Watch as Farmers Grow

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.

Monthly Summary – January and February 2010

March 4th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – January and February 2010)

Monthly Summary – January and February, 2010

MikeR; Logs and records reviewed, and summary prepared 3/2/11

 General Observations: The farm is in its coldest and quietest months.  RCM had the “helm” with MR and CH returning early January from their travels, only to be gone again in February for the Big Snow Storm.  Late January heavy rains, then cold weather settling in, broken up by heavy snow from 2/6 thru 2/16.  Regular logging by RCM and MR but not a huge amount of activity.  SJ and ST show up in February for Crew Meetings and some Administration…

Equipment ? hrs;  Two major snow storms to plow out off, thank you BD!.  JD noted to be running well, if engine block heater turned on for an hour pre start-up.  Concerned in 20*F temperatures about the stress on poorly lubricated joints.  Mental note – be sure winter equipment is well greased Before the cold sets in!!

Administration ? hrs;  Financial assessment is always crying out at this time of year.  Bank account starting the season with $8,000.  Paid the $6,700 due on ’09 Federal Employee taxes (should have been paid monthly over the course of the season) and 4th Quarter NJ Employee Taxes, knocking us into the danger zone for low balance!  Transferred funds from savings account.  Experience has proven that we need about $20,000 to start up the season, after all previous year bills are paid.  Ideally this ‘cash cushion’ can be held in a business savings account, used in lean times, then paid back as income exceeds payroll liability.  Access to capital funds may be one of the greatest limitations on New Agricultural Ventures.  Our Capital, or Savings account allows us to support our bare bones operations, pre market season, without the expense of a loan.  Filed annual application for permission to redeem Farmers Market WIC and Senior Citizen Checks.  MR met with Farm Family Insurance Company Agent, Chuck Nemeth, to update Liability and Auto Insurance policies.  Hosted visit from Visiting Important Person (like getting visited by a Rock Star for MR): John Jeavons.  J. Jeavons was the Keynote Speaker for the NOFA-NJ Winter Conference on January 30.  Crew Orientation 2/4, MR handed out packets and explained NSF history, goals and maps to SJ, RCM and ST.  ST and RCM are technically our 2 new Trainees, though each will be considered 2nd years (no 1st years in 2010).  2/19 another crew meeting, setting a ‘broad brush Task List.’  2/23 met with crew to tidy office, file receipts, sort and clear seed and equipment catalogs and post year end summaries from 2009.  2/25 full crew meeting, adding BD and CH to present and discuss Crop Plan for 2010 (details under Planting).

Infrastructure ? hrs:  Rain, Freezing Temperatures, heavy snow, warming days.  Getting around, tending livestock and keeping perishable items are the primary focus.  RCM suffered thru winter of poorly operating heating system in FarmHouse. MR found farm “Silver Fridge”(small) to be heating above acceptable range due to interior fan running without coolant compressor.  Freezing temps allowed for simply unplugging Fridge and adjusting temperature by exposure to or protection from outside air.  An incandescent bulb in our walk-in cooler (large), brought the temp up from less than 30*F to 35*F despite freezing outside.  These months are always a struggle, balancing the need to protect stored produce from freezing and avoiding warming during mild days.  Many nights our silver fridge was covered with a blanket, and temp, moderated by a light bulb.  Thermometers must be kept in all spaces storing perishable items to instantly assess temperature range.  2/14 was the warmest day noted, to that date, reaching 40*F. 

Greenhouse ? hrs:  RCM had full responsibility for the Greenhouse through the winter, without any real significant guidance.  Of course MR inspects one day and finds major flooding in Ralphs House.  We have experienced this before and it looks far worse than it is.  The flooding has been an item of interest too, relative to answering the questions, ‘are the beds fully saturated?’, or ‘is the flow of water too high and the surface pools before the bed is actually fully watered?’  MR was pleased because years ago he had built up the greenhouse base, and the end at risk of being too low (off level) was holding the water from the “high end.”  With a little trenching of the central pathway, the flooding was evenly distributed the length of the bed.  RCM did not seem impressed.  Our water source is from the “FarmHouse” in the winter, the farm does not have a frost safe water source, so winter water is a challenge.  The system relies on a series of connected pipes from the Farmhouse Frost Free Hydrant, out to the greenhouses.  After use, each of the pipes is disconnected, and due to the slight slope overall, the pipes gravity drain, and are empty (not blocked by frozen water) for the next day of watering.  So!  With the Big Snow, RCM had to find the pipes, and pull them thru the snow before the next watering.  2/19 Intro to soil mix: RCM, SJ, ST; in preparation for a planting of seedlings for NOFA-NJ fundraiser.  Germination of Lettuce and Kale; in 7 days, in heated greenhouse.  2/23 Intro to Greenhouse Systems Management MR, SJ, RCM, ST; Reviewed files, observed and explained heat, venting, circulation fans, fuel (propane), electric systems and operation.  Explained the adjustment and attention to thermostats and riastats (riastat controls the speed of the fan inflating the greenhouse double ‘Poly” layers).

Composting ? hrs:  No notes logged.

Planting ? hrs:  Planted another “bed” of salad in heated greenhouse at the beginning of each month in hopes of producing “House Salad” for Nomad Pizza.  Poor germination and minimal growth caused consternation.  Prime suspect factors – too little, irregular watering, irregular seed depth and/or soil media problems.  Used 100% compost, should have been OK, even vigorous growth.  Later experimentation showed similar problem, a need to find best soil media for “Tabletop, or House Greens.”  2/25 Crop Plan Presentation and discussion with full crew, MR, BD, SJ, RCM, ST and CH.  Priority of Spring Mowing to encourage natural clover growth in hay fields.  Strong interest in planting grains, “Madonna Field” designated for Moldboard plowing, opening up three new production areas for Market Garden, for 2011.  Discussed rotation of production fields in Market Garden, focusing on the concepts of Bio-intensive – “Big Garden Beds” (BGBs) and Bio-extensive – “Field Beds”.  Established extensive “Crop Plan” file to be utilized in preparing seed order and scheduling seedling orders from greenhouse and planting plans for the season.  Issues raised; How to handle Tomatoes and isolating Solenacea, and where to plant the undecided; winter squash, peas, peppers and eggplants.

CropCare ? hrs:  Tending to the living crops in the greenhouse, and tending Poultry.  Noted hard frosting of the Garlic tips on 1/29, might have been reduced with heavy mulch.

Harvesting ? hrs:  Harvested salad from heated greenhouse of 2/24 and estimated potential yield per Sq Ft of .15 pounds (2.5 oz?). 

Handling ? hrs:  Bagged teasan stored from 2009 crops, packing then for sale at the “Slow Food” February Winter Farmers Market at the Tres Piani Restaurant, at Forestal Village.

Marketing ? hrs:  “Slow Food – Winter Farmers Market” at Tres Piani,  yielded $210 for 7 worker hours.  Hopewell market coming back to life slowly, $120-170/week.  Also, weekly deliveries of our eggs to the Bent Spoon.  2/20 MR participated, in Farmer Advisory position, in West Windsor Community Farmers Market (WWCFM) Board Meeting; Topic of note in the log, ‘market management of produce sold at the market, produced on farms other than the Farmer Vendor, or “purchased produce.”  MR encouraged the market to keep an open mind regarding rules regulating this practice, to avoid unnecessary hardship on Farmers.  Ultimately, NSF’s position on “Purchased Produce” being (re)sold by a Farmer, is that all produce sold by a Market Vendor must accurately display the Origin of the Produce, including the Producing Farm Name and State.  MR’s suggestion for Market Management was that all vendors should assent to the Market Manager utilizing a commonly recognized system of stickers to indicated “purchased produce” on Farmer Vendor displays, if the farmer is unable to accurately label the distinction.  This should assist in the resolution of disputes between farmers as well as educate the consumers, and highlight those who are ‘growing their own.’

Special Projects ? hrs:  “House Greens” have been a disappointment, due to poor germination and negligible growth.  We don’t have a handle on why, exactly, the poor G&G, though growing in the winter obviously has its limitations – Low light levels, extreme Low Temps for long periods…  We kept the greenhouse above freezing, with a propane heater from Modine.  Three refills for the winter production effort at an average of $4.50/Gal, cost $1,744.  Estimated Harvesting cost was 8 worker hours @ $30/hr, cost $240.  Assign “cropcare” cost, (2.5 months, $10/week) = Labor, cost, $100.  Gross Cost Est. $2100 + 10% = $2,300 wholesale value for 4 X 120sqft.  Estimated Yield = 70#.  Wholesale Value of Winter Production House Greens :  $33/pound!!  Obviously the wholesale cost drops as you find cheaper ways to heat (as much as $450 propane was probably used later in the spring or $26/pound), use a lower wage calculation and improve the speed of harvesting.  $30/hr for harvesting is utilized to reflect the need for wholesale production to yield more profit off each worker hour, assuming the true cash cost of a worker is $15/hr, assigning a wage calculation of $30 allows the business to make money, while allowing small scale production.  This is the other extreme from our current agricultural production, which produces in massive volume, seeking profit in tiny margins, on ‘unsustainably’ cheap products.  MR worked on coppiced willows, trimming, selecting branches for growth.  Our Specialty Herb Inventory showed Spearmint, Peppermint and Anise Hyssop as remaining.  ‘Tea’ Page created in log but not nearly completed, some notes to follow:  “to date” retail price for our dried Speciality Herbs has been $62.50.  Subtract 35% from retail to yield Wholesale value: $40/pound + Handling.  This is the number MR will use to design our Handling facilities, drying, storing, packing.  Community Health thru Dried and Fresh Herbs!  ‘Getch Your Greens!’

Girl’s Night at North Slope

January 26th, 2011 | Posted by Robin in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on Girl’s Night at North Slope)

An open invitation to women interested in food…farmers, chiefs, friends and anyone who is curious is welcome to join us on February 4th at 6pm for a potluck dinner.  This casual gathering is a chance to meet and reunite with other women in the general area.  Since it is a potluck, bring your favorite dish, drink, something to share so we can all feast at the end of the week.  Network, relax, have fun.  Hope you can make it.

Girl’s Night Pot Luck

Location: North Slope Farm Farmhouse

1701 Linvale-Harbourton Road

Lambertville, NJ 08530

Date: February 4th (Friday), 2010

Time: 6pm

Questions? Please email with Girl’s Night in the subject line.

Harvest and Planting Summary – 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Season Summary - (Comments Off on Harvest and Planting Summary – 2009)

2009 Pln&Hvst

Element Hours – 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Season Summary - (Comments Off on Element Hours – 2009)

09 Element hrs

Profit and Loss Statement – 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Season Summary - (Comments Off on Profit and Loss Statement – 2009)

2009 P&L

Monthly Summary – December 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – December 2009)

Monthly Summary – December 2009
MikeR; Logs and records reviewed, and summary prepared 1/6/11

General Observations:
RC held down the farm through the winter this year, as MR and CH packed up and headed out.  Reading the log (after the next December), it strikes me how similar the winters were.  Chicken care and monitoring greenhouses through the waves of weather – manifest in Temperature, Wind and Percipitation.
Administration: MR final clearing of office, with computer and freezable, juice and sauce, inventory transferred to farmhouse.  Regular log kept by RC.
Equipment: Monitoring and maintenance.
Infrastructure: Monitor and Maintain.  Icy rain with snowfall lead to tears in Greenhouse plastic.  Repairs are hindered by extreme conditions and difficulty of access.  Driveways and access plowed.  MR installs blower to inflate greenhouse plastic layers.  Over inflation leads to failure of greenhouse plastic attachment to greenhouse baseboard.  Repaired by BD and RC.  Building perimeters inspected for rodent access and sealed as required.
Greenhouse: Charged with the management of these spaces, RC monitored and tended lettuce crops in our heated greenhouse, and hardy greens in one unheated greenhouse.  RC was also charged with the third greenhouse which was serving as winter housing for the 2009 Chickens.  BD assisted RC during times of extreme weather and Technological difficulties.  BD also installed finishing touches to the “Roll-Up Side” mechanism on the “Farmhouse Gothic” greenhouse.  We hope to supply our winter market at Hopewell and our friends at Nomad Pizza with greenhouse grown lettuce and RC seeded lettuce on 12/16 (poor germ.).
Compost: Cold, snowy then wet weather, no activity.
Planting and Cropcare: Seeding of lettuce in heated greenhouse, and notes of “no growth” on plants in unheated greenhouse.
Harvest, Handling and Marketing: RC demonstrated real commitment to the concept of keeping local industry alive by steadfastly harvesting from a miniscule selection, gathering standard stock and serving our community at the Hopewell Community Farmers Market, each Wednesday, 2-6.  This effort had a profound effect on the Farm Managers willingness to commit future resources to Winter Production.

Monthly Summary – November 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by Robin in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – November 2009)

Monthly Summary – November 2009
RCM; Logs and records reviewed, and summary prepared 12/10

General Observations: As we rehash last November, I am reminded of my own arrival at North Slope.  My beginning marked the end of two other interns who we sadly said farewell too as they ventured westward.  Last year we were winding down and getting ready to pack it in for the winter, most workers had plans of travel in December and taking a nice long break from farming.  But for those still here there was work getting the heated greenhouse in order for winter salad production, settling the chickens in for their winter stay in a new greenhouse and preparing the farm for a little break.
Administration 31.5 hours: Monthly summary, end of the year summaries, bills for the year, payroll, meetings on plans for the end of the year/winter season, trainee meetings on goals and successes of the year, winter caretaker responsibilities meeting, 4th Quarter report to NJ.
Infrastructure 18.5 hours: Completing greenhouse covering for winter space for chickens, patching greenhouse holes and heating problems before the winter, shutting down the walk in and setting up winter storage in a smaller refrigerator unit, winterize the farm and draining the water system.
Greenhouse 12 hours: Preparing the heated greenhouse for winter seeding/production, fixing heating problems and holes in greenhouses.
Planting 22.5:
Week 2: Garlic for 2010, the start of lettuce seeding in the heated greenhouse for winter production
Week 4: Additional lettuce seeding in the heated greenhouse
Crop Care 3.5 hours: Taking down of tomato stakes, collections of irrigation parts in the field to be stored together
Harvesting 99.5 hours: crash course in harvesting for RC
Week 1: Chard, kale, field salad, scallions, salad mix
Week 2: tatsoi, kale, chard, scallions, arugula, salad mix
Week 3: Kale, chard, scallions, carrots, salad mix
Week 4: salad mix, kale, chard, carrots
Handling 20.5 hours: Washing, topping carrots, stripping teas
Marketing 61 hours:
Hopewell: 11/4 $453.41, 11/11 $389.35 , 11/18 $416.30
Summit:  11/8 $1800, 11/15 $2103, 11/22 $2,792
Special Projects 56 hours: Getting the chickens homes ready for the winter – Installing fence and BD finishing the framing on Farmhouse Gothic greenhouse.  Excellent job by BD despite taxing conditions and fabrication requirements – Thanks BD!
Week 1:  Experienced an extreme temperature drop with a killing frost
Week 2: Much warmer with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 40s, but a front moved in bringing wind and colder temperatures
Week 3: Dry and stabilizing temperatures into friendlier conditions
Week 4: Keeping with relatively mild temperatures for the end of November, some clouds and rain move in

Monthly Summary – October 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by steven in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – October 2009)

Monthly Summary – October 2009
Steven Tomlinson; Logs and records reviewed, and summary prepared 12/10

General Observations: October started off with a cool 55 degree day.  The crew was productive with their time which reflects in the myriad of tasks completed. Fires were lit in the bunkhouse to warm the hands of the harvesters.  Kale, fennel, Swiss chard, and scallions filled the table at the markets. Many of the markets went well, with a few being slow due to weather. That always seems the case with farming in general. There were new trainee interviews and preparations to shut down the farm. Winter production was becoming a reality and talks of raised beds built with cinderblocks and lined with plastic became the objective.  The outdoor washing area was built up with plastic walls to keep the wind down.  Processing herbs for tea, from drying to bagging, became a focus for the crew.  A touch of frost came in mid October. The beginning signs of winter were showing. The momentum of the season was still in full swing which was reflected in the hours worked.
Administration 39 hrs: A Trainee Applicant visited the farm which began with an Intro to the website. The training program page was reviewed about wage rates and the value of the three year training program. Anticipated crops were discussed along with a walk through the greenhouses, market garden, office, cooler, and washing station. Bills were paid and a season summary was posted.
Infrastructure 113 hrs: The amount of time spent on infrastructure is the same amount spent at the beginning of the season. A new battery was put in the Ford tractor, the walk behind mower got a belt adjustment, and a hitch was worked on for the movable chicken house. The ATV showed signs of old age because it started having trouble starting (wait until next years post to get the full story). A new trailer was ordered and delivered.
Greenhouse 14 hrs: Weeding in the greenhouse took up the most time for the greenhouse tasks. This gave the plants the needed attention as winter approached.
Planting 35.5 hrs: Oyster mushrooms were inoculated on the eastern side of Ralph’s House. Perennials were planted in the Tea Garden.
Crop Care 44.5 hrs: The crew weeded the south edge beds of the farmhouse gothic and planted comfrey. They mulched with woodchips to be inoculated with mushrooms.
Harvesting 213 hrs: Chard, kale, scallions, salad mix, and tat soi were growing well. Flowers were harvested for bunching and the first of winter squash made it out of the garden. Hay was cut and bailed for chicken bedding and general mulching. From Veg C and D, 142 bales of hay were collected. Nomad Pizza was getting their fare share of salad and the markets yielded positive results. Herbs were harvested for tea and there was some talk about selling Echinacea roots to an herbalist.
Handling 94.5 hrs: SJ was trained the proper procedure on how to wash salad mix and all other vegetables. He washed every Friday for the entire month! BD also received training and helped out with washing scallions.
Marketing 128hrs: Selling at farmers markets in NJ and to Nomad Pizza made for a good month in sales for North Slope Farm.
Special Projects 56 hrs: Firewood was chopped to prepare for the winter. It is great to be able to use the farm’s woodlot for fuel. Mycelium Remediation “Mycoremediation” involved spreading sawdust and straw pellets on top of oily ground where the tractors are parked. Then it was watered. 2 gallons of oyster spawn was placed on sawdust and also covered with more sawdust. Moistened cardboard with more oyster spores were placed on top and then covered with mycelium slurry. More moist cardboard was placed on top. The hope for this project was to use mycelium to clean up the oil.

Monthly Summary – September 2009

January 8th, 2011 | Posted by miker in Monthly Summary - (Comments Off on Monthly Summary – September 2009)

Monthly Summary, September 2009

Robin prepared 1/2011

As I review September notes from our previous season (2009) I am reminded of nightmares of tomato blight, my first visit to NSF and of course the satisfying feeling of starting to see an end to the season.  Now, instead of continuously plowing ahead September is a time to get some of the last of the crops in for the fall season.  It’s also the time to get greenhouses together for any winter production.  Of course, to help celebrate this time of year is the beloved NSF Tomato fight, held every beginning to mid September.  It’s an exciting month with beautiful weather, definitely one of my favorites.

Equipment 24hrs.: repaired chopper, upkeep on mower 

Administration 32hrs: pay roll, bills, accounting
Infrastructure 54hrs: Chicken shelter, weed whacking, irrigation work, fence work

Greenhouse 33hrs.: seeded trays of basil for sale, prep of greenhouse for late fall/winter production 

Composting 26hrs.: Weeded compost pile, prepped and seeded into compost bed for later fall crops, making compost tea (and spreading to field beds)   
Planting 45hrs.: (in compost pile): squash, fennel, scallions, and beets. seeded tatsoi in BGBs and cover crops in field , in Ralph’s House planted kale, beets, fennel, chard and seeded arugula

Crop Care 143hrs: Weeding, scuffle hoeing, cleaning up string and drip tape from tomato patch, mowing

Harvesting 160Hrs:

       First week: chard, kale, sunflowers, pears, tomatoes, salad mix, hay

       Second week: chard, kale, tomatoes, flowers, hay

       Third week: chard, kale, flowers, radishes, hay

       Fourth week: kale, chard, radishes, salad mix, flowers, horseradish, teas

Handling 64hrs: washing, bagging, bunching, cleaning garlic

Marketing 119hrs.:

       Hopewell:9/1 $756 9/9:$399, 9/16 $358, 9/23 $600, 9/30 $647

       West Windsor:9/4 $1200, 9/12 $950, 9/26 $1400

       Summit:9/5 $1910, 9/13 $1900, 9/27 $1600

Special Projects 23hrs: chicken shelter, talks of moving creation support, pit dug for clay oven, mushroom growing-spreading spores, splitting wood
Weather: First week: Clear weather, sunny and cool nights

Second week: clear and sunny, cool with rain at the end of the week

Third week: Sun and clouds, warm days with cold front moving in

Forth week: cloudy, server thunderstorm during the week, followed by sun