We can hardly say we’ve had winter around here – too much warm(ish) weather, not much snow. But still, it’s the downtime of farming life. Time to do a few other things that are not specifically farm related, like some sewing; Time to do some online research; Time to plan and order seeds for the coming year.
I know non-farmers, or really small farmers (or maybe not so successful farmers) don’t understand the planning process. And a lot of it I can’t totally explain since it’s largely subconscious. But the conscious planning is necessary for our CSA and vegetable production, even though we only grow about an acre of vegetables and herbs.
The gardens are divided into sections, or plots, which are numbered. We keep a complete history of the crops in each plot going back a dozen years or so. To avoid build up of insects and diseases, we need to rotate crops in the plots, so the same crop – or vegetable family, at least – does not grow in the same plot too often. I aim for at least 4 years in the rotation. But it’s not easy.
In our field crops, the rotation is 3 – 4 years and is pretty standard: clover for 1.5 – 2 years, then soybeans, then spelt or wheat. It doesn’t matter if the soil types are different in the different fields.
In the gardens, the soil type does matter, because some things don’t grow well in heavy soil, for instance, or because the heavier ground is too wet in the spring to be worked up for early crops and because it never works up fine enough for very small seeded crops like lettuce and carrots. So the rotation gets kind of complex.
And then there’s the seed ordering. What’s left from last year? How much to order this year? Any varieties we want to eliminate? What new veggies do we want to try? That’s mostly handled for 2012, except for a handful of herbs I might decide to try. A few seed varieties are still on backorder but I expect them to come in before I need them in the spring.
And then there are the plans for the CSA. We’ve been doing this Community Supported Agriculture thing for a few years now. Not on a big scale, of course, and not wanting to be. The first planning for the 2012 CSA actually begins in the fall when I have to decide if prices for shares need to change for the coming year. Once I’ve done that, it’s mostly a matter of setting a limit to the number of shares I want sell for the year and getting the word out. We don’t do a bunch of advertising and we don’t heavily promote our CSA because we want to stay small.
But there’s room for a few new shareholders. You can email me at email@example.com if you live in Genesee Co Michigan and are interested in joining a CSA.
There is some crop planning for our other market, also. CSA Farmers Market is an online market that delivers to pickup locations in Genesee, Lapeer and Oakland Counties. Not everything we grow gets sold there (some things only go to our shareholders) but lots does. Check it out if you are looking for really good organic local food but don’t want to join a CSA.