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Monthly Summary – September 2013

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by RickMorris in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – September 2013)

Monthly Summary– September 2013

Logs reviewed and summary prepared by Rick Morris on September 8, 2014.

General Observations:  The drama of the small farm peaks in the late season! A succession of hardy greens failed (see ‘crop care’ below!), a new generation of baby chicks arrived, and apprentices were trained on the big tractors. All the while the crew was constantly busy with the largest harvest month of the year and began preparations for the coming season.

BY Spreading Compost

BY Spreading Compost on field beds

Equipment (21 hrs):  Apprentices were trained on the tractors for bed forming and applying compost to the field beds. Key lessons included 1) the importance of an efficient pre-planned driving pattern for shaping beds 2) vigilant observation of tractor implements to ensure they are working the ground correctly and to adjust as needed 3) post-use maintenance prevents next-use frustrations (a forgotten wire begot a dead battery that required replacement)! The Kabota ride-on mower was fixed and returned to the farm and its continual task of maintaining walkable walkways.

Administration (23 hrs):  A lunchtime training session lent some excitement to the otherwise Sisyphean tasks of payroll and record keeping. Mike broke out the field maps and driving schema to discuss the new planting of strawberries (a North Slope first!) and the fall and winter cover crop plan. At the end of the month, Mike placed an order for BioBags which we use to store and market crops. He used the record of the previous year’s order to figure out the quantity and stored receipts to help in figuring future orders.

Infrastructure (68 hrs):  As the cool weather begins to roll in the Remay begins to roll out! We rounded up the fabric and rebar hoops to cover cold-sensitive crops. Areas of the farm that are difficult to mow – fence posts, irrigation lines, other problem areas – were tended to with the weed whacker. The whacker hit a line of the electric fencing which was subsequently patched. We moved and cleaned the chicken coops and prepared a home for the new chicks. The truck hit a low branch, smashing the upper corner of the box. The fact that it looks replaceable does little to stem a growing headache.

Greenhouse (17 hrs):  Greenhouse space was at a premium this month! We began drying the lemon verbena tea in our smallest 6-table hoop house and quickly realized the crop required significantly more space. We decided to clear out a succession of seedlings and microgreens from the larger ‘seedling gothic’ greenhouse in order to dry another 10 tables of the tea. In order to create a proper drying environment we piped out drainage and ensured the fans were operating in peak condition.

Composting (5 hrs):  Newly formed field beds were composted by newly trained apprentice Todd!

Planting (167 hrs): Cool weather crops like broccoli, tat soi, mizuna, arugula and radishes were added back into the veggie succession. Strawberries were planted into shaped, plastic covered beds. We mulched the edges of the plastic and the walkways with woodchips and cut trenches at the ends of the beds to facilitate drainage. We purchased cover crop seed and planted a new succession of squash, chard, kale, collards, kohlrabi, and two successions of salad mix and carrots

Crop Care (157 hrs): Kale and Chinese cabbage were covered with Remay at the end of August. By the first week of September the crops failed horribly! Aphids infested these brassicas and the plants appeared to have melted. Special care was given to the perennials as blackberries and apple trees were weeded. Routine care continued as well: we mowed the corner garden’s vigorous weed jungle, wheel-hoed the scallions, staked and strung the green beans, scuffle hoed and hand weeded the crops, and vigilantly maintained the irrigation rotation.

Greenhouse Tomatoes

One use of all that straw is mulching our greenhouse tomatoes!

Harvesting (408 hrs): September saw a 55% increase in harvest hours from the previous month! Besides our regular veggie, herb, and flower harvests, the tomato production peaked, Mike spent several days cutting and baling hay, and the tea was gathered. It seemed that the crew was constantly on the move and small details were missed here and there: the office door was left open with the air conditioner running, a missed wire drained a tractor battery, the logs weren’t kept up to date, etc.

Handling (67 hrs): Farming is beautiful. This beauty is never more manifest then when bunching flowers of every color and petal into cascading bouquets of floral miracles. For 25 such bunches in a week in September, we harvested 550 stems between 5 varieties. Harvesting took about 3 worker hours and bunching required approximately 1.5 worker hours. If we say that harvesting and handling labor is worth $30/hr to account for the previous work of tilling, planting, caring, etc., then it cost the farm about $135 to produce the bunches. Dividing that cost by the number of bunches gives us a farm value of $5.40 per bunch.

Marketing (152 hrs):  Sales were down at the beginning of the month because we did not bring blackberries to market. The display was full of herbs, squash, beans, eggplant, peppers, scallions, kale, cabbage and loads of heirloom tomatoes. The situation suggests an uncomfortable question: What do we sell, and why? Few of us got into this business for money alone (or at all!). Yet bills and staff need to be paid! If squash and hardy greens are the healthiest for the community, but the little berries bring in the most money, then where should be spend more time and attention? Is there anything wrong with reselling another farm’s produce at our stand? What if reselling makes up a majority of the farm’s income? These questions are much discussed. On the less abstract side of things, we noted the importance of having multiple hands loading the truck for market, but the difficulty of attaining labor for such a short period of time at such an early hour. Also, surplus tomatoes were stored and trucked to a processor to make our value-added shelf-stable sauce and ketchup.

Special Projects (55 hrs):  The baby chicks arrived! Mike picked them up from Moyers on the way back from a sauce run. We set up an incubator coop with a heat lamp. The chicks need special protection from the cold, especially during cool September nights.

New Chicks

New chicks with their cozy heating lamp!


Week 1:  Heavy hot and humid! Sunny by the end of the week.

Week 2: Hot and humid days, but cool nights and no rain.

Week 3: One steady overnight rain (1 inch) followed by a perfect clear dry week.

Week 4: Continued clear weather! Soil is dry and requires irrigation.


Sept 1 Sept 7-8 Sept 14-15 Sept 21-22 Sept 28-29 Month Total


















Combined Market Monthly Total: $27,363

YTD Market Total: $103,639


Monthly Summary – June 2013

June 11th, 2014 | Posted by RickMorris in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – June 2013)

Monthly Summary– June 2013

Logs reviewed and summary prepared by Rick Morris

General Observations:  Extreme heat, heavy rains, and several equipment malfunctions interrupted the normal flow of day-to-day work. The rain allowed us to catch up on some administrative tasks, and a big push for planting at the end of the month kept the farm chugging along.

Equipment (50 hrs):  The blessing of machinery is that it allows the farmer to get more done faster. The curse is that some months you just have to spend a lot of time tending to the machines. The ATV broke down three times and needed to be repaired. The big John Deer tractor had a mysterious leak. The Kubota ride-along mower stalled enough that it was left out in the field in the midst of an uncompleted job. Yet, the farming continues!! Some equipment was interchangeable – eg. the small International tractor could pull the ATV’s trailer while the ATV was out of commission.


Mike demonstrating an important element of the tractor.



Administration (48 hrs):  Organic certification paper work was updated, filled, and filed by 2nd year apprentice TH. The regular cycle of business paperwork continues, with its yearly, monthly, and weekly cycles. Federal and state property taxes were filed and paid, bank statements were reconciled, and the crew was paid. The long stretches of rainy days gave time to work on the website and catch up on emails.

Infrastructure (93 hrs):  The grass was growing fast and mowing had to keep up. Keeping the alleyways between beds and through the fruit cluster is important so that the crew can move about efficiently. Keeping the weed pressure in check on the shoulders and ends of beds requires vigilant attention with the weed whacker. This work often occurs on days when light rain prevents other tasks, though heavy rain prevents the mower from operating effectively. Misters were purchased to increase irrigation capacity. We cleaned and opened the farmhouse pool! It was ready just in the nick of time for the Summer Solstice party.

Greenhouse (44 hrs):  Greenhouse tomatoes were trellised and pruned a few times. During hot weeks the greenhouses need to be checked to make sure they are receiving adequate irrigation. Clear communication between the manager and crew was essential to make sure that the right amounts of crops were started in the seedling greenhouse.

Composting (15 hrs):   We were able to spread compost during the drier parts of the first and last weeks of the month. 6 big garden beds and 6 flower beds were prepared early on, and a number of field beds (10+) at the end of the month. Efficiency was improved by teaching the crew the best positioning of the ATV trailer relative to the compost pile. A good position allows the big tractor to fill the trailer with minimal movements.

Planting (151 hrs):  The 579 field received its first flowers on June 1st! More flower beds were shaped and planted by the end of the week. Heavy rains prevented planting until the end of the month. The last week saw a big push for planting. One day saw a new succession of direct seeded salad mix lettuces, three rows of tomato transplants, and half a row each of pepper and eggplant transplants. Another big day gave us a new succession of transplanted kale, chard, mizuna, squash, and artichoke as well as directly seeded beans.

Crop Care (202 hrs): When rain abounds, weeding abounds all the more fully! The fruit and nut trees were grateful to be tended, but the delicate onions flopped over and exposed their roots. A gentle touch is required. To the delight of all, a brief interlude of sunshine enabled the crew to flame weed the carrot beds 7 days after seeding. The quickly growing tomatoes were strung in the first week, and newly planted beds received irrigation lines in the first and last weeks of the month.

Harvesting (286 hrs): Flowers started getting picked with Sweet William and peonies on the 1st, during which we also picked collards, head lettuce, parsley, asparagus, and kohlrabi. The dry weather allowed for straw bailing. On Thursday of the first week, the crew arrived early (7:30am) to harvest the hardy greens and root veggies before the sun shone too strongly. The next day we harvested salad mix, head lettuce, and parsley in the rain. Saturday, more lettuce, parsley, radishes, and kohlrabi were harvested for the Sunday market. As the harvest month wore on, we noticed animal holes among the radishes in the corner garden, though they still yielded 37 lbs. By the end of the month, we harvested squash, tomatoes, onions, scallions, scapes, turnips, microgreens and bee balm in addition to the standard hardy greens and veggies. With a large diversity of crops heading to different markets and filling a couple of special orders, it is of paramount importance to maintain a clear and up-to-date harvest sheet. Keeping everyone informed and on the same page is key to efficiency.


A harvest of flowers ready for market!


Handling (80 hrs): The weight of the salad mix changes dramatically when it is harvested in a heavy rain. 85 wet pounds turned into 69 lbs after handling. Egg washing and packing continues with the lesson that eggs should be packed with their pointy ends down.

Marketing (141 hrs):  In addition to the normal West Windsor and Summit markets, 80 heads of lettuce were sold to Brick Farm Store. Blueberries and tomatoes were purchased from Zone7 to sell at market. In a dramatic turn, Summit Downtown, Inc. duly informed vendors that the location of the market was moving. Mike and fellow farmers found the new location unacceptable on a number of fronts, rallied together, and protested the move. Read Mike’s article by clicking here. The farmers successfully convinced the board of trustees to vote against the move. Read Mike’s note of appreciation by clicking here.

Summit Market

Summit Market - here to stay!

Special Projects (8 hrs):  Microgreens yielded a stead 6-8 units per variety. The number of trays per succession was increased to 4.


Week 1:  Started hot (90’s!), ended with a tropical storm.

Week 2: Rainy and saturated soil conditions. Serious thunder and lightening. Offered a day off to the crew because it was too wet for most tasks.

Week 3: Rain rain and more rain. The sun started peeking through by the end of the week.

Week 4: Sunny days turned into HOT days. Threat of thunderstorms all week, but they held off until July.


WWFM– 6/1: $1103 / 6/8: $901 / 6/15: $1403 / 6/22: $1557 / 6/29: $1464 | Market Total- $6428

SMT– 6/2: $2685 / 6/9: $2634 / 6/16: $2340 / 6/23: $3210 / 6/30: $2980| Market Total- $13,849

Market Monthly Total: $20,277

YTD Market Total: $33,231