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The 'End' of 2014 Farming Season

I say the 'end' because there is still a lot to do to finish putting the farm to bed and we'll be attending four more winter markets at the 1912 Center in Moscow and give a beginning farmer workshop at the Idaho Center for Sustainable Ag Symposium. But the bulk of the season is over. Now is our time to rest, rejuvenate and plan for next season. 

We begin planning right away. On our end of the season trip, the first thing we do in the car is make a list. What worked, what didn't, what do we each want to change. Then we rank each item in a scale of 1-5. 1 being must change or do away with with 5 being 'do more!' or expand that part of the operation. Its a really simple exercise that helps us capture on paper what just happened, when sometimes the season feels like a speeding train and we have just jumped off. What the hell just happened?! So to sit together and organize each our thoughts is really helpful before we take our respite into the wilderness. 

Once we return and hopefully the snow starts to fly, we sit for hours looking at seed catalogs, reading books and websites about what other small scale, direct market vegetable growers are doing and thinking, then we plan. We make our seed order, this year our plan is to have that done before the end of the year. And then we read some more. Mostly just for fun at this point. Since we miss most of the months other people get to enjoy reading in the sunshine or by the beach. Our days of rest and reading are mostly done under a blanket with a cup of tea. Ahh, sweet rest.



Planning: Spreadsheets

It is supposed to be the dead of winter right now. But it feels more like spring some days, with sunshine and a lack of frosty mornings. We haven't had noticeable precipitation in weeks and we're getting a little worried. But we're right where we're supposed to be... We're planning.

As part of our farming seasonal schedule, January is the month that we pour over records of last season, make lists of what we want to grow, what we grow because of different markets and our CSA, and drool over seed catalog pictures, knowing that some of those beautiful tomatoes won't taste the way they look in a picture. It's a fun process, reflecting together over what we enjoyed last season and what gave us the headaches. What can we change? What can we do better? What can we do better without? 

Greg has created a most beautiful masterpiece of a spreadsheet that keeps track of everything. Its so important for market farmers to have a working knowledge of what has been done and what we have to do in our future. Its a living document that is constantly tweaked and referred to throughout our busiest greenhouse seeding months of March and April. Every plant is accounted for, nothing is done in haste. We try to have a game plan. That game plan, when printed out for our trusty field notebook is about thirty pages. While we don't refer to all 30 pages, its all important information that we use in different ways throughout the year. In January, when that spreadsheet is reborn for the new season, we laugh at how this spreadsheet is truly an extension of these farmer brains. You can see a snipit below of our beloved production schedule and how we've tracked it for the last 3 seasons going on 4th.

Its jam packed, we know. It tells us how much of what we need to grow to meet the demands of our CSA, two farmers markets, online market, restaurant sales and more. While we know farmers who fly by the seat of their pants, or who know their routine by heart, this is an example of how each farm does things a little differently. We feel having this sort of detailed plan makes ordering seeds easier, determining how much we need to grow to meet our projected income for the year, and in general is makes day to day operations a little more smooth. If you ask a farmer right now what they are doing this time of year, some form of this is likely. So, even if we're not out working in the soil, it doesn't mean we're not busy.