Another season is soon to be wrapping up and mother nature sure let us know with a good hard frost the night before our annual S’mores & Tours Event. It wasn’t entirely unexpected as we hurried to pick everything we could on the previous day. I was excited to show off our healthy rows of peppers, eggplants and cherry tomatoes so late in the season. I wished that folks could pluck raspberries off the canes and right into their mouths like I had been doing all week. But cie la vie. Jack Frost beat us to the punch. This has been a great season and we are thankful the summer crops have lasted this long. For our farm event, we were given a gorgeous, crisp autumn day with lots of sunshine and colorful foliage with tractor rides, live music, bon fires and delicious food made with fresh ingredients from the farm. But most of all we enjoyed the company of our customers and crew, farm and food enthusiasts, family and friends old and new. And of course we enjoyed the S’mores. I’m certain a few opted to go downtown to the victory parade and show support for our World Champion, Washington Nationals (Go Nats!) and I’ll confess who can blame you. We so much appreciate everyone’s support whether you made it out to the farm or not. Now we can complete our cleanup and prepare the final rows for winter. It is also a good time to reflect on this past season and look ahead to the next.
We accomplished a good deal of the goals we set for ourselves this year. On the farm we erected 8′ deer fencing which proved extremely effective and allowed us to focus on production rather than the hours we spent discouraging deer. I would joke that last year the problem was too many deer. This year the problem was not enough and too much lettuce. We also planted, pruned and trellised our first acre of blackberry & raspberry brambles. I am so looking forward to harvesting these next season and most likely inviting folks out to pick for themselves. We switched almost entirely away from chemical fertilizers and toward more organic methods of creating fertility in the soil by spreading compost and seed drilling cover crops. We experimented with low tunnels, spacing, and succession planting. We actively sought advice from extension agents and other farmers. I went back to school at UMD and got to apply what I learned by designing an 8 year crop rotation. Not everything was a success, but that’s alright. It gives us room for improvement next year. We are even in the middle of constructing my cabin tent in the woods overlooking the farm. Soon I may insist on being called Cabin John 😉
We had some big changes on the marketing side as well. We opened a new location at Greetree Road, which we thoroughly enjoyed and definitely plan on continuing next season. We modified our Jones Mill Stand by constructing a temporary platform and scooting back into the park and away from the road. We switched over to paper bags, berry bonnets, and bio-plastics and away from single use plastics. We added a recipe blog featuring a current and seasonal ingredient which I looked forward to each week. For the first time, each stand had its own manager tasked to focus, maintain, and improve their location. I enjoyed witnessing the pride and comradery this evoked. There were Friday night concerts and tables filled with rainbows of berries. There was sampling and signage and setups which assembled like clockwork. We struggled a bit with staffing once our students went back to school thru October. This is an area I intend on improving for next year. I’m considering the notion of work/travel visa programs or WOOFing(Working On Organic Farms) and promoting a sense of cross cultural exchange. This winter I’m planning on doing a bit of traveling myself which I think is so important to refresh one’s perspective and gather new ideas. I’m planning a trip to Australia & New Zealand and welcome advice, suggestions, and contacts from those that have been.
As for “what’s next” we have several items in the works. In the immediate future, our 2020 CSA will launch prior to Thanksgiving. Our member account platform is getting a major overhaul geared toward creating a smoother, simpler, and user friendly experience. Look forward to a more streamlined interface where you will have the option to place your membership on hold right from your phone and only pay for the shares you receive. There will be a more automated registration and billing, referral program, and members will be able to specify their likes and dislikes in advance so we can pack our truck based on these preferences.
We are also hoping to have our winter home delivery program back online so you can receive the farm right to your doorstep beginning in January. We are working with a dairy producer that has been delivering to homes in our area for nearly as long as Norman’s has been in business. By utilizing their platform and logistics with a broadened selection of products we think this is going to be a home run for our customers and help bridge the gap between seasons. Stay tuned for more info.
On the farm we will review our notes from this season and refresh our game plan for the next. We will continue our education and work towards improving our production and implementing the new food safety standards. We will attend growers conventions, reconnect with agencies such as Soil Conservation, Nutrient Management and Extension. We will research grants and contemplate greenhouses. There were a few specific crops we struggled with this season that we need to figure out. We would like to host more events next season, and I’m realizing to do this we need to consider a part time event planner since we are so busy and spread thin during the growing season. It would be great to plan a few dinners, a festival, some farm tours and pick-your-owns.
I sincerely hope everyone enjoyed the bounty this season. It is through our member’s support that we have been able to accomplish so much. It is what drives us to keep dreaming up new ideas, bringing them to fruition and fulfilling our mission of being your connection to the source. Thank you.