Monday, December 31, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR


H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R 

From Baker Heritage Farms

Due to the holidays, weather, and unexpected travel, there will be NO update for this past week. Occasionally, farming operations will be interrupted with unexpected emergencies, but more often, unless you live in certain states, weather will be the primary cause of interruptions.

We had approximately 6 inches of snow fall the afternoon and early evening of Christmas Day, and some of the snow is still on the ground. Since then, we have had sporadic rain, sleet, and snow flakes (did not add to what we already had), so it has not been practical to do any field work.

All-in-all, 2012 was a successful year at Baker Heritage Farms. We consider our test garden a success, and we were able to start field work before the real winter weather set in. Some supplies have been ordered and we are looking forward to having a real, small-acreage farming operation in 2013.

We hope that everyone will join us in following our adventures in the New Year.

Until next year,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you." Exodus 12:2

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12DEC23

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Not much happening on the farm right now due to the holiday season. The weather has been erratic at best, with warm weather prevailing. Most of the area is back in (or still in) a severe draught. In fact, rain was predicted for this past Thursday and we did get a nasty storm with high winds and rain. Even though we received about 1" of rain, it did nothing for us and the ground is still crispy critter (crunches when you walk on it). We were really anticipating the rain and planning on burning our brush piles that are in and near the production fields; unfortunately, while we are not in a burn ban, we have been advised that any burning is strongly discouraged.

David finished up tying down the Turkey run and chicken coop fences. The Turkey run still needs rock placed around the bottom of the fence and then it will be ready for the turkeys. The chicken coop only needs a gate and then it will also be completed.

Today was order day. We placed a number of orders (and are now officially broke and probably in debt), including Hydrolyzed Fish Powder, seeder, sprayer, and poultry.

In November we explained that we would not be planting cover crops to increase Nitrogen ("N") due to the cost of the seed and other concerns. We also explained that we made a risk management decision to purchase a tow-behind sprayer and Fish Powder to input "N" this year. We have once again changed direction due to cost concerns. As we researched seed, we learned that some crops should not include any "N" input. In addition, some plots will be planted in cover crop and will not need "N" input. After reviewing our needs, we determined that we will only need to worry about "N" input on 6 or less plots, and they are interspersed throughout the production fields, so it would not be beneficial to purchase the tow-behind sprayer.

We have ordered a Pro 4 gallon Diaphragm-Pump Backpack Sprayer from Home Depot (www.homedepot.com). This sprayer was about $90.00 compared to $370 for the tow-behind sprayer. Even us poor rednecked dirt farmers can figure out the best way to go.

Back-Pack Sprayer
NOTE: It is very important that you check the sprayer's capabilities before you purchase one. There are many less expensive makes and models to chose from; however, most of the less expensive models do not use a Diaphragm and are only suitable for straight liquids. If you are doing organic gardening, you will have many occasion to mix certain powders, etc. This particular model is suitable for liquids, powders, and water-soluble solutions and is essentially the same as one used at the Kerr Sustainable Farm.

We also placed our order with Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (www.groworganic.com, Grass Valley, CA) for Fish Powder and a Seeder.

We ordered a 40 pound bag HFPC Hydrolyzed Fish Powder ($129.00). This product is organic and provides fast Nitrogen. It is water-soluble and contains 10.4% "N". It will fulfill our "N" needs for some time (you mix 4-5 pounds with a minimum of 20 gallons of water per acre).


HFPC Hydrolyzed Fish Powder

We also ordered an Earthway Precision Seeder ($109.00). The seeder opens the soil, spaces and plants the seed, covers the seed, packs the soil, and even marks the next row. This will save a lot of back pain and also make planting more accurate. The seeder comes with plates for planting 28 different seed varieties that cover most (if not all) of the seeds we will be planting. Granted, this is a tool that is probably not a necessity for the backyard farmer, but will most likely be a useful tool for the small-acreage farmer. For our operation, it is a very practical tool that should earn it's keep.

Earthway Seeder
We also placed our Turkey and Chicken order with Murray McMurray Hatchery (www.mcmurrayhatchery.com, Webster City, IA). We ordered 25 female Silver Laced Wyandotte chickens ($75.00) and 15 straight run Narragansett turkeys ($157.00). The chickens should be delivered the week of March 4th and the turkeys the week of May 13th. We included the Marek's Disease vaccination for the chickens, numbered bandettes for the chickens and un-numbered bands for the turkeys.

A very expensive weekend, but it had to be done, and we still have to order seed.

If weather forecasts are to be believed, we are in for some real winter weather on Christmas day, with up to 7" of snow accumulation predicted by Christmas evening.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

From your friends at Baker Heritage Farms

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not parish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12DEC16

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Weather was nice here in eastern Oklahoma this weekend, though there was a little rain Friday evening (we could use a lot more).

David and Donald were able to till plot 2C Friday and 1B Saturday. They started running into more rocks and old roots. While the pasture looks fairly level and clear, there are several "mounds" and, as was discovered, rocks and roots hiding just beneath the surface.
David Tilling Plot 1B
Current plans call for lettuce and radish to be planted in plot 1B (lettuce in February and radish in March) and carrots and tomatoes in plot 2C (carrots in February and tomatoes in April).

We have our plots now laid out and a tentative planting schedule in place. Planting should begin in February. We will also need to start seeding transplant beds by February (tomatoes and peppers).

Donald has been spending a lot of time researching seed. Deciding what variety of seed and what supplier to use has become a major concern. As we have been discussing, our intent is to plant heirloom seed that is certified organic. While there are a number of seed suppliers that offer certified organic seed, there are very few that offer heirloom seed (some include Sand Hill Preservation Center, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds). There are even fewer that have a reasonable selection of certified organic heirloom seeds. The only supplier with a decent selection appears to be Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

We are also learning that there is no consistency in pricing. Some price their seed by the ounce, some by the gram, and some by seed count, which makes comparing prices a sometimes overbearing task. We will be posting our results as soon as they are in, hoping to save other backyard or small acreage farmers some time.

On top of all of the planning, we are coming to the realization that even small acreage farming can be adversely affected by the larger farming community. It appears that our seed choices in 2013 will be further limited by the drought that has plagued farmers for the past two years (and may be going into the third year). Being resilient farmers is going to be very important over the next year or so. Fortunately, we are confident that our farm plan has enough flexibility to change with the conditions.

Our long-term goal is to save our own seed for planting the following year, however, we will not be able to do this for several years. First, we need to determine what crops grow best, then we will need to determine what varieties grow best and are the most profitable. Once the results are in, we will need to be very detailed in our planting schedule to ensure that we do not cross-polinate crops.

The one good thing is that we will not have to (we hope) spend so much time on planning after this year. We will have our base planning done, and will only need to worry about what crops we will be planting and when we will be planting them. We do know that saving and planting our own seed will further ensure the success of our farm operations.

We hope to order our chickens and turkeys by either the end of this year or the very beginning of next year for spring delivery (see the 12NOV11 post for our tentative delivery dates).

Until next week;

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you." Hosea 10:12

Sunday, December 9, 2012

12DEC09

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Friday David and Donald picked up wood fence posts to start fencing the production fields and laid them out along the fence line.

On Saturday, they were able to till plot 1D (far northeast corner) which will be the first plot planted next year. Currently the schedule calls for planting cabbage and onions in this plot in February.
Plot 1D tilled
Tilling went well with a few exceptions (most a result of not following standard procedures as recommended by Farming for Dummies). One unavoidable exception was a large tree root (about 10-15 feet long and 1 inch thick) just below the surface. The root played havoc with the tiller, but tilling went smooth after they finally got the root removed.

With good weather and ground conditions, it will take about 2-hours and one tank of gas to till each plot. A plot is 100' by 55' (approximately 1/8 acre). If you are doing this size garden and the soil has never been worked, it is highly recommended that you rent a good, self-propelled tiller, otherwise it will take much longer and require extensive muscle.

We will need to till at least one more plot (1B) where we will be planting lettuce in February and radishes in March. The other two plots in field 1 (1C and 1A) will initially be planted in cover crop. Plot 1C will be planted with sweet clover in February and plot 1A will be planted with buckwheat in March. We will till these two plots if time and conditions allow.

If our weather holds out (winter is slowly moving in) David and Donald plan to till plot 1B this next weekend, and if time permits, will also till plots 1C and 1A.

It is that time of the year when Debbie is hard at work in the kitchen baking holiday goodies.

The Baker Heritage Farms web site (www.bakerheritagefarms.com) was finally launched on Saturday. You can click on the tab on the upper right corner of the blog to visit the web site.

Until next week,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's Building." 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Sunday, December 2, 2012

12DEC02

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Our 2013 field planning is well underway. In reality, our production fields will all be "test" gardens in 2013, as we have never tried growing many of the vegetables we are planning to plant, and those we have tried were not necessarily successful. We are planning to plant 12 plots of 1/8 acre each (55'x100'). The planting dates are tentative and actual planting will depend on weather and soil conditions.

We hope to direct seed cabbage, lettuce, and onions in February, followed by beans, beets, and radish in March. There are mixed reviews on direct seeding versus transplanting for cabbage and beets, so we will try direct seeding in 2013. If weather does not cooperate, we can extend our February seeding into March. We also have an opportunity to plant cabbage and lettuce latter in the fall if the spring planting does not work.

We will start our pepper and tomato seeds in February for later transplanting.

In April we plan on direct seeding corn, cucumber, gourds, muskmelon, okra, squash, and watermelon. We will also begin transplanting peppers and tomatoes in April.

At this time we are planning on having 4 plots in cover crops. In February we will be planting sweet clover cover crop in one plot. In March we will plant Buckwheat cover crop in one plot, and in April we will plant Cow Peas cover crop in one plot, and a mixture of Red Clover and Australian Winter Peas in one plot. The type of cover crop, and the number of plots in cover crop may change as we get closer to planting. We plant to have at least 3 plots (1 in each field) in cover crop at all times.

We will be double-cropping/companion planting cabbage and onions; lettuce and radish; and carrots and tomatoes. We will be companion planting corn, beans and cucumber using a modified three-sisters method.

Watermelon and squash will most likely be planted in separate areas as they will require complete rotation each year (watermelon and squash will not follow each other, which will somewhat restrict where they can be planted). It is possible that the watermelon may be planted in one of the cover crop plots, however, that is yet to be determined.

By May we should have our spring crops all planted.

Our next step is to plan the purchase of seeds. While this may seem an easy task, we have already learned that it will not be so easy. Our intention is to plant non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated, and non-patented heirloom production crops. In addition, all of our crops will be "certified" organic. While it can be presumed that heirloom seeds would be organic, we have found that this is not the case. If you intend to have organic heirloom crops, take heed. Many heirloom gardeners use herbicides and pesticides to reduce potential damage to crops. Unless the products they use are "certified" organic, you will not be able to represent your crops as organic. While we are not pursuing organic certification, it is important that we still follow all "certified" organic standards. Then we can represent our crops as organic until we reach $5,000 in gross sales. In addition, our crops will be grown "all-natural", which, to us, means even more stringent growing habits then just organic. This will be very important for our marketing strategy. We also need to be good stewards of the land and provide healthy products.

Once we determine what type of seed we will be purchasing, we can complete the planning stage, which will include determining how much seed for each crop/plot based on seed/plant spacing and row spacing, which will allow us to order the proper number of seed.

We will also need to start planning for irrigation. At this time, we are planning to use soaker hoses, but may also use some drip irrigation. Once we determine the number of rows for each plot (as well as the direction of the rows) we will be able to better plan our irrigation needs.

In addition to the planning, work continues on the turkey run and chicken coop fences. Sanitizing the brooder equipment will be completed prior to the first arrivals, and then will have to be re-santized for the next batch. The parameter fence around the production fields needs to be installed and also around the area where we plan to plant the squash and/or watermelon.

There is still a lot of work to be done before planting season starts. If you are planning to start a backyard or small acreage farming operation, now is the time to complete your planning as the real work will need to be started in ernest in January (and no, weather cannot be used as an excuse, otherwise, you will never get started).

Until next time,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:12

Sunday, November 25, 2012

12NOV25

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

We hope that everyone had a pleasant, relaxing, and thoughtful Thanksgiving with friends and family. Eastern Oklahoma was windy and warm.

David and Donald went out Saturday and did some maintenance around the farm. They cleaned up the side of the road down to the pasture and had to move another tree that came down in one of our recent wind storms.

Planning, planning, and planning. Planning seems to be taking a lot of our farm time right now. We want to be sure we are properly prepared in 2013 (unlike 2012). We are currently planning the production and cover crops for the production fields and the test garden. We will need to start seeding for transplants in January so we need to know what supplies we will need and how much of what seed to order. To accomplish this, we need to have our production fields planned out so we can calculate the proper amount of seed. We have learned that certified organic seed can be very expensive so we do not want to waste any.

Seeding for the transplants (primarily tomato and pepper plants) will be the challenge as we have never done that before. There are several crops that can be transplanted or direct-seeded and we will also need to make these decisions. Our seeding for transplants will be conducted in our barn and we are not sure how this will work out. We have started purchasing the necessary equipment and will set up the tables right after the holidays (need to put the holiday decorations away before we set up the tables).

If our seeding for transplants is successful, we may look into selling plants during the next season. We will be keeping records so that we can determine the success of each crop and whether we will be able to sell plants on a small scale.

We are also starting to explore certified organic fruit trees. Again, very costly and, in many cases, hard to find. Most will be bare root and will need to be planted between February and April. This means we need to start digging holes now (not fun where we are looking to plant the trees). We will probably limit our plantings in 2013 due to expenses and the work required to prepare the ground.

We will most likely start tilling in December, once we get the plans for the production fields completed. We do not want to till more than necessary to avoid having soil exposed for too long, but we also want to be ready for weather issues to avoid potential delays in planting. This is where the first gamble comes when you are starting a farm.

Until next week;

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." Hebrews 13:16


Sunday, November 18, 2012

12NOV18

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Yesterday, David and Donald worked on the Turkey run, installing a wire along the bottom of the fence to keep animals out. Once the wire is fully installed, we will be placing rocks along the outside of the bottom of the fence to further discourage animals from accessing the pen. We will also be placing a wire at the bottom of the chicken coop fence but will using the rocks as the chickens will be in the hen house at night.

If you have been following our blogs, you know that we have been looking at winter cover crops to increase Nitrogen levels in the production fields. You may also notice that we are writing a series of Farm Risk Management articles designed to assist backyard and small acreage farmers in controlling their risks with the goal of decreasing expenses and increasing profits.

While it may seem strange that we have mixed the two (researching cover crops and risk management), they actually go hand-in-hand. Risk management is not just about insurance. It is about looking at every aspect of your farm operation to determine whether the cost is worth the risk. This principle may have saved Baker Heritage Farms several hundred dollars.

We were planning on planting winter ryegrass in all three production fields, along with Hairy Vetch or Crimson Clover, to increase Nitrogen levels for next years crops (if you remember, our soil samples indicated a need for Nitrogen). As we are "all-natural" (organic), we had to ensure that all seed and inoculates were certified organic. When we started pricing seed, we determined the following costs would be associated with purchasing the seed (not including delivery costs):
  • Winter Rye - Requires 60-120 pounds (organic) per acre. We planned to put down rye in all three production fields (.5 acres each times 3 fields) for a total need of approximately 90 pounds (at the low end). While non-organic seed was $1.19 per pound (and only required an application rate of 25 - 35 pounds per acre), certified organic seed was $5.15 per pound, for an approximate cost of $463.00.
  • Hairy Vetch - Requires 30-40 pounds (organic) per acre. We planned to put down Hairy Vetch on two production fields (.5 acres each times 2 fields) for a total need of approximately 45 pounds (we would have applied this seed to fields one and three due to the cost being less than that of Crimson Clover seed). The cost of the raw seed was $3.39 per pound for an approximate cost of $152.00 (not including inoculate, which would be required).
  • Crimson Clover - Requires 20 - 25 pounds per acre. We planned to put down Crimson Clover on one production field (.5 acres) for a total need of approximately 25 pounds. The cost of the raw seed was $12.55 per pound for an approximate cost of $313.00 (not including inoculate, which would be required).
Total seed costs would have been approximately $928.00 plus the cost of the inoculate and shipping.

This is where the correlation between planting winter cover crops this year and risk management comes into play. We are at the end of the planting season for winter cover crops (seed should be down no later than November 18th on average) and we would have been further delayed by delivery time and potential weather issues. There was still a chance that the seed would germinate and the crops would grow; however, there would have been no guarantee. From a risk management aspect, this would mean that Baker Heritage Farms would pay close to $1,000 to take a chance on having the winter cover crop grow and accomplish our goal, and the chance was decreasing daily.

In looking at other alternatives, we researched alternative methods of getting Nitrogen into the soil and maintaining our all-natural (organic) standards. David and Donald finally decided that they would go ahead and apply an certified organic fertilizer this year. While we are trying to avoid application of even certified organic products, basic risk management principles lead us to make this decision.

We were able to find a product, HFPC Hydrolyzed Fish Powder, which has several benefits. It will provide approximately 10% N (Nitrogen) to the soil and will also boost Microbial activity, providing immediate benefits. The cost of a 40-pound bag of powder is $129.00 (plus shipping). The downside is that it must be mixed with water (20 pounds per 100 gallons of water per acre, for a total need of 30 pounds per 150 gallons of water). We realized that we did not want to apply the solution with hand sprayers (they only handle 4 gallons of solution) and that we would need a tow-behind sprayer.

In researching tow-behind sprayers, we found that we could purchase an Agri-Fab 25 Gallon tow sprayer from Home Depot (where we now have an account that includes our Agriculture Tax Exemption) for $369.00 and free shipping (online exclusive). Total cost for the powder and sprayer - $498.00 plus shipping (for the powder) and water. A cost savings of approximately $500 from planting winter cover crops.

Agri-Fab 25 Gallon Tow Sprayer
More importantly then the direct savings in costs, is that we know the Nitrogen will be there when we plant, and we are no longer under time constraints as we can apply the Fish Powder in early spring as we prepare the soil.

This process, in reality, is part of the risk management process. Will it work? While we cannot guarantee either method, our financial loss is less with the Fish Powder then the cover crop seed. Normally, we would not be faced with these potential loss factors; however, we are still trying to play catch-up with our planting schedule, which shows how important pre-planning is, even in farming.

With the "new" economy, fewer jobs, lower income, higher expenses, and more government intervention into business, the use of risk management techniques in every aspect of small farming operations becomes a high priority. Small (backyard and small acreage) farms are already following good risk management techniques as they are able to diversify their crop and livestock selections and, subsequently, spreading the risk. If one crop fails, the chances are very good that the other crops will not (with proper management).

Until next week,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms


And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have then for food." Genesis 1:29

Farm Risk Management - Part One

Risk management is the identification, analysis, assessment, control, and avoidance, minimization, or elimination of unacceptable risks. An organization may use risk assumption, risk avoidance, risk retention, risk transfer, or any other strategy (or combination of strategies) in proper management of future events.

Over the next several months, Baker Heritage Farms will be providing a series of articles related to farm risk management and safety to improve the viability of the family, backyard, or small acreage farm.

Farm risk management is just as important to the financial success of a backyard or small acreage farm as it is to a large farm.

The risk management process includes:
  • Identifying hazards;
  • Assessing and prioritizing risks;
  • Choosing control measures;
  • Implementing controls; and
  • Monitoring and reviewing results.
General areas of concern include:
  • Loss prevention;
  • Insurance;
  • Clams management;
  • Health & safety;
  • Records management; and
  • Regulatory compliance.
When people think of risk management, they normally think of those risks associated with insurance, such as real property (buildings, structures, etc.) and personal property (household furnishings and equipment) damage (fire, flood, earthquake, theft, etc.), liability claims (slip and falls, damage to the property of others, etc.), and employment liability claims (workers' compensation, discrimination, etc.). While these are important, farmers, both big and small, have additional risks that must be managed, including:
  • Equipment (tractors, implements, ATV's, mowers, etc.);
  • Crop loss (insurable by large farmers, but not usually insurable by small farmers); and
  • General liability claims (e.g. food borne illness claims).
The primary concerns of the backyard or small acreage farmers include protecting from losses associated with:
  • Real property damage - including barns, outbuildings, fencing, etc. This damage may come from fire, wind, hail, weight of snow and ice, and other types of losses. These risks are normally insurable, and many times coverage can be extended from the homeowners policy (check your local area to see if you can obtain a farm and ranch homeowners policy);
  • Personal property damage - including hand tools, small equipment such as trimmers, small powered mowers, etc.
  • Automobile damage - both physical and liability damage. While automobile liability coverage is mandatory in most states now, it is just as important to consider physical damage coverage, particularly if you are using the vehicle for farming operations and need the vehicle to sustain your operation.
  • Mobile Equipment damage - including tractors, implements, ATV's, etc. In the case of small garden or lawn tractors, coverage can usually be extended from your homeowners policy (see above). Your homeowners policy may even extend coverage to ATV's, depending on use. However, most homeowners policy's will not cover farm tractors (including compact, utility, and larger) or their implements. In addition, these are high target items in many areas. A Mobile Equipment policy (or possibly a rider to your homeowners policy) is worth the small premium charged for such coverage.
  • Workers' compensation - this coverage is required if you hire any employees for your farm, even on a temporary basis or just for day work. If a temporary worker is injured while performing work on your farm, you are liable, whether you are negligent or not.
  • Liability claims - including products and completed operations. While we are all familiar with slip and fall claims, there are other liability risks that backyard farmers and small acreage farmers need to be aware of. If you are selling food products (meat, eggs, produce, etc.) you will need coverage that will provide you with defense costs as well as claim settlement costs if you are faced with a food-borne illness claim. There are many other forms of liability that a farmer can run into that require more discussion in the future.
This is just a short list of concerns that backyard or small acreage farms should address as they begin farming and grow their farming enterprise.

Having a strong, written safety program in place will help reduce the risk of injury or property damage to you and others (highly recommended if you have any employees). If you are selling food products, even if it is just a few baskets of tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, or a few dozen eggs, it is important that you have at least a basic Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) manual prepared and follow it. This is recommended even if you give away your produce. If you are selling meat products, your GAP handbook should be more complete and may need to include a Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points management system.

Loss prevention (or loss control) includes ensuring that you have taken, and are taking, the necessary steps to protect your property (such as locking up equipment) from loss and protecting your neighbors, visitors, and farm customers from injury (such as having safety procedures in place).

Maintaining current records of your operations will not only help you in case of a claim, but it is good practice to ensure that your farm operation is successful (and profitable). These records can also be an excellent marketing tool if you plan to sell organic products (records are required if you intend to become certified organic).

Work with your insurance agent to ensure that you have the insurance coverage you need and that your agent (or his/her office) will assist in claims management should you have a claim.

The purpose of a risk management program is to reduce expenses related to risks associated with your operation, thereby increasing your profits. Do not depend on insurance for your risk management program. When you decided to become a backyard or small acreage farmer, you decided to enter the world of business. A well thought out risk management program will help you maintain low cost insurance coverage, and, without a proactive risk management program, you will be doing yourself and your customers and vendors a disservice.

Baker Heritage Farms

Don Baker has been providing insurance and risk management consulting services for over 30 years and has been a Risk Management Consultant for the past 8 years.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

12NOV11

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

While we are not doing much ground work now, it seems we are busier then ever. David finished fencing in the chicken coop pen and all that is left is to install the bottom wire on the fence (to keep animals out) and build the gate. We will also be installing a bottom wire on the fence around the turkey run, as well as placing rock around the turkey run fence.

For those of you that have been following the blog, we lost our Turkeys this past year. As the turkey's we originally chose (Broad-Breasted Bronze) did not reproduce naturally, David went back to the drawing board and conducted more research. As a result, we will be trying the Narragansett turkey next year. David could not find any heritage turkeys from the south, so we are settling on other characteristics.

Narragansett Turkey
The Narragansett turkey is from the Narragansett Bay area of Rhode Island. These turkeys have traditionally been known for their calm disposition, good maternal abilities, early maturation, egg production, and excellent meat quality. They are listed as threatened by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. As turkeys must be purchased as straight runs, we have no control over the number of hens or toms. We will allow these turkeys to breed if nature is willing.

Baker Heritage Farms will be ordering 25 Wyandotte Silver Laced chickens (pullets - hens only) for delivery on or about March 4, 2013 so that they will be ready for release into the chicken coop in time for the turkeys to be delivered. We will be ordering 15 Narragansett turkeys (straight run - mixed) on or about May 13, to allow for raising them for butcher in time for the holidays (our plan for this year prior to our losses).

Meanwhile, we are actively planning our crops for 2013. We are still awaiting information that will allow us to determine if we will be planting a winter cover crop. This decision will be made by next week (we hope). We have made a list of the seeds we want to plant for next year and are now working on laying out our plots to determine how much seed we will need for each crop.

We are also looking at what equipment and tools we will need to be ready for planting. We will need to start some of the crops indoors for later transplant into the fields, so we are also looking at seed starting equipment and supplies. As we are trying to control costs, we will be setting up growing tables in our big barn instead of purchasing a green house.

We are continuing to learn from our research. In researching the various types of seed, supplies, tools, and equipment we will need, we have found that there is a very wide range of prices. If you are just starting out, we highly recommend that you spend time researching before buying anything. We are trying to reduce the number of suppliers we will be using for ease of ordering, availability of consultation (advice), and overall price. We have been able to narrow our list of vendors down, and hope to have our list ultimately reduced to two or three vendors.

Our next blog will include some of the tools we have decided to purchase, seeds we plan to order, and a prospective list of vendors that we hope to use. All of the vendors we have considered have been used by Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, so we are fairly confident that they will be reliable vendors.

Until next time, blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

12NOV04

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

If you read our last post "Planning for Planting" you may think that we spend the entire week inside. Not so. It was a beautiful week here in eastern Oklahoma and we took advantage of it.

The week did not start out good. David was mowing the Blackwell & Stewart property (non-farming entity) in town and a belt broke on the L-118 (small tractor) requiring that he and Debbie take the tractor into the John Deere dealership in town for a new belt. As the tractor has not been completely serviced in over 4 years (minor servicing is done on the farm) it got a full checkup and servicing, as well as a new belt and many other parts.

The Brinly-Hardy drop spreader was delivered Thursday in time for a workout on Friday, unfortunately it was missing a piece; however, it was not a critical piece (it was the lift control arm for lifting the wheels up when not transporting, requiring the wheels to be left off for now) and it was able to be put to good use on Friday.

Donald and David spent all of Friday down in the back spreading lime on the production fields with the new spreader and cleaning and mowing the test garden. They got 850 pounds of lime put down (with the 150 pounds put down with the broadcast spreader, a total of 1,000 pounds has been put down). We are about 400 pounds short of the recommended application, but feel that we have an adequate amount down for now. We will be putting more down next year.

David applying lime
Much more work is planned for preparing the farm for production crops over the next few months. We hope we do not fall behind like we did this past year.

We should know in the next week or two whether we will be planting a winter cover crop, where, what, and how much.

Until next week,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

Planning for Planting

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

If you are planning on a garden in 2013, it is time to start planning. One thing we have learned over the past year is that proper planning, while it does not guarantee success, makes life a whole lot easier.

Donald spent much of the weekend working on gathering crop data and drafting a planting calendar for next year. The data gathered has been entered into spread sheets, and the production crop spread sheet includes:
  • Crop;
  • Crop Family (used to ensure proper rotation, allowable double-cropping, and companion crops);
  • Planting method (transplant and/or direct seed);
  • Days from seeding inside to planting in the field;
  • First and last days to plant indoors;
  • Planting relative to first frost-free day;
  • First and last days to plant in field;
  • Germination temperature range;
  • Germination optimum temperature range;
  • Days to germination;
  • Time to plant (considers both early and late planting, where applicable);
  • Spacing between rows (helps in field setup and calculating seed needs);
  • Spacing within rows (also helps in field setup and calculation seed needs);
  • Depth to cover seed;
  • Days to harvest (this will be useful for double cropping); and
  • Frost tolerance.
For cover crops, the data on the spread sheet includes:
  • Crop and Family;
  • Information on the uses of the cover crop, including whether or not the cover crop will provide Nitrogen, weed control, adding organic matter, improving the soil, how well it grows, whether or not it is cold or drought tolerant, if drainage is important, ease of growth, and whether it will support beneficial insects.
  • Seed application rate;
  • First and last planting dates; and
  • The same planting data as was complied for the production crops.
The planting calendar spread sheets provide the following data:
  • Crop and family;
  • Irrigation requirements;
  • Planting method;
  • Companion crops (helps in the planning of each plot); and
  • Calendar - which includes planting dates and harvest dates (allows for better visual planning).
We are hoping to be in production year-round, including cover crops, which makes following a calendar even more important. As we have already learned, the most important aspect of being a resilient farmer is the ability to be flexible. These spread sheets will allow us to be flexible in most of our crop operations. We hope to be prepared for whatever the good Lord throws at us, including weather, disease, and/or insects.

We will be companion planting (planting multiple crops in the same plot at the same time) as well as double-cropping (planting successive crops in the same plot). While researching companion planting, Donald learned that you can plan certain companion crops to further reduce insects and disease; however, we may not get quite that involved this year.

As we will are still not sure if we will get cover crops down this winter, double cropping will be very important in our rotation and planting schedule, and will include attempting to ensure that we are helping, rather than hindering, the soil.

Debbie has been reviewing the seed catalogs and has started making a list of the seeds we will look at for planting next year. We will definitely be restricting all of our seed purchases to organic seed. We are hoping to further restrict our purchases to heirloom seed, preferably heirloom seed from our area (or at least the south). If we have to vary from our goal, we will open up the areas the heirloom seed comes from for more variety. Our plan is to save seed from our crops for future planting (our next educational goal - preserving seed).

Our next step is to plan out what we will plant in each plot in our three production fields. We are presuming at this point of time that at least 6 plots will be in cover crop at all times, which will leave us 6 plots for production at any given time. We will also be looking at hand tools to plant and maintain the fields.

There are several excellent resources on the internet for planning your garden.

Vegetable Gardening Online.com has a number of resources, including planing worksheets. They can be accessed at:

http://www.vegetable-gardening-online.com/planting-a-vegetable-garden.html

They have a USDA Planting Zone Chart and a Vegetable Planting Guide that are great started tools:

http://www.vegetable-gardening-online.com/vegetable-garden-worksheets.html

Backwoods Home Magazine has an excellent chart for companion planting that can be accessed on the internet at:

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/mettot81.html

Another good resource for companion planting can be found at the Cutting Edge (Seeds of Change):

http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_55/companion_planting.aspx

Donald made good use of the resources he received from the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers class he took at the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture this past year. Many of these resources are available on their web site at:

http://www.kerrcenter.com

For a successful, stress free, farming experience, start planning your garden today.

Baker Heritage Farms



Sunday, October 28, 2012

12OCT28

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

It was a slow week on the farm.

We ordered the Brinly-Hardy drop spreader we discussed in last week's post. Ended up ordering it from Home Depot, as it is an internet special item only. Hopefully it will be delivered this next week and we can get the rest of the lime down on the production fields next weekend.

David has started work on the chicken coop again, getting the fence posts up. After looking at the turkey run for the last several months, we think we finally came up with an inexpensive, but hopefully effective, way to keep ground animals out. We will be stringing a fence wire around the base approximately 4 inches above the ground. We were having problems trying to figure out how to secure the wire to the fence. The salesperson suggested using hog nose rings, so we purchased a box, as well as 200 feet of fence wire. We also purchased several tension fasteners we hope will help keep tension on the wire. We will be using this method on both the chicken coop and the turkey run, and will be placing rock around the base of the fence as an additional safety measure (we have enough rock around here to build several low walls).

Donald spent the weekend working on the planting schedule for the production fields. Data has been compiled on the vegetables we hope to plant, as well as cover crops (both summer and winter). The data includes the crop and family it belongs to (for rotation purposes), method of planting (seed or transplant), dates for planting (as well as starting seedlings), germination range, temperatures required during germination, and average harvest period, as well as additional information. He will be using this to establish a planting calendar for next year so that we can plan our crops to take advantage of as much of the year as possible. Once the calendar has been completed, we will start assigning crops to each plot. Several of the plots will be planted in cover crops to start improving the soil, which will reduce the amount of production crops we will be able to grow. As we improve our rotations and start seeing improvement in the soil, we will be able to plant more production crops and less cover crop.

We have not yet determined if we will be able to plant winter cover crops this year or not. We had our first frost this weekend so we may be behind schedule. We want to be sure of what we are doing so we are taking our time and performing the necessary research before we jump in feet first and waste money. Cover crops are necessary in our operation, as they will help breakup the soil, add nitrogen, control weeds, and provide beneficial insects. Cover crops will be used in place of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, and will eventually reduce or eliminate the need to till, in keeping with our goal of being good stewards of the land.

After we complete the planting calendar, we will start working on the irrigation issues. While most backyard farmers will not normally face the same irrigation issues (we have no access to water in our back pasture, except the pond), small-acreage farmers may very well face the same issues we do. We will be researching the use of drip irrigation versus the use of soaker hoses. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or experience with either of these two methods, we would be glad to hear them. We need to find out which system will be the most effective while containing initial purchase costs as well as the cost of water.

Next week we will most likely mow the test garden down and start work on preparing it for next year. We will till in the residue as green mulch as everything we planted was organic. We will be expanding the test garden in 2013 and plan to use most of the space.

Until next week,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

12OCT22

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Yesterday David and Donald went down back and tried to apply lime to the production fields. "Tried" is the defining word - as they were not very successful.

In keeping with our goal of maintaining costs in the operation of the farm, they attempted to apply the lime with a broadcast spreader. They can attest that this is not the way to apply lime. It is too powdery and they probably lost as much in the air (and on them) as they actually got on the ground.

David applying lime.
They finally got 150 pounds spread. David helped for a couple of hours and Donald finished up at about 3 in the afternoon, and was white from head to toe (yes, he was using personal protective equipment). Not worth the time, effort, and fuel (even though it was the little tractor). As we still need to get over 1 ton of lime down, we needed to look at alternatives (even using a shovel seems like a better idea that a broadcast spreader).

The consensus is that we will need to invest in a drop spreader. We were able to find a Brinly-Hardy 40-inch Aerator Spreader at Home Depot for $200.00 (Sears has the same model for just under $300.00). The aerator will help get the lime into the soil. In addition, the spreader will come in handy when seeding cover crop, though it will not be useful for production crops due to the need for more precise seeding.

Brinly-Hardy 40 in. Aerator Spreader
David will be checking to see if any local stores stock the Brinly, if not, we will be ordering one on-line.

David went down to the test garden earlier this week and harvested the pumpkins and remaining watermelon. While the pumpkins appear to still be growing, we will be mowing the garden down in the next couple of weeks.

We will need to start working on a drip irrigation system for watering the production fields next year, as we already know that we have problems with water delivery. The water for the test garden uses 300 feet of flex line from the main house down the hill to the test garden. For the production fields, we will need most likely need more water pressure, though it is possible that, if we design the drip irrigation system properly, we will be able to use the existing system. The worse case scenario may involve installing a well (probably just as expensive as putting in piping and using rural water). Another alternative is to pump water from the main pond, though this would probably not have worked this year with the drought.

Until next week ...

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Meal in a Skillet

The following recipe for "Meal in a Skillet" was provided by Faye Smith and cooked by Deborah Baker:

Ingredients:

1 lb. fully cooked chunked ham
2 large tomatoes
1 small green pepper
1 small red pepper
1 medium onion
1 medium yellow squash
2 medium zucchini (1 lb.)
3 tablespoons of salad oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup of water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 teaspoons of sweet basil
1/2 teaspoons o of salt

Preparation:

Cut the meat into 1/4' slices, cut peppers into 1/2 strips, cut onion, squash in 1/4" wide slices, cut tomatoes into 8 wedges.

Cooking Instructions:

In 12" skillet over high heat, in hot salad oil, cook peppers, onions, squash and ham about 5 minutes stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium, add water, bouillon, basil, salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are heated through. Serves 4 as main dish.

Delicious
Thank you Faye - a great meal.

12OCT13 Part Two

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farm;

Hopefully we are back on track. With our harvest of summer crops essentially complete (with the exception of the pumpkins and a few more watermelon) and rainy weather, work on the farm has temporarily slowed down. We will be changing our blog from weekly farm updates to writing of our plans for the 2013 season, as well as sharing what we have learned over the past 6 months from our test garden and the past year from the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. We hope you will add your comments, providing suggestions and ideas for farm operations, as well as let us know about your gardening and small farm adventures.

Today was Donald's last Beginning Farmer and Rancher classes at the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture. We would all like to thank Kerr Center, USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture, Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative, Oklahoma Farmers & Ranchers Association, and Oklahoma State University Extension for supporting this program and the excellent resources that were provided throughout the training. We would also like to extend a special thanks to George Kuepper, Kerr Center Horticulture Manager, David Redhage, Kerr Center Ranch Operations Director, Ann Welles, Kerr Center Program Director, and the great staff at Kerr Center for the work that they put into the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. An extensive amount of information was provided during the past year, and we have yet to absorb most of it. Over the winter months all of us here at Baker Heritage Farms will be studying the material and including it in our planning for 2013 and beyond. As we review and digest the information, we will be sharing as much as we can on this blog.

Today, the Horticulture class learned about hoop houses and actually built a 50' by 24' hoop house - these are great tools for extending the growing season on either end (starting earlier in the spring or going later into the fall). And, they are cheap and easy to build. The estimated cost of a 100' by 17' hoop house with a height of 7.5' is $1,200, and it can easily be built in a weekend by two people (including cutting and prep work).

The BF&R class building a hoop house:

This is what we started with
Pounding in rebar for hoop supports
Bending square metal tubing
Putting up hoops
Hoops installed
Putting on shade cover
We installed shade cover rather than plastic in the interest of time; however, it does not take much longer to install plastic covering, though it would have been a problem this day as there was a brisk wind.
Stretching the ends of the hoop house
Completed hoop house
As there were several people,the prep work had already been completed (ropes cut to size and in place, rebar cut to size, end hoops with wiggle wire channels installed already up), and the use of shade cover instead of plastic, it took less than 90 minutes to install the entire hoop house. Obviously, building a 100' hoop house will take a little longer, but surprisingly enough, once you get going, it is fairly easy and uncomplicated (after all, Donald even helped).

After building the hoop house, the class went to Kiamichi Vo-Tech in Poteau for lunch and graduation ceremonies. Debbie joined Donald for the ceremonies and everyone had a great lunch and received even more materials for study.

A great class and a lot was learned. With all of the material provided, learning will be continuing here at Baker Heritage Farms for months and years to come.

Best wishes to all;

Baker Heritage Farms

12OCT13 Part One

Oops - No posting for last week. For some reason, we neglected to provide a post for last week.

To bring everyone up-to-date, the week of October 1st (post would have been the weekend of October 7th) David went down and did a semi-final harvest, bringing in squash and a handful of beans. He also disconnected and drained the water lines as we were supposed to get a frost.

We also purchased 500 pounds of lime the week of October 1st; however, we have been unable to till or spread the lime due to rain. We have decided to spread the lime on top of the mowed hay in all production fields to save time. As we have been all year, we are behind in our work, primarily due to weather. We hope to get down and do a trial run with the small tractor using a pull behind spreader. If it works, we will experiment for the proper settings and David will be able to go down during decent weather. We will need to apply over a ton of lime to the three main production fields, not including the test garden (we will need to buy another 600 pounds or more to get the job done). The lime will help our cover crops build nitrogen.

And that, our friends, brings you up-to-date to last weekend.

Baker Heritage Farms

Sunday, September 30, 2012

12SEP30

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Rain, rain, and more rain - fall has arrived and it promises to provide relief from this past summer's heat and drought.

David and Debbie went down to the test garden this past Monday and picked watermelon (both Moon & Stars and Congo), some more beans, cucumbers, and naturally, more squash. The pumpkins are still doing good and David is hoping that they make it to mid-month when they are supposed to ripen.

Watermelons
The watermelons were saved and served at Sunday Night's For Everyone at our church. Donald got to taste test them, and they passed. No one at church complained about them.

Small Pickin's
We are getting near to the end of our harvest opportunities, but it is good to see that the test garden produced so well (better than we had hoped).

Debbie and David went to Smart Mart in Cameron and picked up 500 pounds of Lime. This is less than half of what we will need but will get us started on preparing the production fields. We were unable to do anything with it this weekend due to weather, but hope to get it down soon. We will ultimately need about 1,200 pounds as we need to apply 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet, and we have over 60,000 square feet in production fields.

On Thursday, David, Debbie, and Donald visited with LeFlore County NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) to ensure that we could "alter" Headache Creek (a very small creek that cuts through field 1). We named it headache creek as it is rather deep (probably about a foot) and you cannot see it when the hay is growing. As a result, when you are driving between the main creek and the production fields, unless you remember, you end up with a headache.

This coming Saturday is our Church's Fall Festival, and we have donated 53 pounds of processed and frozen squash. If you live in the area and are needed some frozen squash, be sure to drop by the Heavener First United Methodist Church, in Heavener, OK.

Until next week:

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

Sunday, September 23, 2012

12SEP23

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

This past Wednesday David went down to the test garden and picked what he said (hoped?) was the last squash harvest of the year (it wasn't, there are still more growing).

He picked a lot of vegetables:

Zucchini Squash
We have had an excellent crop of Zucchini Squash. These were from the Wednesday harvest.

Patty Pan Squash & Cucumbers
We also had an excellent crop of Patty Pan Squash - more than we really anticipated. We have had a fair crop of Cucumber, though it probably could have been better.

Pole Beans
Our first, and possibly only, bean harvest - at least we had enough to harvest.
The "Farm" Kitchen
Debbie and David sliced and diced 11 pounds of Patty Pan Squash and 42 pounds of Zucchini Squash this week. It is now located in our church's freezers. The church fall festival is coming up and we plan to sell the squash at the festival. All proceeds will go to the church.

We also have several watermelon coming ripe and at least a few pumpkins growing.

We have all come to the conclusion that, if we were to go commercial (rather than organic), we could have a very successful market crop operation. By using fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides, our production gardens would most likely do very well - however, one has to wonder if (1) the profit would be there due to high cost of inputs, and (2) if the demand would be there as we would be just ... like everyone else.

We will stick to all-natural growing methods.

Until next week,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

12SEP16

Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

We have had rain - glorious, wet, rain. It drizzled on and off on Saturday and today there has been a steady, light rain fall most of the day. This has provided us with a weekend off from farming.

David and Donald went down to the test garden and picked some of the squash that was clearly visible. You would think that there would not be much left; however, they picked a full basket.

There is a good crop of pole beans that are ready to pick. As this variety is prone to disease if not handled properly, they should not be picked while wet. We will have to wait until it dries out to pick them, but they look good and healthy.

Our Congo watermelon's were eaten by something (not sure what) and all they left were the seeds; however, the Mood & Stars watermelon are doing good.

We have a few pumpkins and a lot of blooms, so the pumpkin patch is still a work in progress.

We are happy with the success of our test garden. Production was good for most crops, especially when considering the fact that we planted late, the soil was virgin soil and the soil was not really prepared properly.

The garden is now more of a weed patch then a garden, but it is still producing. We will cease watering all areas except the pumpkins (hoping for a good fall crop) and will most likely be mowing the garden down by mid-October so we can start preparing for next year.

The immediate goal is to determine what we want to plant over the next 12 - 18 months so that we can set a schedule for the production fields as well as the test garden. We will be moving equipment down to prepare the fields for winter crops as soon as the weather clears.

Until next week,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

Ramblings of a Wannabe Farmer

Ramblings of a Wannabe Farmer
By Donald Baker

Last week at our Beginning Farmers and Ranchers class at the Kerr Center, I had the opportunity to have a discussion on successful farming with Mr. George Kuepper, Horticulture Program Manager and the main instructor for the Horticulture track.

We had just returned from visiting Wild Things Farm, a very successful farming operation located in Pocola, Oklahoma.  Our discussion related to the ability of small acreage, or even backyard, farms to be successful.

Based on my limited knowledge of farming and what we learned at Baker Heritage Farms over the past 9 months, it is my humble opinion that small acreage and back yard farmers can be just as successful as large commercial farmers, and possibly even more successful. Smaller farms can adapt more quickly to changing conditions, including weather, markets, and growing habitat, then large commercial farms can.

Larger commercial farms generally specialize in two or three primary crops, concentrating on those crops that will generate the most profit that season. The size of these operations limit plantings, many times to just one planting per year.

Small farms generally plant a number of different crops, and have the ability to plant throughout the year, depending on where they are located. These farms usually specialize in market crops that are in demand in their local area.

When disaster hits, the large commercial farms are more exposed to crop loss, whether the disaster is weather related, or related to insects, fungus, or other disaster. This has been very evident over the past two years. Corn, soy beans, and wheat are generally sensitive to weather, particularly drought or flood. As such, commercial farmers have had two devastating years back-to-back. Their losses were high due to their concentration on one crop. The small acreage farmer, however, can better plan for drought through diversification, planting schedules (Baker Heritage Farm had several successful crops because planting was late, missing the heat related pollination issues that affected many larger commercial farmers), and the ability to address the disaster due to the smaller scale.

How does this relate to profit? Mr. Kuepper and I agree - the small acreage or back yard farmer can be profitable, possibly even more profitable per acre than larger commercial farmers. How can this be possible when commercial farmers have more equipment, better infrastructure, and larger acreage? If you take away the government crop insurance and other government sponsored price support programs, there is a good possibility that the larger commercial farmer will show more of a loss than a profit over time. All of the large equipment cost money, the infrastructure costs money, and the cost of buying or renting acreage has increased substantially over the past several years. The small acreage, or backyard, farmer is usually able to control operating and input costs, more through necessity then planning. By using organic (sustainable) growing methods, the smaller farmer is constantly improving the soil while producing market crops. The crops produced are of higher quality, more favorable, and healthier than those produced by larger farmers, and thus, can bring in more profit when sold locally. The integrity of the soil is maintained, avoiding draining resources from the soil allowing continuous planting without damage to the soil.

Small farm operations can better control costs and production, providing a safety net through diversification (Wild Things Farm has diversified into agri-tourism), and can generate a higher profit margin.

While the payday will not be larger, the profit margin can be, and the additional benefits (lifestyle, being good stewards of the land, time with the family, and working with your hands) are irreplaceable.

Yes, farming is a challenge - but what would life be without a challenge. Will the family farm ever return? We hope so. The objective at Baker Heritage Farms is to determine successful ways for the family farm to exist and to promote the benefits of family farming.

Keep watching for more Ramblings. Next up - challenging the claims that food causes obesity. 

Until next time ...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

12SEP09

Greetings;

Donald had the pleasure of attending the second to last Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Horticulture class at the Kerr Center this past Saturday. This class was more intense then other classes and included a field trip to Wild Things Farm.

Jim and Cathie Green started the 90-acre Wild Things Farm in 2000 to raise wild flowers. They immediately changed direction and started growing strawberries. Mrs. Green provided a tour of the farm, background information, and an excellent power-point presentation of the various activities conducted on the farm. Wild Things Farm is a very successful, diversified farm that has made a beneficial transition to agri-tourism. Mrs. Green provided a diverse range of information that will be useful to all of the attendees including Baker Heritage Farms. A big thank you to Mrs. Green and Wild Things Farm for their hospitality. For more information on Wild Things Farm, visit their web site at http://wildthingsfarrm.com/.

After the visit to the farm, each class member gave a brief overview of their successes and failures, what they have learned, what has worked and what has not worked, and the ups and downs of farming.

This class included more information on preparing a farm business plan, including drafting contingency plans (necessary for resilient farming). Also included was Farm Food Safety (Good Agriculture Practices for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables) and winter cover crops. The class ended with a final visit to the Demo field as well as the other Cannon Horticultural Plots.

We need to complete our Farm Business Plan and get it submitted before the final class next month. We have already benefited from the Business Plan by keeping our farm on track with our initial plans.

We are already working on planning our winter cover crops. We have several goals for our cover crops, including:

1st - Increase nitrogen levels;
2nd - Weed control;
3rd - Tillage; and
4th - Attracting beneficial insects.

We have been working to determine what winter cover crops will meet most of these goals based on priority, and are essentially down to a number of clover and vetch varieties, peas, and beans. The Kerr Center has offered their assistance and we will be meeting with them in the next couple of weeks for their guidance in determining what we will actually plant this fall. We have not yet determined whether or not we will be planting any winter production crops in the test garden.

Debbie, David, and Donald went down to the test garden today. More squash was picked, as well as some cucumbers and watermelon.

We are in a quandary with our watermelon. We have had several go rotten, and one of our Congo watermelon had split; when we opened it the meat was red and juicy. However, we picked one of the Congo that met all of the criteria for ripeness, but when we opened it, it had yellow flesh. We also picked two Moon & Stars, which showed all the signs of ripeness. When we opened one, the flesh was red and the seeds were mostly black. Danielle liked the yellow flesh of the Congo melon, which she thought was sweeter and better tasting then the Moon & Stars. We think that the Congo melon may have been cross-polinated, we will need to better plan our planting times and location to try to avoid future cross-pollination problems. The Moon & Stars appeared mostly ripe and had a good watermelon flavor. Debbie thought both types were good, as did David. At least we know we can grow watermelon.

Moon & Stars Watermelon
Congo Watermelon
We have at least two pumpkins that are doing well and several other possibilities. Our beans are growing but it will be interesting to see if we can get a usable harvest before the first frost sets in.

It has become obvious that being diversified in crops, and working the farm year-round, will increase the success, and possibly even the profitability of the farm. One of the things we learned from Mrs. Green at Wild Things Farm was how to use agri-tourism as a benefit to both the farm and the community. We hope to eventually open a cooking program at the farm, showing how to cook a number of dishes using products produced on the farm.

Watch for Ramblings of a Wanna-be Farmer to be added to the blog in the near future.

Blessings to all;

Baker Heritage Farm