Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crops in the Ground!

Over the last few weeks our team transplanted over seven thousand seedlings, built over 16k of beds and busted their tails getting our early spring crop in the ground.
Props to Shawna Woods, Antwon Jones, Brandon Hughes & Tom Hearty for their great attitude and hard work, it would not have been possible with out them. I have heard many farmers lament the difficulties in finding good help. We have had success in finding help using craigslist and recommend it across the board. Leveraging online resources is one of our farms core methods and so far, it has worked. The LOCAL folks we hire are quick studies and hard workers. Props to for making it so easy.

We have started the seeds for the rest of the summer crop and plan on filling out Fred’s rows in April. The weather has been fantastic to date and most of our seedlings are doing well inside Fred. On these sunny days, Fred is a toasty 85 degrees and the young ones seem to like it. I have never watched the weather like I do now; I use the Vilonia AccuWeather 15 day and 10 day outlook for my temperature forecast and the Cabot 10 day outlook and hour by hour for my rain forecast. All of which does nothing to my chances of weather having a negative affect on my crop, but at least it keeps me busy worrying.

Well I hope this next round of weather is uneventful. I am listening to Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”, Who does not love an 8 bar bridge of “Everythings Gonna Be Alright”? I think I will try out my baby spinach this eve, quality controlling the crop is a tasty responsibility that is a priority with me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring is here and Summer is near!

This week we are preparing Fed’s beds, enjoying this wonderful spring weather and transplanting over four thousand seedlings.
Watching these little guys grow over the last several weeks has been a pure joy. So far this year, we have not made the same mistakes we did last year and it shows. Our plants are healthier, our fall and winter fertilization plan has enriched our soil and we are staying a head of the game with our spring crop.
While we still have some work to do around Fred’s French drain, we look forward to our investment in these high tunnels paying some dividends.
Putting tomatoes in the ground in early March is a risk because of possible spring freezes, but Fred was able to keep out the frost and cold last fall until the first week of December. This spring our high tunnels combined with floating row covers (a light weight cloth designed to help hold heat) “should” keep our young ones warm enough to make it thru April. We have almost doubled the number of varieties this year and they can be found under the “Produce” section on our website. Pictures of all of our seedlings and growing systems can be found on our Facebook fan page, “North Pulaski Farms”. We are keeping a photo journal of our progress. Our customers can know when, where, how and (when I fix the grainy webcams) even watch every step we take growing their food. This not only supports our record keeping processes with pictures, it demonstrates our commitment to transparency.

Many folks have often asked me, what’s with these Flintstone names? This is a practice that was done in the early years of my IT career. At World Wide Travel Service our computer room was called the 4077th and we used MASH (from the movie, not tv show) character names to identify the particular servers. Our main login server was Hawkeye, our communication server was Radar and our fastest server was named Hotlips. Anyway, now that I am a farmer, I figured it would be a good time to get back to Bedrock in the Stone Age. Fred is our large production system; Wilma is our hothouse where our small ones are taken care of. It seems to work and is easy for my workers to remember.

This post would not be complete if I did not share my disappointment in my cities political leadership (or lack there of).
I want to thank Jody Hardin, Eddie Stuckey, Sam Profit, Melissa Smith, Christi Jones and my sister Julann Carney for attending the meeting. While we all would have liked different results; it added a measure of comfort knowing that I was not alone with this cause.
The administration and city council sent a clear message to the small farms in our area; they don’t believe you can provide variety and stability for their market.
Many times over the years as CIO of my former company, I was challenged with convincing the business leaders to follow a path they did not agree with.
Online travel was not very welcomed to travel agents if you can imagine.
Fortunately for me, I could use tools like data, risk assessments and subject matter experts to explain the benefits of the path I was recommending AND THEY LISTENED. The Jacksonville City Council had already made up their mind to disregard the data and do what they think was best before the meeting ever started.
For the record I want to share the numbers shared with them and add my own at the end.

71% percent of Arkansans surveyed by the University of Arkansas in 2009 go to farmers markets to support local produce or economies.
243 new jobs could be created with a 10% movement towards local foods according to one Ohio State study creating and additional 344k in tax collections.
13% was the growth of farmers markets last year according to the USDA.
151 was the member count of Keep Jacksonville Arkansas Grown’s FB fan page (its 219 as of this post)
MILLIONS are spent by the USDA to promote “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food” programs and in grants for high tunnel production to extend seasons.
40 is the number of State legislators who think state law should require that if you call it a Farmers Market it should be for farmers only.
3 were the number of folks who spoke to Keep Jacksonville Arkansas Grown and 2 out of 3 was the number of city employees who spoke in support of allowing imported produce.

Lastly, $500 is the amount of money I plan on giving any realistic challenger who runs against these folks in the next election.
Ignoring data and not following good processes yields predictable results and should not be tolerated in people charged with spending tax dollars.
Now as “Odd Ball” would say in “Kelly’s Heroes” “enough with the negative wave’s man”.

OK back to getting my hands dirty! Farming that is.