This weekend was a bust - it rained. We had planned to have "family day" down at the test garden Saturday, installing corner posts, line posts, field fencing, and gate. We also hoped to get some seed into the ground. However, the best laid plans of mice and men were disrupted, as normal, with rain that started in the wee hours of Saturday morning and work had to be suspended.
David and Donald did get a chance to do some work on the hen house. The corner and middle posts were cut for the roof and half the floor installed. David has the wood for the nesting boxes cut and is about ready to put the boxes together. Once the nesting boxes are completed, they will be installed. After that, the doors and windows can be completed, the roof put on, and the last half of the floor can be completed. Then the fencing will need to be installed, and the chicks can be ordered.
Are you planning on starting a backyard, or small acreage, farm? If you are, start planning now for next year. While you can do some preparation work now, you should not start spending money or planting any seed until you have your farm operation completely planned.
A great resource for information is the Kerr Center. They have an excellent library which can be accessed at: http://www.kerrcenter.com/resources/kerr-center-publications.htm.
If you are planning to be a certified organic farmer, you will need to know the requirements. You do not want to use any insecticides, herbicides, or fertilizers on the land until you have researched what is, and is not, acceptable under the organic certification standards. Even if you plan to be like us and conduct natural farming, you will need to follow the standards for being certified organic.
Whether or not you are going to be a certified organic farmer, operate an all-natural farm, or grow crops and raise livestock the conventional way, you need to plan now. If you are planning to grow any type of crops, you need to consider the following:
- What types of crops do you want to grow?
- Will you grow for your own use, or do you plan to grow for a farmers market?
- How big will your crop operation be and where will it be located?
- Will it need fencing and if so, what kind? What are you trying to keep out of your crops? Will the type of fence you are planning work?
- What is growing in the location you have chosen now?
- How will you handle the current growth (till it under, kill it by denying sunlight, or use conventional herbicides to kill it)?
- You will need to know what type of operation you want before you make your final decision. Even conventional crops require that herbicides be used only at certain times before and during the growing season for food safety reasons.
- Once you have determined what you plan to grow, determine how much. Remember, you will need to rotate your crops every year to reduce the risk of weeds, pests, and disease. Don't plant just one or two crops, plant several so that you can rotate every year (more on this later).
- Determine what the time range is for planting in your area. Most seed catalogs have a Hardiness Zone Chart. You will need to find out what your Hardiness Zone is. From that, you can find out when the last frost normally occurs as well as the average dates for the first frost.
- Determine when you will need to plant and when you can expect to harvest.
- Determine whether you will grow just one crop or try to grow two crops back-to-back.
- Consider planting winter cover crops where you plan to grow crops. This will start to build soil nutrients and control unwanted weeds. This will also get you started on your farming adventure.
- Determine if you will be till, no-till, or a mixture. If you are going to plant cover crops and you plan to till, now is the time to consider the first tilling. Be sure that you are ready to plant cover crops so that you do not have bare ground. At a recent seminar, Donald learned that bare ground is not good (after years of thinking that land should be kept fallow after a certain number of years).
- If you are planning to raise any type of livestock or poultry, be sure to check your zoning laws. We are fortunate as we are in an area where there are no zoning laws.
- As you would do for crops, you need to plan. What type of livestock or poultry are you planning on raising? Why? Are you raising poultry for eggs? Are you raising poultry and/or livestock for meat? For personal consumption or for sale at farmers' markets? Will you be breeding? Will your animals be heritage breeds or conventional breeds? Why? How much land will you need? What type of housing (all animals need at least minimal cover)? What type of fencing will you need? Are there special concerns regarding any of the animals you plan to raise (if you are raising poultry, you do not want to have chickens next to any other type of fowl, or where you plan to raise any other type of fowl).
- What are the feed requirements for your animals? Is it readily available?
These are just some of the things you can start doing today to start your farming venture. We started our informal planning process several years ago and started our formal plans this past October. Unfortunately, we are learning as we go and are making numerous mistakes. Some mistakes we catch before they become expensive, and sometimes we take the financial hit. Either way, it would be much better if we could forgo the mistakes altogether. As we are progressing, we hope that we can pass on some of the mistakes we have made, and what we learned from them, to save you from making the same mistakes.
Until next time,
Blessing from Baker Heritage Farms