Mid May on the farm

Mid-May is when the farm truly becomes busy, as all three primary vegetable activities come into play: planting, management, and harvest. We’re still seeding or transplanting new crops regularly, while weeding and otherwise maintaining existing crops, and now handling harvest and marketing as well.
The weather has been generally pleasant with some significant curveballs. We’ve dodged the multiple rounds of severe weather passing through Missouri with no damage. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week all present significant frost hazards in our valley in the wake of the latest powerful cold front. Sunday night we were up several times during the night checking on sensitive crops and spraying water to keep frost off, while we spent a chunk of Monday afternoon laying out row fabric sheets on things like potatoes, basil, edamame, and beans. Monday night scares us, and Tuesday will need this treatment as well. We have a large quantity of peppers, tomatoes, and more still indoors and desperate to be transplanted, but these have to wait until the last frost is past. Thursday will be a busy transplant day. Meanwhile, the non-frost-sensitive crops are doing wonderfully:

Growing peas and healthy garlic

 Our second market of the year, last weekend, was a struggle. Nasty weather; cold, windy, and drizzly, just the thing to keep customers away. Add in graduation weekend at MU, and it was downright quiet at many points. There are more vendors than ever at market this early, with more product than ever, and I saw a lot of it left over at the end. This was the kind of day that really worries us about market, when there’s too much product and not enough customer spending, and it’s not just a one-time issue with graduation. Another experienced vendor I talked to shared that concern about the vendor-product-consumer ratio, and noted that he’d been at market since the opening and had seen more product than ever left unsold, but we have little control over it. We had a nice variety of greens, and other things, which sold very slowly but eventually mostly sold out. I was surprised at how popular spinach was, given that many other stands offered it, and how slowly the fancy baby greens mix sold, given how popular it’s been at our stand for the past few years.

Diverse greens at market: baby greens mix, spinach, lettuce mix

Restaurant sales have been going very well, with our products consistently on the menu at Sycamore and Red & Moe, and deliveries to Main Squeeze starting this week. We’ll likely be able to start with Uprise Bakery soon as well. Numerous people have commented on their enjoyment of “our” pizza at Red & Moe, which features our garlic scallions.

Saturday marked the 7th anniversary of our first date, and the 5th anniversary of our engagement. We celebrated by firing up our barrel smoker after market, and smoking a rack of ribs and a whole cured ham from last year’s pig, the former brushed with my favorite home-made Filipino barbeque sauce. A nice salad of unsold mixed baby greens, lettuce, spinach, and farm-made feta rounded out the meal. (All on-farm ingredients in italics).

Farm-raised pork ribs, smoke-roasted with Filipino barbeque sauce; mixed-greens/radish/feta salad

We’ve been eating as well as ever from the farm, as we start incorporating fresh spring items with the tail end of preserved ingredients from last year. I invented a nice dish by crushing our roasted peanuts, cornmeal, and dried peppers in a pestle to make a coating for cubes of goat meat, which I fried with frozen okra and dried peppers to make a very tasty topping for rice and our own cowpeas. We made a fantastic pizza with the last of our farm-raised/cured pancetta, fresh asparagus, dried peppers & cherry tomatoes, and farm goat feta, on fresh crust. Joanna made fresh ravioli from scratch pasta using our eggs, fresh goat herbed ricotta and herbed sweet potato, green garlic, and a butter/sage sauce.
Peanut/cornmeal-crusted goat cubes; pizza with farm-raised/cured pancetta, fresh asparagus, farm feta, dried tomatoes & peppers; scratch-made ravioli with farm ricotta, green garlic, herbs

We’re getting lots of help now from regular crews of helpers on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We changed our worker model a bit this year, from last year’s pay-in-product model in which we technically had employees with W-2s, to this year’s work-for-product model in which we treat workers like customers who are paying for their purchases with labor rather than cash (like a CSA with a work-share component taken to its logical extreme). Thus we remit sales tax on the product given out, and the government still gets its cut, but it’s far less paperwork and hassle on our end since we remit sales tax quarterly anyway. 2011 will be the largest set of people we’ve had working out here, and so far it seems to be going well, with no complaints from the current folks and more interest from others than we can accommodate. 
Our weeks are really scheduled now. Sundays we have a work shift, Tuesdays are restaurant harvest/delivery day, Wednesdays we have a work shift, Fridays are market harvest (this will creep into the rest of the week as the season progresses), Saturdays are market day, and so on. That leaves only Mondays and Thursdays as days we have open to do anything that needs to be done, and the rest of the week farm and home work gets fit in and around the scheduled needs. And, of course, the weather is always a factor, though we try hard to plan our weeks around forecasts and conditions as much as possible to be more efficient in our work.
So this is a reasonably good time on the farm. Overall the weather has been cooperative, we’re getting help, our sales season has started, and things are progressing roughly on schedule and as we planned for so far. We can’t sell pork or cheese, but we can produce plenty for ourselves. Animals are healthy and productive, and the food is as good as always. Our biggest concerns are with unpredictable weather/pest conditions, and our ability to sell what we produce (particularly at market), but day-to-day we feel we’re in decent shape right now.

4 thoughts on “Mid May on the farm

  1. Well, thanks; photography is good at showing what the photographer wants to show, but we are reasonably pleased with the situation so far. Garlic quantities are all relative; I know multiple small family farms in western NY who grow 15,000+ heads each year, compared to which our 2,000 is a drop in the bucket. And the garlic is still a small (though important) portion of the overall farm income; it still represents only a few thousand dollars in income. But it's been reliable year after year for us, and this current crop looks as good as we've ever seen it. Scapes should be at market in two weeks.

  2. Eric, your radishes were really nice. We quartered and roasted 'em with small turnips and served as bruschetta. They're softer and much less harsh than most others I've had. Kids even ate some.

  3. Cool, thanks for the feedback. Hearing much the same thing from our chefs. I think variety, growing methods, handling, & size all make a difference.