Boy, I just went a month and a half without a post. Shameful. Sackcloth and ashes. All I can say is things have been incredibly busy and I lost control. So, to get everyone up to date, here’s a quick recap of our last 90 days:
- First, to do the initial prep on our new land we called in the cavalry (we’re farming two properties this year; one is a 1/4 acre at our home in downtown Longmont, the other is 2 1/4 acres, about 20 minutes away in Gunbarrel, and is new to us this year). We hired a very experienced local farmer named George to bring his big tractor and break the land. Prior to us the land had been untended weeds and grass for decades. So, to begin George brought his moldboard plow and flipped the soil 18-inches deep. This is good practice for new land that’s thick with weeds. The plow blades cut the weedy rhizome roots a feet and a half deep, giving us a big head-start on our cultivation. (The pictures in this post are of Milo in the field right after moldboarding.) We then let the land sit for two weeks, to dry and germinate any weed seeds. Then George came back, this time with his cultipacker and knocked the clods down to seedbed size. Now we just need to compost, till in our beds, install the irrigation and plant it up. We don’t have a tractor yet but even if we did, we’d have hired George to do this custom tractor work for us. Small tractors can’t pull heavy enough implements to do a good job of primary tillage. Everyone I know who tried to do this themselves was disappointed with the results.
- Next, we finished and submitted the application and paperwork for an Farm Service Administration (FSA) start-up loan. Our tiny farm model is super cheap compared to starting a large conventional farm, but the expenses can still be daunting (we’re budgeting $30-$60k). Also, it’s impossible to get a start-up loan through a traditional bank. We know because we had to go through the unpleasant process of getting rejected in order to qualify for the FSA. They just don’t understand the business model and so they either charge way too much or are just not interested. Thank goodness for the FSA. It’s a branch of the USDA dedicated to financially supporting American farmers. They make low interest loans under reasonable terms to growers of all sizes. Unfortunatly, as is the case anytime you deal with the government, the paperwork is legion. Things were especially difficult for us because this year, until last week when the federal government finally approved it’s budget, the FSA didn’t have any money to lend. That meant that despite our application being complete and approved we couldn’t close the deal. Things are looking up now that the federal government has funded itself. We’ll sign the papers tomorrow and then be able to move forward with things like an irrigation system, a market stand and a small tractor.
- I’m ashamed to admit, but despite living in the high desert (Colorado can be scary-dry), we’ve never used drip irrigation before. In the past we’ve always relied on residential, overhead sprinklers. And while these do okay and have gotten us by, they waste a lot of water and never provide as complete a coverage as we’d like. So, this year we installed a drip system on our urban Longmont property. It took a lot of learning and experimentation to get it up but now that its in, it’s a dream come true. Our germination is much better and we’re using much less water.
- We’ve also been very busy with seeding and planting. For the first time ever, we’ve managed to plant out all the land available on our urban 1/4 acre. That’s a major victory. Additionally, we’ve been very busy in the downstairs grow room. We’ve done a major expansion, increasing our capacity by more than five-times and have made many changes to our system. So far we’ve started over 4,000 plants down there and they’re all doing well. Many are destined for sale as plant starts at early season markets, others have already been transplanted to the Longmont property, the rest are being held for the Gunbarrel site.
That’s it for now. But I’m committed to posting at least weekly so keep in touch.