From Farmer Paul . . .
Yesterday at Sarah’s soccer game, a ball flew right at a player and instead of handling the ball, she jumped back away from it. Kay and another mother (former softball player) chuckled a little and I said, “Don’t laugh, when I was that age I was afraid of any kind of ball.” Actually I still am, yet I am constantly juggling metaphorical balls – if for no other reason than to keep from crashing into my face.
At market last week a customer asked “Do you have a cut flower share with your CSA?” The answer is no. However, that was not always the case. During the past 16 years, we have tried many, many different enterprises. Most worked fine, BUT they: A)were not profitable. B) interferred with other enterprises making them less efficient. C) person with the specialized expertise went on to do other things. D) nobody liked to do the work.
Here is a partial list of some enterprises we have started and ended at JenEhr:
• Pasture raised lamb; it gave us an opportunity to meet all our neighbors when they escaped one day. Then when Kay went to the locker plant to get the meat, she thought the meat cutter was playing a joke on her that they both fit into a small box.
• Pasture raised rabbits; we still have some black and white rabbits on the farm 3 years later. ‘Nuf said.
• Compost pile pigs; they sure tasted good, but one more feeder and water tank to check.
• Bees; My mother says my first true love were my bees. From age 6 until I left for college I kept bees. That was before tracheal and varroa mites, hive beetles, and colony collapse disorder. Honey sales actually put me through college, but it killed me to have bees but not the time to properly care for them.
• We also tried hoophouse grown, container grown and field grown cut flowers; raspberries; hoophouse and field grown melons; sweet corn; pumpkins; all sorts of strange Italian and asian greens; we were once in full production of micro greens and wheat grass.
The list goes on and on and then there are the things Paul or Kay put their foot down and said “NO!” I still think pasture raised veal would be cool, and Kay thinks goats would be a good way to use some uncultivated parts of the farm. Neither is likely to happen.
This year, the real juggling didn’t start until last Monday, when 2900 baby chicks arrived on the farm. The number of chicks and when they came was not on the original schedule, but suppliers and nationwide egg/hatchlings were contributing factors out of our control. The point is, it was/is the same week when we could finally get into the field, long lists of planting to do in most of the Haygrove field tunnels, plus planting and harvesting to do in the hoop houses. Too many, too small baby chicks were here too early. Baby chicks take a lot of TLC, especially when there are too many, they are too small, and the weather makes it difficult to keep the brooder house warm AND dry enough at the same time.
One of the key tasks of the early season to plan for limited juggling. It’s the reason we decided long ago, reconfirming each spring to offer for sale only the things we grow here on the farm. This has greatly reduced my juggling to just 20 acres of field veggies, 2 acres of field tunnel veggies, 1/3 acre of hoop house veggies, 1-2 acres of strawberries, 1 acre of blueberries, 5-10 acres of poultry pasture (and the birds on it), and 20+ acres of cover crops each year. When asked whats new for this year, my response is: improved quality, efficiency and profitability.
It has taken us 16 years to realize that the items listed above are what we can do well without major labor conflicts between crops and enterprises.