Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winter Break & 2012 Plans! (Written Nov 2011)

Despite the unusually warm weather (its going to be 69 F today!) the 2011 season is coming to a close. we have just 3 more Saturdays at Eastern Market before a much anticipated (and deserved, i think) break.

We finished clearing the Frederick lots today and are awaiting our leaves.  If you have leaves or an any connections to landscapers with leave please contact us!  We finished up the season with leeks and scallions in addition to our sunshoots but now the sunshoots are the lone product on our table.  It does make for a much less chaotic Saturday morning but it is always a little sad (but also quite satisfying) to pull out the remaining plants, put away the field tools and say goodbye for the winter.  We do actually have spinach and lettuce still in the field but i'm doubtful they will make it to market.  We definitely got out lettuce in late.  Mostly due to a (or many) persistent mouse who continually removed the tops off my lettuce transplants and cause me to replant them twice.  the spinach is producing but i still have very inconsistent results with the 6-row seeder and there just really isn't enough to take.  so perhaps i'll just see if folks in the neighborhood would be interested when its ready.

though the 2011 season isn't quite finished, i'm already onto plans for 2012.  i've had a continual debate about my crop plan strategy since we started in 2009.  i've found it very frustrating to spend all my time growing vegetables and then have to go to market and buy vegetable.  i'd start with good intentions to have a separate family bed but with everything going on, it would soon become a pretty low priority and turn to a weedy mess.  in addition to this situation weighting on my mind, we learned a LOT about selling at market this year in regards to what sells and what doesn't and how much we can realistically move at market.  we discovered that for some items, mainly the sunshoots, we can sell a LOT more then we thought (or ever did at the Grown in Detroit table), but for most of the field items we really don't sell that much and that it would be preferable to have a diversity of crops as apposed to a large quantity of a few crops.

so for 2012 we are doing a 180 on the crop plan.  since i realized that the field crops are a small proportion of our total income (compared to the sunshoots) i feel less pressure to plant only crops that return the highest price per square ft (salad greens are an example of a very high price per square ft as compared to winter squash which takes up a lot of space and doesn't yield a very high price at market).  Next season our prioritize will be the following:

1. Grow enough food for our family to eat and preserve
2. Grow a diversity of crops to sell at Eastern Market from February through November
3. Grow a diversity of crops to sell at a weekly produce stand at our house, thus making it easier for our neighbors to pick up fresh produce

The first priority will require some research into urban homesteading models and increasing our preservation efforts.  We should be able to use the farmhouse for food storage next winter (i'm still hoping we might be LIVING in the farmhouse next winter but who knows), which will relieve my current tiny kitchen.

The second priority should be simple enough.  We'll already be growing a diversity of crops for our family and we'll just grow a large quantity of each item to take to market.  Hopefully we will therefore a more interesting and attractive table with great diversity throughout the growing season.

The third priority is not new in theory but one that I've been rolling around in my head for years now.  I've always wanted to do a neighborhood-based CSA (community supported agriculture) model here on the Eastside but I feel a small farm stand will be a good starting point.  It will hopefully serve as a way to reach out and meet neighbors and build relationships (and sell some produce).  Perhaps in the next couple years we can build enough support (and skill) to try out a CSA, but for now I think the farm stand will do.

We've got a lot of work to do, so I better rest up now.

See you in February!

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