Sunday, February 21, 2010

And then, it was warm

We placed another seed order! It was last Wednesday, but I've been too busy to tell you about it. Between making hearts for valentines, placing the seed order, teaching a class on sourcing raw herbal materials, working a little at the farm, and keeping my life together (with a job - we had the winter vegetable conference last Wednesday and Thursday) it's been hard to stay on top of this!

As much as I love it, this seed ordering business is a bit grueling. You have to do a lot of math! And we are really trying to order only certified organic seed so that's another consideration....

The things we think about when ordering seed: first you want to find a variety that has some disease resistance to common pathogens of that species; it should be suited for your climate so you have to find that out. Of course our climate changes more than other areas: this year I think we're going to have an abundance of rain again, like last year, so we're going for the cooler, wet tolerant varieties as opposed to the drought hardy ones. Ideally you want the varieties that mature quickly and you'd be surprised at how much that varies. With peppers alone you can have one variety mature in 60 days while another matures in twice that time! Ah, timing....this is something that we can wrap our heads around while we're waiting for the next round of seed to arrive (and finishing Gabe's camper, and getting the hoophouse ready to plant into, and gathering all the soil mix and trays and heating the hoophouse, etc...)My next job is to come up with a spreadsheet that informs us of all this information, so Gabe can come up with a calendar of when to plant what so we have a continuous supply of yumminess as the seasons allow.

This farming thing requires a wide range of skills! I've always heard it said, but now I'm realizing it intimately. Gabe fixed his propane heater today for his camper! It's about 35 years old and it's amazing that he got it running. I'm so blessed to have a farming partner like him. He is patient and cunning - a mix rarely encountered anymore these days.

We got an amazing mix of vegetables this round. The first round was mostly cool season stuff like peas and greens, broccoli and herbs. This time we got more herbs, some flowers, all kinds of root vegetables, peppers, more greens, the list makes me hungry! It takes about 2 weeks from the time you order til when you get your seed so you have to plan ahead. Gabe has been amazing for keeping us on top of that seed flow. Oh! We have broccoli, valerian, and hyssop baby plants! My friend and coworker Landis gave us some lights so we can keep the baby plants happy until the hoophouse is ready to move into. It's begun!

In addition to all this other stuff we've been doing, I've been taking the necessary steps to creating a legitimate farm business (bank account, tax id number, etc.) and I was surprised how little information is available online for this. I found a lot of sites that basically repeated the same info: organic farming is good; most farmers are over the age of 55 so younger farmers are good; there are grants available to younger farmers; all this on the surface stuff but nothing telling me about the structure of taxes and how we fit into that as farmers, nothing to say what's required or granted....I called the IRS and they were helpful. But we have a long way to go, and a lot to learn, about the business side of farming. There is a new book out now, I think it's called the Organic Farming Business Handbook and I'm excited to see what it offers.

I was reading an organic farming book the other day, and it said something to the effect of 'people nowadays think organic farming is a return to the ways things were 50 or 100 years ago and this is not correct". In my forays into websites purporting to offer help on starting a new farm business I found the erroneous description of organic farming as being "free from ANY fertilizer" among other untruths. I guess it spoke to me of how distant many people are from the lives of plants, let alone farming practices. It's a scrappy life for plants out there in the wild, like it is for animals. Field grown plants, or cultivated food, require fertilizers! A fertilizer is just a food source for plants. It can be raw or composted manures, other plants that are decomposing and offering nutrients, minerals, all kinds of things. I have come up against this misconception of organic farming so many farming is not some kind of idealistic, utopian way of growing food. It is complex and benefits from an understanding of soil chemistry, plant physiology and all kinds of other wisdom like how to get an old propane heater running to warm the transplants in your hoophouse. This is technology. Further, with so many of us active online there is a need for basic computer skills (to host a blog or website), accounting, other mechanical abilities, a knowledge of the ecology within which the farm rests, the ability to run a business.... I don't know how the stereotypical image of a farmer came to be one that shows her illiterate, unaware of the environment, and waiting on a government handout. Farmers are scrappy too! I hope I'm scrappy enough...

This blog was meant to capture the subtleties of the changes that occur as this farm dream becomes a reality, as well as to let my peeps know what's happening "in real time" as I've quickly lost the free time to chat about it on the phone or in person. I can say that in the last month I've become more familiar with the business aspects of this farming venture, they aren't so scary as they were a few weeks ago, we're wrapping our heads around the scale of it all, we got another CSA! Thank you, Reece!!! And thanks, again, to Bill for being so excited about his CSA that he's sharing that excitement with others....and the whole process of uprooting to move to Madison county is going swell. Gabe's camper, which he'll be living in until the abarnment is ready, is beautiful, chic, and functional in a most graceful way. And now it's warm.'s getting warm. Spring is coming! Neal saw crocuses today! They usually don't show until Newt's birthday, March 4th....

That's all for now, folks...


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