Saturday, January 9, 2010

Working on Meeting our Goals

We have 2 goals here at the Funny Farm; grow as much of our food as possible and earn our living from our activities here on the farm. This year we grew, ate and preserved all of our vegetables for the year. We added hens in the fall so we are getting eggs (not many during the winter). We will add more hens in the spring so we can have more eggs next winter and have some eggs to sell later on. We will also be adding ducks and geese on the pond this spring. These additions will provide more eggs and eventually meat. We plan to develop an aquaculture system in combination with our waterfowl production. I am currently researching how to put that together. I planted 11 blueberry bushes and have 3 plums and another cherry on order for planting in February. We added 2 more apples in the fall to our orchard. A friend gave us some dewberry vines that we will plant out when the ground thaws out. Of course it will be several years before we see any yields from the fruit plants. They are an investment in the future.

In early summer we realized that we were producing enough excess vegetables that it would be worthwhile for us to sell at a local farmer market. Robin has much experience making jams, jellies and pickles so we added those to our offerings at the market. From the beginning of June until the end of the year we harvested over 1300 lbs. of vegetables. We sold about $3000 in vegetables and value added products this year.

Last winter we started offering workshops on organic gardening and preserving. They were very well received and provided us with significant income. I continue to do design and garden construction work although, given the current economic climate those opportunities have dwindled. Already this year, however, I have gotten 2 design projects that will be centered on food production using permaculture principles. I market myself by being visible. I attend many meetings, make presentations at workshops and conferences. I write articles for local publications. I use all the social media: facebook, twitter, blogging. I connect with other bloggers and other "green" websites commenting on the posts. I learn a lot and the exposure makes it possible to find me in web searches.

Over the past year our income has been significantly less that it was in the past but our outgo in much less as well. We spend less on food and gasoline. We very rarely eat out or frequent bars. We like the quiet of the farm and I am a pretty good cook. We were never big consumers of stuff. We have spent a lot of energy divesting ourselves of a lot of accumulated stuff that we have no need for. If it doesn't help us meet our goals out it goes.

So how do we plan to further our efforts to reach our goals? Through better planning and better execution. Here are a few examples. Now that we know there is a market for our value added products we have added more plants that will produce crops that we can turn into jam and jelly. Last year we didn't grow bulb onions because we had plenty of welsh bunching onions. Robin's recipes for bread and butter pickles, relishes and chow chow use lots of onions. The welsh onions require a lot of labor to clean and prepare so we ended up buying bulb onions to speed up the process. This year we are growing bulb onions to use for pickle making. We observed at the market that all the other farmers sell squash. Squash is not easy to grow organically here because vine borers attack them and there is no effective organic method for controlling them. We decided that we will grow enough squash for us to eat and that is all. We don't eat much squash anyway so there is no point in our devoting a lot of space to growing it. We also observed that few farmers sell green beans at the market. We did well selling green beans. Being nitrogen accumulating legumes beans are important for increasing soil fertility. We interplanted them with our tomatoes last year with good success. We will be expanding our green bean production by interplanting them with other crops such as okra and corn.

I am finally ready to let go of the farm model of long straight rows of a single species. When we had plots in the community garden we grew lots of different crops mixed together. When we moved here we had the luxury of lots of space so I thought it would be more efficient to go back to rows for ease of harvesting and weeding. Well it was, but it was also an invitation for the insects to come and easily find and devour the fruits of our labor. This season i am going back to mixing in lots of different crops together, including beneficial insect attracting flowers, to confuse the pests. Our population of beneficials has become more plentiful and diverse as the land heals from the abuse of the former owners. I want to help them thrive. Our gardens will look very different this season.

Through the addition of compost, rock dust, kelp meal and cover crops our production has increased from the first year to last year. We want to increase our production by another 50% this year. I have seen signs by observing the plants that we have some nutrient imbalances that need to be corrected. As soon as the ground thaws I am getting the soil tested so i can get that taken care of. I should have done that when we first got here. I know that we will earn back the cost of the test and the amendments many times over through increased production.

By careful observation, accepting feedback and being open to new ideas we can move forward towards meeting our goals.


Lady Rogue, of said...

thanks for posting this overcap ... it's great to see the thinking behind it all.

duane marcus Facebook me! said...

You are most welcome Me Lady!

Mike said...

Great to see such diversity in your efforts to make a living. Building an enduring system that is able to weather and adapt to changes. Many entrepreneurs could learn a lot from the teachings of organic farming and permaculture. Let me know if I can do anything to help.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Sounds like you're definitely making it work and work well at that! Very noble goals you have there :)

Robbyn said...

This is so very much what we want to be doing!!! Our heroes!