Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture

Notes from the Farm - March 1999
By Elizabeth Henderson

Peacework Organic Farm

"Only by restoring the broken connection can we be healed. Connection is health. We lose our health - and create profitable diseases and dependencies - by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving." Wendell Berry, "The Body and the Earth," from The Unsettling of America, 1977.

One of the most pleasant winter jobs on a vegetable farm is thumbing through all the seed catalogues, oggling the brilliantly colored pictures, reading the descriptions of new varieties, and making the selections for the next season. Greg and I have used the Veggie Questionnaires many of you filled out as our guide to quantities. (See the summary of responses). We will try to fill your shares with as much of the favorites as we can, and give smaller or less frequent amounts of the less popular vegetables. We will also offer choices where your tastes are fairly evenly split. The biggest scorers of #5 - the "I didn't like them as a kid, and I won't eat them now" category, we will place on the bulk list, since there isn't any vegetable that everyone hates.

After completing the seed orders and totalling up the costs, we have decided that we need to do a lot more seed saving. The prices of seeds are rising far faster than the inflation rate, as the number of corporations that control seed production worldwide grows ever smaller. Our seed buying policy is to look for varieties that 1. taste good and are highest in nutritional value, 2. are resistant to diseases that have been a problem in the past for us 3. if possible, are organically grown, 4. have not been treated with chemical fungicides. We have discovered T22, trichoderma harzianum, a seed treatment that we put on the seed ourselves, greatly increases germination in cold soils. T22 is a naturally occurring fungus that lives in the soil. Gary Harmon at the Geneva Experiment Station selected this strain as the most effective for treating early planted seed, such as peas and corn, which tend to rot if weather is cold and wet. We do use some hybrid varieties, produced by classical breeding methods of selection to have either higher yield or greater disease resistance than open-pollinated varieties. We grow a mixture of old varieties (known these days as heirlooms, or members of VAR, Vegetables of the American Revolution, in Jeff Mehr's definition).

Our favorite seed company is FEDCO because it is a worker-owned-member owned coop, packaging and hype are minimal, and the more you order, the bigger the discount, plus an additional 1% discount for NOFA membership. They do not carry any treated or Genetically engineered seed. Gradually, they are developing seed production by local organic growers. There is very little organic seed available. The companies that do carry it, sell tiny packets at high prices, and often cannot fill farm-sized orders.

Despite the 22% FEDCO discount, our seed bill for this year will be the highest ever at over $1,700. That does include $168 for 1/4 pound of asparagus seed to start our own asparagus patch. (If we purchased asparagus crowns, the cost would be over $2000. ) To cut down on the seed bill for the future, and to ensure that we have seed that is not genetically engineered, we would like to institute a new CSA work position: Chief of Seed Saving. Fred Miller has come forward to command this post for the coming season. Anyone who would like to help him and learn about seed saving, should let us know.

The big new trend in vegetable sales is "pre-cuts," or "fresh-cuts." Packages of washed and cut up salads, and fruit hit 10 percent of produce purchases in 1997. Professional grower magazines predict sales of $19 billion worth of pre-cuts by 2003. American consumers are willing to pay 2 to 3 times the price of the separate ingredients for the convenience of opening a readymade package. It seems that working moms are too busy to wash lettuce or slice apples. For those of you who have heard me rant and rave on the subject of "baby" carrots, and doubt my mutterings about lathe-turned carrots, I quote from a seed catalogue for commercial growers: "Coreless Amsterdam - "This strain is also used by some USA growers as a 'Grinder Baby Carrot' (The root is cut in half and shaped at both ends to resemble two baby carrots)." The photo of another variety shows several long, slim carrots - up to 15 inches! - alongside a carrot divided into 5 perfectly trimmed "babies." Will we have to wash and pre-cut your food to keep you as CSA members? Please let us know soon. Another growth trend is medicinal herbs. I like this one! We are willing to grow any herbs that members request. This farm is also very rich in wild plants with medicinal qualities such as burdock, boneset, stinging nettles, mullein, milk thistle, mints, pleurisy root (butterfly weed), yellow dock, and others. We could arrange for weed walks with identification and collection of herbs if there is an interest.

My most remarkable news for the winter is that, in mid-January, I moved into a house of my own. With the help of my father-in-law and the Lyons National Bank, I am purchasing 2218 Welcher Road. The windows on the east side of the house look out on the field where we planted garlic. To the north, I see Doug's hay fields. Not too many vehicles use this road, and there is hot running water. I have enough wall space for my mother's lovely collection of art work. Feels like a luxury hotel to me! A great crew of 9 helped me move - Greg, Helen and Ammie, our friend Glenda, two farmer friends, Tony and Dan, and three GVOCSA members, Marian Vaeth, Spencer Richardson, and Mike Terrillion. I am grateful to them all!

A few days later, Mother Nature gave us one of her violent swats. Under the extra weight of ice plus two feet of wet snow, the roof of the packing shed section of the barn collapsed. The walls, as well as the roof, are a total loss. We have not yet decided how to replace it.

Our whole farm team - Greg and me, Greg's wife Ammie, and Doug Kraai - participated in a Whole Farm Resource Managment Training for three days in February. This was a really exciting opportunity for us to start to learn the basics of farm decision-making taking all of our resources and goals into account. You begin by defining the whole that you manage, and the people who are affected directly, indirectly and in a minor way. For us, the whole includes both Doug's farm and Greg and Ammie's land in Savannah. Our people include us four, Doug's wife Becky, our children, but also the members of the GVOCSA. Trainer Ed Martsolf challenged us to start clarifying a three-part set of goals for our quality of life, our form of production, and our future resource base. As we make decisions about our whole, we will use these goals to measure our progress and to monitor whether we are moving towards, and not away from them. A central part of the training involved visiting the farm of one of the participants where we conducted a "Weak-Link-a-thon." The purpose was to teach us how to evaluate a farm looking for the aspects that most need improvement and investment, and to identify underutilized resources. Then we had to turn this spotlight on our own farms. These new planning tools will only be as good as the use we make of them for the future. The ten members of our class decided that we will continue to meet from time to time to act as a support group for one another as we put what we learned into action.

This is my first draft of my personal goals for Peacework Organic Farm: a. Quality of life: fresh air, close to nature, working closely with other people, independent (no debt, political, financial or psychological), with time for my family, culture, politics, learning and spiritual growth, human relations on the basis of mutual respect. b. Form of production: organically managed market farm as self-sufficient as possible, with regional links of interdependence with other farms. Excellent quality, sense of order, and calm. Optimal mechanization. c. Future resource base: land regenerated, healthy soil, biodiversity below and above ground, lots of wildlife and not too many close neighbors. For Peacework Organic Farm, this training has gotten us very excited about putting some of our under-utilized resources to work. Greg, Ammie and I are making plans to start bringing Ammie into our farm crew by having the three of us work some days together at Peacework and some days on the land in Savannah. We would like to prepare ground there this season to plant berry bushes, table grapes, and pear trees next year. As a way of using more of our talents and as an additional source of income, we would like to develop farm tours and nature walks for groups of all ages. Doug Kraai is beginning to explore ideas for an educational center at Crowfield Farm.

To help us celebrate this new beginning, we invite you all to a house-greenhouse warming from 2 to 6 pm on Saturday, May 1. Please join us for some pagan rituals of soil fertility, tours of our solar greenhouse and my new home-picture gallery, and a potluck supper at 5pm (please bring a dish to pass and dinnerware). Greg and I look forward to launching this new season with you!

Peacework Organic Farm Budgets

We publish here two budgets - one to give you an idea of the money we are investing in Peacework, and our projected budget for 1999. Our investment budget received a tremendous boost from $6000 in anonymous donations from members of the GVOCSA core group! The 1999 operating budget is based on past experience at Rose Valley, but we may find costs to be quite different at Crowfield, where, for example, we will probably need to use irrigation.

Start-Up Costs, 1998-1999

Salary for Greg Palmer - $10,000
Greenhouse construction - $6,000

materials and labor
$1,000 - heating system
Packing Shed - Storage for squash and potatoes - $400
Walk-in cooler - $1491 construction
$1,000 cooling unit
Water system, pump and tank - $700
Shed replacement - approximately $3000 available
Barn doors - $700
Other repairs - $300
Electrical wiring - $150
Roof painting - $150 (unfortunately, this was the roof that collapsed)
Hoop house for season extension - $1000
Cover crops - $608
Garlic Seed - $150

Equipment purchases

Chisel Plow - $1300
Hiller disks - $280
Cultivation tools - $500
Spader - $6000
Perfecta cultivator - $1200
Garden Cart - $250 Building and land rental - $500
Irrigation system(pump, hoses, drip tape, sprinklers) - $2500
Pond - $3000


Gas, oil, repairs on Kraai equipment used - $300
Electricity - $150
Phone - $185

Total - $37,809 plus $3000 for shed replacement

1999 Projected Budget for Peacework

Farmer #1 1700 hours of work at $11/hour $18,700
Farmer #2 1700 hours of work at $10/hour $17,000
Intern 34 weeks/30 hours per week/$5/hr. $5,100
Other labor $1,000

Total $41,800

Farm rental 1,750
Equipment and greenhouse return on equity 500
Insurance 1,600
Utilities 1,500
Seed 1,700
Organic Certification 625
Supplies 1,500
Fertilizer 500
Repairs and Maintenance 2,500
Fuel 800
Miscellaneous and contingencies 1,500

Subtotal - $14,475
Total Expenses - $56,275 160

shares at average of $13 /share $52,000
Bulk sales 2,500
Store sales 3,000
Total sales $57,500

Veggie Questionnaire Results - Elizabeth and Greg (66 responses tallied)

Top favorites (we added rankings of 1, "most favored vegetable status", and 2, "a favorite, use large quantities"):

Blueberries - 51
Asparagus - 50
Garlic - 46
Tomatoes - 44
Snow peas and Sugar snaps - 42
Lettuce - 42
Sweet corn - 41
Carrots - 40
Cantaloupe - 38
Onions - 37
Delicata squash - 36
Potatoes - 36
Watermelon - 35
Spinach - 35
Broccoli - 33

When we add up 1s, 2s, and 3s ("use moderate amounts"), carrots come out on top with 72 (some of you must have voted early and often on this one!), sugar snaps are next with 66, potatoes, garlic, and spinach tie with 65 each, asparagus, snow peas, corn and blueberries tie with 64. Shelling peas (63), leeks (62), romano beans (60), celery (60), summer squash and cucumbers (59 each) all emerge in the top rated vegetables.

Down in the least loved "I wouldn't eat it when I was a kid, and I won't eat it now" category, for pure unpopularity we find mustard greens (21), kohlrabi (18), and collards (17). When we add 4 ("A little goes a long way") to 5, daikon comes out at the bottom with 43, turnips are next with 36, and then come Jerusalem artichokes (35), kohlrabi (33),collards (32), garlic greens and mustard greens (31).

We also learned that many of you loved the yellow watermelons in 1998, so we bought some seed. And that many of you are not familiar with the excellent oriental greens senposai and tatsoi. We will make sure the newsletter includes some good recipes. The farm and the distribution crew agree with the suggestions that half-shares should not involve cutting anything in half, but should consist of a smaller number of items.

A special THANK YOU! to the three anonymous donors of $3000, $2000, and $1000 to the farm for an irrigation pond and equipment. At the January core meeting, Elizabeth presented the Peacework investment budget, which, at that time, suffered from a $5000 deficit. The red ink disappeared within two weeks with the arrival of 3 checks. Pretty amazing!

Community Supported Agriculture seems to be working!

Copyright GVOCSA 1999. All rights reserved.