Watch as Farmers Grow

Monthly Summary – January and Febuary 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Monthly Summary

Monthly Summary – January and February, 2009
MikeR; Logs and records reviewed, and summary prepared 12/3/10

General Observations: In order to remember the feeling of this time period I delved backwards into the Farm Log from December ’08.  2008 was the season which culminated in the graduation of North Slope Farm’s first “’JourneyWoman’ Steward”.  She is known on this website as Casey (CH), and her Third Season Focus was ‘Market Garden Manager’.  Postings were lost in a “virtual fire” (2010) but the records of production are testament to her accomplishment!  Needless to say it was a heady time for me, as Farm Manager, because CH (Casey) had agreed to serve as the pathfinder for our Training Program, and not only had we all survived, but there was a general feeling of excitement and opportunity at the farm.  Two trainees, beginning their third years for 2009, were moving into the FarmHouse, HK and BK.  BD had signed on as a 2nd yr trainee and we were committed to hiring two first year trainees.
Winter settling in, I remember being very conscious how much work there was, to fully prepare summaries and records.  The log shows strong statements of “minimums” and “requirements”.  Also apparent is the need for establishing baseline format for our record keeping.  All in all, the sense is one of success, with the acute need for “tightening up the ship.”
Chickens are now a part of the Farm Chores again, the ’08 Girls, and the reality of year round operation means chores happen every day.  Heavy snowfall on Feb. 4.  Winter is a quiet time though, dominated by the wind outside, a cold office and seeking rest and comfort after dark.
Equipment ? hrs; Pulled trees from falling on power lines after wind storm, JD2240.
Administration ? hrs; Published 2007 annual Summaries to website…  Submitted to Workers Compensation Payroll Audit.  Required documentation; Payroll records, Qtrly reports, names and amts paid to independent contractors and Federal Tax Return….  Filed employee taxes – New Jersey requires businesses to file employee taxes electronically.  Thankfully their system is easy to work with and payment can be as simple as paying with a credit card.  E-Filing with the IRS was a bit more complicated and we ended up with a standard check in the mail.  The E-Filing of W3 and W2’s was straightforward and accomplished by early February (Late).  Deadline for filing annual IRS form 943 is Feb 1.  NJ State Annual Reconciliation of Taxes due by end of February, though the Fourth Quarterly report is due Jan. 30.  Standard procedures for filing were updated, with instructions filed in Farm Managers desk, Filing Employee Taxes.  Corresponding adjustments and improvements made in standard employee tax records.  Standard forms saved in Admin Folder, Human Resources, Employee Records…  Spoke at Princeton Public Library, on panel for the “PPL Environmental Film Festival”, on Organic Farming increase in interest and Markets…  Met with HK to discuss access to greenhouse space for home consumption – designated one bed in Ralph’s House, to be cleared by May…  Met with Landscape Architecture class from Rutgers University.  Discussed Organic Practices, Marketing, and Viability related to their design projects for the Cream Ridge Research Facility….  Met with neighboring Farm owner to discuss small farm operations and viability…  On Feb 24, log notes “powerfully emotional state” – preparing for the “first day of the season” – conclusion: “Importance of Simple Structure to Facilitate Engagement.”  Learning Through Opportunity, Opportunity Through Investment, and Structure to Encourage Investment…  Additional items of note; signed Solar Grant applications through Simpson Electric and completed 3 year Training for WIC/Farmers Market Nutrition Program in order to be allowed to accept FMNP checks for fresh produce.
Infrastructure ? hrs: Chicken Chores require daily water checks, food service, bedding changes, egg collection, snow shoveling and security.  Trainees living in the farmhouse for the winter provided resident helpers.  Electricity to office for computer and space heater, Greenhouse heated in February, though farm water still Off.  Attempted to turn water system on for greenhouse, and blew out frozen “elbow” in wall. Until real need (we’ll repair), we use backup water supply from FarmHouse. Heavy snow noted in early Feb and large Cedars knocked down by wind storms mid month.  Fielded inquiries from local contractor regarding, in part, drop off of woodchips.  Established stockpiling area off north edge of farmhouse parking lot.  BK has expressed interest in woodchips as resource for mushroom propagation and managing the delivery and stockpiling remains an important responsibility.
Greenhouse ? hrs: February 1 ‘Seedling Gothic’ or GH#1, our only heated greenhouse was turned on for a foray into the production of “TableTop Greens”.  (Photos)  1/3 of the greenhouse was partitioned with a sheet of plastic to reduce air volume to be heated.  The initial planting was 6 bread trays, lined and filled with compost.  I did not like the bread trays, too much edge.  Additionally I prepared 2 of our tables, flipped over, lined and filled with compost.  Each table top had three sections, 10sq ft each.  Rough estimates for Arugula and Mizuna – 35 days yielded 1.5-2 pounds per 10sqft (1/4 oz seed).  Lettuce – 45 days yielded 2 pounds per 10sqft (1 oz seed) (later test yielded 3.4#).  Propane use for this 375sqft space; tanks dropped from 40% to 30% in three days.  20% loss over 6 days.  Refilled by Amerigas, 158gallons from <20% to 60%, then 10% (est. 17gallons) was burned over the next 16 days: Propane consumption ranged from 5.6 gallons to 1+gallons per day for heating 375sqft of plastic covered greenhouse.  Estimated potential yield; lettuce 36 #’s in 45 days.  Rough estimate wholesale value: $13-$15/pound, assuming cold weather, “expensive propane” and about $50 for labor.  Planting, watered 5-6 times, harvest.  Figure $18/ pound wholesale if we want to make money without being forced into massive scale production.  Note high potential for value from local sources of energy for heat.  This is why I encourage Municipal planners to seek to connect commercial greenhouse operations to residential and industrial clusters and communities – waste water carries massive investment of energy that can be utilized to reduce greenhouse heating and cooling costs – a massive incentive for Agricultural Enterprise!!
Composting ? hrs: Finished leaf mulch composting of Garlic Crop in VegAn Field.  Sifted compost and filled production areas for TableTop Greens – used approx 2 cubic yards for 90sgft.  Experience suggests we could have used far less, but to apply to equation above figure 3.75cyds sifted compost for our 375sqft, or an estimated value of $55.
Planting ? hrs:  Planted TableTop Greens Feb 2.  We also had one in ground production greenhouse (unheated) at the time called Ralph’s House and direct seeded spinach, arugula and lettuce on Feb 27, ready for harvest by mid April (photo).
CropCare ? hrs: Watering and management, including remay over TableTop Greens.
Harvesting ? hrs: Nothing Logged
Handling ? hrs: Bagged Speciality Herbs for Winter Markets: Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Spearmint, Stinging Nettle and Mexican Sage.
Marketing ? hrs: One Hopewell Market and two Slow Food Winter Markets, primarily selling our herbs, giving tastes and talking it up.  Nettles sell best of the batch!
Special Projects ? hrs: Chickens, Winter Greens and Training Program are certain.  BK set the topic for the season onto Mycelium and “growing mushrooms”.  The farm manager also focuses on identifying areas for independent projects, CH, BK and HK all are eager to have a “garden of their own!”

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