Crop Planning Slideshow and Book Review

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

Crop_planning_cove_compressed_largeThis 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:

  1. Decide your financial goals
  2. Decide on your markets
  3. Make a preliminary planting schedule
  4. Map your fields
  5. Choose varieties and finalize your planting schedule
  6. Make a greenhouse schedule for seedlings
  7. Compile your seed order
  8. Make a field operations calendar
  9. Carry out your plan
  10. Analyze your success
  11. 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!

New year, new Growing for Market, new slideshow- Providing vegetables for the full eating season

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/providing-vegetables-for-the-full-eating-season-2013-pam-dawling” title=”Providing vegetables for the full eating season 2013 Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>Providing vegetables for the full eating season 2013 Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

This is the presentation (Providing Vegetables for the Full Eating Season) that I gave to the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville in December. It’s a combination of Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests and Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables. I have got all my powerpoints re-instated on Slideshare.net. If you go to their site and search for Pam Dawling you’ll see many choices. Down the right side of the screen you’ll see other people’s slideshows with related content. This can be a great way to learn more. (Is it raining hard where you are too?)

GFM_January2014_cover_300px

The January Growing for Market is out, along with my article Planning Your Harvest Schedule. As anyone who plans any kind of garden knows, planning is circular and no item is planned in isolation. So I discuss the sequence of planning steps and where the harvest dates, quantities and diversity of crops will fit into all that. I give leads to lots of good resources and look at some of the valuable lessons that can be learned from the experiences of those farmer-teachers. I look at how much you might want to harvest, and therefore how much you’ll need to set out to grow. The next step is deciding the sowing dates to meet those harvest dates. Some people use web-based planning systems, others (like us) use spreadsheets, while some prefer worksheets in notebooks. No one method is right for every farm!

Also, there’s an article by Chris Blanchard, on growing fresh cut herbs for market, one by Darlene Wolnik to update farmers about accepting SNAP at farmers’ markets. The last article is by Gretel Adams, about scaling up a flower farm. Much is relevant to vegetable farms too. The photo of the four EarthWay seeders bolted together is useful to anyone growing four rows of anything!

The editor of GfM, Lynn Byczynski, has written a great article on taking good photos of your farm – many lessons for me in there! Nowadays, farmers need photos. Even if you aren’t writing a book, you probably have a website, blog or Facebook page for the farm, and showing customers what life is really like (or sorta really like!) on the farm helps develop their interest and understanding of what’s involved in food or cut flower production. Lynn’s new book Wedding Flowers, Fresh from the Field, is at the printers. In creating the book, she gathered four photo essays of different types of flower arrangement, four videos and dozens of other photos about producing beautiful flowers.158_full

The Arctic Vortex gave us two nights at 4F

Next post I’ll update “What’s still alive. . . ”

Ice on the pond. Credit Ezra Freeman
Ice on the pond.
Credit Ezra Freeman