Best decision I ever made. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but ‘promoting’ Natalie to Farm Manager is definitely in the top five best farming decisions yet.
The farm is transforming. Projects are finishing, areas forgotten are being tended to again. And Natalie is a force to be reckoned with.
So what does a farm manager do? For that we need to back up to a very cold, very dreary January.
At the start of the year the kitchen table looks like a war room. Every piece of information one can glean from a seed packet is transferred into a spreadsheet. Each flower and vegetable that will be grown the next year is listed. Varieties are chosen. How much to grow is determined. The dates to harvest, special instructions and spacing are all added to the document.
Then the big calendar is flipped open. Seeding dates are listed on Friday, plantings dates on Tuesday.
The amount of each crop is calculated. We grow on beds that are 100’ x 32”. Most plants are planted tightly, four across the 32” width at a spacing of 6”. So, for example, in 50’ of bed space we can grow 400 kale plants.
Then we add in the “bed preparation” schedule; plowing, tilling, soil amending and bed laying. Finally, an irrigation, fertilizing and bug management schedule is put on the calendar.
The calendar is bursting but the biggest challenge of the growing year isn’t even listed.
The plants come in like bow waves every week. They continually produce and need to be cut, plucked, and pulled. Cleaned, packaged and sold. Harvesting is the big payoff, and yet it is the crush that will forever dog us. There’s little reason to add it to the calendar as harvesting is soon a daily chore.
The goal of this exercise is to allow us not to have to make a single decision once the season starts. On February 15 until Thanksgiving we simply let the calendar tell us what we need to do.
A farm manager’s job is to be the conductor who keeps this orchestra running. Natalie will watch over the plants at every stage, giving them what they need (mostly attention). She’ll know which plant is successful and which we won’t grow again. She’ll understand the challenges of fighting bugs and weeds while striving to grow organically. She will keep the trains running.
So, what am I doing all this while?? Well, you’ll see more of me at the stand. I’ll still be running the background part of the ag and retail businesses, keeping books, placing orders, making big decisions. We have a lot of big plans for the future, so I’ll be working on those and hopefully able to share them soon. In the meantime, thanks for the kind words to Natalie, she deserves them!