Farmer John Writes: A Secret Growing Manager

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 13, August 31st – September 3rd

Your Box This Week – Saturday, September 3rd

Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. At times, a bit of improvisation is required for selecting the contents of your share. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.

  • Broccoli
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Delicata Squash
  • Leek
  • Potatoes
  • Arugula
  • Baby Kale
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets with greens
  • Heirloom Tomato (maybe)
  • Lettuce (maybe)

How to Easily Unfold Your CSA Box
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly. Please watch this short demonstration on how to correctly unfold your box.

Extend Your Share up until Thanksgiving
When Thanksgiving rolls around, we want to make sure you can be celebrating with the organic bounty from your very own farm. Until we sell out, extended season shares are available here.

Pick a Pumpkin and Gourds at our Upcoming Field Day, Saturday, September 17.
Kids love picking pumpkins and gourds on our Fall Field Day, Saturday, September 17. Mark your calendar. Please come around 11 a.m., so everyone can get their pumpkin and gourds before the potluck at 12:30 p.m. Learn more about the upcoming Field Day here.

Visit the Learning Center’s New Overnight Educational Facility
After lunch, take a hayride to visit the future home of Angelic Organics Learning Center’s overnight educational facility on land directly adjacent to the farm’s 70 acres. On June 1, the Learning Center purchased a 10-acre parcel of farmland and oak savannah, complete with a 5,000 sq. ft. house, a facility shed, and a livestock barn. The plan is to renovate the house into a 30-bed and ADA accessible overnight center with a commercial teaching kitchen. Come tour the house, and help us dream into the new facility!  Afterwards, enjoy an optional 0.75 mile hike on the 70 acres.

Enjoy Family Pizza Night Right after the Farm Field Day
4 p.m – 7 p.m on Sat, Sept. 17. Tickets are $15. After the Field Day is over, the Learning Center invites you to the very special Family Pizza Night. We’ll use fresh tomatoes to make the sauce, fresh goat’s milk to make the cheese, and chop up fresh herbs and vegetables from the farm! Then we’ll bake the pizza outside in our earth oven. Farm activities and a natural setting spice up this family event. Register for parents and kids ages 3 and up. Sign up here.

Community Supported Agriculture
Recent issues of Farm News, with the emphasis on CSA attrition and an increase in shareholder dissatisfaction, have generated a great surge of encouraging replies from shareholders. You can see a couple of these replies at the bottom of the Week 12 Issue of Farm News, The Farm is a Tender Being. I will probably re-visit this concern in future issues of Farm News.

This week and in upcoming issues, however, I am going to share with you some developments in how we farm this year that have lead to greater productivity, better yields, better morale, and a more consistently satisfying box. I will reveal one of these developments in this issue and the others in future issues.

Development #1: A Secret Growing Manager
Excellent growing managers are rare. I now have a secret growing manager, who is excellent.

Taggart Siegel, director of The Real Dirt on Farmer John, who filmed the farm and me for many years, often remarked that running the farm was like directing a film, with hundreds of decisions being made every day, except that directing a film comes to an end and running a farm doesn’t end.

Before the Rain, Transplanting Lettuce that You will Receive in October

A growing manager considers and balances many factors minute-by-minute throughout the growing season. What is the quality of that crop? How close is it to mature? If we don’t harvest it today, will it still be good for the next harvest? How long will it take to harvest it? If we take that long to harvest it, will we still be able to harvest enough other crops to fill the box for the next pack? We also need to weed today, and direct seed arugula. We should also be transplanting the lettuce today, but if we weed, seed arugula, and transplant the lettuce, will we still have time to harvest enough volume for the next pack? If we don’t transplant the lettuce today, we probably won’t have lettuce for Harvest Week 16, which is 4 weeks from now. We could delay the lettuce planting, but it’s supposed to rain tonight, and it might rain again tomorrow night. In fact, it looks like if we don’t transplant the lettuce today, we might not get it in the ground for a whole week and then we won’t have lettuce to harvest in Week 16. If we get the lettuce in late, maybe we will be able to hasten the lettuce crop with row cover, but that is a lot of work, to install row cover over the lettuce, to warm it up and speed its growth a bit. Maybe there won’t be time to cover it with row cover, if it goes in late. Or we might have to cover it, and then will we have time to get all the other things done that need to get done? I still have to decide about the weeding and the arugula seeding today.

That is a sample of perhaps one or two minutes of what a growing manager lives with, hour after hour, day after day. Very few people can integrate these many considerations into a cohesive, achievable picture of how to get the work done properly. Most people tend towards perfectionism—focusing on one or two activities to a point of excellence and letting many other essential activities go—or tend towards rampantness and chaos—achieving approximate, often erratic results while chaos reigns. My secret growing manager organizes farm activities into a balanced whole.

Why is he secret? He doesn’t want anyone to know. He is humble. He does not want the title of manager.
“Do you want a contract?” I asked.
“A job description?”
“Of course, these are unnecessary,” I said. “You will do exactly what is needed continually. I know this about you.”
And that is how the season has gone, exactly as it has needed to go.

The farm now has the best growing manager it has had in its 26 years as a CSA.

Before the Rain, Seeding Peas for Fertility where Potatoes will Grow in 2017

In Upcoming Issues of Farm News
Development #2 The Farm Whispers; Development #3 The Mystery of the Pack; Development #4 Higher Pay; Less Payroll.

Update on Angelic Organics Gift-a-Box Program
Thank you to those of you who have generously donated a box or more through our Gift-a-Box program for those in need. Here are the results as of Sunday evening, August 28:

For Northern Illinois Food Bank
61 total boxes gifted by a total of 28 people, both shareholders and non-shareholders. Two of these gifts were 10 boxes each.

For Niles Township Food Pantry
24 total boxes gifted by a total of 17 people, both shareholders and non-shareholders.

Thank You!
This is a total of 85 fresh, healthy, organic, CSA boxes that will go to feed those in need. The farm plans to deliver all the gifted boxes this coming week.

Thanksgiving Campaign
We will launch another Gift-a-Box campaign for the week before Thanksgiving. However, at any time between now and Thanksgiving, consider gifting a box or more to the hungry. We plan for the Gift-a-Box program to be an ongoing component of our CSA program in 2017.

Let us Know
Let Shelly know anything you’d like to share about this week’s box at email hidden; JavaScript is required. Please note the week and day of delivery, your site, when you picked up your box, and any comments about your box.

Farmer John

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Showing 6 comments
  • Colleen Hubbard

    THANK YOU for the box demo! I am so sorry but I often tear my box and this makes it look so easy. I am sure tomorrow will be a breeze. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication.

  • Tina M Malak

    Box demo was great! I now know how to do it correctly!

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