Monday, August 24, 2009

The End of August

After combining we run the seed through our seed cleaner mainly to remove weed seeds. Weed seeds aren't as dry as the grain and can contribute to moisture build up during storage. It was raining out so we had it set up in the barn. If the weather is nice we set up outside and auger the grain directly into the storage bin.

The seed cleaner is basically a bunch of screens and a fan that separates out the chaff.

We started combining rye yesterday, we are slowly getting into growing more grain. Grain production takes a lot of machinery compared to vegetables. To keep overhead costs down most of the machinery we have is used. Our combine is a model 72 Allis Chlamers pull behind, its older than I am but does a really nice job.

Unloading some rye into a gravity box. The harvest isn't bad considering the poor growing season, and the fact we are still learning how to grow small grains.

A no-till grain drill was purchased by the land conservation office and in cooperation with UW-Extension it is being rented out to land owners in Ashland, Iron, and Bayfield counties. We rented the drill to do some hay field improvement. Here I'm seeding some red clover (Trifolium pratense) and bromegrass (Bromus inermus).

The field after a pass with the drill.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Underselling vs. Staying in Business

Today (Saturday) was a farmers market day. Markets have gotten more difficult as of last week a new vendor showed up and started underselling everyone else. Prices are a difficult thing to determine but they are typically based on the cost of production which includes labor, seeds/transplants, infrastructure and other factors. If a farmer is making a living from his or her farm they have to keep track of production costs. If they are selling below cost of production they can sell lots of produce but still lose money.

Some crops like carrots are very labor intensive (handweeding and thinning), resulting in a higher price. Infrastructure such as tractors, implements, deer fencing, coolers, etc. is costly (even if bought used) and takes years to accumulate. Land is perhaps one of the most difficult to find and costly investments of all.

As a vendor I don't see the market as a competition for who has the lowest prices. That mentality is counterproductive and results in a race to the bottom. Instead I think of the farmers market as a whole. Its important to consider the repercussions that arise from selling things to cheaply.

High prices don't have an immediate impact but if vendors are charging to much for their produce it can drive people away from the market.

Its been a good year for onions. They are sizing up nicely.

Carrots get a hair cut to make them more manageable.

We've started bagging up beans and peas to make them more manageable at the farmers market.

We had 1.5 inches of rain this week. The most rain we've had all summer!

Some of our meatbirds are getting to be about the right size to butcher. The roosters are trying crow, and that means its definitely time for them to go!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Second Week of August

The weather has been warmer lately (like a normal summer) and the summer squash and green beans have been growing like crazy.

It was also time to put new plastic on the greenhouse. The last plastic had been on for ten years, which is a long time for greenhouse plastic. The old plastic will be used to cover machinery, wood piles, hay etc.

Getting the new plastic situated.

Top view making sure its on straight.

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 3-9

We've had some warmer temperatures lately. Summer squash really likes warm temperatures. Today I picked about 40 pounds.

Feel free to leave comments on ways you like to prepare summer squash! (Scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on comments).

Saturday means its time for the Ashland farmers market.

We brought about 8 pounds of green beans and sold out in the first 20 minutes. Business was slow for the rest of the day, partly due to the cloudy and cool weather. The downturn in the economy has probably contributed to the slower farmers markets this year. There were quite a few regular and new customers we'd like to thank for coming!

On Thursday we attended the Cornucopia farmers market.

It was the first time this season we sold at this market. The market has been going for about three years now and is located down by lake Superior.

Onions are about ready and I picked a few for the farmers market on Saturday.

Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is a common annual weed.

Fortunately pigs love lambsquarters.

We took four pigs to the slaughter plant today. We have a small stock trailer if we are only hauling a few animals, or are picking up feeder pigs.

These pigs are probably in the 250 to 275 lb range. They'll all be made into bratwurst since that has been selling really well at the farmers market.

The slaughter house is located in Radisson Wisconsin. Its about an hour and a half drive, but this is the closest place that does a good job butchering. Getting booked in the fall is tricky due to the high demand, but we managed to get slaughter dates for the rest of our pigs.