Well, the kids and I had some good ol’ ladybug fun a few weeks ago. Ladybugs are voracious predators of many soft-bodied and small insects that devour our organic produce. That combined with the fact that I hate spraying- even organically-allowed-naturally-derived sprays, means that we use ladybugs! I order them every spring from a great company (Arborico Organics), and the kids have a ball shaking them out into the garden. They search out and munch all kinds of pests that I can’t even see. They work 24/7, and then they lay eggs and the cycle gets even better. The nymphs that hatch are even hungrier and more successful at their search and destroy mission. Today we saw ladybugs really working the crops, and that is a great thing to behold. We released 9,000 in March and then about 18,000 at the first of May. Many of them do fly off to find their own way in the world, some of them fall prey to other predators out there, but most stick around. All summer long, we will see them working away in the fields, and you sure can’t beat that.
Crop Insurance… Seriously??
Okay, so I realize this blog won’t appeal to very many of my viewers, potentially, but I have to share. We have never been eligible for crop insurance. Until recently. Crop insurance, for those of you who are still reading, is used by farmers to protect against crop failure, natural disasters (think hail, tornadoes, and floods), and the loss of revenue due to declines in the prices of agricultural commodities. In Missouri, from the USDA, it costs $250 per crop (I grow over 90 crops!!), but thankfully has a $750 cap. There is also a fee that is calculated based on the number of acres you grow, and about 5 other statistics all multiplied together and then multiplied by 5 point something or other. If you are a big farmer dude, this fee is a pretty big number, and really dwarfs the $750 initial price tag. These numbers are for basic coverage, which will pay the farmer 50% of their lost crops’ value. If farmer Brown wants a premium policy (say, that will pay up to 65% of his crops’ value), then the cost goes up. Got it? There’s a lot more to it than that, but that will get us started.
So, as a specialty farmer, I’ve never really considered crop insurance. We just seem…so… well…small. And I think of crop insurance as really representing BIG AG. And as much as I have had family members who get their paychecks from BIG AG, I am really, really, not in the BIG AG and Crop Insurance frame of mind…just a little organic farmer, you know?
But… when a family member emailed me to remind me that I may potentially be eligible, I thought I would check it out. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Well, because I am a female farmer, I am considered socio-disadvantaged or something like that (hand on head, swooning motion), AND I am a beginner farmer, as I have been considered a commercial grower for less than 10 years. THUS… my insurance would be free. FREE! FREE! Sounding like a possibility, yes? No.
Here’s the good part. The very pleasant lady on the other end of the phone said I had to keep records of crop quantities. I said that would be no problem, as I am certified organic and already keep production records. Alas, that is NOT what she meant. In order to use crop insurance you have to keep field records of quantity picked and VERIFIABLE RECORDS OF QUANTITIES SOLD… as in for every item sold at the farmers market, I would have to record the items sold, and the customer would have to SIGN a receipt… then I would have to take all those sales and organize them so they were accessible. For instance if someone bought cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, and red tomatoes, I would have to record EACH of them separately… same goes for squash… a Howden pumpkin has to be recorded separately from a Japanese pumpkin or a kabocha (which they classify as a pumpkin)… I explained to her that I grow over 700 crop rotations of different varieties… she said she would turn the list into the state who would then provide the classifications that I would have to track… so you see where this is going. No where.
And it gets better. I asked one more question. Who sets the price for the crop failure pay-outs and how much would it be for potatoes, for example? The state sets the price and last year potatoes were valued at $7.60 per 100 pounds. Which would mean that I would get $3.80 per 100 pounds of potato failure… there aren’t enough ‘dot dot dots’ for me to put at the end of that sentence… That was PER ONE HUNDRED POUNDS… Just in case a few of you haven’t checked the price of organic potatoes at markets lately, they are typically $3.50 or $4 PER pound when the potatoes are fresh dug and sell out quickly (and depending on variety), and decline to about $2.50 or $3 PER pound by the end of the season.
So… favorite customers of mine… YOU are my crop insurance! If I have an epic failure in the potato field, I know you will buy onions instead. You’ll buy an extra helping of carrots and tomatoes. You’ll try a kohlrabi and grab some greens. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And that is priceless.
Brookside Farmers Market is Seeking a New Market Manager
Brookside Farmers’ Market
Market Manager Job Announcement
Founded in 2002, Brookside Farmer’s Market is a Saturday morning organic, local producer-grower only market located on the north side of Border Star Elementary School at 63rd and Wornall Rd. The farmers and artisan food and organic product vendors are member-owners of the market.
A Board of Directors provides governance for the market. The Market Manager is hired by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will establish the reporting protocol and a supervisor for the position.
Two principle committees of the Board of Directors, Marketing and Vendor, develop plans, policies and procedures, which once approved by the Board of Directors, provide the framework for the operation of the market each season. Though not a voting member of the Board or committees, the Market Manager works collaboratively with them to implement identified aspects of the plans, policies and procedures. The Market Manager’s hours and responsibilities take place on both market and non-market days. Start and end dates along with estimates of hours to be worked on a weekly basis will be detailed in an Employment Agreement.
The 2015 market season will run from April 18th to October 31st from 8am to 1 pm and from Nov 7th to November 21st from 9am – noon. In 2014, the market had 16 full season and 3 partial season vendors. The Market Manager is expected to be employed between February 1st through the end of November, typically working an average of 15 hours/week during the months of February through October and 10 hours/week during the month of November.
Send cover letter and resume with 3 pertinent references to:
Deadline: January 25, 2015
Brookside Farmers’ Market
Market Manager Job Description
Primary Market Day Responsibilities
Brookside Farmers’ Market vendors rely on the Market Manager to coordinate smooth operations of market activities and be their liaison with all parties served by and involved with the market
- Arrive at the market 1.5 to 2 hours before the official opening time to complete set-up responsibilities before the market opens. Be available to customers and vendors at the market tent for the duration of the market hours.
- The majority of equipment and supplies required for set-up are stored in on-site sheds. Set-up the information and musician tents, plus a chef demo and community tent as needed, including required tables, chairs and associated supplies and electrical needs. Move large chalkboard to the market entrance and update it with pertinent information. Distribute trash and recycling containers.
- Hang market banners and place SNAP Program and yard-signs at critically visible, nearby intersections. As assigned, complete activities associated with market’s anticipated three festivals
- Set-up equipment and supplies to be ready to process SNAP
- In consultation with the chairperson of the Vendor Committee, communicate to vendors any location changes resulting from the absence or addition of vendors each week
- Market tent responsibilities include:
- Greeting customers and answering questions
- Operation of the SNAP/EBT machine
- Performing a customer count for 10 minutes each hour of the market
- Displaying and distributing informational materials
- Collecting customer email information
- Displaying and selling BFM merchandise
- Ensuring that available vendors or volunteers cover market tent responsibilities if absences far from the tent are unavoidable such as chef demo set-up and rest-room breaks
- Participating in customer appreciation or reward programs outlined by the Marketing Committee
- Tear down and securely store market tents, tables, chairs, chalkboard, other equipment and supplies in the on-site storage sheds beginning at the designated end time of the market
- Additional Responsibilities:
- Ensure safety and cleanliness of the site before, during, and at the conclusion of each market
- Bringing potential violations of vendor rules to the attention of the person/s designated by the BFM Board of Directors
- Keeping accurate weekly records of market activities including the customer count, vendor attendance, SNAP/EBT totals, weather and other significant conditions which could impact the customer count such as the Brookside Art Fair, the Brookside Sidewalk Sale weekend, marathons, etc.
- Collection of and record keeping for SNAP and Debit tokens from vendors. Preparation of checks for tokens redeemed by vendors.
- Other duties requested by the Market Manager’s supervisor
Primary Non-Market Day Responsibilities
Under the direction of the Marketing Committee, the Market Manger is responsible for:
- Writing and emailing a weekly newsletter, sending an email each week to solicit a write-up from each vendor; reminding vendors by email and/or phone when they have not responded by the requested deadline; and making special arrangements to collect information with vendors who do not have email access or for whom English is not their primary language. In addition to highlighting what vendors are bringing to the market each week, the newsletter should include information about festivals, chef demos and other special market activities.
- Manage timely updates to the BFM website, keeping vendor information current, sharing information about vendors, festivals, chef demos and other special market activities, updating the calendar, pictures and other aspects as requested by the Marketing Committee, ensuring equitable representation of all vendors
- Enter email addresses collected at the market and special events into Mail Chimp
- Assembling materials for, setting-up & staffing two Kansas City Food Circle Expo’s scheduled for March 28, 2015 (Johnson County Community College) and April 11, 2015 (Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley Campus)
- Receiving emails from BFM website, responding if appropriate or forwarding to the Marketing Committee Chair, Vendor Committee Chair or Board President as appropriate within 24 hours of receipt of email.
- Scheduling, confirming, and promoting weekly market musicians
- Scheduling, arranging KCMO Health Department permitting, promoting and confirming Chef Demonstrations for a minimum of three market festivals and possibly up to one demonstration per month of market operations
- Designing simple handouts under the direction of the supervisor or the Vendor or Marketing Committee Chairs
- At the direction of an assigned Marketing Committee member, support the work of a graphic artist secured by the Marketing Committee to determine content and design requirements needed for different advertising venues.
- Submitting information to pertinent online and print community calendars, neighborhood newsletters, etc.
- Manage Twitter and Instagram activities for the market in close coordination with the Marketing Committee Member responsible for management of the market’s Facebook page
Under the direction of Market Manager Supervisor and in coordination with the Treasurer:
1) Administering Beans & Greens program including preparing weekly reports and sending scans and forms, as required by Cultivate Kansas City, the administering agency for the program. Reporting transaction data to vendors on a weekly basis. Meeting and corresponding with Cultivate Kansas City representatives, distributing flyers and program information as needed.
Expectations of the Market Manager
1) Is familiar with and appreciates local organic agriculture, food, and other products
2) Is reliable, friendly, self-motivated and efficient
3) Develops and maintain good working relationships with vendors, customers, and community members, groups and organizations providing music, cooking demonstrations or which are otherwise involved with the market.
4) Is comfortable and has the ability to effectively communicate with a variety of people
5) Has ability or can demonstrate that they can quickly come up to speed to make content changes to the market website using WordPress by March 1st.
6) Has ability or can demonstrate that they can quickly come up to speed to enter emails and update the market email template in Mail Chimp by February 15th, the expected hiring date.
7) Has experience with Twitter and Instagram, and can potentially assist with Facebook posting and advertisement.
8) Has strong writing skills for effective email, social media, and website communication 9) Works successfully with volunteers
10) Has strong planning and coordination skills
11) Is willing to work outdoors in potentially extreme weather conditions
12) Can safely lift and carry 50 pounds
13) Can successfully work independently as well as inter-dependently with others
Buy Local! A Quick Little Thought
Okay, so we’ve all heard ‘buy local’. But what does that really mean? Well, according to an average of nine studies by Civic Economics, (2012), when we use our money to support a local business…and buy from someone in our community…, we keep 48% of that money in the community. Comparatively, when we buy from a large chain without any local ties, only 13.6% of that money stays local. Thank you Big Vision Media for that statistic! That cheap stuff from Mr. Box Store comes with a price! Invest in your neighbors! Invest in your town! Support us little guys! Ahem. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Now I’m off to pick some lovely greens in the high tunnel…
By the way, I’ll be at BadSeed Market tomorrow night with those lovely greens. And some sweet potatoes, potatoes… squash…jam…pickles…raw honey…4-8pm. See you there!
Head colds. Bah! It seems as though this winter is speeding by as I deal with brain fogs, sneezes, headaches, coughing fits, and a general sense of… bleh. This too shall pass. Soon. I hope. I seem to be smothered in a constant layer of essential oil elixirs on my neck, my feet, and my temples. Bone broth is simmering for day 3 in a crockpot, and I’m really not liking these zinc lozenges anymore. Seed catalogs are taunting me and I’ve got 3 Ziploc bags of soil sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to head out to a soil lab. The kids have every surface covered with Legos, dolls, science kits of perfumery, grow stations, half finished sewing projects, and guitar chord charts. We’ve tossed a few insulated tarps over the greenhouse to help hold in the heat for the next week while the temperature plummets. Hopefully the plants can handle the lower light levels while we attempt to slow down the eternal bleeding of the electric and propane bill. We’ve even got the dog plugged in (germination heat pads make great doghouse heaters). The outside cat has snuck into the basement to hibernate, and the farm cats refuse to leave their cat beds (the mice are having a celebrity New Years Party in the strawberries- I will have to evict them soon). But for now, I’m moving this website up to the top of the list, and will try to demonstrate to the world that we are still here, still thinking farm thoughts, and actually getting excited for a new year of plants, produce, and markets. But for now, I think I hear a cup of tea calling me. With lemon. And honey.
Greens in February
I am headed to BadSeed Market this afternoon from 4-8pm, if anyone wants a few baby greens (slightly grown up microgreens) or spinach. I will also take a few sweet potatoes, butternut squash, small onions, and a few other random winter squash, dried herbs, etc. We’ve decided to hold off on going to City Center Square until March 13th, and then hopefully we’ll have enough where we can go weekly.
We’ve hired our first apprentice! I hope you all get a chance to meet Betsy this summer at markets, or at the farm (getting in those volunteer hours…). She comes with some good gardening experience and lots of great people skills. I think it will be a great partnership. She has entered an apprenticeship program (www.growinggrowers.org) and chose us as her host farm. We also have another apprentice in the program who will start later. He’s a high school senior who is exploring farming as a career. It is very exciting to work with others who are considering this line of work!
We’ve been planting greens this week at the farm- trying to get as much done as possible with this little tidbit of warm weather. We planted spinach, lettuce, kale, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, arugula, and cilantro all as transplants, and carrots, radishes and parsnips as seed. Also have done quite a bit of cleanup work and preparation for when the soil outside dries out enough to till and plant. We’ll let everything have a few days of sunshine and then cover it all up before the next big dip in the temperature- probably Monday. Well, I’m off to pick greens and pack the truck- hope to see a few of you later.
Warmer Days Ahead
As a farmer, I am often asked what wonderful things do I do to relax in the winter… since I must have nothing to do??…!! Well, we have taken a few relaxing weekends where I told my brain to ‘shut off and stop thinking about the farm’. Although, truth be told, we probably had more conversations about middlebuster plows, potato lifters, tillers, vermicomposters, chickens, heirloom tomatoes, and water containment systems than the average vacationer. In fact, now that my Dad (the Houdini of making all broken rusty things work) has retired and taken more interest in helping us improve the farm, I am having more of these conversations on a daily basis. How many of you can say you’ve had deeply involved conversations with your father about worm poop? Our days are filled with the absolutely immeasurable list of all things we could do to improve marketing, production, harvesting… well, it’s like jumping on a luge sled and holding on for dear life. Or perhaps more like being the sweeper guy on the curling team, trying to direct the path of the curling stone toward the finish line. Or figuring out how to throw a few less gutter balls in the upcoming year. This is the time for planning, preventing, and expanding. Interviews of potential apprentices, ordering of new signage, a year’s worth of bookkeeping crammed into about 10 weeks, new CSA contracts, and hey- why haven’t you updated your blog? The greenhouse is full- ready to plant those early season crops, if it will only melt a little outside.
But somehow we do get revitalized. No alarms being set for 3:30 am, no watering schedule, and a market trailer that has stayed parked since November. Time to play a few games with the kids, watch way too much TV in the evenings, construct a few marble mazes, build Lego villages, and cook some great meals.
I see that the weekend is going to be warmer. Maybe I’ll get some of those spinach plants in the ground…
Calendar of Events for 2014
City Center Square: We set up indoors at 1100 Main on a VERY sporadic (darn those slippery roads and subzero temps)basis all winter long. When we are there, we have produce for sale between 11am and 2pm. Beginning sometime in March, we will be there weekly, and will continue all season long. To find out if we will be heading into town on Thursdays, call Jim at 816.786.6045.
Kansas City Food Circle 16th Annual Eat Local & Organic: We will be at both Expos this year, Saturday March 29, 2014 at the Field House of Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd, OPKS, from 9am to 2pm, and Saturday April 12th, 2014 at the Penn Valley Community College Gym, 3201 SW Trafficway, KCMO from 9:30 to 2:30.
Brookside Farmers Market Begins April 19th and runs through the pre-Thanksgiving weekend. We will be there from 8am to 1pm each Saturday. Downtown Lee’s Summit Farmers Market starts April 5th this year and runs through November. We are planning on being there Wednesdays again and are debating about adding Saturdays. We are looking for summer interns to help at the farm and markets, and will have to wait and see if we can find that perfect person. Market starts at 7am and we usually hang out until 11am or noon, depending on the foot traffic. Jim will be attending KC Organics and Naturals market again this year. It starts May 3rd, 8am till 12:30. He hopes to continue building this site, and will keep adding more produce as we gain in popularity. Stay tuned- we will be adding several 1 day events (we love taking veggies to craft fairs at churches!). I will post as I receiving confirmation from different sites.
Strawberries, Spring Crops, and Life in the High Tunnel
Today is looking like a beautiful ‘warm’ January day, and I am thinking about strawberries. Can’t wait. Perhaps I’ll get a few out of the freezer and make us something yummy for lunch.
Last week, I headed out to the high tunnels to check on the progress of a few new crops, because I was concerned their immature leaves were too young to survive the frigid temperatures we were experiencing. The quiet air was punctuated by the crunch of the frozen ground under my feet and I hunched my ears into my shoulders as I tried to escape the blustery cold January air. This was going to be a quick outing! Besides, I had coffee waiting for me back at the house. I pulled back the plastic end-wall on the high tunnel and ducked inside. The warmth inside the tunnel told a wonderfully different story: the air was fragrant with the rich smell of soil and damp mulch, and I found myself pulling off my hat and gloves. As I peeked under the frost blanket protecting the seedlings I had to laugh at my worries. They had grown. Their cotyledon leaves were now accompanied by a tiny new set of mature leaves. Row after row, the arugula, lettuce, spinach, kale, turnips, chard, carrots, bok choy, radishes, garlic, and broccoli raab were all stretching for the sunlight and seemed unfazed by the frigid weather outside. Unbelievably, there were even baby grasshoppers that must have just hatched a day or two ago, right in the middle of those cold temperatures outside. Fortunately, I also saw several hungry spiders scurrying around in the warm space between the soil and the blanket, so I don’t expect to see those ravenous green hoppers on my next visit.
I closed that tunnel tight again as I left, and checked out the next one. When I pulled back the frost blanket on the strawberries I had transplanted in December (one of those October projects that I finally got around to), I was met with a fun surprise- and a light snack. Strawberries in January! When I transplanted the runners from my outside beds into the tunnel, I pinched off all the flowers that were forming, so the plants would put energy into roots and leaves, but I must have missed a few. In fact, as I looked down the row, I saw new buds and blooms throughout the entire crop. I made a mental note to pinch those off- the plants really do need to concentrate on getting rooted in nicely before March.
These crazy strawberries have been fruiting since mid fall. I took this picture November 1, 2012, and we ate fresh strawberry shortcake with our Thanksgiving meal. I think the drought and heat stress they endured this year has mixed them up a bit. We didn’t pick a lot, but probably between 20 and 30 pounds after market season. As long as they figure out their schedule by May and June, I will enjoy the occasional strawberry snack. I put my hat and gloves back on, closed up the tunnel, and headed back to the house; the sun was starting to dip in the sky and the falling temperature in the high tunnel was reminding me of my cup of coffee back at the house.
Slowly Getting Started
Hello and Happy New Year! Okay, I’m a little slow. But! I am so excited about the new farming year. I mean, I pretty much have to be after last year’s brutal season, right?! I feel a little bit like a hibernating bear, although we really have been hard at work. Really! I’ve ordered seeds, I’ve started filling out our application for organic certification. Loads of meetings, lots of reading, constant tweaking of what the next year will look like, new recipes tried, high tunnels are planted (I picked and ate two strawberries last week- honest!) Whew! I think I need to go lie down! Ack- can’t do that- I’ve already packed on my total allotment of “winter-farmer pounds” Must.Get.Moving.Must.Excercise. Ummmm…Maybe tomorrow.
So I’m working on the new CSA Contracts- a bunch of you are demanding I get them done. Something about wanting to secure your membership spot for this year. Crazy Foodies. I love you all. Okay. I’ll get going…