Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Three Year Plan

Greetings from your farm - Farmer Rebecca here. With Spring in the air, Tom and I are busy preparing for the season ahead. The greenhouse is already filled to capacity with the spring plants that will soon be transplanted to the fields. The onions are growing rapidly and have already had their first ‘haircut’. We give them a trim to keep them from getting too top-heavy and to focus their energy on bulking up their roots. Broccolis, cabbages, lettuces and herbs fill up most of the rest along with the first tomatoes - the cherry and bush varieties. This week the onions are moving out to the coldframe to make room for more tomatoes, leeks, lettuces and peppers.

Tom alluded to our ‘Three Year Plan’ in the previous post. We spend each winter evaluating the season that has passed in order to plan for the season ahead. In reviewing our planting and harvest records, we noticed that in many cases we plant double the amount of crops we should need for 105 shares. Which raises a couple thoughts. One, we are stubborn. When it comes to member favorites like broccoli and berries we will do whatever it takes to produce them even if it means planting way more than we should need to. While that’s admirable, I suppose, it is not a long-term strategy. Instead our ‘Three Year Plan’ calls for us to increase the care each crop receives which we hope will lead to an increase in the overall productivity of the farm without increasing the amount of acreage.

The first step is to hire an additional farm apprentice to work with us in the fields. With another full-time member of the farm crew we will have more time to tend to the crops. A priority will be to spend this extra time adding more organic matter to the fields in the form of straw, hay and compost. Organic matter is the ‘holy grail’ of sustainable agriculture. In the big picture, every life form is dependent on the decomposed life that precedes it. Decomposing organic matter feeds the web of soil organisms whose excretions include nutrients in forms that plants can use. The decomposing matter and the organisms that feed on it create air spaces where roots can grow and water can drain, especially critical in the heavy soils of our region. Last season we learned a lot about how water with nowhere to go can affect crops. Even in a wet year, we found that beds with a layer of mulch did better than those with no cover at all.

If our theory holds true that increased care and organic matter equal increased productivity, we hope to be able to grow the membership from 105 in 2009 to 125 in 2010 and 150 in 2011. Additional CSA memberships will allow us to pay for the second apprentice and purchase of the straw, hay and compost without raising share prices. The extra income will also allow us to pay for farm improvements in the future by creating a capital fund. If our plan is successful we will emerge from the three years with an efficient and integrated farming system that is more sustainable and secure. With our new plan in hand, we are excited to get to work to make 2009 the most bountiful season ever. We welcome all of our members, friends, family and supporters to join us in this vision for a sustainable future built on care for each other and the Earth that is our home.

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