header

Winter Production – Introduction

October 19th, 2010 | Posted by steven in Special Projects | Winter Production - (Comments Off on Winter Production – Introduction)

Winter Production
Introduction, prepared by ST

October 19, 2010

Intent: To extend the growing season of leafy greens, lettuce, and root crops to serve our existing outlets such as Hopewell Farmers Market, Nomad Pizza, and Zone 7.

Parameters:

• Capital Investment; North Slope Farm

• Daily management; RCM and ST

• Site Details; infrastructure and fields managed by North Slope Farm
        o 6 outdoor low tunnels 5’ W X 40’ L
        o 2 unheated green houses
                  Farmhouse Gothic; 28’ X 84’ w/ 4 beds @ 48” wide
                  Ralph’s House; 27’ X 76’ w/ 4 beds @ 48” wide
        o 1 heated Greenhouse for table top production

• Outdoor low tunnels will cover crops such as tatsoi, spinach, and arugula. Two cuttings are expected for harvest. The hoops are constructed of 3/8” X 12’ rebar covered in recycled drip tube. The outer skin is 6 mil plastic that is 13’ W X 50’ W. A layer of remay may be added to the interior for extra warmth and reduced temperature fluctuation.

• One hoop house will be used for direct seeded crops such as spinach, arugula, tatsoi, and salad mix. The other hoop house will be used for transplanted crops such as kale, scallions, leeks, swiss chard, fennel, and beets. Carrots and radishes have been direct seeded into one open bed early, as the other beds are currently occupied by late planted tomatoes.

• .The heated greenhouse will be used for table top production of salad mix. Potted herbs such as parsley and basil will also be grown.

• Regular records will be kept of costs and production. Worker hours and market income will be tracked. The materials purchased should be able to be reused, improving profit margins in future seasons.
          o $385.60 for seed costs
          o $370 for plastic and remey over three years
          o $90.80 for rebar and sand over ten years
          o $108 for plastic sandbags over three year
                      Total $954.40 for one year

• Workers will have to be mindful of temperature to open and close the low tunnels or remove remey in the hoop houses. The difficulty of winter weather will be a challenge in harvesting, handling, and marketing. Costs will be calculated against profit to see if this is a viable operation for North Slope Farm.

• The inspiration for winter production at North Slope Farm came from a lecture at the NOFA summer conference. A Connecticut grower, in zone 3, presented a low tech option of covering field crops to produce a nutritious and profitable product for his customers during the winter time. This inspired me to keep producing local organic food through the winter. I hope that having a consistent presence through the winter will support existing customers and win over new customers. Winter production also keeps workers on the farm and in constant dialogue with agriculture. Some challenges we have already faced have been 30mph winds blowing off our outdoor low tunnels. Did we cut the plastic too short? Are the sandbags not filled enough? Do the tunnels need to be smaller? At what temperature should we open and close the tunnels? These are questions that have already risen and in the middle of the winter I am sure there will be many more. To supply fresh local organic food is the main goal and we will need support from our community to make it a reality.

Winter

Equipment – Special Focus

October 19th, 2010 | Posted by steven in Equipment | Training - (Comments Off on Equipment – Special Focus)

Equipment – Special Focus

 10/19/2010

 Summary

       My focus this year was equipment. The first task I had was to make a list and identify every piece of equipment on the farm. My list will need to be modified and added to because as the season rolled on more equipment emerged out of overgrown grass and other equipment never worked in the first place. Troubleshooting was eminent from all of the challenges we had with equipment failure this year. In the beginning of the season our main work horse, the ATV, would no longer start. After checking loose cables, gas lines, and the spark plug we realized that there was a more serious problem going on. I checked the internet with the ATV’s make, year, and model and all signs pointed to a problem with the electronic motor start system. This was further backed up when a proper electrical test determined it needed a new starter system. The ATV spent over a month and half in the shop and we were left to improvise with the equipment we had working to spread compost, assist in planting, and move vegetables and materials around the farm. We were very happy when the ATV came back from the shop.

            I started the season with retrofitting a trailer top to a new chassis. This was a great exercise in simple metal work and structural design. Out of tube stock and bolts I was able to customize an attachment point that has held strong all season with a lot of use.  General maintenance started with locating and greasing zerks (nozzles that the grease gun attaches to) on all of the machines so they were ready for the field. A procedure was placed when operating all machinery that entailed checking the fuel, coolant, and oil levels. Even though we tried to do this before each use, the hectic frenzy of trying to get things done when time allows led to some mistakes. We ran out of gas in the field and towed the tractor in with MR’s Volvo to only realize the tractor needed gas. Gasoline was put in the Kubota mower instead of diesel, something that was done several times in the past years as well. For the most part machines were fixed and we made do with what was available.

 Here are some notes from the maintenance log:

 John Deer 2240: Hydraulic hose leaked and it seems to be because of the new fitting attachment. We put Teflon tape and liquid rubber that created a gasket to solve the problem.

 Maschio Rototiller: Gear box set to medium low. This caused the Ford 4600 to overheat after two passes of rototilling. We set the gearbox to low and the overheating has stopped.

 Bachtold Mower: Blade would not engage when the lever was pressed. Everything seemed to work mechanically. The nut at the bottom of the mower was tightened and allowed the blade to be engaged.

 Spring Hoe tires: After pulling the implement out of overgrown grass we discovered the tires were rotted. MR found a local dealer for new tires, but we lost valuable hours to get into the field before the rain began

       The reality of farming is that not everything works when you need it to. Also, farming is dependent on weather and field conditions so failed equipment can be very disruptive. This season I had the opportunity to use all of the field implements to turn new ground, which require minimal maintenance and a working tractor. I also was able to trouble shoot small engine machines, which are critical in bed preparation and field care. I have learned that we need to have a station that is organized and in a central location to fix our small machines and tractors.  We need to label our fuel clearly as well. Our hand tools we use in the field can also be reorganized for better care and clarity for potential newcomers. As the season slows down I am looking forward to placing some procedures in place dealing with equipment and finally doing the much needed oil change on all of the tractors.

P4210010

Poultry – Introduction

October 14th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Poultry - (Comments Off on Poultry – Introduction)

Poultry – Field Birds

Introduction

October 14, 2010

 Intent: To establish the viability and management practices of “small flocks” of laying chickens (layers), on seasonal pasture, free roaming except at night.

 Parameters:

  • Capital Investment; North Slope Farm.
  • Daily Management; North Slope Farm.
  • Site Details; infrastructure and fields managed by North Slope Farm.
  • Enterprise; 3 total flocks of 50 birds each, annually.  Each year 50 new chicks will be started and at the end of the season the oldest flock will be retired.  Each flock will yield 2 seasons of production, over a managed lifespan of 3 seasons.
  • Flocks will be managed according to Generally Accepted Organic Practices, with a focus on access to outdoors, and Organic Feed.  Ideally investment dollars will be directed to local businesses, ie; feed from Rosedale Mills in nearby Pennington, NJ.  Chicks currently purchased from Moyers Chicks, in Quackertown, PA, due to past business and good reputation. 
  • Regular records will be kept of costs and production.  North Slope Farm will be responsible for costs and income of the operation.
  • Information about the project, including annual summaries, will be shared on our website under Special Projects; Poultry.

 Data Points:

  • Baseline value of a dozen eggs wholesale: $4.50
  • Retail value: $7

Summary as of October 2010:

Farm manager and trainees currently manage two flocks of layers.  The ‘08’s have been retired from production, so the ‘09’s are the “old girls” now.  The 210’s (chicks started in 2010) are out of their baby pen, into the big girl housing but not yet on pasture.  Their coop is built into a fenced yard for the winter, so they will not be on pasture until Spring 2011.  They are first in line for special treatment though – vegetable waste from market garden as well as hay and sprouted grains for scratch.

2010 was hard on the field girls with serious losses to foxes.  We anticipate increased pressure as cold weather sets in.  To avoid loses over the winter we need to enclose the girls, ideally into a large greenhouse, but at least a fenced yard.  The winter setting for the 2010’s is established but where we’ll park the 09’s is still up for debate.  Getting them into a situation where we can build extra protection from the winter extremes is the priority.  Also critical is to have them near to our winter water source.

The costs of the enterprise are primarily in Feed.  Labor is the other major item.  The labor required at minimum is Morning and Night.  The opening of their coop in the morning, freshening bedding, filling feed and fresh water.  Evening chores include closing coop, securing feed and collecting eggs.  We typically visit the coops up to three times a day, collecting eggs and checking feed and water in the afternoon.  Each week the field coops are moved to a new section of pasture.  The section of pasture has a perimeter of 330’ as defined by two 165’ lengths of “Poultry Net” (from GrowersSupply.com) – Cost at purchase $170 each.  We sort the eggs into Market (clean from coop) and Farmer (needs cleaning).  The farmer eggs are available to our trainees (and community investors) at reduced cost.  The Market eggs are rinsed prior to packing and selling each week.  Current average yield for thiry layers is 13 market dozen per week, at $4.50 – about $60 for a weeks worth of tending (not enough even to support a workers responsibilities at $10/hr).  The goal will be two flocks of 50 each, yielding 43 doz, or $190 for a weeks worth of tending.  The working assumption is that more birds than that would exceed our ability to manage optimally.

Future discussion:  Establish a viable wholesale cost.  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.

Click on picture below to visit our Photo Sets at Flickr.com
Moveable Coop and fence

Invest in Agricultural Enterprise

October 14th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Community Affairs - (Comments Off on Invest in Agricultural Enterprise)

Agricultural Enterprise Opportunities

NorthSlopeFarm, West Amwell NJ, USA

October 14, 2010

A challenge for agricultural enterprise is capitalization.

 To provide an incentive for Farmers to invest themselves in regenerative, environmentally sensitive, quality production of locally valuable products and services,

Those with access to “underutilized” capital can invest it,

In Agricultural Enterprise !!

North Slope Farm is developing a public format to track the evolution of “small scale agricultural enterprise”.  The base data being the information shared on this web site and through our Training Program about the basic operation of North Slope Farm.

 We will track our new enterprises under the Category – Special Projects – Poultry.

 Agricultural Enterprises currently listed:

  • Poultry – Field Birds

 How North Slope Farm can help you invest in Agricultural Enterprise:

  • Shop from Local Farmers!!  Join us at Farmers Markets!!
  • Ideally North Slope Farm hopes to establish its Trainees in positions of responsibility, managing valuable resources to regeneratively produce products and services for local communities.  Each Trainee has their own hopes and desires but most will be challenged by available capital to invest in long term plans and effort.  To encourage investment by outside parties – sympathetic to the real challenges of doing good – North Slope Farm can serve to partner with Trainees, active and graduated, and individuals or groups from the community who would like to actively invest in Agricultural Enterprise.
  • To discuss agricultural investment opportunities email – northslopefarm@comcast.net ; subject Agricultural Enterprise

Crops Available October 2011

October 7th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Crops Available Now - (Comments Off on Crops Available October 2011)

Crops Available Now from North Slope Farm

Updated October 19, 2011

 Markets – 

North Slope Farms own;

Eggs – free range, organic feed, full outdoor access

Salad Mix

Arugula

Tat soi

Beets

Carrots

Garlic

Scallions

Limited quantities of:

Kale

Swiss Chard

Peppers

Tomatoes

Eggplant

Radishes

Speciality Herbs 

 

Fruit Products from Solebury Orchards, PA (not organic)

Honey Crisp Apples

Apple Cider

Apple Juice

Applesauce

Apple Butter

Peach Butter

 

Products from Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms

Shitake

Oyster

Crimini

Portabella

Maitake

Special Projects

September 28th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Special Projects - (Comments Off on Special Projects)

2010 064

Special Projects are how we allow for interests and opportunities that fall outside our set practices.  Individual trainees can design their own special projects or like with our Poultry Project, the farm manager might define a production effort as a special project until it proves itself over time.  Winter Production and ‘TableTop Greens’ are other examples of this.

Planting

September 28th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Planting - (Comments Off on Planting)

P5160103

Planting is one of the most rewarding tasks at North Slope Farm.  It is a major step that takes the seedling from the Greenhouse element to the Crop Care element.  Many steps lead up to a successful planting, and then the job has just begun.  Cover those soil blocks you planters!!!

Infrastructure

September 28th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Infrastructure - (Comments Off on Infrastructure)

P3200012

Infrastructure is another element that is tied into all the others.  Nothing would happen without the infrastructure the 1. ties us all together and 2. allows us the energy and resources to feed production systems.  The time we all spend talking about how investments in Infrastructure can be designed to feed agricultural systems is what will lead to sustainable societies.

Handling

September 28th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Handling - (Comments Off on Handling)

Washing Intro

The difference between a fresh product and an excellent fresh product is Handling.  The niche that local agriculture can fill is to produce quality products close to the market, THEN handle them professionally and their customers will be back each week!  Here in lies the greatest challenge for small scale operations – washing, cooling, packaging and distribution.  To handle these issues professionally takes investment in infrastructure, expense that only pays off with large scale production.

Greenhouse

September 28th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Greenhouse - (Comments Off on Greenhouse)

seedling greenhouse 4.2009

Greenhouses are here to stay, and in our urban state, it seems likely that the future will include a greater and greater percentage of production in controlled climates.  Detail oriented managers will find great success in the greenhouse.  It is definately less forgiving than the outside environment.  Our greenhouses provide us with the opportunity to produce our seedlings, provide winter shelter for livestock, increasingly we are looking to increase winter production and generally a nice place to be on a sunny December day!