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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Defining my goals; Developing a farm plan

I have spent the last several days studying online. That is nothing unusual for me, I love research and learning, the internet is my best friend.....and I wandered upon more information that I have really enjoyed consuming. I like to follow my train of thought backwards sometimes, just to see if I can remember how I came up with a concept...much like Google chrome tracks my web browsing history.....This is where the trek started:

Giant Audrey ready to Bloom article from the Newleader and Friends of the Garden


information from a post on that site lead me to Practical Farmers of Iowa.

And they have been doing Farminars that I have missed...BUT...they are Archived! =)

The Farminars I was most interested in were in Vegetable Production and Marketing, etc. they are about 1 1/2 hours long, so I have been sitting and listening for a while. I have found the information is so valuable and I have really enjoyed the presentations.
One of the first that I watched was a presentation from Gary Guthrie of Harmony Farm, and a member and contributor of PFI. He gave a lovely presentation that, to me, was so reminiscent of John Jeavons'; Grow more vegetables book.
And other organic "sustainable" farming practices that I have read of....like Elliot Coleman and Ed Smith. Then, it really hit home: that this is ENTIRELY possible. I really could try this....and BE A FARMER.
I have to try before I will know! I have been listening and reading information that supports all the beliefs I have developed over the years of reading. All the information I have gleaned from these books that I insisted I buy on Amazon. All the little tidbits of wisdom from friends and relatives on how they have planted this or that, or how their grandparents did it....all those volumes of Gardening encyclopedias that are currently bowing the shelves in the front room.....all this knowledge on the internet...it is adding up and culminating into a monstrous desire to try this. I don't think I can make it many more years sane, without beginning to make my living from plants and their synergy with people.
I am not sure what type of farmer I would like to be. I don't know where I will farm, or how I will get the money to start. All I know is that I want to do it, and it seems no less extraordinary than going back to college or suddenly changing professions from boredom....that happens every day...the only difference is that I don't have to change anything, but the scale in which I am growing. If I live on a farm, I am still at home, and therefore a stay at home mom....but also a stay at farm mom! Which is just as glamorous a title. =)

My gardening has been slow in developing up until the last several years, but now I am realizing that I am not alone in that....Everyone has to start somewhere! I didn't have the opportunity to do more with what I had, until I had something. And now that our house is finished and the kids are older and going to school in the fall, I have to focus on something. I am either going out into the working world, which is failing at this point. Or I am going out into a world that I make for myself. What is the difference? If I decide to work at Movie Gallery or be a farmer, there are financial risks involved, and social status' to be classified into....I want the choice to be mine, and not one of circumstance.
Since listening to a few of the Farminars on PFI's site, I have gained a new respect for certain obligations of the farmer and their families and friends. I see all the administrative aspects of farming as tedious but necessary. It has been really good for me to be exposed to this information early on, listening to the trials and errors, triumphs and pitfalls of each of these small farm endeavors is beneficial to know of before setting out.
Hearing the different types of operations, the new ideas that fizzled and the ones that helped to improve or gain more success from these ventures has taught me more that my narrow minded frame of thought. I always assumed that I would be different if I chose not to grow 4 acres of soy and 4 acres of corn on a 8.5 acre parcel. But it's just not true anymore. The new generations of farmers and the new generation of produce consumers have much much different ideas of what is kosher than 30 or 40 years ago. (for example, I just received a gift set of circa 1964 garden encyclopedias the other day. In the section on cold framing they suggested painting the inside with white lead paint....eww. It is hard for me to imagine not knowing that lead is bad for you). People have higher standards, and hopefully values as well, and we are evolving as people more consciously to repairing the misdeeds of previous generations, agriculture included. I want to be a part of that.
I don't need to make a lot of money. My husbands work is enough to get by, although by most people's standards it is not much. I am quite comfortable with his salary, and if I could duplicate it in the country and he no longer had to go to town to work, that is my dream. From what i have been hearing of yearly figures, a lot of small farms gross more than our annual income. Which to me, means more investing in the future of our family and farm.
A main concern of ours, is moving. Currently we are buying our home that we spent many years building, and we have a hard time thinking about moving and especially of selling. But harder so, is finding a way to do it, despite our financial hesitation. Renting our home and moving away will be easier once a plan is in place and an appropriate opportunity presents itself. This is why I have focused on learning and experimenting as much as I can on a smaller scale. My 1/2 acre+ of city land is ever increasingly becoming more and more productive. And I am learning new things all the time. I try to improve my methods with each year and find the best way to grow each plant, from the plant's perspective, so to speak.
My current plan is to continue adding vegetables, and reach maximum production from my plot. I want to evaluate expense vs. harvest, size of plot and seeding vs. our need for each crop. If at all possible I would love to begin marketing a VERY SMALL amount of this years harvest as an experimental CSA, or subscription service....and explore these avenues as an eventual permanent market.
I am focusing on season extension and succession sowing as a means to increase harvest vs. space limitations and to really get a feel for eventual harvest. If I over produce I will be very happy and share the wealth....under production would be considered my only failure this year. My goal is definitely to become sustainable for my family, and get a better picture for others families.
My goal is to be able to feed my family in case my farm does not provide enough profit, that we will be able to get by on very little indeed. I don't see that as scary. Planning is the scary part. My foggy ideas cannot equate to action. I am the type of person that plans and lists and pro/cons an idea before eventually going ahead....I have to be sure of my intent before trying. I have to be sure that I have what it will take. And the only thing I lack as of now is DIRECTION. I have the motivation and will to get the job done. But what job will it be?

NARROWING THE GOAL

I have too many goals to list in one sitting.
This is a serious drawback. I need to decide, for certain, what my farm enterprise will begin with. Veggies? Fruit? Nuts? Mushrooms? poultry and livestock? Transplants and seedlings? honey? firewood? consulting?
All the operations are inevitable...I want to do them all. But what is the MAIN GOAL of our farm? (sustainability) What is the farm's purpose and eventual goal?
That is what I am going to try to figure out this year. Experiment until I know....ask until I get the answer I need.

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