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Tuesday, July 29, 2008
We were lucky Sunday, as that system was producing 80mph winds, tornadoes, and golfball hail. The worst cells passed just a few miles east of us, so all we got was heavy rain and some wind. Could have been much worse.
Friday, July 25, 2008
This week's rainfall: Tuesday, 3.5"; Thursday, 1.5"; Friday morning, 3". 8" in four days is a lot, but parts of northern Missouri recieved over 9" within 30 hours.
This latest round resulted in the highest stream flow we've yet seen here. Those familiar with our place will be interested to know that the footbridge washed out, as the water level reached the logs, and had to be dragged out with the tractor. Of course, everything is absurdly soggy and we have concerns about damage to plants from drowned roots and possible disease. More storms are forecast for the forseeable future. The tomatoes are absolutely bursting with green fruit, and if they can just make it through the downpours alive, will be stuffing our market stand very soon.
On the plus side, it's nice to not worry about irrigation this year...
Sunday, July 20, 2008
We had some debates over how much we could sell in one morning, and settled on bringing about 60 heads as a sampler of each variety (you can see the arrangement in the above photo). As it turns out, that was far too conservative, as I sold out by 10:00 am and could have sold far more. Lesson learned for next week. As we've learned over and over in marketing heirloom produce, people really enjoy seeing and experiencing the true diversity of vegetables, and the attractive grid of garlic varieties complete with sniffable samples and information cards really complemented the presentation. Over and over I heard variations on "Wow, I had no idea there were so many types of garlic. How neat!". From a marketing perspective, the diversity helps set us apart and draw people's interest, and many customers seem to enjoy experiencing and having such choices available.
Next week we'll bring a lot more heads to market, though if sales stay at this rate we'll sell out of everything within a few weeks. Cucumbers, onions, squash, and green beans are now producing, and our tomato plants are loaded with almost-ripe fruits ready to swamp our stand within a week or two. The next month or two will hopefully do a lot to compensate for the frustration and losses of the spring.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Permanent market structures are on the rise around the country, and we hope Columbia follows that trend. I'm on the board of both the Farmers Market itself and another non-profit group, Sustainable Farms & Communities, that's closely tied to the Market and is leading the current fundraising drive to build the new pavilion. We've recently launched a new web site that serves as the public face of the capital campaign, and is the place to go to learn more about the project. Visit http://www.farmersmarketpavilion.org/ to learn more.
This project affects us in many ways. In the long term, a stronger, more attractive market will be key to our financial success as market farmers. One of my favorite aspects of market farming is the interaction with consumers, and it's been exciting to see the rapid growth in customer counts at CFM over the last few years (from averages around 1,500 a few years ago to 4,500 in 2008). In the short term, taking an active role in this campaign and on both boards draws a great deal of my time, and limits the amount of actual farming that we do. We look at it as an investment in the future; in 3 years, when the new pavilion is built and the market is humming, we'll be in a very strong place to really focus on our own farm. We think it'll take that long for us to really develop the plans, infrastructure, and local knowledge we need to be succesful at this. In the meantime, we'll keep growing and selling at a smaller scale, building familiarity with the community and customers while laying the groundwork for a full-time operation down the road.
If you're reading this in the mid-Missouri area, please consider coming to the big campaign kick-off event being held Saturday July 26 at the Market. This event will present the new Market plans to the community, by laying out the new pavilion's footprint in lights on-site and offering a wide variety of local foods and music. We're also offering a premier screening of a new film on local foods and agriculture that's only been seen a few places around the country so far. Read more about the event at the official campaign website. Helping plan and execute this event has been a great deal of work, but we think it's worth it in the long run.