New Years Update
Happy New Year! I have this weird, quirky notion that nothing good ever happens in odd numbered years, but then I started the farm in 2013 and we bought the kettle corn business in 2015, so I am slowly coming around to being open to the idea that odd numbered years have potential. I have a great feeling about this upcoming year, read below for some specifics, so I hope to defy my inner gut feelings about numerical circumstances.
The farm is essentially shut down for the season. Our first full winter with the hoophouse has been a bit lackluster. My ultimate goal is to harvest out of unheated tunnels for 12 months of the year. I am slowly realizing I need to do some more research about how to keep things growing in there without heat. When we got the deep freeze below 0 degrees about a week before Christmas, everything in there died off. The good news is that the kale, chard, and spinach got the chance to set deep roots this fall, so my research tells me that in February they should bounce back and start some regrowth with the lengthening of daylight hours. There are folks around Maine doing year round growing without heat, so I think some site visits and networking are in my future.
Do you remember a previous update when I told you Dave and I were selected for the MOFGA Journeyperson program? We have done three sessions in Unity at the MOFGA headquarters where they have the Common Ground Fair and it is going really well. We got paired up with a mentor farm in Freedom, Maine (Villageside Farm) and we have been sharpening our pencils and getting down to the nitty gritty of long term business planning. It is really fun and a bit scary at the same time. We are at the point where we have had to solidly say what we want our gross sales to be for 2017 so we can start planning for growth, and that was a pretty heavy thing to write on paper! Our goal for 2017 is going to be $30,000 in gross sales. In the past four years we have hovered around the $20,000 mark, so 2017 is going to be filled with lots of work and hopefully lots of reward! The rest of the winter and spring will be mapping out a detailed plan to reach not only this years goal but also set a multi-year map for our farm to be profitable and to garner more of our personal income from the farm (and hopefully eliminate some of the part-time, off farm winter gigs we find ourselves always taking on).
One really cool aspect of the Journeyperson program is that we have been hearing from lots of other farm presenters. For our December meeting, we heard from another CSA farmer who gave us some great insight into CSA surveys and some tips for conducting them. His thoughts were that surveys should be super brief and only have 3-5 questions. So, here is probably the shortest Rustic Roots Farm CSA survey ever! I hope you all can take few minutes to fill it out and give us some feedback.
At the end of every season, I like to tally the value of all the food we put into our CSA and give our members a total of what we have harvested for you. Every year the value has exceeded the price members paid, which has been great! For this year, the value of our CSA shares was $490. This represents the value of the food that we picked for you. It is the first year this number has come under the amount our members have paid. If you took advantage of any of the pick your own crops, any of the freezer corn we had available (a $20 value if you got a full grain bag), or the canning/sauce tomatoes and cucumbers for pickling, you likely went over the $500 you paid for your share. I think the drought, lack of herbs (do you remember we tilled in our parsley, cilantro, dill, after they got overtaken with weeds?), and a considerably smaller potato harvest (again, lack of rain didn’t bulk them up) were the main culprits for us not hitting the $500 mark.
Even though it’s winter, the wheels keep turning at Rustic Roots Farm. We are getting seed catalogs in, thinking about starting CSA marketing (look for sign ups to come out the first of February), putting our pencils to the paper with growing plans, in talks with how to start a SNAP CSA program for our farm, starting to put out some internship descriptions, preparing for farm taxes, and working on some inside projects (hoophouse mice traps, more farm stand signage, etcs). I hope you are all busy with your own winter adventures and plans for the new year.
Erica and Dave