Sunday, June 6, 2010

Since Last November

At the end of last season many shareholders asked, “What are you going to do over the winter?” The answer was, “take a little bit of time off, and get ready for next year.” Well, that’s pretty much what we did! Unlike most people in the winter, I was very excited to head north to colder, snowier climates. I grew up in Vermont and was thrilled to spend a relaxing vacation with family, friends, and feet upon feet of fluffy snow. Nicole was a bit more adventurous and traveled to the other side of the world to spend some time in India. Ask her to tell you some stories about farming in India!

While growing slows tremendously in the winter, and farming as we typically think of it ceases, we were still able to grow and sell a small but consistent amount of produce. Along with the other Weavers Way farm, located at Awbury Arboretum, we attended the Head House market on Second and Lombard until December, and sold at the Piazza market in Kensington every other week February through April. We also occasionally sold to Weavers Way Co-op. Harvests were taken from the hoop house at Saul, as well a few hoop houses and a greenhouse at the Awbury farm site.

Most of the planning for the upcoming season happens in our “office” (which is a living room) on our computers. While planning for the upcoming season is necessary and time consuming, it doesn’t bring in any immediate income, so one day a week we each worked a second job. I did deliveries for the produce department at Weavers Way and Nicole worked for Penn State Extension. The main jobs that we need to complete every winter are:

Seed Order- One of the most exciting tasks of the winter is to browse through seed catalogues and pick new varieties of vegetables to grow. As the weather dips below freezing, pictures of beautiful vegetables and tantalizing descriptions keep us dreaming about the season to come.

Work Schedule- We make a master calendar and plan out what needs to be planted when, for every vegetable, for the entire season, for every week. We look at last year’s schedule, make changes regarding what we think should be planted earlier or later and adjust for new crops that need to be added to the schedule.
Crop Information Data Base- This is our database of planting information. We have a massive spread sheet that includes every vegetable we plant and specific information for each one. This includes how much we want to harvest for each shareholder, how many we need to plant, how many times we plant it during the season, what the spacing is of the plants in the field, how many feet we need to allocate for each crop, and how many flats we need to seed in the greenhouse. Each winter this needs to be updated as the number of shareholders increases, and we review feedback from shareholders about what crops were more or less popular.

Applications for Apprentices and Interns- Urban farming is growing in popularity faster than ever. We had dozens of applicants for our apprentice and intern positions this year. Reading resumes, calling references and conducting interviews in order to find the right fit is a lengthy process that starts even before the previous season ends!

Crop Map – We practice crop rotation, which means every year we move the location we plant our vegetables around the field. This is important for nutrient balance, weed management and pest control. Figuring out where everything will go (and how to fit it all in!) is a complex jig saw puzzle to say the least!

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