Thanksgiving Weekend

We have had a merciful November allowing us to get our machinery serviced and  stored away and fields and buildings cleaned up for winter. This past week saw the crew shrink down to five of us full time 3o-50 hours) and one  part timer. Roy and Willie  are warming  up and planting gardens back home  in Jamaica while Mike puts the plow truck in order and mounts the snowblower on the tillage tractor  in preparation  for the first winter storm. We hope the ground gets a good freeze before that first snow in hopes that it will control some of the disease  and insects that plagued us this summer. Wouldn’t hurt knocking back the wood and deer tick populations in the woodlands, either.

Our next few weeks will be devoted to the  piles of deskwork that stand before us, the business part of the farm that we all dread doing. Mike has been doing a great deal of greenhouse repair as well as mulching the strawberry  plants. The deer fence is up and running in the blueberries and the last of the fall tillage has been completed.  Ray has been busy organiizing the wash and packing area for the vegetables and putting the various washing  machines and tables in storage to make way for the greenhouse operations that will start in earnest in February. He has done a great  job of organizing the colossal chaos of the machine and storage barns and sheds  that we turn a blind eye to during the growing season. I am trying to refocus my  efforts in the  two  greenhouses of overwintered stock plants and am even starting some plant propagation for next spring by taken some vegetative  cuttings. Soon Mike, Ray and I will work on the vegetable seed and plant orders, although Sarah and Anne are well along the process of ordering them for the greenhouse end of the operation as well as ordering the hardgoods . Anne this morning  is working on the farm books in preparation for meetings with the tax accountant….our taxes are due  March 1 as opposed to April 15 for the rest of you.

There are meetings to attend. I sit on a couple of  committees and boards and there is the  usual battery of off -season meetings that the University Extension folks organize for we farmers so that we can  exchange information and get exposure to the latest and greatest ideas. This years testy topic will  once again be food safety regulation for those of us that grow it. The federal govenmen tnow  wants to regulate how we  wash and prepare food ( and to a great degree how we grow it) to make it safer to the consumer. All which is well and good, I think we can all agree that safe food is a good thing. But you cant legislate a one size fits all program that works for all of us. There  have been repeated abuses  and food recalls that have been traced to the industrial agricultural complexes: Mr Barnels peanuts, baby food out of China, a recent recall of hamburger at  our local grocery chain..  and the list goes on.None of which,to date , has  originated  from  the multiple small farmily farms of the Upper Valley.  For some reason the federal government thinks that we ( small  family farms)  are all complicit in the problem. The federal government would, under some proposals, want small farms to essentially capitalize and build  “processing facilities”  like the ultra big boys to come  into compliance with food safety regulations…..which most of us cannot  afford to do. And  by  proposed definitions, just cutting a head of lettuce  out in the field might well be viewed as “processing” by the government. It has gotten a little crazier for vegetable growers in New England, and so  we spend our time  trying to get somebody to listen or lobby for us. We aren’t  much of a  lobbying constituency when  you figure that  one  corporate farm  in the  Salinas Valley crops more acreage that  all the small CSAs, berry growers and vegetable farmers in New England. So there will be time in the winter devoted to that…too much time as far as I am concerned.