Week 18 - schemes & slogans

Lo these 8 weeks since I last wrote a blog post!

We're coming to the end of the 'pre-season scramble.' The regular season will begin soon (week 21), and with it, hopefully the repetition that will support the regular practice of writing & expression that I want to do this season.

What can I say? 3 new employees started today. They are outstanding, with diverse and deep and dirty experiences that make them perfect for our crew.

I'm cultivating a few slogans / schemes / ideals these days....

  • diversity is strength / strength thru diversity
    • ()true for plants, people, schools of thoughts, etc...
    • true for market outlets
    • true for making a bouquet more beautiful
Look for our flowers often at The Farmer's Hand, a local produce shop in Corktown!

Look for our flowers often at The Farmer's Hand, a local produce shop in Corktown!

  • recognize & value the biodiversity detroit currently has
    • long-time detroiters
      • using gentrification as a mechanism to build wealth for long-time residents
      • making the exploitation of detroit cultural capital a reciprocal relationship, not just predatory extraction
    • in so-called "vacant lots"
      • are they really vacant?
      • pheasants, bunnies, birds, etc...
      • let's protect these habitats, and then some!
      • let's invest in monarch habitat - they're endangered and small amounts of habitat can make a huge difference in their populations. Look for this in the east garden at our farm this summer.
      • let's invest in more pollinator habitats - who knows what catastrophic wave of insects or whatever will happen - let's prepare by investing in diversity
Shelbie insists on color diversity in her bouquets, and they're better for it!

Shelbie insists on color diversity in her bouquets, and they're better for it!

Week 10 - ASK ME ABOUT MY INFRASTRUCTURE!

That showstopping wind, folks!

So... it tore the plastic right off the hoophouse frame. 

But we're still standing, and no one is hurt.

It's an invitation to re-assess priorities...Priorities are being assessed in terms of:

1.) FISCAL SOLVENCY & THRIVING!

2.) Long-term security

sub-section: security viewed on a family level, biological level, collectivist human level, etc....

I've been wanting to share with the world where we're at in terms of our (relatively) huge infrastructure investments for 2017.

1.) Rain catchment

This is supported by the money we received from NEIdeas in 2016... we will have storage for approximately 2250 gallons of water at a time, which, together with an average year's rainfall, will diminish our need for city water by approximately (conservatively) 25%.

Both our home and the hoophouse will have two 500-gallon tanks... this will be the basis for an application for deferral of drainage fees from DWSD.

We'll pull the new plastic for the hoophouse, and install the rain catchment gutters & tanks on it in summer of this year.

2.) Drip irrigation

Also supported by the NEIdeas money, drip irrigation is a water-saving and time-efficient way to water crops. This is a system I've had extensive experience with in my time at the CASFS, Poughkeepsie Farm Project, and the Plum Street Market Garden. Been there, done that, I'm ready to order. They'll be here for planting time (it's best to lay your drip irrigation at the same time that you plant).

3.) Tillage equipment

You might've seen Fresh Cut's fundraising campaign floating around out there... we were awarded a $3000 grant through Eastern Market, but we need to raise the remaining balance to receive that grant as matching funds.

This high quality walk-behind tiller will be perfect for quick-prepping our beds after they're cleared. At least 20% of the beds will get to be double-cropped in a single season, a move which will boost our revenue by at least a couple thousand dollars.

What used to take us days will take us hours.

Having tillage equipment on the farm also invites us to invest in the soil more through cover cropping. We'll be making prodigious use of quick cover crop Buckwheat, to suppress weeds and build organic nitrogenous material in the soil between cash crops. We'll also be introducing red clover as a living pathway in our perennial planting areas (inside the fence, south of the hoophouse).

4.) Outbuilding & cooler!

So, we'll get this big beautiful tiller, but where will we store it? And, we'll grow more flowers than ever before, but where will we keep them fresh until they're delivered to their customers?

We're going to build a big beautiful garage on-site! 20' long, half of it will be built out as a cooler using the wonderful low-tech cool-bot system. 

Adjacent to that, we will build a roof over an additional 10' of harvest & staging area! We will have a place out of the wind & rain to clean flowers, make bouquets, & more... And the door to the cooler will be literally inside of this area. I can't even believe it.

5.) Passive Perennial Prep

All these infrastructure investments point the way towards our footprint - what will it look like into the future?

For instance, the south-facing wall of the outbuilding provides an excellent microclimate for introducing fruit trees. The area between that and the existing apple tree (and dead apple tree) will someday be home to a gorgeous perennial area.

For now, we will use sheet mulching and low-impact planting to get that site ready to plant in the next couple years. This goes for the area alongside the alley as well.

Not-so-passive perennial prep includes a push to get the woodlot to the north-east of us cleaned up this year, hopefully in conjunction with some community events. We've already planted hellebores in the rotted wood of that area, and would love to begin to have a more reciprocal relationship with that little stretch of pheasant habitat & wild plants.

6.) Administrative Improvements!

Hoo boy! Assistant Manager Shelbie returned to the farm this week, and I have to say we are COOKING! She was very proud of the plans I'd made over the winter. We're prepping on-boarding & ongoing training for new crew members, chores & predictable responsibility lists to keep things humming, and more.

We are more organized than ever, and that means that we have room to finally introduce some of the practices that we've been introduced to in other positive settings over the years... intentional check-ins, recipes for success, and more!

So... if you've read this far, thanks. When you visit the farm later on this year,

ASK ME ABOUT MY INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS!

Week 7 - Looking Ahead

Shifting gears... on my bike it means slightly more resistance for slightly more gain.

I'd say that holds true.

Business is going to a new level this season, in terms of

  • increasing accountability financially & socially
  • putting Asa in day care full-time for the 9 month season
  • using Fresh Cut to make a meaningful contribution to our home's financial resources

I've been tearing into the 2017 cash flow projections with a new vigor.

Last year, providing meaningful financial security for 2 of my crew-members was a moving and sobering experience. I am reviewing & tightening Fresh Cut's profitability: this is a strengthening process! This achieves a long-time goal of minimizing the decisions, especially the big tough ones, that I engage with during the season.

(Much of the angst I experience during the season has to do with saying no to design/install/weirdo opportunities that are difficult to justify financially & also outside of my lane.)

Intuitive growth has gone so so well, bolstered handily by material security, thus far. I am excited to be at the point to have intuition + numbers to assess our existing product lines, staffing, marketing, and more...

Fresh Cut 2017 is gonna be some cool shit.

This year is about investments in infrastructure:

  • rain catchment
  • drip irrigation
  • new field in production
  • getting HH into more energetically productive space
  • ground cover, where appropriate
  • staking & trellising where it's needed
  • daffodil installation along fence (thank you fall, 2016)
  • finally getting cover cropping into the mix
  • purchasing a REALLY GOOD TILLER
    • quicker bed-turnover
    • better weed control

And then the EXPERIMENTS!

  • Last year's biennial investment (approx $1500 last August for hopefully big boost spring of this year)
    • this may be tricky to get 'accounted' for because i don't yet do a great job paying fresh cut for the flowers used in special events - flowers field-grown & foraged are all quite interchangeable at this point! which may not be a bad thing!
      • This reminds me that in some year past I was talking with a relative with financial savvy, and we discussed that it would probably advantageous, with such a diverse array of crops that I grow (150 varieties so far this year, which doesn't even include all the amazing foraging) that it might make more sense to assess profitability on a week-by-week total availability basis, rather than try to treat each stem as though it were an individual piece of inventory.
      • This individual piece of inventory model is very popular, and I can see that it makes sense when you are not the 'final salesperson.'
      • That's why for Fresh Cut, it basically applies for true wholesale and GID farmers market, which are limited to a very small smattering of what I grow.
  • More trellises! I want to get some clematis, some hops, and more... we need some height variation on the farm. I might even try sweet peas for next spring.
  • This big daffodil install (about $1000 last August) is an experiment too - can I make any money on these gorgeous weird unusual varieties? What's the marketing that's required to make that happen? (I should also remind myself that it will likely take more than a year to make that money back, which is OK as they are long-lived & little-demanding crops.)