Friday, September 7, 2012

The Count

ONE! One Cucumber!  Ah Ah Ahhhhh!  (*thunder* *lightning*)

I fully realize that I may be a bit obsessed with numbers.  At the least, I seem to care about numbers more than many people do.  But, consider this - if I have 114 families in the CSA and I want to try to grow crops in a way that everyone gets a certain amount of produce every week for 20 weeks, I have no choice but to count.

A simple example:
    Fifty families will pick up shares on a given day.  I want to give everyone 3 cucumbers.  Therefore, I must pick 150 cucumbers at a minimum, but ideally, I will pick about 175 so the people who pick up later still have some choices.  Thus, it is important that I have a count as I pick so I know when I can stop and move to the next crop.  And, if I'm going to count them, I might as well record it so I can use the data for planning.

How does it help?
The more data I have, the closer I can get to figuring out exactly how much of a crop I must plant (and when) in order to get as much as I might want.  This would include Farm Share CSA needs, our own use and direct sales.  I suspect people who have been in our CSA for several years can attest to how much more balanced our shares have become - with reasonable amounts of produce nearly every week.  A big reason for this is our counting and our record keeping.

Numbers help us determine which varieties of crops are worth keeping (assuming yield is an important part of the reason to keep or remove a variety).  With some crops, such as tomatoes, it helps us determine how much of each variety to plant.

And, as it turns out, keeping good records can be useful when bad things happen.  We'll be able to show what our normal pepper crops are and what this one was looking like before it was sprayed.  This allows us to determine value with more objective measures.

Some Interesting Numbers This Season

4847 Cucumbers
The goal for the farm is to pull in 5000 cucumbers.  We would consider that a good year.  We should easily be able to pull in 153 just for Saturday's farmers' market in Waverly.  We actually split our cucumbers into the small white/yellow cucumbers (True Lemon and Boothby's Blonde) and larger green cucumbers (Marketmore, Parade, Green Slam, A&C, etc).  We set our initial goal as 4 each for large shares and 2 each for standard shares for approximately 8 weeks.  Then you add extras for choice at the end of distribution/donation and a few more for our own use or direct sale.  There you have it.

935 pounds of Green Beans
We've had a good year for green beans.  Five hundred pounds is probably more typical - if only because they can be labor intensive and we don't always get to the crop in time to keep them going.  We just *might* eke out 65 more pounds of beans to hit the half ton mark.  We're not sure why that matters.  It just sounds cool to say "green beans" and "half ton" in the same sentence.

We were thinking this year was truly exceptional, but here's where records can help when memory fails.  2009 was also a good green bean (and broccoli) year.  We managed to pull in 896.5 pounds of green beans that season. 

72.8# of Broccoli 
Speaking of broccoli.  We've fought to find a replacement for the defunct Early Dividend broccoli that did so well for us in 2009 (and years prior).  That variety gave decent sized first heads and many side shoots after the harvest of the main head.  We haven't had very good broccoli crops since Early Dividend's demise until this year.  Thank you Gypsy!  Yes, it is a hybrid, so it doesn't exactly fit with our tendency to prefer open-pollinated varieties.  But, none of the OP varieties did much for us this year.

The 72 pounds of broccoli were harvested in one day (this last Thursday).  There is a bit more out there to pick, then we'll see if they keep at the side shoot production.  The amazing thing is that many of the side shoots were of a similar size to the main head.

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