Sunday, May 5, 2013

ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms

The Start of a New Plan

We all know that it is of utmost importance to prepare a farm plan if you are planning to invest your money and time into a commercial farming venture (or even if you are only planning to reduce your household expenses and grow fresh, healthy, and wholesome vegetables). As you prepare your farm plan, be aware of those uncontrollable aspects of your plan that will result in changes, particularly if you are working with virgin soils (those soils that have never been worked before).

If you remember, Baker Heritage Farms has dedicated approximately 6 acres of pasture to the initial farm start-up, of which over 1.5 acres was to be in production fields. All of the pasture is virgin soil, it has not been worked for at least 15 years, and most likely has never been worked. The soil tests conducted in 2012 indicated a severe lack of minerals (with the exception of Magnesium).

With a commercial farming operation that is not restricted to raising heirloom crops organically, virgin soil is not a major drawback; however, if you are planning to raise these healthy and wholesome crops, then you need to be prepared to work "on-demand". This means that you must be prepared to work the fields as soon as weather permits, and may also have to forego some crops during the first year or so.

A commercial, non-organic, farm can till the soil during the winter months, as weather permits. However, due to potential erosion and leeching of minerals, heirloom farmers using organic methods do not have this advantage, and should only till the soil shortly before it is to be planted. Soil should not be left "bare" for any length of time, if it can be avoided. The commercial, non-organic farmer can always supplement the soil with fertilizer and other soil amendments that an organic farmer cannot (or at least should not).

Baker Heritage Farms currently has three plots that have been without cover for five months now. Yes, one plot was planted (and then flooded); however, the other three were not. While the plots were prepared for seeding, extenuating circumstances resulted in two plots not being seeded (yes, the seed may have survived as the seeds to be planted in them were not as temperature sensitive as cabbage). Hydrolyzed Fish Powder (for Nitrogen) was even applied to half of two of the plots and one full plot. Due to there being no ground cover and subsequent run-off and leeching, the Fish Powder will need to be reapplied. While the Farm Plan was being followed, several "emergencies" arose, as well as weather conditions, that resulted in the Plan not being followed to completion. This can only be attributed to being in too much of a hurry to have a producing farm.

The Farm Plan for Baker Heritage Farms included three operations:
  • Production Crops;
  • Poultry; and
  • Livestock

The first year of operation was to be 2012, with the original plan calling for a test garden and raising turkeys. The turkeys were lost due to the failure to consider and address all possible dangers (resulting in domestic dogs getting into the pen). The test garden, however, was an unexpected success.

The second year of operation included fully planted crops and ground cover in the production fields, raising chickens and turkeys, and start using Spanish goats to clear land. Due to fencing needs, the Farm Plan did address potential delays in obtaining the goats.

The Farm Plan called for all crops to be planted in the production fields by April. Planting was to be done in stages, with the first seed to be in the ground by February. Seed was purchased in anticipation of following the Farm Plan without contingency plans.

As with the best laid plans of mice and men, the year started with several family emergencies that resulted in setbacks, as well as uncooperative weather, both of which should have been addressed in contingency plans. We realized in February that we were not going to be able to meet the goals of the Farm Plan and started to work on contingency plans. As we continued to suffer setbacks, we finally took the dramatic step of suspending the existing Farm Plan and start ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms. We knew that there would be more setbacks coming and needed to rethink our plan and to include contingency plans.

As a result, Baker Heritage Farms is now changing the Farm Plan to address immediate concerns and draft and implement a Farm Plan with more attainable goals that include contingency plans.

Baker Heritage Farms still include three areas: Livestock, Crops, and Poultry, but the priorities have changed.

Poultry operations have become the primary objective right now. The chickens and turkeys were already ordered and we were committed to taking delivery. The advantage is that the poultry operations are not as weather dependent as crops.

The next objective will be crop operations. Baker Heritage Farms already has 1,600 pepper seedlings and 200  tomato seedlings, so the first priority is to get the appropriate plots tilled and prepared for planting. The next priority will be to determine what seeds can still be panted this year and what seed will need to be stored for next year.

Seed on hand includes: Onion, Lettuce, Radish, and Carrots. The onion and lettuce seed will need to be stored until next year, the radish seed can be planted in August as a fall crop, and the Carrot seed can be planted in July as a summer crop. This means that our next priority will be to prepare the plots for the carrot and radish seed.

As part of our contingency plan, we need to get at least some of our plots into ground cover. This will allow us to have ground available that is being improved and may even be worked (tilled, which is not required for some cover crop). This will start improving the soil and preparing the ground for subsequent crop planting, so this will become our next step in our new Farm Plan.

Once these steps are achieved, Baker Heritage Farms will be able to draft a new Farm Plan that will be a workable plan and will allow for contingencies, reducing stress and the chance of expensive and time-consuming mistakes.

This is ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms Start of a New Plan, and we hope that you will stay with us and learn from our mistakes.

Blessings to all,

Baker Heritage Farms

No comments:

Post a Comment