The 2012 CRAFT season has begun!

We had our first tour at Goldfinch Gardens in Celo, NC with a great turnout and a beautiful day.

The topic for this first tour was “Production Planning and Greenhouse Management” and our host farmers Ben and Cedar shared so much wisdom about these topics. Our thanks again to them for their time and willingness to share all the ins and outs of their farm business!

We started the tour in the main greenhouse that was filled with lettuce mix, pea shoots, and winter greens. Ben and Cedar sell through mid-December and start selling again in mid-March so they are dependent on their greenhouses for production.

Ben explained their process of making and maintaining beds in the greenhouse. First they build the beds up by shoveling out the walkways. To prep beds for planting they use a broadfork to loosen, add compost and Harmony fertilizer and then go back over the bed with a tilther.

They direct-sow lettuce using a 6-tine precision seeder which Cedar explained needs a very smooth seed bed (and a lot of patience!) to operate correctly.

They use overhead irrigation in the greenhouse, a system that uses mini-wobblers by Senninger. In the field, Ben likes the MegaNet sprinklers made by Netafim because of their even coverage and ability to water only 180 degrees.

Ben and Cedar then walked us through their system of crop planning and marketing. Their main markets are an online farmers market and area restaurants. Cedar explained that they plan for the net income to be half of their gross income and they do this by managing a mix of more gourmet/high dollar produce with the regular A-Z vegetables typically grown for market.

Since they are on a small piece of land (~1.5 acres) they need to figure out crop balance, intensive planting and well-timed rotations in order to meet their income goals. They recommended “Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers” (published by Canadian Organic Growers) as a great resource for helping farmers figure out the puzzle of crop mapping, planning and rotations. They use this resource extensively, retrofitting the examples and models to their own particular farm needs.

The tour then moved to the rolling greenhouses – a highlight of this tour!

Ben and Cedar have two 26 x 48 moveable greenhouses and Ben explained that these have helped maximize production on their small area.

The greenhouses are set to be moved twice a year – so they have a 150’ run, allowing the houses to be on new ground each time. This cuts down on soil borne disease, allows for easy rotations, helps them to always have a crop that is ready and one that is coming in.

Ben quoted these houses at 1.5x the cost of a fixed house but said the benefits do outweigh the cost. Our task was to help move on the greenhouses to its next location. With over 40 folks at the tour, this was easy work! Once we rolled it forward, the sides were re-anchored and the plastic ends were covered with dirt to hold them down…it was all ready for the new crop of tomatoes that will be planted to soon.

There is so much more to say but the end of the page is near! Ben and Cedar are full of great ideas, farming practices and farming innovations and it was so valuable to spend the afternoon learning from them. We finished up with our usual potluck – another great culinary experience of local food and brews!

Our next CRAFT tour is May 19th at Full Sun Farm. Alex and Vanessa will be leading the tour and their topic is “Equipment for 5-10 Acres of Vegetables.” Join us!

CRAFT is a year-round farmer training collaborative that offers farmers and their interns networking and learning opportunities. Membership is rolling, so join anytime! For more information or to join, click here.  Or contact Cameron Farlow, OGS Farmer Programs Assistant at 828.338.9508 or cameron@organicgrowersschool.org.

Meredith Leigh

Meredith Leigh

Meredith Leigh is a die-hard advocate for good food. As a farmer, founder of a butcher shop/restaurant, and writer, she has worked on many angles of real food for over a decade. She currently teaches farming and cooking classes, consults for food and agriculture non-profits, and is writing a book about meat. Meredith has been the Program Coordinator for the Organic Growers School (OGS) Spring Conference since 2006 and was the Director and then the Executive Director of OGS for 10 years.