December is finally upon us, a time when all good farmers look back upon the year they’ve had, weigh their successes and failures, and then start planning for the year to come. In our first year of farming, we:
- Planted 40 fruit trees, which are all growing nicely and are nearly twice their starting size
- Planted a blueberry patch, with 24 bushes and alder sawdust mulch
- Built three beehives, filled them with tens of thousands of bees, and harvested a gallon and a half of honey
- Cleared two thousand square feet of invasive blackberries, hand-tilled it all into vegetable beds, and grew over a thousand pounds of vegetables
- Erected nearly a thousand feet of deer fencing
- Had our own stand at a farmers’ market
- Harvested enough venison to supply our red meet needs for a year (bonus!)
Wow, that makes me tired just thinking of it. It was a lot of work, and we are indebted to many people who helped us along the way; by lending a hand during planting and harvesting, by “topping off” our tree order by an extra 50%, by watering things when we were gone for Emily’s grandma’s funeral, by donating some money for a beehive, or by dispensing expert advice whether or not it was asked for. This is truly Community Supported Agriculture in the most fundamental sense, and our farm is your farm.
In the year to come, we plan to greatly increase production to meet our expanding goals of providing produce to local restaurants, selling full-time at one (maybe two) farmers’ markets, and increasing self-sufficiency. Some of the expansion will simply be a lot of sweat, such as clearing, leveling, and hoeing another two thousand square feet of vegetable plots. Other plans will require much more logistics and financing. The two big hinderances to our operations in 2011 were irrigation and season extension; to better cope with these issues next year, we want to install a drip irrigation system and a greenhouse.
And that brings me the long way around to the second purpose of this letter. We were fortunate last year to receive funding assistance from many individuals for our orchard, through our “sponsor a tree” program. Encouraged by this, we’ve decided to offer a collaboration opportunity for the 2012 farming season as well. But why should you help out people like us? Basically, to vote with your pocketbook on the side of good and light. It’s your chance to stand behind chemical-free farming, small scale entrepreneurship, and the belief that big business shouldn’t be allowed to corner the market on the food we eat. In addition to all that, though, we feel that collaborative projects really draw our friends and family into our farm endeavor, giving them a personal connection with us and our dream.
We hope to repeat the success of the orchard fundraiser with this year’s project, The Greenhouse. It would allow us to start all of our seedlings earlier, which in turn means that we can bring product to market in the early weeks of the season. But more importantly, it insures that we will have hundreds of pounds of peppers and RED tomatoes this year, instead of the green ones that weren’t quite ready by the time we ran out of summer.
After a lot of research, we’ve identified the appropriate greenhouse and someone to supply it. This 20’x48′ semi-quonset style enclosure is durable, effective, and cost-efficient, and we can put it up for a bit over three thousand dollars. It will have 13 main support arches, so we’ve decided that anyone who wants to sponsor the project can claim their very own arch. For a donation of $300, you’ll get your name on an arch (literally; we’ll paint it on there for all to see!) as well as a Peace Crops t-shirt, a great way to show all your friends that you support sustainable community agriculture as well as tasteful logo parody.
If you only want the Peace Crops t-shirt (because you have a clothing shortage, or are an RPCV with a great sense of humor) we’re going to sell them without the attached greenhouse arch, too. Contact me to get on the list, and I’ll print a big pile of them when I have all the orders in. They will be $25 each, since it’s a nice organic shirt and a portion of the money goes to support the farm. Just let me know what size, sex, and color (khaki or pea green) you want by January 1st.
Again, thanks for your friendship and support, and if you know anyone else who would be interested in this information, please feel free to pass it along. Have a safe and happy holidays!