Friday, July 20, 2012

On My Mind

ME: You know everyone, I've been thinking.

YOU: A dangerous pastime.

ME: I know.

Here are some things that are on my mind at the moment.

 With what we do, we cannot escape the weather.  Many farmers now attempt to escape the weather with high tunnels, covers, irrigation, plastic mulch, etc etc.  And, I certainly understand why we would work so hard to mitigate what the weather does to our crops.  But, I still ask myself (frequently) what steps we *could* take versus those we *should* take.  What are the long-term ramifications for the short term success (or avoidance of complete failure)?

You can take this discussion philosophically or practically and get into deep discussion with yourself (what do you think I do when I'm weeding?). 

Philosophically, I wonder how to balance the needs of my current crops, this farm and those who eat the food we grow with what is best for the health of the environment, etc.  We refuse to fall into the trap that leaves us thinking that we can't possibly be big enough to really have an impact, so we'll do whatever we have to in order to succeed.  When everyone does that, we have problems.  And so, we try to balance what we do as best we can with what we know and what we can learn during the time we have to learn it. 

Practically, we have to consider that extreme weather events have an impact on our farm and what we do during the event and for some time *after* the event.  For example, our extremely wet seasons from Fall 2007 into Summer of 2010 caused problems during that time.  But, we were still fighting issues last year that were a direct result of those extremes.  Grasses loved the wet weather, so we fought grassy weeds (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) in 2011.  We found that our soil health had changed some with the excessive water and we had to consider what actions were needed, while balancing what negative effects those actions might have.

And so, we are now trying to figure out what this drought will do to us for the next couple of years (even after it ends - assuming it does).  We are also trying to figure out how our actions can help us through this situation without causing too many negative consequences.  We'll see how we do.

An Ill Wind
It's an ill wind that doesn't blow anyone any good.
Even nasty stuff like a drought has some silver linings.  If we can call them that.  Remember, the old saying indicates that someone is going to benefit despite many suffering from the situation.  It doesn't necessarily imply that we glory in the suffering of others.

Remember all that grass we had trouble with because of excessive moisture?  Well, the easiest weeds to control right now are grasses.  If we work on the broadleaf weeds and keep them from going to seed, we may make a good dent in our weed seedbank this year.  At least we can dream.

With the dry weather, our surrounding farmers are doing less aerial spraying.  If you want us to list some of our biggest stress causers on the farm - one will be the "aerial terrorism" that goes on every year.  With crop failures looking fairly likely in many fields, it makes no sense for them to throw money at spraying.  That doesn't mean some fields are not being sprayed - of course.  But, at the cost of my neighbors struggling to get a crop, I don't have to incessantly worry about plan after plane in the area.  Now - if we could somehow find a way for them to get their crops without our having to deal with the aerial spraying part....

Relative Values
We received a promotional item with respect to phone, internet and TV services.  At present we do have cell phones (Rob's currently does not work well) and we have cell-modem access to the internet.  We do not have TV.  Cost to us is about $80/month.  This promotion touted service for all three at *ONLY* $120 (or so) a month.   I don't care about the relative value of different providers of these services.  But, I *DO* care about the relative value of good food versus internet, phone and internet. 

I am not trying to make a huge case for our CSA, but I'll use our numbers because I know them well enough.  Please understand that I'm trying to use it as a case in order to make a point.

Our standard share costs $350 for 20 weeks during the regular season.  Let's call that about 4.5 months.  That comes to $77.78 per month.  We realize this only covers some vegetables and it does not cover all of the food a family consumes in one month.  But, this isn't exactly the point.  The point is this - when did access to texting services, phone services, internet and television become 'necessities' that cause people to happily shell out $100+ a month while some of these same people complain about the price of food? 

Figuring Farm Expense - Where Does the Money Go?
I don't know why I haven't thought of it this way more often, but I'm thinking more often of expenditures for the farm in terms of the number of CSA shares required to pay for them. 

For example, the irrigation supplies that were new this year cost us 1+ CSA share.  Labor costs are likely going to require 25-30 shares (this does not include Rob & Tammy as laborers).  The paper mulch and mulch layer attempt to deal with weeds and moisture was about a 3 share effort.  The nearly continuous use of our well pump for irrigation is going to cost us - and we'll really begin to see how much with the coming bill for electricity.  We have acquired about 400 bales of straw for mulching - that came to about 4 shares.

We try to put information like this out for perusal every so often so you know where your investment in the farm is being put to use.  Because CSA members are willing to purchase the product with payment at the beginning (or towards the beginning) of the season, we have the capital to work with and make purchases in an effort to counter things like heat and no rain as much as we possibly can. 

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