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Category Our-Farming-Journey

Seeds are planted!

Posted on by Teri Jenkins

Last weekend I moved into a new office at the Canard Farm, and Jon planted our first seeds for salad mix production this year.  He planted 4 trays of Salanova lettuce, 1-1/2 trays of kale, and 1/2 tray of red leaf vegetable amaranth.  We have chosen varieties based on making a nice looking mix and spending as little time possible growing it as we both will maintain full-time jobs this year, and there's only so much energy to go around!

The seeds for the Salanova are coated with a clay, as lettuce seeds are so tiny and these are really intended for transplanting.  It grows a head of baby leaves, so when the core is removed you are left with hearty, small leaves.  I've always secretly detested the tasteless salad mix of sad little limp lettuce leaves from the grocery store, so that's another reason why we chose it, the main reason being that it's the easiest/quickest way we can grow and harvest this crop.  It's all about expediting the process (on that note, I have removed a word from my vocabulary this week: EXPEDIATE.  I looked it up because it was underlined, and learned that even though I use it all the time, it's not really an official word, just an archaic misspelling of "expedite".  Learning all the time!).

That's all I have to say about seeding.  It's really Jon's realm: mine is blogging.  That's why we make such a good farming team, I guess!  He loves to tend plants and help them grown (from seeding to transplanting to weeding and cultivating), and I'm more of an "end product" kind of farmer.  I am great at managing harvest, post harvest handling, marketing, and sales.

The seeds have emerged as of yesterday, and so more about that next week!



Offices, accounting, and software choices

Posted on by Teri Jenkins

I got some file folders and a couple organizational tools for the "farm office" today.  Tomorrow I am moving offices at TapRoot, from the Church Street Farm to the Canard Farm, so I guess I get two new offices in one week.  We now have a place to put incoming invoices and receipts, so I will be all set when we get our business bank account and can pay ourselves back for the seed orders.

The business aspect of farming is super important to me.  I figure, choosing to be a farmer means accepting a lower income lifestyle.  Money isn't everything, but if you have little it need to be well-managed.  I think the best grower in the world would be easily surpassed by the crappy farmer who is good with his money.  So, one skill set that I have been building the past two years is my accounting/bookkeeping/financial management skills, so that Jon and Teri's Farm will hit the ground running.

I have been doing this with lots of mentoring from Josh and Trish, looking at TapRoot's financials, as well as a couple of courses and workshops, and a bit of consulting from a couple accountants and bookkeepers I know.  Every single part of this was free, short of a few travel expenses.  I know a lot more than I did two years ago (I have always managed people, logistics, and procurement, not money), but I still have a long ways to go. 

I am planning to use FCC's accounting software, AgExpert Analyst because I got to see a presentation about it and I think it offers good value and functionality, comparable to Quickbooks or Simply Accounting, but created by Farm Credit Canada specifically for farmers.  Proportionally to what we will make this year, the cost of the software is a big expense ($500), but it's a tool that I want to start using now so that once there IS a lot to manage we will be pros and the office work will be quick and dirty.  Also, the renewal fee for the software is half of the initial fee, and compared to Quickbooks it is a better value (and cheaper).  Plus, it's not totally re-inventing the wheel-- If I learn how to use it, a lot of the skills are transferable to some of the more common accounting programs.  The final thing that I like about it is that it's under development, and so you are able to call and speak to a person-- a real, live one-- if you have a problem or a suggestion or a specific need.

The TapRoot Farms Office, where I have worked for a year-and-a-half next to Falicia.  -->

The people behind the software is one thing I love about the software that I use for our website and blog, and our future CSA.  It is called HarvestHand and it was developed by one of TapRoot's CSA members/friends of the farm, Mike Caplan.  Mike is awesome and he has been able to grow the project so that HarvestHand is now a three-way partnership with himself, Patricia, and Duncan (who is also lovely and highly skilled on all things marketing, community, and computer).  So, not only can I get support (Such as: "hey, my blog is doing something weird"; "how do I...") but I can also put in requests for functionality that I see would be helpful (as in, "Can you make it do this?").  AND I'm supporting people and projects that I believe in: not with my dollars-- yet-- but with future CSA there will be a tiny fee per member for anything over 10 members).  In the meantime I am part of the community of farmers already using it and developing it for the future.

Another reason I'm using Harvest Hand is because it links my blog, website, and member management into the same platform.  I'm all about streamlining (says the girl with 8 email addresses!); the less programs I have to keep up with, the better.  I was never a computer fan, and so I still find software frustrating for the most part, especially when things change all the time.  As I already spend most of the day at work (when I am at my desk at least) using HarvestHand, I know it inside and out.  That being said, it is straightforward: I don't think I ever really had a lesson, I just jumped on and started using it from day one.

Laying the groundwork now for our future is what I am trying to achieve, and I think that so far we are in good shape.  We hope to be farming independently within the next 5 years, and each year plan to take more steps to getting there.  This year, our business will run as a single crop project, under the wing of TapRoot, and next year we may look at doing more crops through the same relationship, or renting land and doing something a bit more independent.  Somewhere in there is plans to start having kids, so we will see how things go.  We have lots of goals laid out year-by-year for the next 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and I know that we'll get there.  We are fortunate to have full-time jobs farming together in the meantime, and a supportive environment in which to build our business.

That's it for now, next time I will tell you about the seeds we have chosen, or maybe I will make Jon a blog account too and he can tell you about them.  :)



Opportunities for farmer's professional development

Posted on by Teri Jenkins

This week I attended a workshop about online marketing called "The Connected Farmer" with Nancy Beth of Sweet Spot Marketing (photo right).  The workshop was targeted specifically to farmers, and I was able to pick up tons of tips, support, and tricks to improve the farm's online presence, for the cost of $23, which was well worth the provided lunch alone, never mind the content of the workshop!

Jon and I are continually amazed at the opportunities for professional development in the region where we live.  Also this week we attended an information session on the Homegrown Success program, and this morning we are heading out with some friends to attend a mentor-mentee meeting at the Agricultural Centre in Kentville, just down the road.  Below is a photo of Jon at November's ACORN conference.

Living in a buzzing agricultural area has great benefits to young farmers like Jon and I.  Also, because we work with a team of other people that are able to shift around if needed, we are able to attend more events, workshops, and conferences than if we were just doing things alone.  Plus, we are continually surrounded by peers, colleagues, and mentors whom we can run ideas by, talk about plans, and learn from.

We are thrilled to be here, working in Nova Scotia on an organic farm, learning and growing all the time!  The other day as I rushed off to my workshop, Jon whipped by on the gator from feeding the chickens, and we leaned in for a kiss on the way by.  It was a moment where I realized how thankful I am for all that we have in our lives: surrounded by wonderful people, opportunities to grow and develop our skills, and best of all, I get to do it all with my best friend in the whole world!