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Archive for the ‘Greenhouse’ Category

As you can see, the posts are getting farther and fewer apart as mid-summer creeps up on us and we find ourselves in the heart of the season. All is well on the farm. We are in the midst of planting and starting all the fall and winter crops and we haven’t even begun harvesting the summer crops! It seems strange to be thinking about eating winter cabbage in February when it is still July, but these crops get planted from now through August in order to have vegetables in October through February.

We recently gave a tour to 20 interns from various farms in southern Oregon as part of Rogue Farm Corps, an educational program for beginning farmers. We gave a farm tour as well as talked about poultry production & CSAs. It was fun to talk about the farm and share our experiences with budding farmers, something we really enjoy doing, but don’t have as much time for as we’d like. I have uploaded some pictures from the tour. They were taken by Khaliqa Rogmans.

Josh giving a tour of the greenhouse.

Josh giving a tour of the greenhouse.

A nice view of our potato patch in the foreground, the tour and the farm.

A nice view of our potato patch in the foreground, the tour and the farm.

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Plants are finally growing thanks to this beautiful spring weather. Now, we’re getting somewhere.

Market should be beautiful on Tuesday and we’ll have all kinds of new veggies to bring including radishes, bok choy, broccoli raab, pea tendrils and pink petiole mustards.

There is still plenty of room in the CSA. We start up on May 18th. See our 2009csabrochure. Please email or call us if you have questions.

Here’s a picture of our April greenhouse. Full and growing!

greenhouseapril

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Weathering the Storm

One thing I’ve noticed already about this year’s season is my ability to take the farm’s many challenges in stride. For instance, our greenhouse is very full and we haven’t had a dry window the last few days to plant out our 85 flats of spring crops. We still need to keep up with our successions so we’ve been filling our temporary cold frame up with newly seeded flats. If you’ve followed our blog and farm history at all, you know that we have had mice problems in the past, meaning we’ve lost whole flats of veggies from mice nibbling in the greenhouse. It was only until our wonderful feline friend Spunkie moved into the greenhouse that our mice problems subsided. Well, Spunkie doesn’t quite cover the cold frame territory, so today we found twenty flats of broccoli munched down, losing mabye 50 – 60% of this succession, not to mention several other flats of cauliflower and other brassicas. Now, last year, I probably would have lashed out at the mice, kicked flats, threw hoses, punched fences and maybe even cried a little. This year, I’m much more prepared for little disasters. I took the setback calmly — what I know is that it isn’t such a big deal in the whole scheme of the season — brassicas germinate quickly, we can reseed right away and still catch up to hit our planting windows. No big deal. We have so much diversity in our greenhouses and our farming program that this won’t make a huge economic impact. Sure, I’m a little stressed and it puts a small wrinkle into our week when we’ve got five million things to do, but we’ll make up for the loss and move on. Knowing how to weather the storm in farming comes with just a bit of experience. Market farming is not an easy career choice, but the challenges and problem-solving make it pretty dynamic. I can only imagine how easy this will all be in fifteen years, right?

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With the help of neighbors, friends and family, we finally pulled the plastic on the hoophouse and got it planted with spinach, salad mix, arugula & asian bunching greens this past weekend. This is a very big accomplishment! Since we pieced it together cheaply and did not use a kit, it took longer than we expected. Nonetheless, we are so happy it is done! We’ll grow these greens in here until May and then plant our tomatoes right after. It will pay for itself this year we hope. Here is a photo.

hoophouse11

Josh prepared some 25 beds last week that were direct seeded with all kinds of spring crops from peas to carrots to radishes to turnips. We had great spring weather to do this. And then the rains came this weekend, which was perfect timing!

This week, we are spending time in the greenhouse seeding the beginning of our summer crops and second successions of spring crops. Our brand new apprentices, Jon & Cameron arrive this weekend, so we are really looking forward to having more energy on the farm and other people to work with. They are both experienced farmers, so it will be great to have them with us for the season.

We will continue planting like crazy this week and next getting in all our spring crops like broccoli, cauliflower, kales etc. I can’t believe it really is farming season again! It feels really good. Josh, Everett and I have been working together a lot on the farm lately and it has been so nice to spend time together as a family getting ready for the season. Everett is currently learning how to walk in the aisles and not on the plants. Here’s a photo of him helping out on the farm.

everettdirt1

We have finalized the search for leased land — and all of the sudden we will be managing 3 leased parcels this year. We just turned in the organic certification paperwork for these new additions. We will be leasing 2 acres next door to pasture our poultry and then we will be leasing up to 3 acres on Hwy 238 to expand our vegetable production this year from 2 acres to 4 acres! Oh boy! And then we also will start managing another property across the street from us that we will transition into vegetable production next year! It has been exciting to find the land and figure out the lease agreements and know we have the land and water to keep growing. Sigh of relief!

The Ashland farmers’ market starts tomorrow. We are still planning on being there the first of April or so, but we’ll update you as we get closer to that date.

Also, I added a new page to the blog for more information on our Community Supported Agriculture program. Our updated CSA brochure is on that page if you would like to download it. See the tab above. In CSA news, we decided to add a small share to the CSA for $480. We still have spots available!

Happy spring and enjoy the rain!

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Back from vacation and the list of things to do is long. The high tunnel is almost done. With help from neighbors and friends, the plastic should go up on Tuesday. This is exciting because our salad greens, spinach and bunching greens are ready to go out. We are already behind on our planting dates and greenhouse work and it isn’t even March! That said, our two new awesome apprentices arrive on the equinox, so it will be nice to have some eager, helping hands on the farm.

We are finishing up our renewal forms for our og certification. We’ve found two acres to lease next door for the poultry and are still looking for leased land nearby for vegetable production. Any ideas? We realize we’ve maxed out on our two acres here and want to have another five to start doing some rotations with cover crops and veggies.

We had some enlightening conversations with fellow farmers this past week and finally figured out an alternative poultry feed. It is going to take a bit more labor as we will have to mix all the ingredients ourselves, but we are pretty excited about the option. It should cut our feed costs significantly. More on that later.

The oat and pea cover crop is filling in nicely with all the moisture and warmer temperatures. It really does seem like spring is right around the corner. I’ll get some pictures up of the new high tunnel in a few days!

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I work off the farm as a small farms extension instructor. Last Wednesday, I held a class for small farmers on financial planning, bookkeeping and recordkeeping. As a farmer and business person, I learned so much from this class, especially the signs or red flags that give you a strong idea whether or not your business is succeeding. One of our biggest challenges with this new farm business of ours is figuring out how to be financially solvent in the next year or two. Starting a farm business takes a tremendous amount of capital expense to get started, especially on the infrastructure side. Financing these capital expenses is tricky unless you have unlimited amounts of capital at your disp0sal, which we didn’t 2 years ago when we started this enterprise. We took on an incredible amount of credit card and loan debt in order to get rolling and while we had a really sucessful year financially last year (beyond our financial expectations actually), we still haven’t begun paying down the debt associated with the business. I learned at Wednesday’s class that there are particular equations that will show me our debt ratios (in terms of looking at our assets vs liabilities) to tell me whether we are doing well or not. I’m still improving our bookkeeping and recordkeeping system, but I hope to be able to interpret these ratios by year’s end. What really resonated with me at this class was the fact that if you can’t pull yourself out of debt within 2 to 3 years, then you will probably go out of business within 5 or 6 years. This gave me a much needed dose of reality. Time to get our finances together! It really is too bad that the government isn’t investing in new small farms by helping out with more subsidization and grant funding for small farms. Instead, we continue to subsidize the ever growing corn production, which is leading us to unhealthier diets and disastrous farming practices. Doesn’t really make any sense. I hope our new administration will consider looking at agricultural issues in a new way. Needless to say, one our big goals this year is to pay down some of that start-up debt that we have accumulated. Let’s hope we can meet this goal with our increased markets!

On a more positive note, we have been participating in a state program through Mercy Corps Northwest in which we have set up an Individual Development Savings Account that will help us pay for some of our major equipment costs. Last year, we put away $150/month for six months saving a total of $1,000 by December. As a result, the state is matching the $1,000 savings with a $3,000 grant. This $4,000 will go directly to Kubota Corporation for our very expensive, financed tractor and rototiller. We won’t have to make payments for two years! It is a great program, but unfortunately, with the state’s budget crisis, IDA matched savings programs were cut way back and Mercy Corps has stopped accepting applications. I’m glad we participated when we did, but hope the state can reinvest in this program in the future to support all the new farm businesses that are popping up all over the state.

Josh spoke yesterday at the local Weston Price Foundation chapter meeting about our CSA and poultry. Many of our farmers’ market customers were there, so it was fun to see them and get excited for the farmers’ market season ahead of us. We’ve been really getting into the Nourishing Traditions way of eating around here, so it was fun to go to the meeting and learn new things about nutrient dense foods and eating in a nourishing way. One way we have been incorporating the “traditional” ways of eating is by cutting sugar out of our diet. We’ve done pretty good so far. Almost two months and we’ve had very little sugar except for raw honey once in awhile and maple syrup. We made an exception last night when we went out on our Valentine’s date and had chocolate cake and mousse with dinner. Yum! We are also trying to cut out the soy part of our chicken’s diet. Josh is making progress on that front. Anyway, it was so nice that there is so much support for local farmers from the members of the WAPF chapter!

We’ve had a bit more snow and rain up here the last couple of days, so the pond is nice and overflowing. This week we are trying to get the last of the hoops up on the hoophouse as well as catching up on our greenhouse seeding. The greenhouse is already full. We have to start putting overflow into the coldframe. I don’t think we were ready with how we were stepping up our production this year in terms of greenhouse space. Now, we have another project for next winter — a new and bigger greenhouse! When we get back from the Small Farms conference and the Breitenbush organic growers’ conference next week, it will almost be time to break new ground and start planting the first round of radishes, turnips, peas and all the other greens that are ready to go out in the field. Here we go!

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Welp, I’ve decided to take the day off as I have come down with an exquisite case of pink-eye. Avocado Terry, our dear travel trailer is just about fully remodeled – just in time as our intern Patrick should be arriving April 4th. Now that the trailer is just about revamped, we can get on with our lives and finish up building the walk-in cooler and pack-out area, pull about 2 acres of fencing as we are expanding the garden a bit, re-work our irrigation system, put in our micro-hopyard (which I’m really excited about), clean out and set up our potting shed before it gets too hot out, and then there’s the constant blocking, seeding, weeding and planting to do as we find time in between our little projects…my eye is getting pinker just thinking about all of this. – j

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