Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Summer of trials, tribulations and victories!

We began the summer with a signed lease for a new farm which we decided to call the "Elvis" farm.

We immediately began to look for a reliable source of organic compost that we could have amended with organic manure.  It is our decision to take the steps necessary to have all of our farms carry the "certified organic" label.  We found a great source and they worked with us to mix a soil that was perfect for our needs.

Our first delivery of dirt was "eventful."  We had cleared the way for the truck to make it's way to the back of the property, but it had rained for seven days straight and the truck bogged down fifty yards from the proposed dump sight.  The driver thought if he dumped the load, he would be able to drive out.  That wasn't to be, since the load had been on the truck for several hours and it had rained the whole time, the dirt became lodged in the truck.  He had to move forward and try again and again. So where there was meant to be one pile, there were three.  At this point the truck was so bogged down that he had to call another truck to pull him out.  What should have been a one hour operation took the entire day.

We have had two other deliveries of dirt, one uneventful and the other went pretty much the same as the first.

We laid ground cloth quickly and began filling and planting bags.  The farm has 1500 15 gallon bags.

We planted the first 500 bags with an assortment of vegetables, kale, zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash, bell peppers, collards and mustards.  It has been a long summer, with a steep learning curve.

Since we grow without the use of petrochemical based integrated pest management, caterpillars can be difficult for a farmer.  We almost lost out entire crop to these tenacious insects, but once we instituted daily searches for the pests, we turned the farm around.

Of course, farming being as it is, as soon as we got the caterpillars under control, we found aphids covering our long beans.  The best thing to combat aphids are lady bugs and lacewing.  The larvae and the adults eat many times their weight in aphids daily.

We ordered 1500 lady bugs and released them in the farm.  They did a pretty good job on the first go around, then we started to see a resurgence of the aphids, but this week, we see a host of immature and adult lady bugs.  You can't imagine how happy a farmer can be to see the good bugs.

The farm is ready to produce and now we are selling CSA (community supported agriculture) shares from the farm, a limited number of which are available.  We are now in negotiations to start a second farm and hope to make an announcement at the end of the week.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A New Life

The month of March has been the beginning of a new life for us.  I decided it was time to stop putting off my return to yoga on the day that my yoga home was announcing that a new farm had opened four blocks away.  I had received the email from them earlier in the week and not thought much about it, and here they were announcing it after classes.  The man on the mat next to me, whom I did not know, struck up a conversation.  He had been by the farm the day before and I really had to go by and see it.  It was on Andrews, right next door to the Publix.  Unbelievable, a farm right in the middle of Fort Lauderdale.

I have a rule that anything that shows up three times, uninvited, into my consciousness, I have to pay attention.  I have to investigate further, there are no such things as coincidences and God is trying to tell me something.  This rule has served me well.  Sometimes it is information I need for something else I am working on.  Sometimes it's just a message of love or support and sometimes, like this time, it is a new direction, a new life.  I have to tell you, I have gone new ways on my own without this system and it never works out.  I believe we are all here for the journey, to learn new insights into how to live better and love more and if we sit quietly and listen, we will be directed.  It is our loud self that gets in the way of our growth and our happiness.

I drove by the farm on Andrews and incredibly, there was a farm there.  I wrote down the website information to find out about how to buy vegetables.  We have tried for years to buy from CSA's.  CSA's are community supported agriculture.  The basic plan is that you pay a membership fee and then get a box every week or every other week, depending on what you signed up for, full of whatever the farm has produced that week.  It is a way to spread the risk and the reward of farming among the community.  There are no farms in Broward county and the closest CSA is in Boynton Beach, 40 miles away.  We were members there until they stopped delivering to Broward County.  We were happy they had found enough success close to home, but we missed the fresh vegetables.

When I went to Michael Madfis' website, I found that he wasn't just talking about selling vegetables, he was talking about becoming an urban farmer.  His website spoke to me of the need for sustainably grown vegetables to be grown closer to our homes.  I made an appointment for the next morning to meet him at the farm and talk to him about his vision.

I decided then that it was time to talk to Peter about what I was thinking.  I had only been thinking about it for one day, but was pretty far along in my plan and I didn't want Pete to feel blind sided by the whole thing.  I sent him a text, "Do you have time to talk?"  In retrospect that seems a little dramatic and probably was a little frightening to receive; he called me right away.  I was very far ahead of him in my plan and he did resent a little that I was, but he caught up very fast and my plan became our plan.

I spent the morning with Michael talking about his dream.  He hope to franchise his operation and to have all of the farms support each other in production and operations, that each farm will become a place for new farmers to apprentice and then go out on their own to reproduce his archtype.  He is not at the place where he can "sell" franchises, but we can be a step in his process.  So we are apprenticing with him and documenting our process so that he will have a manual to use in his plan to franchise.

We have now set up an LLC, are in negotiations for leasing property in downtown Fort Lauderdale and are writing a revenue sharing agreement to raise capital for the first farm of SoFla Urban Farms, LLC.