For those who keep up with us regularly, you've probably come to expect some sort of big announcement about the Farm Share and what's changing around this time every year (see this post and this email). This year will be no different!
After two years of really expanding the Farm Share as our major focus, we've decided to take a small step back and create a little more flexibility in our life. We'll still be offering the Farm Share, of course. But we will not be offering the full year option or trial period that we offered last year. If you're browsing our website, you may also notice that we do not have dates posted yet for the fall or winter Farm Share seasons. After two difficult fall seasons in a row, we've decided to take a "wait and see" approach so we don't over-commit, get locked into a fall schedule that doesn't work with how the season is going, and provide a mediocre experience.
This winter, Chelsea began working part-time at the Montessori Academy at the Early Learning Center in Milledgeville. She's loving it, and Tripp is mostly loving going to school with mama. Our long-time employee, Lauren, will also be moving to Virginia to work on an animal farm for the 2018 season as well. Fewer hands on the farm means we have to work a little more flexibility into our schedule. Fortunately, we've invested in a lot of labor-saving tools, streamlined our processes, and are focusing exclusively on the crops that are most efficient for us to grow (sorry to all you potato-lovers, but we'll get back to that in a minute). Despite those efforts to increase our efficiency, we still feel a little wary about promising too much and not having the labor power to deliver this year.
So, why the changes? We'd be lying if we didn't say it at least began with money. Farming is tough and unpredictable. After a rough second half of the year financially (and a rough second half of 2016), Chelsea decided it was time to start looking for an off-farm job to get us through the winter. Chelsea is also in the process of handing off management of the Green Market to a new board of directors and market manager, so she also enjoys having a new place to put some of her energies. We started sending Tripp to the Montessori Academy in January, and we could not afford to do that without the extra income. The extra income means we are able to afford health insurance for the first time since 2014. We're committed to farming as a financially viable career, but at this point in our life we're happy for the stability of some kind of off-farm income.
So, about the potatoes. After analyzing how we spend our labor hours on the farm, we have decided to drop some crops from the rotation and alter how we grow others. The biggest glaring example was, well, all of July. We have the most missed pick-ups, cancelled deliveries, and member drop outs in July every year because people are out of town or on vacation or just forget. But we also begin having pest and disease issues on our major summer crops (tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, and peppers). To top it all off, we spend a lot of time and space growing low-yield and low-profit crops including potatoes, winter squash, and melons. In fact, when the inevitable extra weeding time is factored in, those three crops are money-losers for us. We realized we could take the entire month of July off (not even seeding anything in the greenhouse!) and still net the same profit at the end of the year.
Most of the changes are not that drastic, of course. Some you will never see, like the lettuce and beets being seeded with the new paperpot transplanter or the broccoli grown on landscape fabric to eliminate passes with the scuffle hoe. Others you may notice only a little bit: more heads of lettuce and fewer bags of washed mixed greens, more root veggies with their tops cut off for quicker harvest and washing, more large cucumbers and fewer mini's. All of these little things add up to farming making more sense for us in the long-term - both financially and emotionally.
One more big change that is less depressing than a summer without watermelons (spoiler alert: we WILL have a home garden with a watermelon in it, sorry not sorry). We will now be offering Saturday Farm Share pick up at the Green Market in Milledgeville. Saturday pick up members can pick up at our booth at the farmers market each week. Wednesday members can also create an extra box to be delivered to the farmers market if you need extra weekend veggies, too. We are also offering all Farm Share members 10% off any purchase over $10 at our farmers market booth starting in April!
Bobby + Chelsea
We grow tasty veggies, bake bread, host farm events, manage a farmers market, raise an energetic little munchkin, cook, restore this farm property, read books, and try to bring more good food and good things to middle Georgia!