Corn, Beans and Squash for Sale!

Corn, Beans and Squash
Marina Di Chioggia Squash, Otto File Corn, and (L-R) Pigna, Tolosaka, Sorana, and Piattella beans

The 2017 crop of Marina Di Chioggia winter squash, Otto File polenta corn and a small offering of dry beans is finally for sale. These were all grown at Cully Neighborhood Farm in NE Portland. I also have a small quantity of Choclero corn from the 2016 season, grown at the old NE Simpson St. site.

Here’s the price list and descriptions of the offerings, ordering info is at the bottom of the page:

Marina Di Chioggia

$2/lb – This is a very tasty winter squash that stores well and is in its prime from December through February. It’s sweet, smooth, and medium moist. It works well both for savory dishes (soups, savory tarts, stuffed squash, etc), and desserts (pies, quick breads, cookies, etc). I have a range of sizes from approximately 5-12 pounds. The two pictured are close to 8 pounds (estimate approximately 1/2 – 1 lb per serving depending on the dish, cooked flesh freezes well too).

Otto File Polenta Corn

$4 a bag (2 cups of whole kernels, a bit more than ¾ pound – 25 pounds total inventory – bulk pricing available) – A few years ago I was in Italy and visited a wonderful little biodyanamic market farm in Lucca. The farmer gave me an ear of his golden polenta corn (otto file, meaning eight rows in english – because there are eight rows of kernels on the slender cobs). I ended up planting it in my garden and it made amazing polenta – tons of corn flavor, beautiful golden color, slightly sweet – so I grew more. It can also be cooked whole.

Choclero Corn 

$4 a bag (2 cups of whole kernels, a bit more than ¾ pound – 10 pounds total inventory – bulk pricing available) – Normally eaten fresh, like sweet corn, I dried some of the fat ears I grew in 2016 and found they make a very tender corn flour when ground. The flour can be used as polenta, but it’s soft enough for pastry too and makes a delicious crust when mixed with a bit of wheat four, olive oil, salt and water. I got the original seed to trial from Bill Tracy at UW Madison. This is a typical corn in tropical latitudes, but he’s worked with a company that is breeding it to grow in temperate latitudes. It’s a hybrid so the seed does not grow true, but it is delicious! It can also be soaked and cooked whole to add sweet corn flavor to dishes (with emphasis on the “corn” and not on the often overwhelming “sweet”).

Dry Beans 

$6 a bag (2 cups of dry beans) these are all specialty varieties of dry beans and I only have very limited quantities. If you’ve only ever had canned dry beans, or beans from the bulk section, these are a completely different experience. They are cook easily and evenly and have an extra layer of flavor. In general these all have delicate skins and cook well by soaking overnight, bringing to a boil and the gently simmering for 45 minutes to an hour. Add salt and other seasoning to taste, generally about 1-2 teaspoons of salt per bag. Be sure to save the cooking liquid which is delicious. Variety descriptions follow…

Tolosaka

This is my name for the tolosa black bean, which I’ve been growing since 2007. This is a beautiful, large, deeply black bean that is from the Basque region of Spain. Look it up, apparently it’s famous. I just know it’s delicious and one of my favorites.

Pigna

Another one I’ve been growing since 2007. A large round white bean originally from Spain but also grown in Italy. It’s a Slow Food Ark variety and you might try to find it from the Italian growers if you really like it and support their efforts to keep it growing in its traditional areas.

Sorana

A great little white bean, very tender and tasty. Lane Selman and I brought this back from Italy by request for Uprising Seeds in 2014 and they shared seeds from their first grow out with me the following year. I’ve been growing it for the past two seasons and it’s quickly becoming a favorite for its great flavor. It’s a Slow Food Ark variety and you might try to find it from the Italian growers if you really like it and support their efforts to keep it growing in it’s traditional areas.

Piattella

Quantities are extra limited for this flat, white bean. I got this one from a grower in Italy who also uses corn for trellising. It’s a Slow Food Ark variety and you might try to find it from the Italian growers if you really like it and support their efforts to keep it growing in it’s traditional areas.

Ordering

All orders are packed here in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, OR and are available for pick up on my porch. Squash is also available in the Cully Neighborhood. To order Send me an email (by clicking on “send me an email”) with your order including the items you’d like and the quantities. I’ll send you the details for the pick up location, how to pay, and when your order will be ready (usually in a day or two).

 

 

Upcoming Talks

Slow Food Nations Compact Farm Tour visiting City Yard Farms in Denver, CO

 

I have a few workshops and talks coming up in the next two weeks so I thought I should update the workshops page. First I’ll be in Albany, OR for the Mother Earth News Fair this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday I fly east and I’ll be in Lenox, MA for a bookstore event on Friday evening followed by a workshop at the NOFA Summer Conference in Amherst on Saturday. If you’re in the area please come see me and say hi, alway nice to connect with folks in far away places.

Later in September I’m also going to be part of two weed control talks at Small Farm School which is a collaboration between Clackamas Community College and Oregon State University Small Farms Program. In November I’m planning on heading to Indiana for a talk, details to follow at some point. I’m sure there’ll be more for the winter, but that’s all the updates for now on upcoming talks and workshops.

The photo above is from the amazing Slow Food Nations event that happened in Denver last month. I felt really honored to be invited to help lead a tour of compact farms and to do a book reading as part of the enormous event. Sounds like Slow Food is going to put the event on next year – I was very impressed an highly recommend it if you’re wanting to connect with folks from all over the country, and the world, and be inspired by the work they’re doing to in producing and promoting good, clean and fair food. In my free time I went to a number of workshops on indigenous food systems and food justice, two topics I’m particularly interested in, and really part of the reason I started farming in the first place.

Besides giving talks I’m staying plenty busy trying to farm and designing some tools. I’m hoping to have some tool updates soon, including shipping options for the hand carts (farmhandcarts.com) and some designs for ergonomic furniture for wash/pack areas on small farms.

Farm Planning for a Successful Season

If you’re down in southern Oregon I’d love to see you next month at my half day farm planning workshop. I’ll be going over my methods for creating an easy to follow seasonal crop plan, how to take that plan and consider years long rotations, and how to figure out what tools and labor are needed to make it all work.

There’s no time like the present to start thinking about how to improve your planning for next season. Collecting data and information this season will pay off in creating plans for the next one.

The workshop is in conjunction with Rogue Farm Corps and will be held at Wild Wines in the beautiful Applegate Valley. The target audience are advanced level apprentices in the Rogue Farm Corps program, but I’m opening it up to everyone and there should be good stuff in there for market farmers at most levels who are looking to improve their plans.

The workshop is Monday, June 5, 9-1pm. Cost per person is $75. More details are on the flyer posted here.

To Register: Contact Megan Fehrman at Rogue Farm Corps by phone: 503-622-0161 or
email: megan@roguefarmcorps.org

Upcoming Philadelphia Talk

I’ll be in Philadelphia on March 30 giving a talk at SJU. If you’re in the area please come. If you know folks in the area, please help spread the word.

Despite the big picture framing I’ll be talking about my experiences with small farms and the benefits I’ve seen from working on and visiting small farms all over the world. I’m looking forward to connecting with all of you out there, sharing my stories and hearing yours.

End of Year Financials

white board

Back when Slow Hand Farm was its own tiny CSA I used to post end of year financial reviews to give everyone a look under the hood. It was also a good exercise for me, whether I shared the numbers or not, to summarize them for myself and put them somewhere to (relatively) easily check back with them. The first post was actually on the topic was actually in March of 2011, titled “The Bottom Line”, it summarized the first two seasons of the farm, distilling the numbers down to the dollars per labor hour the farm returned – roughly $9 in 2009 and $7 in 2010. In 2012 I got to the numbers a little earlier and in January I wrote a post titled “Final Numbers for the Year” and added a little more information on dollars per hour, gross per acre and expenses as a percent of gross income. My last post on the topic was in January of 2013, titled “2012 Financials”. 2012 was the last season that the CSA ran under the name Slow Hand Farm and after that I folded it into Our Table and the financials because way too complicated as they were tied in with the start up of a much larger and more complex project, of which the CSA and vegetable production was just a small part. I may have written something in those intervening years on the Our Table blog, but I’ve lost track if I did.

Last year I worked with Matt at Cully Neighborhood Farm where the financials are a little more straight forward. Matt was kind enough to agree to letting me share some actual numbers from our 2016 season (actually he also shared a full sample budget projection in my new book, Compact Farms).

The two numbers I find most interesting when talking to other farms are the dollars per labor hour and the gross per acre. The way I calculate dollars per labor hour is to try to separate out all non-labor expenses and subtract that from the farm’s gross. With any large capital expenses I try to estimate depreciation to spread those out. For example, Matt bought a brand new BCS tractor with several implements last year and we took that purchase and calculated a 10 year straight line depreciation when running the numbers, meaning we only applied 1/10 of the expense to the 2016 season, and he’ll continue to do that for 9 more years (unless he sells it first). I actually didn’t do this with any of the Slow Hand Farm years, but I also never had any truly large purchases (there were a few that could have been spread out a bit in retrospect). If you go back and read those posts you’ll notice that non-labor expenses were quite low, 18-20%.

For labor hours we estimate the total labor hours worked on the farm during the season. This wasn’t too difficult as we keep pretty good track of hours worked with most of the folks working on the farm taking an hourly rate. Matt was the wild card, but he was able to go back and recreate his season fairly accurately – the weekly schedule for a particular season doesn’t vary that much.

This dollars per labor hour calculation is my way of trying to compare farms that have very flat management structure, to ones that have many more workers and a wider range of wage rates. It also gives a better comparison between farms that don’t use hourly wage rates at all and farms that do, or that use a mix of the two.

The gross per acre number is the easiest to calculate. I typically include all of the cultivated space including pathways between beds, but not infrastructure area, or roadways, or unused areas of the property. But it could be calculated with those. For comparison it’s better to at least know which way it was calculated, especially on small, intensive operations.

Neither of the numbers tell the full story of the farm, but I do think they’re an interesting starting point for further discussions on the topic – both farmer to farmer, and farmer to farm customer (or whatever you want to call the people who support the farm but don’t actually work on it).

So, for the 2016 season here’s how the numbers came out. We grossed about $37,000 on about 1/2 acre so roughly $74,000 per acre. The non-labor expenses, including the depreciated BCS expense, was about $13,200, a little more than 37% of gross. The total hours worked on the farm, including marketing and administration, field work and everything else, was a little less than 2000. That gives a (pre-tax) dollar per hour number of around $11.90 across the farm.

Matt used less rounding and ended up with a number of $12.09 per hour, a difference of a little less than 2%, but to me an “exact” number isn’t the point. Our estimate of hours actually worked probably isn’t even that accurate. If you think about working an 8 hour day (480 minutes), being off by 2% means a little more than 9 minutes – how many times did you work 9 minutes more than you actually recorded, or how often did you take 9 minutes of personal calls, or texts over the course of a work day? Not to mention all of the fuzzy areas like posting photos to social media (advertising for the farm, or personal post?) All that to say, I think 2% is a reasonable margin of error.

I was pretty happy with these numbers but I think we can get it up a bit next year, mostly by not over-planting quite as much as we did this year (always a tricky balance), and by continuing to make small changes to streamline most everything we’re doing – especially in terms of weed control and washing and packing. Technically the farm really needs to hit $15 per hour in the next few years as the legal minimum wage in Portland is headed that direction. Stick around and we’ll see how long it takes to get there.