We had a busy week in fields this week. We got a lot of weeding done (with a big assist from the maiden voyage of our electric cultivation (weeding) tractor aka Marty McFly. It was amazing.) Kayta did a big greenhouse sowing (almost 7,000 beet seeds!); we transplanted Jack-O-Lanterns, leeks, our final sweet peppers, chard, and our 4th of 13 lettuce plantings; and we direct seeded our bi-weekly salad greens and the 3rd of five carrots plantings.
Sometimes people ask, "How do you know what to plant when?"
Crop planning, as we call it, looks slightly different on every farm, but the core answer to the above question is the same: We work backwards from harvest. From there, it is a matter of art, science, experience, and record keeping... and spreadsheets!
In the Winter of 2016-2017, our first year, Kayta and I sketched examples of the harvest shares we wanted to have for people in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. (Gotta have alliums each week; gotta have a snack crops; gotta have roots and fresh greens always; what flowers are possible in early June? What is a solid posse of Winter Squash, etc.) From these envisioned harvests, Kayta, who had many years of experience planning diverse vegetable, herb and flowers harvests in Forestville, worked backwards, considering each crop and variety, its "days to maturity", heat and frost sensitivities, yield expectations etc. In other words, the science. With Kayta's background and the cold hard numbers, we could then take a guess on when to sow and how much.
Then we planted. Paper met reality and the experience and record keeping aspects of crop planning took center stage. Each and every region, each and every valley, each and every soil, each and every harvest pick-up, and each and every year treat each and every crop and variety differently. With a healthy dose of humility and good record keeping, crop planning here has now become a process of amassing a memory of successes and failures (and harvest logs!) so that each Winter, we can develop a planting plan ever more custom tailored to this soil and micro-climate and what people are taking home and enjoying.
The "art" and the heart of crop planning, for us, is in taking all of this and planning for harvests that harmonize with the seasons, surprise, delight, and make CSA members fall in love with food and flowers every week. Over the next couple months, for example, if everything goes to plan, you should be met by a range of fresh alliums in in the harvest barn; fresh garlic and scapes, scallions, chippolini onions, red spring onions, Walla Walla sweet onions, and torpedos. Alliums (the onion family) are so darn magical, especially fresh in the summer, so our Spring and Summer allium crop plan, is a love sonnet to the allium that we hope you enjoy.
They say, "If you want to make God laugh, make a plan." But, with some elbow grease and a little bit of luck, I'd say we're well on track to mostly pull off Kayta's 400 row, 60 column Excel spreadsheet 2019 Crop Plan. Thanks to a little help from our friends...
See you in the fields,
David and Kayta