The cloudy skies and below freezing temperatures this morning seemed to be a reflection of how I have been feeling the last couple days – grey, cold and slightly frosty.
I was hoping for some inspiration when I opened my email this morning. My coach Noam sent me some feedback on my blogs and suggested I watch his video on Intention vs. Attention. That video suggested I watch another video on The Art of Mediation. I watched both and decided to take a meditative walk, right then, in the middle of my work day, without a plan or goal.
Noam says a walking meditation begins with being observant. I decided to veer from the path, to explore the briars, the brush, the rocks, the logs and the trees. Here’s what I found.
This wandering, meditative walk, was good for my soul today. I’m still not out of the doldrums, but that may be due to my allergies and lack of sleep this week.
Recommended Viewing: Noam Kostuski’s videos – Intention vs. Attention and The Art of Mediation.
Did you know that intentionally putting expectations on yourself can create a personal dilemma of epic proportions?
According to Merriam-Webster the definition for “homegrown” is:
1: grown or produced at home or in a particular local area
<homegrown vegetables><homegrown films>
2: native to or characteristic of a particular area <the festival will feature homegrown artists>
Homegrown to me also means something memorable that was produced with care for someone special. There were 5 kids in my family and we had a Christmas tradition of drawing names so the kids would only have to buy one present. Several times my folks decided that the gifts had to be handmade. My brother made me a wooden milk crate, my youngest sister made me a barn drawing in a lovely wooden frame, and my other sister drew me a pencil sketch of a Victorian woman. I still have these wonderful treasures and memories.
So calling the food we grow “homegrown” is a compliment. We take care and extra effort to grow the best vegetables, herbs and fruit for our customers and ourselves. We have daily conversations about what specific people would prefer and we get to know the folks that buy from us. We know that Joel and Robin love our radishes, and that Leslie loves to make a soup with radish tops. We know that Mary loves fresh carrots, but wants to feed the carrot tops to the chickens. And we know that when Chef Matt visits the farm he gets inspired to create magical dishes and he inspires us to grow things to surprise and delight him.
We have created a village where folks know each other’s names and we remember when a family member is sick or when a child goes away to college. We grow our food for people who are special to us, so we take the extra effort to do it thoughtfully.
So although we need to be profitable, efficient and sustainable, we intend to have fun! We don’t want to be monster farm with large equipment doing all the work. Stone Coop Farm is labor intensive, but caring and effective. Is digging for potatoes dirty work? Yes, but doing it with other people and sharing stories keeps that smile on my face.
Do dogs run through the beds, steal carrots, radishes, and tomatoes and put muddy paws on your clothes? Yes, but we have dog heaven here where they can run, wrestle, play, hunt and share their joy at being alive.
Intention makes the place. The people that work and buy food on the farm come here with positive intentions. They all support what we are doing and bring their own special magic. We love having them here to create fond memories. That’s why we want our produce to be “homegrown”.
So one of my goals has been to create a brochure for Stone Coop Farm that explains what we are and why we do it. I haven’t put a draft together yet because I haven’t felt like I have the right story. These weekly blogs for A3 are starting to help me define the story I want to share. And that story ties into our brand through a brochure, our marketing, and our public image.
Recommended Class: If you want your own homegrown vegetables – I am teaching a seed starting class on March 26th and April 2nd. We will provide the seeds, soil and guidance on how to grow your own seedlings for your garden. If you cannot attend, we will have a wide variety of seedlings available for sale. We already have cilantro, dill, chard and lettuce seedlings available for you to take home.
Recommended Viewing: Not sure how much to water your plants? Check out our latest watering video.
Did You Know that Daniel Brisebois of Tourne-Sol Farm in Montreal estimates that only 20% of their time is spent harvesting? Harvest time is money time! So he establishes harvest goals that allow him to accomplish his sales goals. I have been busy doing my farming calculations and have established several harvest goals for Stone Coop Farm. So when you visit and see 18 pints of cherry tomatoes per person per hour on the work list, you’ll know that’s a goal we want to accomplish to make a profit on cherry tomatoes.
“I’ve got a dance, I ain’t got no steps, no
I’m gonna let the music move me around
I’ve got a dance, I ain’t got no steps
I’m gonna let the music move me around
Will it go round in circles
Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky
Will it go round in circles
Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky"
-sung by Billy Preston-
The PV3 conference and A3 make me dance, but I definitely ain't got no steps. I'm gonna let the music created by these farmers and my coaches move me around. This is how I roll anyway. When the music is right, I can't stop my feet and body from moving. Organic farming is right and I can't stop myself from jumping in to boogie woogie! So I'm gonna use what I just learned at this conference to turn things upside down. At PV3, Stone Coop was considered a giant farm! That was a head spinner. We are going to rethink everything we are doing. Lots of things will change, but lots will stay the same. I wasn't kidding last week when I said my head was exploding.
Here are the dance moves I learned in the last 7 days.
I will be using these moves to re-invent what we are doing at Stone Coop Farm.
Recommended Viewing: Here is the next installment of our Stone Coop Farm YouTube series! Watch how Farmer Beth explains our hydrant system and how to connect and disconnect the hoses. Watering is the most crucial thing we do at Stone Coop.
Did You Know that to increase farm revenues it is important to keep some basic principals in mind? I gleaned these concepts from the amazing farmers mentioned above.
I am currently at the Permaculture Voices 3 conference in San Diego. There are so many incredible growers here and the presentations are blowing my mind. I attended two sessions today where one market farmer is growing $80,000 of produce on a quarter acre. The other is growing $100,000 of produce per acre. Both systems are very labor intensive and have no large equipment. Neither farmer is completely clear what would happen if they scaled up their operations to larger properties, but they have found their sweet spot for profitable and successful tiny farms.
So how does this apply to our farm? How can their applications of intensive small scale farming be applied to Stone Coop which is currently growing on 4.5 acres? Do we scale back and downsize to grow more intensively? Do we reduce the number of crops we grow and primarily focus on our most profitable crops? How can we grow more perennials for our beneficial insects to help us reduce our pest pressure? How can we smother weed seeds in our large fields with tarps? Do we just target one field this year and do experiments? There is so much information to process and figure out. It is a great opportunity to make changes in 2016 because we haven’t started growing in the fields yet and we are just now starting our spring crops in the hoop houses. I think more research is necessary and I need to ask these successful farmers more questions. Ultimately we just need to make a decision and establish a plan that we can use this year and learn from it.
There are more sessions tomorrow and Saturday. I am hoping to find a farming mentor at this conference or at least establish a community or forum where I can get ideas and solutions. Everyone here is excited to help each other and you can tell that “trade secrets” do not apply here. These folks want to change our planet for the better and they are doing great things that are having a global impact.
Recommended Reading: “The Urban Farmer” by Curtis Stone and “The Market Gardener” by Jean-Martin Fortier. Both have tiny farms that are super successful.
Recommended Viewing: Farmer Gina gives you some background information about growing kale in the winter and then shows you how to harvest. I am just loving the Stone Coop Farm YouTube site!!!
Did You Know that there are 8 forms of capital? This conference has speakers constantly referring to their social capital, intellectual capital, material capital, etc. These are very new concepts to me, but fascinating. The basic concept is these are all valuable and incredibly effective when used and considered together. They can also be things that you barter for with other people. At Stone Coop we tap into a few of these sources of capital with our working shares. I am excited to start using this thought process to use all 8 Forms. The link above can give you more details on this concept.