Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;
We are back and it is good to be back on the farm.
Actually, we have been back for over a week now, but have been trying to catch up on work and chores. Not only are we back on the farm, but we are back to work getting the farm up and running.
Just prior to leaving, we planted peppers and tomatoes. Donald went down to the production fields a week ago Monday (the day after we returned) and learned that all of our efforts were for naught. All of the plants were gone. GONE? Yes, gone. It appears that they were eaten, most likely by deer.
As we stated when we first started this blog, the farm would be a learning experience, and we wanted to share that learning experience with others, both the successes and the failures. While it would seem that we have had more failures this year then successes, it has still been a very beneficial year for learning.
What have we learned so far?
- We spent a good portion of 2012 planning for crops in 2013. While we tried to consider all potential risks, and considered weather, we failed to consider how dramatically the weather could affect our efforts. When you read about large farms, you become comfortable in your abilities, forgetting we are not a large commercial farm that has been in existence for years. We are a brand new farm, preparing virgin soil, and following strict guidelines on what we can do and what we cannot do in order to keep our operation All Natural (organic).
- Based on our planning, we set out to plant a number of crops during our first year of full operation, expecting to have a profitable farming enterprise based solely on our planning and our willingness to work hard. Unfortunately, we had not yet completed all aspects of our Farm Plan and were not prepared for the disruptions that occurred at the end of 2012 and the first part of 2013. These disruptions included family emergencies requiring us to be away from the farm for extended periods, loss of farm labor, severe weather, and lack of proper timing. On top of the disruptions, we quickly came to realize that we were overly optimistic about what we could accomplish, trying to accomplish too much in too short a period of time.
- In anticipation of starting a fully operational farming enterprise from scratch the first full year into the enterprise, we went ahead and placed a full order for seed for the first planting (scheduled for February). While the thought process on placing this order was most likely correct (concern about availability, receiving the seed on time, etc.), the logistics were not realistic. It is hard to admit you made a mistake, but we did. We were ready - at the time we ordered the seed. But we were not ready when it came time to plant the seed. As a result, we lost all of our cabbage seeds as well as all of our tomato and pepper seedlings. But not all was lost. The rest of the seed we will refrigerate and hope that it will be good for next years planting.
- As the pepper and tomato seedlings began to mature, we realized that the trays we were using were too small. Rather than spending the money to get new trays and taking the time to transplant them into the new trays, we let them languish in the trays that were obviously too small, inhibiting their growth and compromising their health. While it may not have helped them survive the predators, it may have helped them grow to a size that would given them a better chance of survival.
- Rather than take our time and do things the right way, we got in a hurry and skipped steps that have proven to be disastrous, and expensive. In our zeal to get crops planted, we got careless and increased our risk of failure. Rather than admitting we made mistakes, we continued to try to meet our goals and save money, when in reality, we ended up losing more money then we would have by admitting our mistakes and taking corrective action, regardless of the setbacks this would have (and did anyway) caused.
Did we learn? Yes. We learned quite a bit, though we learned the hard way.
What will we change? We already started changing our operation with the implementation of ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms.
- First, we stopped all seed purchases, as well as many related purchases, pending a new crop plan. This put a stopper on the outflow of cash. It also gave us time to take a breather.
- Second, we decided to concentrate on poultry, as we were already committed to the purchase of 25 chickens and 15 turkeys. We needed to ensure that we did everything we could to protect the poultry once they arrived. Due to ongoing issues with the poultry operation, it is evident that, if we did not stop crop operations, we would be in trouble with the poultry, as the birds are taking more of our time then we anticipated (not helped by a shortage of labor).
- We have been taking time to consider the next steps we will take to get the farm up and running. We now realize that we will not be able to begin crop operations this year. In addition, we also realize that our labor force is not going to grow back to it's anticipated levels. Our experiences have showed us that we cannot start too big, that we need to start smaller and work up, especially since we are starting with virgin soil that has not been worked before.
- We also realize that putting seed in the ground is not the only consideration when starting a farm. While we realized that there was more to putting seed in the ground (tilling, irrigation, and other preparations), we did not realize what impact outside forces would have on our overall plans.
- We now know that it will be beneficial to start working the land in advance. We need to do this carefully and think before we act. We will need to work the land as much as possible and then use cover crop to protect the land until we are ready to plant.
- We will have to provide more protection, at least initially, from animals. We are already looking into using netting over younger plants to protect them from predators. This will require extra expense and labor, but without taking these steps, we will just be throwing our money away.
- We will need to have the land ready for planting before we order the seed. Contingency plans will need to be in place before seed is ordered, so that different seed can be ordered if the original seed is not available.
- We need to be willing to spend money to ensure the success of the crops rather than try to cut corners to save a few dollars just to lose an entire crop. We need to take our time and work steadily and efficiently rather than get in a hurry and rush things. This will safe money and, ultimately, save time.
So, it is back to the drawing board. ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms will require that we revisit our initial Farm Plan; however, it does not mean that we are abandoning the original plan, just revising it. This will result in the original Farm Plan becoming our long-term plan, and the revisions becoming our short-term plan.
The balance of this year will be spent on improving our poultry operations, working to get the homestead in order so that less labor is spent on maintaining the non-producing property and more labor can be dedicated to productive property, and starting to properly work the production fields so that they are ready to plant next year.
At this time, we are planning on starting crops on a much smaller basis then our original plan, keeping the rest of the production fields in beneficial cover crops until we are ready and able to plant. This will allow us to properly plant and maintain each plot as time and weather permits. This will prevent weather, labor availability, soil conditions, etc. from dictating what we do, when we do it, and how we do it.
Like a good Boy Scout, Baker Heritage Farms will be prepared.
Blessings to all from:
Baker Heritage Farms
"The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah." 2 Chronicles 36:21