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.
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.
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.
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.
Combined Market Monthly Total: $27,363
YTD Market Total: $103,639