Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Goes Kabloom!

Fields filling up, plants getting big
During our first year at Holly Hill Farm we ate at a Chinese restaurant called Feng Shui a lot. This was 2006, a pretty lousy farming season due to really a wet May and June. Hannah and I were trying to make a good impression so we were working hard despite the foul weather, trying in vain to get things to grow and keep up with our cropping schedule. Not much was working out, but we kept at it full tilt, without much success. At that time I got a now infamous fortune cookie that said something like, "It's been a good start, now try harder," which made me laugh pretty hard.

This year, by contrast, the weather has been pretty cooperative and, once the soil warmed up enough to break down all the rye straw, we've been doing pretty darn well. There still is a feeling similar to back in '06 though. I think it has to do with just plain how hard you work in your first year on a new piece of land. Maybe it's muscle memory going back to then. But the good news, despite the haunting feeling, is that things are growing great. The bad new is we have to harvest it all. This is the time of year when the harvest ramps up dramatically, so basically, it's been a good start, now work harder. 

Farmer, fully cooked, on a bed of baby lettuces

Hannah snapped this shot when I joked about wanting to dive in to a bed of baby lettuces that were getting too big to harvest. She said, "why not, we're not going to sell them." And so I did.

We were pretty spoiled at Holly Hill Farm when it came to marketing. Demand at the farm stand was strong and grew right along with our increased success over the years. We didn't always sell everything, but we got pretty close. Things are different here for sure. There is a lot more competition from other, more established farms. Our crop plan was pretty ambitious so we're ending up with more unsold and unharvested crops than we're used to. That can easily be adjusted this off-season when we can do simple things like drop our salad mix plantings from 100 feet to 75 or 60. But right now, it's been hard to make that call. "But what if sales really pick up when everyone's home gardens are through producing...or when it gets hot...or when that cool restaurant decides we're awesome...." We're scared to scale back. We got so used to demand being greater than supply. The fun side affect is that we get to lie in the salad mix--feels so naughty.
Here come the flowers!

And, just when we thought it wasn't possible to get more done during a day--look who's about to demand LOTS of out time:

Hannah says, "put down the camera and get to work."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

growing, picking, selling

Farmers markets are now in pretty full swing, we are in the middle of our fourth week of markets. Customers have been really positive about our stuff... and most importantly, they're buying it; that's a crucial piece of the farming game. We've been working out some marketing details like how much arugula can we sell at our Sunday market? and how to keep our greens fresh during an hour drive to the market followed by four hours sitting in a parking lot. ...but we've made improvements, and it's mostly working well.  It's been interesting selling in markets that are totally new to us, after selling for 5 years at the same markets in Cohasset, where we ended up knowing most of our customers. We're slowly learning our new customers, and hare seeing a lot of repeat buyers. ...we've also had a few die hard customers from our time at Holly Hill seek us out and make the trip to our new markets, which we totally appreciate.

On the farm things are super busy, but growing well. Between harvesting, keeping things watered (it's been dry for a few weeks now, and we're still working with just a garden hose...time to place a drip irrigation order!), keeping on top of weeds, and keeping planting more successions of crops. Whew!
The good news on that front is that we've brought in some help. 20 hours a week. That should help us from getting totally buried under weeds. The other good news is that we're busy because there's a lot to harvest. Sugar snap peas were the big winners for the past few weeks. We  picked 150 lbs a week for 2 or 3 weeks in a row, and they're just now slowing down. And they were so beautiful and delicious. We're now starting to dig new potatoes, harvest onions, lots of greens, our flowers are starting. And we've eaten a few cherry tomatoes. We'll be selling some soon. It's really summer!