Some of the peppers and tomatoes were ready to pick, and I needed to thin out the beets a little. I also cleaned a few bulbs of garlic to see if it was done curing yet. The kale is growing, but it’s still small, and selecting leaves from several plants, I only managed to gather a single bunch. What I ended up with was a harvest too small to take to a store or a restaurant, too small to bother booking vendor space at a farmers market (and trying to get the requisite liability insurance, and arranging transportation…), but too much to just let it go bad in the fridge waiting for you all to come to my house and buy it if I posted something here or sent out an email. And I didn’t want to just eat it all or give it all away. If I were growing just to feed my own family, this might have fed us for a day or two, but I am trying to earn some money at this, and we’d already bought plenty of food.
I decided to send it with my wife to set out in the break room at her part-time job. Rather than bothering with pricing and change-making for such small lots, I took a cue from Panera Cares and had Mayda put out a sign that said, “Take what you need, pay what you can. Donations welcome!” (Notice the new button in the upper-right corner of the page.)
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that almost everything was taken, even the beet greens, which I wasn’t expecting to be all that popular. Better yet, some local people who didn’t know about the farm learned about it. Some likely future customers, including one restaurateur, expressed interest in buying certain items in the future. This is great feedback, because it guides my decisions about what to plant next year. Some people who couldn’t afford to pay got to share in the harvest, and others paid a fair price or promised to, so it wasn’t a total financial loss.
I know that thoughtful eaters are a generous community, and I figure if I keep doing this, I’ll come across someone willing to chip in a little extra just often enough to fund those who can’t afford to pay. At least that’s my hope. We’ll see how it plays out. My deer fence is mostly built (and mostly working), I have a functional tiller now, and I’m making progress on clearing the rocks out of that quarry I call a garden. I figure next year, I’ll be able to grow a lot more and the harvests won’t be so small. I might even have the store open by next summer. I’m clearing another field, so I’m thinking that by 2015, I should be able to double my production. For now, though, I’ll try this pay-what-you-want deal as a way to hedge my losses and make sure unsold food still gets to the people who need it. I’ve been looking to rewrite my business plan. If this goes well, I may adopt it as a regular practice.
In other news, the Glass Gem corn is 6-8 feet high but I haven’t seen any ears forming yet. On the other hand, the acorn squash I planted to suppress weeds around the corn has been quite prolific. I’ve seen several normal-sized fruits growing on them. The pole beans seem to be doing a good job feeding nitrogen to the corn, but I haven’t seen any blossoms on them. The onions were a bust. I need to study more on onion culture. I planted them too shallowly or something. I keep finding them laying on top of the soil, as though the bulbs are sunbathing. The summer squash is doing well despite a few of the plants having become deer chow. They (the plants, not the deer) have blossoms on them and I do expect a good yield out of them before the end of the season.
I’ve had worse pepper crops. Actually, this is the best run of peppers I’ve ever had, which isn’t bad considering all of them are from half-dead plants a neighbor gave me around the beginning of July. I’m fairly sure I haven’t been watering my tomatoes enough. The tomato rows are quite jungle-like, but not as much as they should be by this time of year. I can’t say enough about using pipes, conduit, and rebar as tomato stakes. Unfortunately, I haven’t scrounged up enough for the fifty-or-so plants I managed to get in the ground, so about half of the vines are just crawling around on the ground.
The potatoes were also a bust. That was my own fault. It was a rush job. Mayda got some potatoes she wanted me to plant, and it was already about as late in the year as I could get away with, but they weren’t sprouting at all. They still haven’t…or at least nothing’s appeared above the soil yet. It still could, but at this point, I’d be surprised if they yield enough to even replace what I planted. The beets are doing remarkably well, given the pebbly clay they’re growing in. I hope to be tilling sand into the garden annually in future years. (I already till compost into it.)
I have about a sixty-foot row of overcrowded collards growing. I’ll be thinning them out a little and transplanting the thinnings to where the onions are. I also have a row that size where two or three kinds of kale are just starting to grow. We had decent crop of mint given that we hadn’t planted any. I hung a couple pounds to dry; it’s nearly ready. There’s still more out there. I’ll get at least a second cutting before the year is out. I planted a bunch of herbs in containers a couple weeks ago, but so far no sprouts. This is fine, as many of them take three weeks to germinate, but I’m impatient. I planted a few rows of broccoli, cabbage, and bok choy, but it’s still too early to say how that will turn out. I’ve seen some seedlings emerge.