Watch as Farmers Grow

Author Archives: JacobThies

2015 Second Year, Element Focus – Summary

March 9th, 2016 | Posted by JacobThies in Crop Care - (Comments Off on 2015 Second Year, Element Focus – Summary)

Crop Care Season Summary 2015

Second Year Element Focus – Summary



Crop care is at the core of everything we do at North Slope Farm. Once a crop is in the ground, it falls under the jurisdiction of the “crop care manager,” thus all perennials and annuals need attention, care, and time devoted to ensure we’ve created an environment that promotes plant health and vigor.

I took on Crop Care as my focus element because I wanted to be an “advocate” for our plants. This text is taken directly from my Second Year Focus Introduction:

After deliberating over a few different elements, I choose crop care as my focus for the 2015 season for multiple reasons: it’s importance to the farm operation, how it was overlooked at times during the 2014 season (only due to not having someone dedicated to this element), an opportunity to be an advocate for the crops, and ultimately to gain an intimate understanding of how best to efficiently manage the crops in conjunction with worker hours.

Crop Care is intuitively important to the day-to-day farm operation. Intuitively, when you put a living organism into the ground, it needs attention and care for it to thrive. When weed pressure exists, it’s obvious to pull those weeds that inhibit growth of the crop. When drought conditions arise, you must get water to your crops to allow them to grow. Less subtle reasons exist also: making sure crops are protected from pests, covering crops with fabrics to prevent frost damage during colder months, preparing beds in a manner to minimize the need for costly (time and money) hand labor, and accumulating the materials needed to make all of these endeavors a success.

2014 was my first introduction to farming on a market-level scale. At the end of the day, the season was a success and my time learning and growing at North Slope was beyond measurement. Though, being my first year, it was an introduction. With that perspective in mind, and when I critically reflected on the season, it occurred to me that our crops were, at times, overlooked. Simply put: without somebody’s direct focus on Crop Care, the element was laid on the shoulders of the Farm Manager – someone who has the entire farm and all of the core elements on the front and back of his mind at all times.

To measure success, I must first define success within the context of a North Slope apprenticeship. For myself and the farm operation, I would define a season’s success as a season that continues to fulfill our markets full of local organic produce and great learning and growth. With that definition in mind, I’d call this season a success. We maintained our status quo by fulfilling markets with our core crops, but we also tested (and brought back) some techniques that helped suppress weeds, retain precious soil fertility (I think), and also brought a valuable product to our community that promotes vitality, both ecologically and socially.


Monitoring rainfall and the moisture levels of our production fields was a constant activity throughout the season. Early in the season, we set moisture level gauges in the ground, and, at the beginning of each week, I would take a field walk to measure the ground water saturation. If the ground was saturated, we’d let it be and wait to irrigate. If the gauge read dry, we knew it was in need of irrigation. In the beginning of the season, this proved to be a helpful tool to wrap one’s mind around the specific soil conditions here at NSF and how to recognize moisture levels better. As the season progressed, I stopped using the gauges for two reasons: work piled upon work and we were constantly occupied with other tasks besides moving gauges to new production fields and rainfall became less frequent and an established irrigation rotation was set in place. That being said, the gauges are effective. If you needed a more concrete way of determining if a crop needs irrigation, these gauges give quick, accurate readings.

We went through two major drought periods this season. The first coming early from the end of April all the way up until the first week in June.

The second dry spell was more typical and ran from the end of July through the beginning of September. There were a couple < ½” rains during this stretch, but it was never enough to spell the drought and saturate the hot, dry ground. Mechanical cultivation meant driving in a plume of dust. When you’d scrape your boot across the furrowed fields, you’d kick up fine particles of dust into the air. It was dry. And, naturally, the drought occurred during peak season with multiple fields in production, Farmhouse Gothic loaded with tomatoes, HT1 packed with flowers, Ralph’s House full of delicate strawberries, the corner garden full of onions, and some pesky strawberries/prolific peppers/eggplants/peppers and flowers in plastic out at the 579.

Looking back through the irrigation and rainfall log over both of these long drought periods, there wasn’t a minute during the work week (and sometimes weekends and nights) where irrigation was not flowing. This meant devising a plan. At first, the plan was written on paper. As the season progressed and our harvests became more rhythmic, I simply handled the irrigation first thing in the morning and right after lunch. I’d try to get two blocks on each day for five hours each. In the past, we’d typically irrigate for four hours, but because the ground was so dry, we found it took five hours to get full irrigation coverage – especially the furrows. Staying organized and devising a plan, whether on paper or mentally, for the week was absolutely necessary in order to stay on top of the constant activity.

A few odds and ends to mention:

  • Using the weed whacker, aggressively scalping the ends of the BGB beds (point where the sub main and lines attach) is well worth the extra time and effort. If you are managing crop care and taking off lines, reattaching lines, moving lines, it makes your job much, much easier. Dealing with irrigation can be irritating at times, and it only intensifies when there is constant debris in the way.

  • Always load up your irrigation bucket with essentials: hex driver, end caps, extra valves, 1” male x male connects, hose clamps, and at least one extra 1” female quick connects. And if you pick up a piece that is broken, don’t leave it in the bucket. Toss it.

  • Carry a good belt tool. I used my belt tool more times than I could count. Broken valve? Belt tool. Need to make a cut in the line? Belt tool. Valve stuck in the sub main and can’t get the leverage to pull it out? Belt tool.


Fencing is an important topic to consider as deer are as abundant in this area of New Jersey as any other place in the country. We use a welded poly wire electrical fence that, in most places, stands approximately 6’ tall. Early in the season, we had to make some simple repairs to the market garden fence (Veg A, B, and C). Some lines had fallen in the winter. Some posts came loose from the heave ho of winter ground. TH and JT pulled the ATV with a trailer full of fine gravel around to all the posts. If the post was loose by hand, we’d pull it out, add in some gravel, reset the post, one of us would stand on the ATV for leverage and pound the post into the ground with a sledgehammer while the other would brace the post. Finally, we’d add more gravel around the base and tamp it firm into the ground.

About a month later, during my first market garden mow, I hit the NW corner post with the Ferris roll bar and knocked it out of the ground. After a few shoddy repairs, the fence line held in place, though odds are it will need to be touched up again after the ground freezes and thaws a few times. Corner posts are a topic to consider here. The corner posts are subject to some serious tension, therefore they must be braced and supported properly otherwise the post will fall over from the pull of the electrical wired fence line.

Speaking of corner posts, there were a couple involved repairs in CSE field. We replaced the NW & SW corner posts with new posts and restrung the electrical fence wire. We also completely repaired the CSE gate as it was in disarray at the start of the season. All signs point to repairing the north east gate on the market garden fence line for 2016.


Farming takes an initial influx of capital to purchase materials necessary to make the farm go. At North Slope, we need new supply of drip tape, drip tube, 1” sub-mains, fittings, valves, gauges, woven ground cloth.

Looking back on what we purchased and what we have left in stock, I feel confident that we bought just the right amount of everything we needed.

Salad Mix:

Salad Mix, when done efficiently, is a very fruitful enterprise. The limiting factor here is weed control. The amount of time our crew spends hand weeding is critical. For instance, I project that NSF can increase our profit up to $3,500 by utilizing a two week stale seed bed and flame weeding and/or covering our stale seed bedded BGBs with black woven fabric combination. For the last two months of the season, we’ve employed these techniques with success except for one succession. Because we missed our stale seed bed and flame weed window, we spent 16 hours of hand labor to save each bed. This shows how critical it is to be one step ahead of your planting dates. When you can knock back the initial flush of weeds and seed directly into a clean bed without stirring up other weed seeds, you are going to see an immense difference.

Without flame weeding or covering the beds with woven fabric, we are looking at a minimum of 8 hours and up to 16 hours of hand weeding. If we eliminate those hours, we can save anywhere from $80 to $160 per bed. Because we cut from 22 beds of lettuce, over the course of the season those numbers translate into a savings of $1,760 and upwards of $3,520.

Nothing here is ground breaking technology, though sometimes numbers speak louder than words. In order to shore up more time for other NSF projects, to limit the amount of time hand weeding, and to save a substantial amount of money, every BGB should be stale seed bedded and flame weeded before seeding.


Our BGBs are carrot growing machines. Early in the season, before we got our flame weeder operational, our first line of defense after germination was the scuffle hoe. Scuffle hoeing does a great job attacking the weeds in-between our rows, but the limiting factor is how close you can get to the crop without destroying it. No matter how close you get, you’ll still end up with a significant amount of hand weeding to knock back weeds and create a habitat fit for adolescent carrot growth.

Herein lies the beauty of the flame weeder. Carrots are slow germinating crops, days slower than the weed seed bank that lives within the friendly confines of our BGBs. Our method to weed control in the BGBs is to prep the beds, wait until the first of the weed seeds start to germinate, then flame weed them. If it’s in a dry time of year, we will irrigate the beds to promote weed growth, then once weed seeds germinate, we flame them. It’s quick and incredibly effective way of weed management without disturbing the soil which promotes more weed growth.

Favorable Furrows:

For a second year, NSF utilized a minimal-till method of growing our crops in a manner we’ve coined “Favorable Furrows” where instead of plowing the entire field then bed forming, we simply rip a total of 14-16 furrows with a single shank and plant directly into them. This method provides a series of unique challenges to crop care management. We took to lightly tilling (top 2-3” of soil) up to the edge of our crops. This knocked back germinated weeds and kept the pathways under control. It’s effective, but the general feel is we’re still trying to hone the most effect troupe of weed management strategies for the furrows.

Field Tomas:

We grew our field tomatoes in favorable furrows once again. Trellised with metal and wood stakes (in succession like this: M w w M w w M w w M, etc.), we string tomato twine along each side to keep the plants upright. Instead of pruning the majority of suckers, we clipped up the vines on the existing trellis. We laid a heavy application of mulch on the southern two or three beds, but to save us time, we choose not to do so for the remaining tomato beds. On the macro scale, it seemed this did not affect our crop production. As a crew, we went into the tomato field one time for a serious afternoon of hand weeding, but beyond that, time managing the tomato crop weed pressure was minimal.

Backpack Sprayer:

By mid-summer, we had flea beetle, Japanese beetle, leaf miner, and cabbage worm problems on our young leafy greens. After stripping the infected leaves without the results we had hoped, we decided to spray OMRI approved Entrust SC. With a 3 gallon backpack, we added the appropriate ratio of Entrust and added fish emulsion into the mix as a foliar fertilizer. The spraying was always done early in the morning with NSF crew member wearing the appropriate safety gear. After spraying, the results were extreme, as the population of pests were knocked back and our crops were saved.


I could write on and on about the 2015 Crop Care season focus, as it played a significant part in almost every facet of the day-to-day operations at North Slope Farm. Focusing on Crop Care allows one to immerse oneself in the intimate rhythms of tending crops, soils hydration and fertility, insect hatchings, and on and on. For me personally, the experience was rich with autonomy and gave me the space to test my fledgling understanding of the state of small scale agriculture in New Jersey.

ClearSpan Pro “High Tunnel 1” Construction Summary: April 2014 – November 2014

April 8th, 2015 | Posted by JacobThies in Greenhouse - (Comments Off on ClearSpan Pro “High Tunnel 1” Construction Summary: April 2014 – November 2014)

ClearSpan Pro “High Tunnel 1” Construction Summary: April 2014 – November 2014

Type: 30’ x 100’ ClearSpan Pro Solar Star High Tunnel
Full Photo series:

In the 2014 season, NSF purchased two 30’x100’ high tunnels to expand production and season longevity. In this summary, I’m going to lay out our construction methods, talk in layman’s terms about the construction phases, and look into the true cost of the high tunnel including the equipment rentals, labor, and materials.

Looking back at the notes, it was evident that the construction was broken down into six phases. Throughout this summary, I’ll delve into each specific phase in more detail to both provide a record NSF can share with others and for my own learning reinforcement as I oversee the construction of HT1’s twin, HT2.

Phase 1: Map out HT1, confirm dimensions, excavate ground post holes, set ground post holes
The first phase of the HT1 involved what any build calls for: site and design. Siting HT1 was done by MR using his understanding of NSF land contours, solar access, and accessibility to irrigation. After the general location was decided upon, the crew set out to confirm the dimensions of the greenhouse using the 3:4:5 triangle method. This method is as such: any triangle whose sides are in the ratio of 3:4:5 is a right triangle. To properly use this method of measurement, we measured from our first corner post along one edge 3 feet. We marked that measurement. Again from the corner post, we measured along the adjacent edge 4 feet. Finally we measured diagonally across. If the measurement was 5 ft then the triangle is a 3:4:5 right triangle and the corner is ultimately square. We repeated this step for all four corners. Next, we strung the batter boards 3 feet from the construction to maintain permanent line attachments where we could continually confirm, square, and level our measurements. It was critical to have accurate measurements early on as the rest of construction was supported by these measurements.

Here at North Slope Farm, we deal with a subsurface sheet of shale that is impenetrable by hand. In order to excavate the 34 total ground post holes, we first rented a hand hydrologic auger as seen in the picture below.

First attempt at digging post holes

First attempt at digging post holes

The auger pictured above simply lacked the power to dig out the holes efficiently, so we eventually rented a skid steer with an hydrologic auger attachment and aimed to dig the holes to 3’. Most holes were dug to three feet, but a few holes hit bedrock before the three foot mark. We lived with the results and moved on. After the holes were dug, we filled the base of the holes with concrete and set the ground posts. To make sure each post was plumb, level, and the correct height, we confirmed each of those variables with two East to West string lines and used a level to assure posts were plumb. Once all variables were in check, we added a bit more concrete then back filled the holes with soil.

Rented Skid Steer and auger

TH and MR with the rented Skid Steer and auger

Phase 2: Rafter, Rafter Struts, and Purlin Assembly
After setting the 34 posts, the next step is to mount the rafters to the posts. Before we could mount the rafters, we had to first construct them on the ground. All rafter assemblies consisted of four rafter sections joined by a single chevron at the peak.

Rafters assembled & aligned with corresponding posts

Rafters assembled & aligned with corresponding posts

Once we put together the rafters on the ground, we then moved on to attach them to the posts with the help of the John Deere bucket.

Mounting rafter

Mounting a rafter. Note MR adjusting tension of the chevron at ridge.

After lifting a rafter up to the corresponding posts, we aligned the mounting holes and attached the rafter to the post with a bolt into each mounting hole. This is being demonstrated by AM and RM in the photo below.

AM and RM placing bolt to fasten rafter to post.

After the second rafter was in place, we attached the ridge purlin and set the first ridge purlin in place by aligning the pre-drilled holes with the studs of the rafter chevron, and securing the purlin to the rafter using ¼” nuts and washer. The ridge purlins continued to be added as we added more rafters. (During this construction, we waited until all rafters and all ridge purlins were in place before we started to add the support purlins. Looking through the instructions after the fact, we saw that it is best to install all the purlins as the rafters are being installed. For constructing HT2, this point of reference will probably help troubleshoot the stubbornness we experience when attempting to attach the support purlins.)

Raising the rafters & attaching ridge purlin

Raising rafters, attaching ridge purlin, and loosely attaching rafter struts.

To attach the rafter struts, we took a strut and loosely attached it to the ground post flange using the 5/16” fasteners provided. Once loosely attached, we pulled the rafter strut up into position to be aligned with the rafter hole and corresponding hole on the strut. We inserted the bolt through the rafter hole and through the mounting hole on the strut, added a locknut and tightened to secure the strut to the rafter. We would do the same on the opposite side of the high tunnel. It is important to attach the struts before you begin to attach all the purlins. They don’t have to be fully tightened, but having them attached is crucial. In the photo below, AM demonstrating how to loosely attach a rafter strut to the post flange.

AM placing attaching rafter strut to post flange

AM placing attaching rafter strut to post flange

With the first three rafters assembled, we began to mount the first under purlin and secured it to the rafters using the ¼” x 1” bots and nuts. At some points, a purlin and a rafter are used to attach cable assemblies. To do that, we installed the rafter cable plate between the rafter and under purlin.

Phase 3: Cable Installation and Diagonal Struts
The first step to attaching the cable is to attach the eyebolts to the frame. Next we measured the distance between points A and B and cut one length of cable from the roll to the determined length. It is imperative to account for the turnbuckle and the extra cable needed to install the clamps. After doing that, we created the turnbuckle assembly. To create the turnbuckle assembly, we used the diagram on pg 22 of the instruction manual(see photo below).

Pg22 High Tunnel Construction Document

Pg22 High Tunnel Construction Document

The assembly uses a combination of thimbled ends, cable clamps, turnbuckle and turnbuckle jaws to create a tensioning cable that ties each rafter to one another to create a seemingly hurricane-proof design. Below, you can see we used the back of a trailer attached to an ATV as our turnbuckle assembly workbench. This works great as the work bench is mobile and moves along with the crew as needed.

Building the Turnbuckle assembly on mobile workbench.

To attach the turnbuckle assembly, open the turnbuckle to its extended position and check to see how it fits from point to point on the frame. From the diagrams on page 22 (here’s a link to the PDF of the instructions) of the instruction booklet, we attached the first cable to the frame in the location the cable was measured and created for. In the first photo below, JT and TH demonstrate how we used the scissor lift to attach cables to the frame.

Using lift to aid cable installation

Using scissor lift to aid cable installation

We repeated this step on all the cables. Finally, when all the cables were attached, we tightened the turnbuckles. It’s important to not over tighten the turnbuckles as you can pull the posts out of plumb. In the photo below, AM is demonstrating how we used a long screwdriver to turn the turnbuckle to tighten it down.

AM tightening turnbuckles with long screwdriver for leverage to turn the buckle.

To attach the diagonal struts for additional support, we used a vise grip to bend each flattened end of the strut to have the ends of the struts flat against the frame when installed. We positioned the diagonal strut in between the end rafter and the interior rafter with the strut bent end nearer to the rafter on the end rafter and the other end near the bottom of the post on the interior rafter post. Think “diagonal” strut if that sounds confusing! We mounted the struts by drilling holes then inserting bolts with washers through the mounting holes.


Phase 4: Frame Check, Poly Latch U-Channel on End Ridge, Attach Ribbon Board & Double Poly Latch U-Channel to Sides
Before moving forward from here, we made sure all frame members were properly secured, that all bolts and screws were tight, and to cover up any sharp edges or fasteners, we cut 12” pieces of repair tape and taped the tops of all interior rafters to protect the plastic. We also cut 4” strips of tape and taped over each rafter splice. To install the Poly Latch U-Channel on the end ridge, from the peak, we attached u-channel to top of rafter every 12”. We made sure to cut the last section flush to the bottom end of the rafter.

Utilizing the scissor lift

Utilizing the scissor lift to attach channel lock to rafters

To attach the ribbon board to the base of the rafters, we used 5/16”x5” carriage bolts. We had to countersink the bolts because the ribbon board we used was thick (a bit wider than 2”). We installed all the carriage bolts then tightened them at the end. We used self-tapping screws and carriage bolts to attach the double poly latch u-channel.

Ribbon board.

RM's flexing muscles and the mounted, double H-channel on ribbon board

Phase 5: Cover Frame with Plastic and Secure
We woke early in the middle of the season with all hands on deck to get the plastic over the frame. We started out by tying ropes to one end of the plastic and throwing the ropes over the HT until we stood on the other side with the rope over the ridge of the HT and attached to the plastic on the ground. All we had to do was pull together, right? Wrong. Heave, ho! We gave it our all, but it proved too heavy and difficult! We stood confounded, MR running up and down the HT trying to push the plastic up into the air with a broom or piece of wood. In the end, we started to flap the plastic up and down – creating the “billowing” effect – which allowed the air to get under the plastic and there it came over the ridge and down to the other side. Success!

Pulling plastic over frame

Pulling plastic over frame

Crew securing plastic on humid morning

Crew securing plastic on humid morning

We secured the plastic on the ridge first. We used the JD bucket to access the peak of the HT. From the peak of West end, we wiggle wired to lock the plastic into the channel.

Wiggle wire through H-Channel

Wiggle wire through H-Channel

Next we secured the opposite end. One person wiggled while the other tried to hold the plastic taut to create tension.

Securing Plastic

Securing Plastic

Thirdly, we locked in one long side with wiggle wire to create tension for the opposite long side. On the opposite side, JT, TH, AM, and RM worked together: two persons held the plastic taut while one applied the wiggle wire and the other one drove our mobile scaffold (the ATV and trailer). We then cut the excess plastic.

All hands on deck.

All hands on deck.

Casey & Colleen enjoying morning of securing plastic to HT1

Phase 6: Baseboards & Roll-up Sides
To attach the baseboards, we established the layout, trimmed the boards to length, drilled holes, and then used u-bolts to attach the boards to the posts. To date, we have yet to set up the roll-up sides.

CH with a big smile! Setting baseboards is fun!

Crew measuring out length for next baseboard

Crew measuring out length for next baseboard

Phase 7: Endwalls
To build the endwalls, we started by measuring out the holes for upright posts. Once measured out, we dug the holes, added concrete then set the posts to plumb and level. We backfilled the holes with more concrete and soil we dug up from the holes. Then we set the horizontal cross bracing. After the cross bracing, we started to attach the polycarbonate paneling.

Master carpenter, and friend of the farm, Ric Stang oversaw JT, RM, and TH as we cut and pieced the paneling together. We had to open the H-channel with the hammer on some of the pieces as the paneling had to enter the h-channel from both the top and the side. We also tried a soap mixture to create some lubrication. Paneling was set by self tapping screws and washers. We had to cut the excess paneling around the end walls to fit it flush to the frame. We used a box cutter to lightly score the polycarbonate, then repeated the light scoring until the poly could be bent. After it folded back, we would be able to bend it back and forth until the piece we wanted cut came off. This was very effective.

MR conducting the orchestra.

Setting endwall panels

Setting endwall panels

NSF High Tunnel #1 True Cost:
In hopes of determining the true cost of purchasing and constructing HT #1, we’ve gone back to the receipts and notes to add up the numbers. At first glance, the high tunnel materials (frame & endwalls) were 75% of the total cost. Equipment rentals tallied 8% of the total cost, worker wages was in at 8%, and additional materials cost 8%. Overall, the numbers below tell us that the true cost, albeit high, is justified with the majority of the capital spent on physical infrastructure, equipment necessary to complete tasks (efficiently and safely) and worker hours. To see it through as a profitable investment, we will have to continue to record data regarding the harvests recorded in HT1.

Equipment Rentals
          Skidsteer & Auger ( 971.00
          Scissor Lift ( 565.65
          Endwall concrete ( 138.39
          Concrete for Post Holes ( 240.00
          70 U-Bolts ( 354.96
          Ribbon Boards (Sweet Sourland Farm) 466.50
          Baseboards (Sweet Sourland Farm) 345.00
          Finkles misc. ( 84.59
          Drill bits ( 102.56
Endwalls ( 6,944.81
30’x100’ High Tunnel 8,220.00
Worker wages (approximate) 1,700.00
                                                                       Total:     $20,123

Second Year Focus: Crop Care

March 13th, 2015 | Posted by JacobThies in Crop Care - (Comments Off on Second Year Focus: Crop Care)

JT – 3/6/15

Second Year Focus Introduction: Crop Care

Crop care is a major element throughout day-to-day life on the farm. Once seeds are sown or seedlings planted, they need attention, care, and tending. As with anything biological, certain conditions produce healthier lives for the living organism, and our crops at North Slope are no different.

After deliberating over a few different elements, I choose crop care as my focus for the 2015 season for multiple reasons: it’s importance to the farm operation, how it was overlooked at times during the 2014 season (only due to not having someone dedicated to this element), an opportunity to be an advocate for the crops, and ultimately to gain an intimate understanding of how best to efficiently manage the crops in conjunction with worker hours.

Importance to the farm operation: 

Crop care is imperative. Once the crops are in the ground, they need attention in order for them to thrive. Plant vigor comes with providing the crop with the most optimum opportunity to excel, and to do that, we must control to the best of our abilities the moisture levels (especially during drought-like conditions), weed pressure, cold weather barriers, and pest control. Questions that will arise that must be dealt with: best irrigation practices, best cultivation practices, timing of cultivations, and pest protections.

Overlooking Crop Care in 2014:

During my first season at NSF, I felt there were a couple case studies that were stark reminders to me of the importance of crop care. During our carrot harvests, we had some beds that yielded 100 lbs and others that were closer to 500 lbs. Same size beds. Incredible variety in yields. After discussions as a crew, it seemed highly likely that the difference in yields came down to a the consistency of irrigation. The second case study was the lack of vigor our field tomatoes showed. They produced a lot of fruit, but the plants never truly grew with much vigor. This, too, could be attributed to a lack of focus on getting irrigation to the crops when they needed it the most. Without someone focused on crop care as their element, irrigation and weed pressure (especially in the carrots) were overlooked. From these first hand experiences, I grew convinced that crop care is an incredibly important element on the farm.

Crop advocacy: 

Which leads me to the reason why I chose crop care as my element. As the Crop Care Manager, I will lead the charge for making the environment more ideal for our crops in the ground. Having someone on the farm focused on crop advocacy should bring more awareness to the day-to-day needs (immediate and long term) of the crops in ground.

Managing crop care efficiently: 

In order to manage crop care efficiently, I’ll be using the Crop Care Task List created by Kyle to be filled out during a weekly field walk. In this field walk, I plan to make notes on crop care issues to take on for the week, and will translate those notes onto the chalkboard in the office to share with the crew. This will allow us to stay on top of weed pressure by scuffle hoeing in the BGBs at the right time, allowing us to attempt different cultivation methods in the Field Favorable Furrows, and, hopefully, get out the flame weeder to kill off early annual weeds in our carrot beds. Open communication is crucial in order to manage any element of the farm efficiently.

Field Favorable Furrows: 

One aspect of the farm operation that will be applied in-full this year is the use of North Slope’s minimal tillage technique colloquially known around NSF as Field Favorable Furrorws. The technique to cultivating our crops with the FFF hasn’t totally been set in stone, but I project that we will continue to utilize the technique developed last year. Last year, after we planted into our furrows, to cultivate in order to suppress weeds, we would run the BCS in-between the rows as close to the plants as possible in order to both kill newly germinated weeds and to chop up the remaining cover crop. I believe we ran the BCS a second time and also hand weeded by crawling up and down the rows on our hands and knees extracting the weeds.

I would like to try and incorporate the wheel hoe into the mix. I think the first cultivation should be with the BCS in order to break up cover crop, but the second cultivation pass could be tried with the wheel hoe. The hand weeding for the third cultivation was relatively quick and efficient.

Ripping Furrows

Flame Weeding the Carrot Beds: 

When our carrots are given the right environment to thrive in our BGBs, they exist in that space as if they were made for it. In order to create that perfect environment, we must focus on two obstacles: getting the carrots an appropriate amount of irrigation and to suppress the weed pressure early before the Galinsoga fights for BGB supremecy. This season, I believe we should implement the flame weeder as a major tool in our carrot growing arsenal. If we can knock back the weeds early, we’ll bank on getting the carrots established before the weeds. Once the second set of annual weeds begins to germinate a few weeks later, the already established carrots will give us an easy framework in which to scuffle hoe around.

Tasks and Responsibilities: 

Irrigation – Crop Care Element requires constant attention to irrigation, especially during drought like conditions during peak summer. A constant rotation schedule should be put in place in order to accommodate all BGBs, greenhouses, and fields.

Mulching – Some crops (tomatoes) receive straw mulch to suppress weed pressure and to cover the soil to dissuade slash back onto the crops.

HT1 first tomas 2014

Weed Control – Crops perform best when weeds are knocked down in their early stages. Observe best time to cultivate, and get crew on board to accomplish the task. Using scuffle hoes, flame weeders, hand weeding, and the BCS down the paths of the Favorable Furrows.

Pest Control – Looking for both rodent and insect damage, and, if damage is noted, take appropriate action to alleviate damage. With rodents, prevention is key. We’ll try to keep up to speed on mowing pathways of the BGBs and making sure the electric fences are in working order and charged over night. Last fall, we lost most of our collards and kale due to a major aphid infestation. This year we’ll try to combat that using a light weight, light permeable insect netting to quell aphid pressure.

Trellising – Making sure plants are able to be supported as they grow vertically. Having clips, tomato twine, wooden and metal stakes, and trellising for peas.

Frost protection – Laying out hoops, applying remay, and securing them with sandbags during the first few months and last couple months to fight off potential frost damage to crops.


As a small crew, it will be imperative to stay on top of our crop care and handle cultivation, irrigation, pest protection, and weather protection in the most timely fashion. I envision days where we’re scrambling to fit all of our crop care needs into the day, so consistent and comprehensive communication with the farm manager and crew about the crop needs will be critical. At the end of the day, I believe with someone focused on crop care, we’re setting ourselves up for a season of harvests that meet our market demands from both the BGBs, high tunnels, and the Favorable Furrows.

Monthly Summary – August 2013

August 13th, 2014 | Posted by JacobThies in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – August 2013)

Monthly Summary – August 2013

Logs reviewed and summary prepared by JT, August 13, 2014

General Observations: August proved to be hectic and full of activity. Farm visit from NOFA and CRAFT Farm Tour, successions of core veggies continued to be harvested and planted (and even a 100 lb harvest of salad!) and the harvesting of tomatoes and hundreds of lbs of carrots translated to good sales at both SMT and WWCFM. Though, aphids proved to be problematic and Neptune was used and extra care was noted during post harvest handling – specifically for fending off aphid eggs on the under leaf of kale.

Equipment (25 hours): Equipment usage was recorded at 25 hours: down 60 hours from 2012 and down 30 hours from 2011. My guess is not all hours were noted on element hours sheet which has skewed the final figures. As an example, Billy Goat was used on 8/28 but no time was logged on element hour list of using that equipment. 12.5 of those hours were on the Kabota, 3 on the JD, 1 on the ford, and 9 on the IH 40. IH was used on multiple days to form beds by BY, later in month to haul a sprayer, 265 with small tiller for bed preparation, and chisel plowing training for RR. By the end of the month, crew noted that the kabota was “very broken. Needs to be brought to shop or graveyard.”

Admin (46 hours): Accounting and payroll continued as per usual, though with the note that there was a farm audit on 8/13. Another note worth mentioning, KG made an adjustment to the tomato harvest sheet to allow for both location and harvest date tracking. Seeds were ordered for fall planting, and two farm visits took place: Sean from NOFA visited the farm to interview crew about internships and MR prepped for CRAFT workshop on Bio-intensive vs. Bio-extensive at NSF.

BY Bed Forming 265

BY bed forming.

Infrastructure (45.5 hours): Lots of mowing, moving and cleaning chickens, a recycling run, and the destruction of the old “farmstand bench” near the washing area were all logged. Also, as a note, the farmhouse had some plumbing issues – both toilets and dishwasher seemed to quit functioning properly. Technicians were called in to remediate the issues.

Greenhouse (20.5 hours): Tomato care and seeding dominated the greenhouse hours. Tbe tomatoes were given time to clip, mulch, and deal with early blight. The troublesome blighted plants were bagged and buried. Besides the tomato care, seeding veggie successions happened over the course of a week around the middle of the month. The crew was waiting for a seed shipment to finish the succession. Later in the month, the crew noted that the seedlings were consistently “leggy” with no roots. Full summer foliage could have blocked critical sunlight to the seedlings.

BY Spreading Compost

BY spreading compost.

Compost (5 hours): The 140 and spreader were used to get loads of compost over the fields in preparation for planting.

Planting (109.5 hours): From the beginning of the month, crew worked hard to stay on top of planting. Efficient work led to quick work – notes of planting 5 BGB before lunch on both 8/6 and 8/21! Crew members received training from MR regarding bed forming, stale seed beds, and making sure the entire crew is “aware of the plan” for planting and the steps necessary to implement the plan.

Crop Care (215.5 hours): Lots of hand weeding and scuffle hoeing to save lettuce, carrots, leeks, and other crops. Tomatoes in the field and greenhouses needed trellising and mulching. Lemon verbena grew to the point of needing trellising in the corner garden. A long note was made to discuss the aphid infestation on field crops. Crew applied M.Ped  and Neptune to 6 field beds in MFSEN. Crew used a combination of a watering wand, “old sprayer” from barn top, and the 140 with tank and went through 200 gallons of mixture for 9 beds for the day in an attempt to curtail the aphids. Another note of crop issues was noted on 8/22 where kale, chard, beets, cabbage were all “seriously effected by some sort of wilt causing disease.” Were these due to being covered under field tunnels?

Harvesting (264 hours): Down 110 hours from last season and 310 hours from 2011, harvesting seemed to be down due to a combination of greater efficiency and lower yields. On 8/1, crew noted that harvest went quickly due to “small yields.” Elsewhere in notes, crew lauded their efficiency. Crew harvested blackberries, squash, field and green house tomatoes, salad mix (CH handled 100# harvest!), carrots (+200# beds), and core hardy greens.

Handling (50 hours): Handling included all Thursday and Friday harvests, garlic cleaning, and eggs. During the aphid plague on 08/13, the Kale was reported to have lots of aphids. Proper attention was given to properly handle the kale as to remove aphids as best as possible.


WWCFM: $1,181, $1,675, $2,092.50, $2,188 Total = $7,136.50

SMT: $3,522, $4,265, $3,363, $4,830 Total = $15,980

August 2013 Combined Market Total: $23,116.50

YTD: $74,140.50

Special Projects (1 hour): Although noted as just one hour, many more hours were spent with Harvest Moon CSA @ NSF. KG and RR used farmhouse garden to grow tomatoes and basil which was wholesaled to NSF for sale at WWCFM and microgreens that were wholesaled to NSF for sale at SMT. As for microgreens, August was a good month to show the good and the bad with micros. On 8/9, KG harvested 47 1 ounce units of micros for a potential $211.50 if all sold. On the other hand, microgreens proved to be finicky. On 8/14, KG lost “another succession” of micros because of not being uncovered on time. Overall, microgreens seem like a high yield product, though proper care and attention must be paid.


Week 1: Light rain, warm and humid.

Week 2: 80’s and 60’s for most of week with thunderstorm at the end of week 2

Week 3: Cool nights, saturated soils, but nice weather. Heavy dew in the AMs noted.

Week 4: More rain, drying conditions towards the end of the week

Monthly Summary – May 2013

May 9th, 2014 | Posted by JacobThies in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – May 2013)

Monthly Summary – May 2013

Logs review and summary prepared by Jacob Thies.

General Observations:  Markets up and running, wholesale seedling orders to WHC, all crew members finally together, some unseasonably low night temperatures (5/14-15 & 5/26) that led to major tomato set back, but rest assured, May finally revealed her warming smile with highs in the 90’s and warm nights in 70’s by Memorial Day weekend. May lends itself to be busy, productive, and many variations in weather.

Equipment (80 hrs):  Case: 9, Kabota: 15, JD: 13, Ford: 17, IH: 7, Walking Mower, 4, BCS Roto: 4, Weedwacker: 11. Almost identical total hour usage when compared to May 2012. Cut cover crop in Veg C mid and Veg B mid and baler used to bale up cover crop on central fields. Lots of general mowing and weedwacking around the farm as a product of spring rain and sun. Big Red was put to work for cultivating new beds. MR continued supplemental training for trainees regarding usage of tractors. By mid month, more primary tillage (MSE South) and tractor cultivation with Big Red, specifically garlic.

Todd workin' it.

Administration (55 hrs): Crew received training on the use of Quicken program.  Made and placed an irrigation order to Rainflo (details of order not mentioned) & inventoried tomato stakes (5/8). MR trained TH on payroll, accounting, and a general introduction to the Element (5/14). Updated crop plans for corner garden and made note of opening for green beans and more radishes, carrots, and turnips (5/27). Owen joined the crew and received formal introduction. Total Admin up 10 hours from previous year. Possibly due to TH taking on Admin Element leading to additional training from MR.

Infrastructure (79 hrs): General maintenance including moving of chickens, mowing, weedwacking, and subsequent fuel runs to manage upkeep around the farm. Hay bales were collected from the central fields, 579 North mowed out in preparation for primary tillage, covered crops mowed, and primary tillage performed.

Greenhouse (136 hrs): Overall, there was general upkeep of the greenhouse from watering to seeding to potting on. On 5/8, crew began new seedling orders for WEC. Special note that there was a tomato variety supply crisis created by “poor planning.” Not enough supply to meet the demand. Note of emphasis to “address current shortage and assure ample production for next year.” MR gave greenhouse introduction to MB & BY detailing greenhouse order form, organizing greenhouse tables, proper potting on methods. Prepped Farmhouse Gothic for tomatoes by hanging strings on 5/22.

Composting (38 hrs): Compost was continually sifted throughout the month for potting and seeding. On 5/5, crew composted sweet William and hyssop along with the southern most 100’ bed and northern most 50’ bed in CG. 5/7 crew composted Veg C  Mid in preparation for tomatoes. On 5/31, BGB SW 1&2 were composted.

Planting (177 hrs): On 5/1, crew started the month by seeding lettuce in BGBs. 5/5 found crew thinking tomatoes and used Haybine to cut cover crop off Veg B and C Mids with intention of plating tomatoes soon. Two days later, Veg C mid was prepped for tomatoes on 5/7 and planted tomas, leeks that afternoon. On 5/10, direct seeded intercropping parsley and onions in BGB. On 5/13, focus moved to CG where 3 short beds were seeded with H. Turnips. 5/14, 2 more BGB were planted with beans. On 5/15, RR & KG seeded more lettuce in BGBs. On 5/23, tomatoes were planted in Veg C mid. On 5/27, crew seeded 100’ bed in CG with green beans on shoulders and cantaloupe down center. By the end of the month, crew began next eggie succession beds and the beds for first flower succession. Noted that primary tillage was late and extra rototilling was required to speed up breakdown of residual cover crop.

Crop Care (226 hrs): The crew spent many hours tending to the crops. On 5/1, crew weedwacked in CG – both pathways and bed edges. Southern most strawberry bed wacked as well – save for a few patches of plants for transplant. On 5/2, the east bed asparagus was weeded to remove hyssop, scuffled hoed cabbage in Veg A South and remay applied on newest salad to encourage germination. On 5/5, used fish & seaweed to fertilize all plants in CG. On 5/10, more scuffle hoeing in BGBs specifically for salad, onions and parsly – also stalked grapes and peas on trellis (north side only). On 5/21, TH used Big Red to cultivate the garlic. On 5/22, the crew flame weeded carrots. On 5/28, crew spent time cleaning up FHG and mulching tomatoes w/ straw. A second “Holistic Spray” was applied on all fruit trees, hazelnuts and NW end of Veg A veggie succession on 5/30.7

Harvesting (229 hrs): In preparation for first markets of the season, training was given to first year trainees regarding sanitation, harvesting techniques, and tools. Crew harvested a multitude of crops including arugula, mizuna, kale, tat soi from Ralph’s House, spinach, radishes, salad mix, asparagus, and microgreens. The majority of the crops were available throughout the month for Saturday and Sunday markets. By the end of the month, NSF was harvesting dill, oregano, spearmint, and head lettuce for market.

Crew Harvest

Handling (101 hrs): Hand in hand with harvesting, MR gave training to first year trainees on 5/10 regarding product handling standard operating procedures. On 5/1, stinging nettle was harvested and handled for drying. On 5/8, crew bagged and labeled hyssop and nettles. For the rest of the month, crew spent handling time washing, spinning, and bagging salad mixes and cleaned bunched greens.

Marketing (91 hrs): Market season began! In preparation for seedling sales to WEC, crew marked each individual cow pot and four-pack for sale with plant ID labels. On 5/6, NSF sold four pounds of dried stinging nettle to Cherry Grove Farm for their Nettle Jack Cheese. The middle of the month saw us with great market day weather and successful sales days. The third week was cold and windy for Saturday but warmed up for a successful Sunday market.

Special Projects (4 hrs): KG seeding, tending, harvesting, handling microgreens throughout the month. Noted that there was a missed succession but problem was resolved and back to normal seeding.


Week 1: Sunny, warm, and dry. Night time temps hovered in the 50s.

Week 2: Week started warm but cold and wet by the end. Night times dropped as low as 34F. Frost killed 5/7 planted tomatoes.

Week 3: Cool temps and rain to begin the week, though it gave way to warming weather and sunshine by the end of the week.

Week 4: Rainy, cool, and very windy. Unseasonably low night temperatures. End of the week brought hot (+90F) by the end of the month.


WWFM– 5/2: $ 1645 / 5/11: $1,552 / 5/18: $1546 / 5/25: $ 904   | Market Total- $5,640

SMT– 5/12: $ 2620 / 5/19: $1990 5/26: $ 2,704   | Market Total- $7,314

Market Monthly Total: $12,954

YTD Market Total: $12,954