Thursday, April 14, 2016

Unity Farm Journal - Third Week of April 2016

The Spring of 2016 continues to be highly volatile with hot, cold, snow/ice, and wind alternating, sometimes on the same day.    The wet/heavy snow combined with 40mph winds caused one of our large poplars to fall.  Although I do most of the forestry work at Unity Farm, I draw the line at activities that are likely to kill me.   Freeing a fallen 5 ton popular that is caught on a nearby tree qualifies as a true “widow maker”.   Next week a local tree company will use a crane to fix the problem.  At the same time they will cut down two old dead cedars that are about to fall on power lines.   I also draw the line on electrocution.

Last weekend I finished building 15 “biological test beds”.    I divided the forest into a grid of 15 sectors and placed a raised bed surrounded by a deer fence in each sector.   I added compost/peat/perlite/greensand/kelp meal/rock phosphate to each bed and planted 100 ginseng seeds per bed.   The intent is to discover what microclimates of sun/shade, heat/cold, wetness/dryness create the best growth.   Once we figure it out, we’ll expand our woodland cultivation efforts.

Our Spring mushroom flushes are in full swing and we’re delivering Shiitake to local markets.  There is a real demand for gourmet mushrooms - they are an essential part of our business plan.

Speaking of business planning, I’m finishing up the final paper for my University of Massachusetts Farm Marketing course.     My paper will begin with a summary of my meetings with potential customers - local wholesalers and restaurants.   I’ve completed those meetings and have insight into what products are in demand and how much I can charge for them.

That knowledge has enabled me to refine my business plan and understand potential income/expenses.

The end result is that there are a few structural reasons our farm will need a creative approach to sustainability.    We are vegans and have 150 animals, all rescued from suboptimal situations.    We will not eat/sell any of our animals so we’ll have a $10,000 annual animal expense with little income from them.  As I’ll present in my paper, our accountant recommends creating a 501 c(3) non-profit farm sanctuary so that all animal related expenses will be charitable contributions taken from pre-tax income.

The combination of an educational mission/ecotourishm/charity plus sales of mushrooms, hard cider, and apples/berries is likely to be sustainable.

Just as we completed the process for becomming a federal/state licensed farmer winery, I’ll begin work on a non-profit farm sanctuary application.

Also, I’m working on our organic certification, starting with the mushrooms.  We use organic spawn on fresh oak logs harvested from a forest that has never been exposed to herbicides/pesticides.     Hopefully we’ll pass!

This weekend I’ll finish up the shade house in the summer pig paddock.   As some have told me, “when I die, I hope I’m reincarnated as one of the Unity Farm creatures”.   The irrigation goes back on line this weekend and I have a feeling there will be many broken heads to replace and pipes to repair after a challenging Winter with too much temperature variation.


Claudia said...

My husband came up with the idea that he was going to cut down our two Ash trees that died from the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. He had plans to use a ladder and wratcher the branches with a wire coil and then cut it down.

I told him to call the tree guy because the co-pay would be more than the cost of cutting the tree. This time he listened.

Joe Stewart said...

That's pretty funny and made me laugh: Co-pay would cost more than paying to cut the tree down.

But it's funny and sad at the same time - sad because co-pays preclude many from seeking healthcare in the first instance....