Winter Planning

One of the things that I love about farming is the rhythm of the season, which becomes much more apparent when you’re in the midst of it. There’s nothing like the appreciation you gain for the sun on your skin after a spring spent transplanting in the pouring rain, or the taste of the first juicy tomato after months of waiting. And because we live and farm in the North, that means we have a period of rest (at least for us vegetable farmers) in the winter. After a hectic Spring, Summer, and Fall, I enjoy having the time to cozy up with a good book or knitting project in the Winter. But it’s also a time to reflect on last year’s successes and failures and plan for the coming season. In our case, this means setting up our business, in addition to the regular seasonal planning.

We started our crop plan months ago and just completed it a few weeks ago. Although, I hesitate to say we completed it, because everything on a farm is constantly moving, and I’m sure we will continue to make changes to it. It may seem not seem like such a big project to decide what vegetables to grow, but we also needed to choose varieties (sometimes 3-6 varieties for each vegetable), amount to plant, seed and transplant dates, number of successions to plant, and then how many seeds we need to order. This data will also help us figure out how much potting soil and how many seed trays of each size we will need. This sort of planning will get easier in future years when we can adjust our previous year’s plan to account for growth or changes, instead of building it from scratch.

A small sample of our crop plan

A small sample of our crop plan

On the business side of things, there are countless tasks that are foreign to us as new small business owners. My project this morning involved setting up a way for us to track our expenses. Thankfully, the amazing farmers that we worked for the past two years have been an enormous help in sharing their systems, so it just involved a little tweaking to make it work for our specific needs. We have managed to create a budget that we hope is semi-accurate and set up a website that we are quite proud of. There is still a lot to do and I’m sure there are a few things that we haven’t even thought of yet.

When Joe and I first started talking about starting our own farm, we were both in agreement that we needed to start small. We liked the idea of starting with something manageable and growing our farm slowly as we developed our systems and honed our business skills. As we formulate our plans this Winter, which sometimes just feels like a vaguely educated guessing game, we appreciate our foresight. I can’t imagine trying to start with a bigger operation. We’re also grateful that the incubator program at The North Farm will allow us to put our plan into action, and get our hands dirty, without going into tons of debt. Access to the infrastructure and tools that would normally require loans allows us stay very small and focus on the farm. We will be growing on just half an acre, a manageable plot for two farmers while still producing a bounty of vegetables.

As the winter winds down (we will be moving to The North Farm in just a month) and we scramble to get all our ducks in a row, we are starting to get antsy with all this computer work. I can’t wait to spend my days outside and bury my hands in the soil. But I try to appreciate this season as much as all the others and take my Netflix breaks while I can.