2017, January

Farm update – 1/2/2017

Happy New Year! Believe it or not, we’re still churning out lettuce. Our last harvest of lettuce in 2015 was on December 13, so we’re well beyond that with no end of lettuce yet in sight. While some things in the field are winding down (broccoli, turnips), we made our very first cauliflower harvest today. We will likely only have it for the next week or two, so get it while it lasts!

As all of 2017 waits to unfold before us, now is a great time to look back at how Calamint Farms fared in 2016. As I’ve alluded to before, I love numbers, data, and spreadsheets. I love pushing these numbers around on a piece of paper, configuring them in ways to get meaningful information out of them. So it seems fitting to share a slice of the farm data we’ve collected over the past year (keep reading below for more details).

2016_infographic

Produce (veggies and herbs) comprised by far the largest share of our farm sales, making up a full two-thirds of our yearly income. Honey brought in nearly one-fifth of our income and eggs were more than one-tenth, with those three categories bringing in a combined 97% of farm income.

Our summer sales took place over nearly 200 days, and the spring season was just half that, at 100 days. Fall was the shortest at about 65 days, but thanks to our warm winter weather, our fall season is not over yet. One thing I found interesting is that despite this variability in total season length, the average amount of time we sold any single crop during each season was about 30 days. There was a lot of variability around the 30-days-of-sales-per-crop rule: jalapeno peppers bore fruit for more than 170 days, while all of our spring cauliflower sales took place in the course of 2 days. On average, however, a month is a good starting point for thinking about the duration of availability of a given crop. In upcoming weeks, we’ll post a generalized timeline of anticipated produce availability for 2017.

While the prolonged fall drought certainly affected our bees, we still managed to harvest more than eight gallons of honey from our one established hive. We hope and we plan to harvest even more than that this year, possibly collecting honey from up to four hives.

We record the number of eggs laid daily, mostly just to produce a fun timeline of egg production. Ok, the timeline is a side benefit, as that information primarily lets us know how many eggs our hens are laying versus the cost of providing food and shelter for them. The seasonal pattern of egg production in the timeline above is about what you’d expect from chickens that lay eggs in natural conditions (i.e., those that don’t have artificial lighting to increase winter day lengths). Egg laying is strongly influenced by day length, and the percent of hens laying on a given day rose rapidly from January through March as day length increased. It declined slowly until August, when it rose again as hens we raised from chicks in 2016 began laying. By the fall equinox, the percent of hens laying each day began decreasing rapidly, so that by late December fewer than 25% of the flock was laying on any one day. However, over the course of the entire year, on average, 51.3% of the flock laid an egg on a given day.

The remaining 3% of sales came from our collection of pollinator-themed greeting cards, beeswax tealights, t-shirts, cut flowers, and shiitake mushrooms. 2017 may include some expansions into this “other” category (oyster mushrooms? lip balm?, jams and jellies?), so stay tuned for updates!

Finally, thanks to everyone who responded to the year-end survey. From your feedback, it seems like there’s high satisfaction with the price and quality of our veggies. What did surprise (and please!) me was that nearly half of the responses came back saying that organic produce was of high importance. We got some great suggestions for produce that you’d like to see more of, and are incorporating many of them into this year’s planting plans. We’ll plan to have more kale, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower available. We’ll introduce some Asian greens, starting this spring with bok choy. We will also continue experimenting with tomato varieties that are well suited for the South. Only one suggestion came in that I know we can’t tackle, and that is sweet corn. The amount of space and resources (water and nutrients) corn requires, its tendency toward bugginess, and its low price during peak availability means that we simple can’t see any profitability in it, unfortunately.

With your continued support, we’re looking forward to the upcoming year!

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