Blog Post By Ashton Sweetnam of Roots Up! Vegetable Farm. Photos below are from the Young Agrarians Farm Tour & Potluck Ian and Ashton hosted on their farm this past summer!
The budding stages of starting a farm are exhilarating, anxiety provoking, and a full roller coaster ride of ideas and dreams alternately coming to fruition and being cut back before they have a chance to propagate. Likely, this point in time is years in the making. You have spent countless hours and possibly years learning about the impacts of environmental degradation and human disconnection from nature. You want to do something better, something that will contribute positively to the world around you and build a better future for the coming generations.
Ian and I had certain broad ideas as to what it meant to start a farming operation of our own. We would purchase seeds, plant them, tend to the plants, and sell the resulting vegetables at market. We would spend our time learning about soils, companion planting, compost, and bugs. We imagined ourselves in the fields sowing row after row of carefully selected seeds, arising at the break of dawn to reverentially weed beds of thriving vegetables that we would meticulously water and care for. It was so easy to envision our market stall, the smile on a customers face as they buy nutritious and wholesome vegetables from us to feed to their families.
But it turns out that it wasn’t that straight forward… How many seeds to buy? What types and varieties of vegetables should we grow? How were we supposed to prioritize our expenses? How does a person come up with a planting schedule? How could we even begin the process of turning our giant dirt plot into a vegetable farm? There were so many questions we couldn’t answer in any coherent way with our level of experience. What we needed was for someone who knew what they were doing to teach us, but who had the time and patience to spend the many hours with us that it would require.
Thankfully, Ian’s mind took him back to the bookshelf of the last farm that he had worked at, and that was where we found the answers to many of our questions. Fredric Theriault and Daniel Brisebois’s book Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers has been a thorough guide through the tough terrain of farm planning. They show how it is possible to make a good profit from farming by setting reasonable goals and carefully planning and recording the steps that are to be taken through the farming season in order to accomplish those goals. The eleven steps that the handbook is comprised of clearly lead the farmer through what would otherwise be an incredibly complicated process of setting up systems that will serve the business through the many years to come.
Now, as we prepare to begin the season in our new town of Chase, we are excited to attend this workshop with Fredric Theriault to help us to iron out the details. We have a chance to start fresh and skip over some of the major mistakes that we made when we first began our own farming operation. Going to this workshop will give us a chance to get on the same page and begin creating effective systems that enable our farming experience to be more joyful and more profitable. See you there!
For Workshop Details go to: http://youngagrarians.org/cropplanning/