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New Terra Farm News -- Factoids of Interest to the organic foodie
March 21, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
Written & Published by Scott Kelland
Written at New Terra Farm
13510 County Rd 15
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Hi farm fans,
here's what we have in store for you this issue:
1. Opening Notes
If you are a small business person looking for a web-site that works, or a retired person or a work-at-home mom looking for a legitimate way to earn another income, have a look at How we grew a web-site to find out more.
And to get an idea of the help they provide you can also download free web-site business building books from SBI!
Attention E-Book Authors!
When I wrote Bootstrap Market Gardening I wanted a good-looking cover that would reflect the work I put into the book. After some research (and a recommendation from SBI!, by the way) I found KillerCovers.com Vaughan Davidson and his crew are fast, professional and very responsive to customer requests. So if you are the next Stephen King (or even the next King of Low-Ku) let Vaughan help make your e-book a bestseller.
Opening NotesMerry Christmas! Come on, Al G. and David S., where's that global warming?? Spring is THIS WEEK, (theoretically), I want some serious melting going on!
However, we at New Terra remain undaunted by snow, and plans proceed apace for a great year. What we're up to this month:
- We have finalized the design for our solar greenhouse. Combining ideas from several sources (including a GREAT presentation at Eco-Farm day in Cornwall on February 22), we have decided to build a 'green-barn' type structure, incorporating solar glazing, thermal storage mass, and a heavily-insulated new plant starting room into an existing outbuilding. This building already has power and water, and is partially insulated, so we can get this baby up and running by the end of March.
- The first plants are doing well in the 'old' light room, which will become a walk-in cooler/dry goods storage when the new greenhouse/light room is completed. This will make keeping veggies fresh easier, and will eventually support the 'winter share' we plan to implement in 2009 (stay tuned for more on that).
By the way I found a 'cool' new piece of kit (pun intended) that will make our walk-in cooler a reality. Its called a CoolBot, check it out here. If you ever want to build a cheap yet effective cooler, drop me a line and I'll tell you how we did/do it!
This section will be of interest to farmers and those considering the leap to farm living – or any of you curious folks who just gotta read EVERYTHING!
Farmer always face a challenge in determining what to charge for their wares. This is due in part to the policy of 'cheap food' that prevails in mainstream North America. In other words, people seem to believe 'you get what you pay for', except when it comes to food!
Many 'niche' businesses have difficulty setting fair prices for their products. This is true of artisans and craftspeople as well as organic farmers. I have an artisan or two in the family, and my daughter has her own service business, and inevitably their first impulse is to undervalue what they do.
Why is this so? I think the answer is at least partly psychological; we don't value what comes easily to us, or things we enjoy doing. In other words, if we LIKE our job, we shouldn't get paid well for it too!
And I believe small farmers and small business people tend to underestimate the value of the 'inputs' - including their skills and experience - that go into their wares.
It's like the old joke about the guy who is called to fix a furnace; the repairman takes one look, and gives the furnace a tap with a hammer. Bingo, the furnace starts running again.
The repairman put in a bill for $50. The owner of the furnace thought that was excessive for one tap with a hammer. So the repairman explained 'it's 50 cents for the tap with the hammer; it's $49.50 for knowing where to tap'.
So when you are buying something from a small farmer or craftsperson, you are not just buying the item; you are also buying the experience, skills and aptitudes that person has acquired and put in to the goods you are buying.
Small business people also often underestimate the other, tangible inputs that go in to a product. To know your actual costs you have to account for labour (including your own), materials, and indirect costs for tasks like marketing and accounting. And you need to build-in a factor to allow for replacing the physical plant e.g. equipment wears out and needs to be replaced.
All this means,you have to make a profit, over and above paying for your own labour! That profit is where the funds come from to replace or upgrade equipment, or to expand operations.
So how to set a price for a CSA share that will generate a profit? Well, when we were contemplating a CSA our first year, we began by figuring out what we would grow and deliver to customers. We came up with a list of veggies, and a delivery quantity based on what a family of four would eat e.g. we figured a family of four would eat two pounds of snap beans a week.
Then, when we had an estimated quantity for each vegetable, we took a peek at some local grocery store flyers to see what the veggies sold for, on average. Finally, we applied that price to our veggie list, estimated how many weeks each veggie would be delivered, and calculated the total value for a full share.
This gave us a good starting point. We then plugged this price per share into our Cashflow Worksheet, and played around with number of shares and estimated expenses. We verified that (at least on paper) we could make a profit after paying for all expenses for our CSA. This turned out to be true, by the way (at great relief at the end of season one!)
The Cashflow Worksheet and the Garden Planner are included as bonuses when you buy Bootstrap Market Gardening our e-book about what it REALLY takes to start-up, market and manage a successful CSA.
Gad-Zukes! The summer squash are coming! Yes, I still have faith that summer is on its way, so here's a couple tips about growing and eating summer squash (including the dreaded zucchini!)
Like all squash, the summer varieties like heat. And they are susceptible to squash bugs. The answer to both these issues is my favourite garden Secret Weapon - floating row cover!
Site and Soil
Summer squash likes full sun; the more heat the better. We recommend using plastic mulch (you can buy the bio-degradable kind) to warm up the soil, keep weeds down and retain moisture.
Rotate your summer squash crops from year to year, to avoid a build-up of bugs.
Starting summer squash seeds
Summer squash can be started about a week before your average last frost date in the spring. Plant them out a week or two past your last frost date. Make sure the tender seedlings have some protection from the elements. This is where the floating row cover comes in, providing protection against cold as well as marauding insects.
Plant your summer squash transplants in your raised beds spaced about 4 feet apart. Water in well with a half-strength mix of fish emulsion, available in many garden supply centres. Cover with floating row cover; the row cover can remain in place until the plants flower. This will usually defeat squash bugs.
To produce a continuous supply of summer squash, water regularly. A bi-weekly feeding of compost or manure tea will keep your plants happy and flourishing.
Harvesting and Storing Your Bounty
Cooking Summer Squash
This section is, well, just funny. Or at least it makes me laugh, and it's MY newsletter, so there!
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