I gave my presentation on Crop Planning to a small group at For the Love of the Local, in my home town of Louisa, Virginia last Thursday (3/10). This weekend I have been in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Organic Growers School. My presentation on Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale is available to view on SlideShare.net.
My next task this week is to upload my presentation Growing Great Garlic to SlideShare, and make it available here on my blog. Currently there is an older version of the presentation, from 2013, up there. By next week I should have the new version posted.
Book Review: Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, by Frederic Theriault and Daniel Brisebois
This compact and practical workbook is for small-scale vegetable or flower growers wanting to increase the success of their enterprise by better planning, or for new farmers wanting reliable help to get started. Clearly written, it follows a fictional couple (Hanna and Bruce) working through the eleven step planning process. This is a concise focused workbook with lots of charts, not a chatty bedtime read. But for small-scale farmers, this won’t be a dry book. As well as the excitement and relief of “Aha!” moments, readers can enjoy the chance to cement the practical tips of each chapter with a real-life example – a description of a farm tackling that chapter’s planning stage.
The approach of this book is very similar to the one I spell out in my book Sustainable Market Farming and in my slideshow posted above, although I have not yet met the authors , and we constructed our plans independently. This book leads the reader with every necessary detail and worksheet. The planning sheets are available to download as Excel spreadsheets from the Canadian Organic Growers website. You can then customize them for your own use. Or you can print them out and use as worksheets as they are, if you are not at ease with spreadsheets and would rather just have a ring binder of worksheets. One very important aspect of planning is to choose a method that works for you. If you find your record-keeping or planning method easy and comfortable to use, you are much more likely to use it and hence it will give you more useful results.
The eleven steps are:
- Decide your financial goals
- Decide on your markets
- Make a preliminary planting schedule
- Map your fields
- Choose varieties and finalize your planting schedule
- Make a greenhouse schedule for seedlings
- Compile your seed order
- Make a field operations calendar
- Carry out your plan
- Analyze your success
- Plan next year
Crop Planning is written by two farmers from Quebec, so growers in other climate zones will need to keep this in mind. Hanna and Bruce’s harvest season starts at the beginning of July and runs to late October. Planting season runs from May 1 to mid-October. You will need to extrapolate at both ends if your winter hardiness zone is higher than theirs. You will also need to look at summer plantings – perhaps you won’t be planting lettuce, kohlrabi or arugula in July. You’ll need to apply your experience to the methods and decide on planting dates to fit your own harvest date goals.
Also, you won’t find info on growing Southern staples like okra, sweet potatoes and lima beans in this book. But you can feed information from elsewhere (including your own experience as a grower) into the format provided.
The fictional Hanna and Bruce in this book run a CSA as well as a farmers market booth, so that planning for both are conveniently included. Measurements are included in both the metric system and the feet and pounds of the old imperial system (more common in the US). Appendices provide reference charts; tips on designing a modular field layout to facilitate crop rotations and ease the transfer of standardized lengths of row cover and drip tape; a detailed money budget; some recommendations for further reading. Sadly, no index, but the contents list is clear and straightforward.
Crop Planning will quickly repay the $25 cover price. It’s all too easy to make a mistake costing $25 or more if you are under-informed, or under-prepared in some other way. Pay now and save!