Sunday, January 29, 2012
Small Farm Training Center 2011 Harvest and Performance Report
Editor's Note: This blog began in 2008 as a chronicle of the sustainable farming efforts, led by Terry Sheldon, at the Small Farm Training Center at the New Vrindaban Spiritual Community in West Virginia.
We return to that original spirit with a report from the Small Farm Training Center on its 2011 harvest and year-in-review.
Click here to learn more.
2). Review of Annual Crop Production.
3). How Much Was Harvested? What’s the Wholesale Value?
4). Status of Student Apprentice Training Program.
5). Three Recommendations to Boost New Vrindaban Sustainable Development.
6). Networking, Local Community Outreach and Plans for 2012.
The Small Farm Training Center’s (SFTC) is an educational center and a hands-on working organic farm. Our mission is to address the looming issue of food insecurity by creating a land based green economic model that functions in both the city and rural environs. With the help of small scale technology, we make organically grown food affordable and available.
Review of Annual Crop Production
The 2011 agricultural cycle was shaped by extremes in weather. Excessive Spring rains, a period of searing summer heat and eighty days of Fall rain showers (typically 3-4 rainy days in a week from August 20th until Nov.15th), all combined to negatively impact crop production. Here are the highlights:
–First Spring planting date, March 16th.
First crops planted: spinach, lettuce, parsnip, radish, carrot, beet, chard, fava bean,
–Second planting May 16th –May 26th. Transplants grown and donated by West
Virginia State Univ. included: tomato, okra, brussel sprouts, cabbage, peppers,
kale, cucumber, basil and stevia.
–Third major planting July 17th-August 1st. Direct seeding of winter squash,
pumpkins, green beans, late beets and summer squash.
–Successes: lettuce, spinach, winter squash, pumpkins, okra, green beans,
cucumber, kale, summer squash, bitter melon and fava bean.
–Failures: cabbage, peppers, beets carrot, parsnip,
–Mixed results: tomato, chard, brussel sprouts.
*notes: Tomatoes did not begin setting red fruit until Sept. 1st. Good yield but late harvest. Six hundred cabbages were destroyed by ground hogs. 1000 pepper plants performed poorly due to wet soil conditions Chard yielded heavily until July when the plants succumbed to an invasion of leaf hoppers. Brussel sprouts did well in the Garden of Seven Gates but were attacked by aphids in the Teaching Garden. Carrots and parsnips plantings were destroyed by groundhogs in the Teaching Garden. Three attempts to grow winter storage beets all failed due to weed pressure The beet beds were too wet to allow either hand or mechanical cultivation.
How Much Was Harvested? What’s The Wholesale Value?
*note: The wholesale value chart below is determined by price comparisons to Jebia’s Market. The quantities are calculated according to standard weights and head counts for a specific vegetable. For example, a waxed box of chard weights approximately 25lbs and contains 20-25 individual chard bundles (tied with a twisty or rubber band). Jebia’s wholesale price for non-organic chard is $23.00 per box. Organic produce is typically 30% more.
ITEM QTY HARVESSTED WHOLESALE VALUE COMMENTS
Tomato 120 boxes $18/box $2160
Cucumber 45 boxes $26/box $1170
Lettuce 20 boxes $27/box $540
Chard 51 boxes $23/box $1173
Bnut Squash 40 bushels $20/bu $800
Pumpkin 70 pcs $3.@ $210
Kale 6 boxes $20/box $120
Spinach 6 boxes $28/box $168
Spaghetti Squash 13 bushels $20/bu $260.
Summer Squash 16 boxes $24/box $384
Okra 14 boxes $27/box $378
Green Beans 9 boxes $22/box $198
Fava Beans 75 lbs $2/lb $150
Red Bell Pepper 8 boxes $30/box $240
Jalapeno Pepper 6 boxes $29/box $174
Red Chile Pepper 3 boxes $29/box $87
Radish and Greens 9 boxes $21/box $189
Total if paying organic wholesale prices………….…..$10,921
Status of Student Apprentice Training Program
–Number of inquires via email and phone……………………17
–Number of apprentice participating…………………………….7
(Brandon, Brian, John, Laslo, Yogadeva, Tracy and Ben)
Needs: The most urgent need for boosting apprentice participation is website development—specifically, a dedicated person to handle content management and recruiting. In short, we’re under-communicating what we have to offer. Target audiences include ISKCON social media outlets, animal rights organizations such as PETA and Farm Sanctuary, food activist organizations, universities and colleges, gardening clubs etc. For a comprehensive view of SFTC’s apprentice opportunity see www.farmeducation.org. Look for ‘training” in the top menu bar of the home page.
The apprentice program has mentored 30 plus full time participants and dozens of weekend helpers over the past five years.
Three Recommendations to Boost New Vrindaban Sustainable Development
a). Follow the lead of New Vraja Dhama (Hungary).
At New Vraja Dham, all devotees supported by the temple—from temple president to pot washer, yes even pujaris!—are available for 3 hours of farm related service per week. Devotees often fulfill their obligation by dividing the 3 hr. time slot into two days of 1.5 hours. The farm manager arranges work assignments knowing that each day he can expect a team of helpers. By sharing the chores in the garden, barn and fields, the whole community gains insight into the value of the cows, the land and the joy of shared sacrifice for Lord Krishna’s pleasure.
b). Restore brahminical standards in Krishna’s kitchen.
Our farming and gardening should be guided by the purity of the offering to Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chanda. Foods planted, nurtured, and harvested by devotee hands are, in the words of Srila Prabhupada, “One hundred times better” than bhoga purchased from the outside. Implementing that standard of purity should be expected in the place Srila Prabhupada anointed as a holy tirtha and ISKCON’s first farm community.
Adopting a higher standard begins with connecting the dots between the garden, the kitchen and the Lord’s altar.
c). Incentivize farming, farm culture and farm related occupations
Not only are New Vrindaban’s original settlers aging, but the ones who are experienced farmers—who can successfully grow food in large quantities—can be counted on one hand. Farming is not just ”another” manual trade. Organic farming, in particular, demands a diverse set of skills, the most important of which is the ability to accurately read and quickly adjust to the rhythms and mood swings of mother nature.
How does New Vrindaban attract the next wave of agrarians? How do we convincingly present the case for “plain living and high thinking” when the only occupations that offer a living wage revolve around Hindu fund raising, guest facility maintenance and internet administration? In the past seventeen years—that’s the number of consecutive years the Teaching Garden has been productive—we’ve purchased over one million dollars worth of outside bhoga. Imagine if that money had stayed within the community to create a local food economy.
Networking, Local Community Outreach and Plans for 2012
What began six years ago as a genuine effort to share surplus produce with area food pantries and soup kitchens has blossomed into a burgeoning grass roots movement called the Green Wheeling Initiative. The Small Farm Training Center has played a leading role in local networking efforts to bring about a unique collaboration of academia, social service agencies, city government and urban gardeners.
SFTC is currently pursuing the following initiatives outside of New Vrindaban
-A grant funded study to explore how Wheeling spends its food dollar.
-A grant funded mandate to form a business plan to shift food production
and consumption by 10% over a three year period.
-The expansion of a Community Garden Network, now comprised of fourteen urban
gardens as well as New Vrindaban’s ‘Teaching Garden’ and ‘Garden of Seven Gates.’
-The creation of a downtown Wheeling ‘Green Zone’ in partnership with West
Virginia Northern Community College.
-Regular interaction with seven local colleges and universities to stimulate dialogue
and debate about a local food economy.
Within New Vrindaban, SFTC’s 2012 plans include:
-Completion of the artisan bakery.
-Renovation of the Small Farm Training Center Guest House facility.
- Opening the Center for Preventative Medicine (inside SFTC Guest House).
-Construction of the Children’s Learning and Play Center (the Teaching Garden).
-Enhanced Student Apprentice Program, including a written curriculum.
-Irrigation and drainage for the Garden of Seven Gates (ECO-V grant funded).