Sunday, November 25, 2012


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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:

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

Baker Heritage Farms