Not exactly. We only work about 40 hours a week in the winter, which is about half of our summer hours, so we do have more free time and feel a little more sane. In reality, the winter is just a different pace of life with different farm jobs compared to the summer. We have a lot less time for outside jobs with so little daylight. Too cold to work outside you say, poppycock we say. Right now we are still harvesting both outside and in our greenhouses for our CSA, wholesale and several farmers' markets. We also have a flock of about 400 chickens that need more care in the winter (making sure they are warm enough, fresh bedding, their water isn't frozen, collecting eggs, etc.). We also do a lot of farm clean up and organizing, so the fields and greenhouses are ready to go in the spring. Once the snow comes, we need to keep the snow off of our 7 greenhouses and shovel them out in larger storms to prevent damage (the greenhouses next to each other can get a build up between them and this can cause damage with heavy snow). Come February, we will head back into the greenhouse to start seeding for the summer and in March and April we start prepping fields and it all starts over again.
The winter is also when we catch up on all of our office work: bookkeeping, research (how to solve problems with pests and diseases, new farming methods, equipment, soil science, so much research) and of course my favorite...planning (making lists and planning is my happy place). It takes a solid 2-3 months for us to do all of the planning necessary to run our farm. It starts with a big picture view of the season and what changes we want to make for the coming season. We do a lot of goal setting both for the business but also personal goals. We then settle on one major overarching goal for the year that will help guide all decisions for the season.
Then we dive in to the details. This is a long process that involves a detailed analysis of what went wrong/right and what we need to change. We set financial goals, including how many CSA members we want, which farmers' markets we think will be best for us, and whether or not we are going to expand our wholesale and farm store. We also need to set a marketing plan on how to attract new customers. Meanwhile we sit down and go through each individual crop from beans to zucchini and discuss what we could do better and how many bed feet or how many plants we need to grow to meet our needs in the coming season, and which varieties we want to grow. There are a lot of spreadsheets! We then take all of this information and translate it into a seed order (this is a HUGE spreadsheet), a seeding plan (when to start everything in the greenhouse so it is ready on time), a planting plan (this is a map of where everything goes in the field), a cash flow plan (we have a lot of supplies we need to buy early in the season so this is crucial), and a work flow plan (there are a lot of logistics and it is a full time job just managing them). Then we have to get CSA sign-ups, hire and train employees, apply for farmers' markets, get our taxes done..... there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle of running a farm and a small business.
So when someone asks, "oh you must love having the winters off as a farmer", I usually smile while all of the things I have to do swirl through my head and I politely say... that would be nice. Don't get me wrong, I love farming and I love all of the planning, dreaming, and big thoughts that happen in the winter. It is also a time that we work on life balance, which is very important to me. I try and spend more time with my daughter Amelia (I figure I have about 5 more years before she turns into a preteen and hates me), try and spend some non-farm time with the hubby, exercise to keep the body moving, and meditate to keep the mind happy and healthy. We also try and go on vacation at some point to escape the daily grind of the farm and have some time to connect and rejuvenate.
I must admit, I am a little more excited than usual this time of year. We had a great growing season, and we have a lot of exciting plans for the farm in 2019. I am super excited to be participating in a business accelerator program called EforAll SouthCoast. This program has really opened our minds to think big and look at all sorts of possibilities for our farm (and we are only in week 1). As we are in the midst of all of our planning, I want to share with you a review of 2018. Below are some highlights from our 2018 season with some of the changes we are making for 2019. We are planning another big expansion for 2019, so we are opening our CSA sign-up early this year. If you are considering joining our CSA this year, consider joining early so we can get a jump on all of our planning and hit the ground running in January.
We are offering an incentive for signing up early. If you pay in full for a 20 week share by January 31st, you will get a gift certificate for $40, $30, or $20 (large, regular and small share, respectively). The gift certificate is valid for a year and can be used to buy anything in our farm store and at our farm stand at the farmers' markets we attend. Sign-up today and help us kick off the new season right.
A sampling of CSA shares from 2018.
We had a bountiful year. Thanks to our employees who helped make it all happen. Thank you to our customers for supporting the farm and giving us a reason to always aim higher and become better farmers. We are planning to expand in 2019 and look forward to the challenge of making it the best year yet.
We rented two acres at Round the Bend Farm this year. It was great growing and we were able to try out some new farming techniques. Thanks to SEMAP, we trialed the paperpot transplanter (Tony is using it to plant scallions above). We also experimented with low till farming. In 2019 we are doubling our land at Round the Bend and continuing to work on low till farming to help create healthy, living soils.
Volunteers helping out with the BIG potato DIG. We dug over a ton of potatoes in just under two hours! In 2019 we will have several volunteer days for people who want to get their hands dirty on the farm.
We are planning an expansion for the pick-your-own garden in 2019 for our CSA members. We will plant more flowers, have a more diversified herb selection and add some vegetables.
We had two major infrastructure projects this year: a new high tunnel at our main site and a well at our field on Bakerville Road. We hope to get another high tunnel in 2019 for more tomatoes and more winter production. We also have a few more infrastructure projects up our sleeves for 2019... can't wait, it is going to be an exciting season for us.