The farmstand closes Columbus Day, and I am already fielding the annual question: “Now, what do you do when the farmstand closes?” My most recently crafted response is simply to say “As soon as we shut down in 2012 we immediately start work on 2013” and that statement is essentially true. Yes, we will continue to wholesale fall crops to some degree, our fall CSA will continue until Thanksgiving, and there will be gleaning and working to get food to the local community pantries in conjunction with Willing Hands, our local distribution service. But for the most part, we will be focusing everyday on getting things in order for re-opening our doors for Spring 2013.
There is a ton of stuff to do before snowfall (if the weather cooperates), such that there is enough work for about 6 of us full time (40-45 hours a week) through mid-December. We still have root crops in the field for harvest. Field cleanup is pretty far along at this point, although strings and stakes will have to be removed from peppers and tomatoes. The raspberries have yet to be pruned. Blueberries need to be cleaned up and lightly pruned. Strawberries will have to be gone through and perennial weeds removed, straw mulch applied and protective deer fence put up. Irrigation pipe will have to be picked up, and fall tillage (plowing, spading) done before the ground freezes. The stand will have to be broken down and cleaned up so as not to attract animals. The potted plants will have to be cleaned up and brought back to the main farm. Perennials will be overwintered outdoors under protective covering, and the annuals will have to be overwintered in winterized stock plant greenhouses where we hope to start taking cuttings before the holidays. Vegetable and flower seed orders will have to be generated before the first of the year…that takes days. Tax prep work must be collated and completed (farmers’ federal tax is due March 1).
Greenhouses will have to be cleaned as soon as the onions, pumpkins and squash are taken out of them. Many will have to have their protective greenhouse skins replaced and repairs done to fans, thermostats and switches. Furnaces will have to be cleaned and serviced. If and when we get a snowstorm that has to be plowed (four to six inches), the snow will have to be removed from around the greenhouses that we have to get into all winter long. A six inch storm generates enough machine and hand labor to occupy 3-4 people a full day. Flower seeding starts in December and the first greenhouse tomatoes are seeded right after New Year’s Day. Then there is brush cutting around the fields to keep them “open,” firewood to be generated for the families, an irrigation system to be designed for the new farm, a barn to come down, a replacement for that barn designed, more machine repair…
Our farm remains a very busy place year round. Yes, we will cram some downtime in, a few hikes, day trips to see friends. Our days shorten as the sunlight ebbs towards winter. But we work here with the knowledge that the days will soon enough start to lengthen. Self employment is not for the faint of heart, and it may be over-rated. But it still works for some of us.