We’re a stone throw away from the end of spring planting, with one big week to go and a few stragglers for the hoophouses when the next crop transition happens. Overall, the planning has worked and the flow has been smooth from planting to planting, which is a welcome change from past years.
I always had a vague idea of where crops would be planted and how much volume to plant but it wasn’t until I took the time over the winter to create a clear plan with farm-management software that the pieces started to fall into place. There are many refinements that I’ll make for next year, but overall I’m super stoked.
One of our biggest issues in the past has been seedlings languishing in the propagation house because there wasn’t a prepped bed ready for them. This year we’ve been on the ball, a steady flow of planting hopscotching out across the farmscape. There are multiple factors that have come together to make this a good spring for our planting schedules.
It’s been warm and dry for much of the spring, so there was ample opportunity to stay on top of the bed prep rotation. Crop planning was more accurate, and there were enough hands to do the work. The biggest factor this year was that for the first time ever, we had enough space.
The new caterpillar tunnels allowed for multiple rotations of spring crops, which took pressure off of some of the other zones. We’re 8 successions into salad mix, having already prepped, grown and harvested more than 1000 row feet this spring. I did this math as I wrote, and it staggers me to realize how much production we’ve done already this year.
Salad and fast-growing root crops are our winter and spring staples; quick crops that are sown and then harvested in a matter of a few weeks. We’re about a dozen successions into radishes and about the same for salad turnips. 5 successions of beets but just 2 of carrots makes a notation for next year to sow more carrots.
I’m getting better at my weekly planning, making running lists in a note app on my phone of crops for the next market harvest and jobs that need to be done. On Sunday night, I transcribe the list to a spreadsheet that is broken up into days of the week. The pick (harvest) list is laid out with crops and volumes assigned to each person. The job list is broken up into days of the week, with a column for things that are on the list but do not have a date assignment.
The week never progresses exactly the way I lay it out, but having even a rough outline helps to give everyone a general sense of what to expect. Monday morning check in allows us to go over the list, dialogue about the tasks and identify any obvious holes or missing items. One of the struggles that I encounter is that there are so often unexpected jobs that throw us off from the plan I put down on paper.
Transposing the reality of farm operations onto a spreadsheet is an exercise in reductionism, but can serve as a workable shorthand if all parties have the same understanding of communication. As I’m laying this out I’m realizing that if I budget specific time blocks for contingencies then I can have a much better expectation for the continuity of the workflow.
The farm operates on agreed terminology and methods, which allows for shared understanding and progress of work. If we all know what we’re talking about when we say “harvest the lettuce from Bed2 Cat3,” then we proceed to an agreed upon set of practices with a reproducible result.
It’s my responsibility to be clear in my communications, making sure that everyone understands the roles and expectations. When I bring my best and highest self, I am supportive and kind and I provide good leadership. When I’m sharp or short with my teammates, that energy ripples outward, making the work more drudge and less lighthearted effort. These are lessons that I remind myself of each day as I work to enjoy the effort in joy of doing it.
It’s easy to get deep in the grind and not take the time to reflect, easy to lose the forest for the trees. Part of why I enjoy writing so much is because it fosters a reflection period, yielding lessons and encouragement. I refine my life journey through this Praxis, evolving my way of being over time. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!
Casey O’Neill co-operates HappyDay Farms, a micro-diversified farm in northern Mendocino County, California. His family raises two acres of Sun&Earth and DEMPure Certified vegetables, poultry and medical cannabis in a small-farm setting while working towards sustainability. He is stoked about sharing food, medicine and cultivation techniques with others. He is passionate about representing small farmers and works to support Mendocino County policy-makers in crafting sensible regulations. You can find his radio show on podcast at HappyDay Farms - Farm and Reefer Report on iTunes or Soundcloud.