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New Terra Farm News -- Factoids of Interest to the organic foodie
November 06, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Written & Published by Scott Kelland
Written at New Terra Farm
13510 County Rd 15
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Stuff in this issue: (WARNING!! This is a l-o-n-g one!)
1. Opening Notes
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CHICKENS! I've got about a twenty chickens left unsold from the new batch, available in a couple weeks. $3.75/lb, about a 5-lb average size, if you want a couple or three let me know, this is the last batch of the season.
1. Opening NotesWell, it was not a spectacular season for growers in Eastern Ontario in this year. You may recall that July set records for being the coldest and wettest on record. This has the effect of slowing down growth, and making the weeds and diseases`particularly hard to deal with.
I even know one or two growers that are thinking about 'hanging up their hoes' i.e. giving up market gardening and just raising animals on their small farms. The challenges of the climate and the bugs and the weeds were just too much for them.
I know another grower (she has been in the business a LONG time) who is reducing her market garden by about half next year. She is going to run cover crops on the other half all season, in an effort to reduce the weed and disease pressure, and restore balance in her garden.
Rest assured WE are not giving up, we will be back next year, although we are going to dramatically change how we manage our garden, and in fact change the focus of our farm somewhat (see more about our plans later in this issue.)
As always, I want to express my gratitude for the folks who supported us this year. This has been two pretty crappy growing seasons in a row, and while this one was better than last year, we still didn't produce nearly as much as we planned. So thanks for sticking by us, we appreciate your support for us and for local food.
Scott & Suzie
2. 2009 in review and plans for 2010In wrapping up 2009 I want to start with the good news (and there was some, despite a less than stellar season). We started deliveries 2 weeks earlier than last season, and kept producing 2 weeks later. This was mostly due (he said modestly) to some improved planning on our part.
You may know the saying 'good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment'! Well, 2008 was our year to learn from experience. We learned to start more 'back-up' plants; we had another planting of tomatoes, pepper, summer squash and cukes ready when the first ones were suffering from the weather and blight.
We were actually one of the few growers around with sweet peppers at all, even though the yields were not high. We spoke to several growers who lost their entire crop of sweet peppers.
The same was true of garlic; we were able to salvage about half our crop, while a couple neighbouring farmers were completely wiped out by bugs and bad weather (garlic, like onions, does not like 'wet feet').
We were able to save some garlic because we monitored it every day, and harvested it as soon as it looked threatened by the wet conditions.
Our first early planting of snap beans was a total wipe out, but we had more plantings coming along, so generally had a reasonable quantity available for delivery. The experiment of planting one variety very late (end-July) worked even better than we expected; these plants started producing beans in less than six weeks. So now we know how late in the season we can go to help stretch out the fall harvests.
The bok choys, tatsoi's and 'tall cabbage' were steady producers, because we learned we have to keep them covered at all times to keep the bugs off.
Potatoes, carrots and turnips were fairly steady, although the size remained small. We did find a couple great new varieties of turnip, and will greatly increase the plantings of these next season.
Finally, we also experimented with very late planting of some crops. These were not intended for delivery this year, but just to learn how far we could extend the season using passive protective means.
This experiment was pretty successful; in fact, it is still going. We have small plantings of carrots, turnips, spinach, and several kinds of greens still thriving in the garden under row cover. These plants survived despite several frosts. You can see a little more of this here in The New Terra Farm Winter Vegetable Garden
The purpose of the experiment was to see if it was feasible to add a 'winter share' to our home veggie delivery program. The results so far look good, and the winter share may become a reality next season.
One of our other victories was to get our movable hoop house (finally) completed and covered; it will be a great help in the spring to get new crops started.
The things that didn't work so well this year included the leeks and onions, and the herbs. Our herb planting ended up underwater, and we were never able to spare time from other garden tasks to try to resurrect another planting. We are going to dedicate some farm help specifically to the herbs next season.
The leeks and onions succumbed to a beastie called the leek moth, something me and a whole lot of other local growers never heard of before. This little bug lays eggs that hatch into a white, maggot-like creature that bores into the stem of onions and leeks and basically destroys the plant.
None of the traditional organic controls appear effective against it; in fact, farms in the U.S. are apparently being quarantined if this little bugger shows up.
In a side note, I was visiting an organic grower I know in Perth, and mentioned the leek moth to her. She went to her patch of leeks, and found they were all infected! She, like me, had never even heard of this before.
So, where does that leave us for next season? Well, I've spent a lot of time over the season and especially in the last two months visiting and talking to other growers and researching solutions to the various challenges we have been facing. Here's my findings and my (tentative) plan for next season:
What's the impact of all that on our customers? Bottom line, we are reducing the growing area in the garden next year, and therefore will be able to serve fewer families (i.e. fewer shares).
This is the IMPORTANT NOTICE: if you are planning on returning as a customer, please let us know as soon as possible. First come, first served, with preference to returning customers.
This is a temporary reduction; we hope to expand again in the following seasons, as we learn how to manage the interaction of animals, cover crops, cash crops, and helper insects.
This also means a (hopefully temporary) reduction in income for us too; however, we believe this transition is necessary given the increasing tough growing conditions we and all organic growers are facing.
We are choosing to face this as a learning opportunity, and in fact plan to use the whole garden season next year as a learning tool for us and perhaps a couple interns who want to learn the business 'from the ground up', so to speak.
We are contemplating finding a couple people (perhaps actually a real couple) who are interested in making a living on a small farm, and in exchange for their help, teaching them what we know about the game.
I also have plans to record and perhaps blog much of the goings-on next season. This leads me back to a point I mentioned earlier, a change of focus for New Terra Farm.
I've always believed the country needs more small local growers; and I'm delighted that people who have worked for us have gone on to start their own Bootstrap Gardens. In fact a large part of my motivation for establishing the website, writing books about farming and gardening (3 so far), disseminating articles and sending out this newsletter is to inform and inspire other people into considering this business too.
So, what's the change in focus? Just that, from this point forward, New Terra Farm will explicitly focus on growing farmers as well as food.
This means we will be exploring more ways to communicate the need and the practical steps necessary to grow more growers (the blog mentioned above is one way).
Lest you think me too altruistic, understand that I expect to get paid for communicating my knowledge (directly or indirectly). My educational efforts have to be self-financing, just like the rest of my obsessions!
The exact plans to do that are still under way (I know of about 12 possible monitization models) but we will definitely begin the process of creating New Terra Farm University next season. In fact my current garden will become a one-acre 'mini-farm', incorporating sustainable animal and cash crop production, passive solar techniques, biological controls, and intensive planting (someone call David Suzuki!)
That's it for the plans so far, as I say I expect the reduction is temporary. Let me know if you wanna be a part of it next year.
3. Get a website, become rich and famous (or nearly)The other thing I believe in (besides the need for more organic food and more growers) is the power that new Internet technologies give to ordinary people. It's true there's a lot of hype (my headline above is a bit of a spoof about that), but there is still a lot of truth to the idea that you can make a living by means of a web-site of your own.
You know my reasons for starting the New Terra Farm website (many are mentioned above). What you may not realize is that I'm NOT SPECIAL in being able to start up a website, have an e-newsletter automatically delivered to my 'list', sell books over the Internet, or deliver a course by 'auto-responder'. ANYBODY, regardless of background or technical knowledge can do the same thing. I know of several that have, with far greater results than I have achieved so far.
The technology is now so good, the tools so helpful, that literally anyone can create a site and use that site to support their existing business, or to create multiple streams of income all on its own.
I passionately believe in the power of Internet technology rightly applied to yield tremendous benefit to its users. If you want to learn more about creating a second income, or making money while working from home on something you love or are passionate about, check out How we Grew a Web-Site
4. Farm Fun - New low-ku
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