2015 Winter Update

securedownloadWe have been busy this winter, and the term “busy” is not one I use lightly.  I often try to avoid the term altogether because it denotes a sort of preoccupation with stress or ordeals or maybe even self-righteousness.  Instead when asked I liked to say “I’m having fun” or “I have some interesting projects going on”, etc.  Both of these things are true currently.  I also am a little bit more focused on the farm than I normally like to be in January.

BUT, like I said, I cannot possibly complain.  I am, of course, the luckiest person on Earth, and so I try to carry myself accordingly and not sulk.  We bought some land this past Halloween with a USDA 30-year line of credit in Glocester, RI off of Snake Hill Road in Chepachet.  It is 11-acres of land that is currently being cleared of pine and aspen and will soon have the woody brush mowed down.  I know many of you have spoken with Mindy and I over the years about our long search for land, and I truly appreciate your support and friendship and enthusiasm for us as we went through this process.  Well, we’ve done it.

Our plan is to transition slowly off of the property that we currently are on, Urban Edge Farm.  UEF is where we have called home now for seven years and it will be hard to walk away when the time comes.  I have learned so much about myself and farming and have made so many friends through UEF that it is hard to imagine not working there anymore, but this is still some years away.  We will still be farming at UEF for at least the next couple years.  However, the work must begin on the new land, Snake Hill.  Our goal for 2015 is to put up a barn, a bunch of greenhouses, some deer fencing and start the process of turning our naturally rocky, acidic RI soil into dynamic, biologically exuberant, power medium.  We hope to have all of you out to Snake Hill some time soon and look forward to having some bonfires with all the brush we have been clearing thus far.

And in comes the New Year, another trip around the agricultural calendar with it’s hopes, anticipations, hard work, failures, laughs, messes, successes, beauties, conjectures, and refutations.  The joy of working with natural systems and the soul of New England agriculture is it’s unpredictability.

We will be jumping into some exciting projects this year: a more advanced approach to compost tea production, new equipment for prepping beds, building greenhouses for expanding our Winter CSA, applying for some grants, anticipating some fruit tree plantings, building a farm, expanding the CSA to work for social justice, continuing our collaboration with local Universities, and continuing to learn and teach.

We are also going to be taking a new approach to our CSA and try to form a small “inner-circle” of long-term CSA members who can help us move the farm forward and accomplish some of our larger goals, on-farm and off-farm.  More details about that soon.

I want to take this moment to welcome you back to Big Train Farm.  If you are a new or potential-new member we hope you will become part of the Big Train Family.  Our members, many of them, have been with us for years and it is their support that makes what we do possible.  One of our goals for this year is to bring the CSA members closer to the farm by getting involved in work projects, cook-outs, bonfires, local political issues, and social justice.  With much love and respect, here’s to the New Year.  John

2014 CSA Report

The CSA is an opportunity for you to purchase local, high-quality products from small businesses in our community, and to have a direct impact in a local farm. CSA membership is one of the most effective ways of keeping local farming viable. We are able to persist and flourish thanks to our CSA members.

Your investment in our farm is greatly appreciated. We have had an excellent season and we believe that CSA members should feel the benefits of that. A good investment gets you a good return, and that is what you have received this year through your support of Big Train Farm’s CSA.

Here are the details:

Full Share. $685 for 26 weeks = $26.35/week investment.

Three-Quarter Share. $530. $20.38/week investment.

Half-Share. $350. $13.46/week investment.

Weeks: Here is what the Full-Share members actually received in 2014. You can extrapolate down for Three-Quarter and Half-Shares.

Week 1: $36    Week 2: $22    Week 3: $27    Week 4: $28    Week 5: $29    Week 6: $27    Week 7: $32

Week 8: $30   Week 9: $28    Week 10: $31   Week 11: $34  Week 12: $36   Week 13: $34.25    Week 14: $36

Week 15: $37.50     Week 16: $36  Week 17: $34   Week 18: $34.50    Week 19: $36   Week 20: $30   Week 21: $32

Week 22: $28   Week 23: $28    Week 24: $28   Week 25: $24     Week 26: $26

 Total Value Received = $804.25/Full Share member

Total Value of Return ($804.25 – $685) = $119.25/Full Share member

 Calculated for our average of 69 Full Shares (all the shares added up into Full Shares), Total Amount of Return in Produce for BTF CSA in 2014 = $8,228.25

 Although this was an exceptional year, we do always manage to get our CSA members at least a small monetary return on their investments. This helps bring the otherwise high retail costs of local, organic produce down Thank you for your support in 2014.

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February Update

 

We have some interesting things to share with you, this year is going to be very exciting I think with many projects and new toys and developments.  First off, last year, 2013, was a stellar year for labor.  We upped the internship to two positions (Danni and Joe, whom you met at the pick-up) and this proved to be very effective for the farm as a whole.  I broadened the academic portion of the position and made it possible for the interns to have a more rounded exposure to farming.  We covered topics such as soil science, plant science and nutrition, organic methodology, fertility analysis and planning, marketing and financing.  We are currently accepting applications for our 2014 interns, so if you know of anyone or are interested your-self please get in touch.

We are a research institution!!  We are working with URI and Brown University to partner up with students interested in doing independent research projects.  I will be directing these projects but students will be able to work on their own.  This year we will be doing a compost tea project.  We will be experimenting with different recipes of tea and conducting trials to see what kind of results we get from foliar and drench feeding regiments.  Another project I had in mind was trials that consider the magnetic conductivity of the soil, how it relates to plant growth and how we can interact with it to grow better crops.  All these projects are intended to provide simple, clear methods for growing excellent crops at little or no cost to the farmer.  Look out for our results in the fall.

Well, I took out another loan.  This year we’re going to invest in buying and raising chickens on pasture in rotation with our vegetable crops.  We are in the process of constructing a coop and buying all the equipment we need to get them started.  Egg shares this year will be provided by us for the first time.  We’re also using the loan to get some more field equipment: a new mulch layer, another farm truck, and a new computer.

All this will inevitably cycle back to make your CSA share awesome.  Your investment is the most important contribution that is made to our farm all year.  We are trying every year to make the CSA a little better than the year before, and from what we hear from you, it is working out.  Also we are trying every year to make the farm a little bit more sustainable, both in keeping our bodies in good shape and our land in good shape.

Big Train Farm is still trying to relocate.  Another year is always exciting in the prospect of what may be out there waiting for us.  Finding a suitable farm that we can afford has proven a difficult task, but we are hoping that 2014 is the year we make some headway.  If you have any advice in this department we are always curious to hear about ideas and potential situations.

Thanks so much for reading, tell your friends to join the 2014 CSA!  Looking forward to seeing everyone in the spring, but for now… let it snow!!!

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