Farm happenings, end of August

What’s been happening, what’s coming up:

We hosted a paid tour for several interested customers and had a great time. Lots of good questions, everyone seemed to really enjoy exploring the farm and learning about our setting and methods. This kind of thing is a great answer to food safety concerns; know your farmer means more than a face at the market. Customers will be better off if they actually have seen and inspected the operation for themselves, and had a chance to ask tougher questions.

We’ve been in the peak of harvest season, with 36-48 hour harvest schedules for cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, tomatillos, and more. Edamame is picked every 4 days or so, 3-4 times for each planting.

This is also when lots of fall planting happens; all the later-season items like mustard, kale, collards, lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots, and so on are seeded or transplanted through later summer to allow them to mature for fall sales. Thus we have to graft that work onto the already hectic harvest & sales schedule for highly-productive summer items.

Adding to the craziness this time of year, it’s the peak season for food preservation. Pickling, canning tomatoes, freezing beans & more, making cheese, drying tomatoes, etc…. at times we’ve had to spend many afternoons in a row in the house doing food preservation. This keeps us out of the fields and lowers our farm income, but it’s very important to us to feed ourselves through the winter, and saves us from having to earn all the extra money it would take to buy all that food from some other source. Overall I think we’re better off spending time to save money, but still, it really stretches the schedule.

We have several on-farm events coming up in September. On the 12th, we’re hosting an open house/tour for everyone who participated in our garlic tasting challenge at market (and turned in one of the surveys). If you’re interested in coming out, ask us quick about taking a tasting survey, or make sure you get that completed survey back to us. On the 29th, we’re hosting our second annual Whole Farm Dinner with Slow Food Katy Trail; consider joining us for a great evening of farm-fresh food.

I cut the dairy goats’ grain ration in half while they’re on good brushy pasture. A month later, we’re getting about the same milk yield but they’re eating through pasture paddocks a lot faster. As long as we keep them moving, it’s a successful experiment so far. More work but less spending; our farm’s business model in a nutshell. More on this tomorrow.

We’re getting our first pig pretty soon, a just-weaned one from JJR Farm, who raises certified organic pork for the market. We’ll raise it through the fall on produce 2nds, whey, pasture, and the same whole organic grains we feed our goats and chickens. Won’t be real big when we butcher in early winter, but enough to give us a taste of pig-raising and a small supply of nice pork for the winter. If this goes well, we may start more next spring. Pork is good, and a full season of raising it on farm byproducts could almost be cost-effective.

We’ve decided to cut back on our fall planting plans, as we’re somewhat burned out and realizing that we need more time in the fall and early winter to move forward on other on-farm projects that will set us up for a more successful year in 2011. Sometimes you just need to cut your losses and move forward, and we’ll be happier getting other work done for next year than dragging out the serious time-sink of market for income totals that aren’t really worth it. So expect us at market through at least September, probably stopping sometime in October.

2 thoughts on “Farm happenings, end of August

  1. Hey Eric,I didn't have a chance to participate in the garlic tasting challenge, but am really interested and would like to participate in the open house/tour if that's possible. Can I jump on late to this bandwagon?CoMoHomestead (at) gmail (dot) com

  2. Annette (and others),We'd be happy to include non-participants in the event, as it's a time slot we've already reserved. However, we would ask that you pay the normal $8 tour fee, as we considered (and advertised) the free event as a specific reward for taking part in the garlic survey and giving us the useful information. So it wouldn't seem fair to me to offer others a free tour. But yes, anyone else is welcome to get in touch about coming out on that date. I can put you in touch with a recent tour-taker if you have questions or concerns about the value.Eric