When we first set out building our farm in 2016 we had originally planned on writing a blog to keep record of and share our progress. Well now its 3 years later, and I am finally getting around to it. I will track my progress with our farm projects, and share updates on the crops as they grow. I will also periodically profile specific native plants (like Paw Paws and Persimmons) that we are growing as crops detailing their uses to humanity and importance in the ecosystem of our farm. This First Post will be about our planning process for germination schedule, successions, and our nursery crops.
We first determine what markets we plan on attending and develop a schedule, then decide what crops we want to have and when (based upon our previous experience at those markets). This gives us our harvest dates and we approximate the start times for crops and successive crops based upon that. When it comes to the size of each crop, we attempt to produce as much as we can while balancing the other crops and making space for all of them. We have to decide upon our main crops that we know sell, and have an idea of how much to produce for each market.
That all sounds good in theory, and it does work out pretty well, but there are always differences each season and factors that cannot be accounted for. It works for us in many ways, as it acts as a checklist preventing us from forgetting to start one of the hundreds of varieties we plant each year, and it also provides a record of what we did. Whether we wanted to replicate results, or in the case that we have crop failure, or wanted to improve yields we have a baseline upon which to hone our practices. We do have some flexibility to break from our spreadsheet on dates and numbers of plants, as sometimes crops are early or later than the number of days on the seed packet.
In a perfect world, we would match quantities and varieties to demand and come home from the markets having sold out of everything. And end up at the end of planting season with no plants in the nursery. This has never happened, and when we do sell out its usually only of a few varieties, and its usually the more trendy items like Mouse melons (tiny gherkins) or Buzz button 6-packs (starts). We sold out of Sweet Banana peppers two weeks into the season last year and had just under a hundred pepper plants of all types left over at the end of planting season. There is an art to determining when people want different crops, and seasonality is key. Because we had the biggest healthiest plants at the markets last year, however, we brought far too many obscure varieties and came home with at least half of what we brought. To improve this We listened to our customers on the specific varieties they wanted and have balanced the numbers of each variety. With tomatoes, Folks don’t necessarily have specific variety in mind, more so the type. So, we chose a whole line of excellent and disease resistant hybrids and heirlooms that will all have that real tomato flavor and correct balance of sugar to acidity. There will still be folks who are loyal to a specific tomato hybrid, and we try to provide local customer favorites as well. After all, Our first course of study was in Nursery and Garden center practices, so staring plants and raising them for sale as starts is an area of expertise for us, and it is an integral part of our business. With the observations we make each year at the market, we will hone the varietals with the goal of selling only those there is demand for.
Our Germination schedule in and of itself is a monolith of coveted information, and represents years of planing, trial, error, and amendment. We fit all the information pertaining to the germination timing/temperatures, cell size, pot size for potting up, growing on temperatures, approximate planting time/correct soil temperature at planting, etc. The spreadsheet has grown, and now has several pages including a new one this year for crop succession because that information began to overwhelm the main overview sheet. This is because the Germination schedule is idealized to produce each crop at the best timing of the year seasonally. With crop succession, ideal growth conditions are not as important as staggering plantings as to have a constant supply of and one type of produce throughout the growing season, not just at its peak. Succession allows for multiple cropping of the same space, and provides regularity in our product line to better suit customer needs. With all that having been said, I need to get to work cleaning and setting up our Propagation Facilities!
We hope that folks are interested to hear our story. We already share most things to Facebook and Instagram, and it has connected us with our followers; but We think that a blog is another platform from which we can form a deeper connection with our community of farmers and eaters. With any luck folks can learn from our successes and failures, or become inspired in their own endeavors, or perhaps even get a laugh or two in. If you enjoyed any of this post please let us know as a blog is an excellent opportunity to reflect upon our endeavors, but it does take valuable time to craft. If it is valuable to our customers we will perhaps be more frequent with the posts.
Thank you for reading!
Josh and Sara Plack