It took longer than we originally intended, but we managed to complete our "Farm Retreat" to plan for the 2021 iteration of the Genuine Faux Farm. If you have been watching the blog for hints as to what will happen this growing season at the farm, you won't be surprised by much of this. If you haven't been, maybe the whole thing will be a shock. I suspect there might even be a surprise or two in the mix for most anyone who has paid any attention to our farm.
The farm looks like the picture above right now, which is about as much of a blank slate one can get for a new year. Lots of white!
Not A Surprise
Our poultry plan for 2021 should not be a surprise because we are - as of this moment - going to execute a similar plan and schedule. Once again, we will raise 75 turkeys and two batches of 250 broilers, splitting each batch into two 125 bird flocks. Our expectation would be sell at least 50% of the meat poultry to 'bulk purchases' with the rest being direct to consumer.
We will once again purchase a new laying flock (baby chicks) that replaces the current flock in August/September. The laying flock will remain somewhere in the 80 to 100 hen range. At present, the plan is to continue with direct to consumer sales for eggs while looking to add an egg handler's license to allow for other, bulk sales.
We will continue to day range the birds and we plan on maintaining our connection to Canfield Family Farm for their top quality feed for our poultry.
To summarize, we know our eggs and poultry are high quality and we're pretty darned good at raising these birds and treating them well. We illustrated last year that we could maintain our jobs AND do the poultry. So, we'll keep our hands in on these enterprises for 2021. Our next step is to do an enterprise budget review for each to determine if our prices correctly cover expense and provide a reasonable return.
We will enter into the vegetable seed production scene in the coming year. Seed Savers is looking for more seed growers and we have always supported Seed Savers mission. We have received, and intend to accept, contracts to grow seed for Napoleon Sweet bell peppers, Black Valentine green beans and A&C Pickling cucumbers. These are all varieties we are very familiar with, which makes it easier to succeed in the growth, selection and harvest. The hard part is going to be figuring out the seed extraction and cleaning part of the job.
In addition to the contracted seed, we intend to continue to work towards seed garlic and we will start to build up some Purple Majesty potatoes for seed. For the time being, these would be largely internal processes for possible future expansion. We will also refine our own personal collection of zinnia, marigold and other flower seeds. In addition, we intend to refine lettuce seed collection with the intent of potentially growing lettuce seed contracts in the future.
At present, we do not intend to sell seed to the general public.
For the next month or three, we will continue with our egg/poultry sales every other week (with adjustments due to weather, etc). As we get closer to Spring, things will change even more.
We will help our current Farm Credit customers to clear out their balances and move away from Farm Credits. We will not return to a CSA. We will not return to a Farmers' Market. We are moving away from offering a broad range of veggies and towards a smaller selection.
Instead, direct to consumer sales will largely consist of eggs, poultry and periodic veggie excess offered through our emails every other week throughout the year. We anticipate moving all sales to an online order system with a connection to electronic payment at the receipt of the order. We also plan to limit what we are offering - with the potential to offer more flexibility to those that might come to the farm to pick up.
Most of our veggie production for food will be targeted for a couple of bulk buyers and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. The rest will be for our own consumption, for our volunteers and potentially offered to those on our egg/poultry email list.
It is most likely that offers of veggies will be for larger amounts. Offers such as 5 pounds of our apple 'seconds,' five pounds of golden beets or a batch of canning tomatoes are most likely. Perhaps we'll offer up a "box of produce" every so often that we would prepack or only offer for farm pickup? We will not restrict ourselves entirely at this point - there is still plenty of time to adjust as we go.
Our motivations are as follows:
- We have to reduce our labor hours - and the number of hours that individual orders take for veggies is significant.
- We feel a call to provide food to the food bank and to others in local food deserts at this time. People are hurting and we may be able to help by doing this.
- We have to introduce more efficiency to our operation, which means simplifying our grow list. We will still maintain diversity on our farm, but it must take another form if we wish to be successful.
- We need to move away from systems, such as CSA or Farm Credits, that leave us 'owing future production' to those who invest in our farm. It was a good system for us at one point. Now, we need to be able to have more flexibility so we can adjust to other demands in our lives.
This change is going to be difficult for us to accept, as we find ourselves continuing to talk about 'exceptions' and falling back on old processes and growing plans. But, 2020 illustrated to us - in many ways - that we must adapt if we wish to continue to farm in any capacity.
Workers at the Farm
At this point, we intend on progressing through the 2021 growing season without hiring any seasonal workers (as we did in 2020). We are looking to either a volunteer or work-in-trade situation for those times when we need more than just a couple of hands on the farm. If all else fails, we may employ a small group for a half day or day depending on circumstances.
Part of our efforts to simplify our crops is to respond to the limited labor hours. After 2020, we have a very good idea as to how few labor hours will be available to us and we must be very efficient to stay on top of our crop needs.
We appreciate all of the support we have received over the years and we are thankful for what we might receive in the future. We are also grateful that we have an opportunity to change with the circumstances that surround our farm. We look forward to being able to continue to do good, honest work in the coming year.