Sunday, January 30, 2011

A minor case of "What did we just do?!"

Your vegetables for 2011 - in a different form.
Instrument that measures amount of shade throughout the year around a potential solar panel site.
The new hoophouse is here - though not installed!

We still can't believe we've done it considering how expensive its going to be - but we signed the contract to have solar panels installed here at the farm. So starting this Spring, Muddy Fingers Farm will have 100% solar electricity. Yes, we might be crazy, but at least we're committed to it. We signed for Halco to do the installation and they are helping us with writing the state and federal grants (actually they're pretty much doing it for us).
When will it be economically feasible for more people who aren't as crazy as us to install renewable energy such as this? Never? According to the prediction we were presented, our system will pay for itself in less than twenty years. This is taking into account inflation and the increasing cost of electricity. So I guess as the cost of electricity does increase in the next couple decades this may become a more attractive option. And if the cost of the panels could come down over time while their effeciency increases (our top of the line panels are only about 18-19% efficient) this could help, too.
Any comments?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What do we do in the winter?

winter market stand
evening song farm

The Rutabega Curl

"So what do you do in the winter?"
We get this question once in awhile from customers and people we meet. And I admit it has started to get on my nerves. They are not trying to be rude, but I get the feeling that the asker is thinking "what could there possibly be to do on a vegetable farm in the winter?" I do hope somewhere in the near future we won't have so much to do on the farm in the winter. It would be nice to do some volunteering and be a little more active in our community. But this winter so far has been a bit overwhelming and not too restful. I guess its better than being bored though!

Here's an update on some of the things we've been working on this winter:
Spending money!!! Beyond the normal ordering of seeds, organic fertilizer and yearly supplies we are also ready to purchase a new tractor-mounted rototiller and cultivation equipment.
The really big news (and big expense) though is that we are planning to sign a contract soon to have solar panels installed for the farm (and home)! When installed, the panels will produce about 100% of our yearly usage, though they will be hooked to the grid. We will post more info about these as progress is made. This is a HUGE investment for us. It is made possible partly by the NYSERDA grant and state and federal tax credits, but mostly because we were fortunate to receive an inheritance from our family.

We will be expanding our greenhouse by 12 feet so we will be able grow more seedlings. And our new hoophouse will be arriving Monday. We need to get that up as soon as possible so it will be ready for the tomatoes and cucumbers we plan to plant in there later this spring.

And we are putting our heads together to figure how to improve the Grove Park Farmers' Market in Elmira. We are still attending the winter market in Ithaca on Saturdays 11-2 at the Women's Community Building on Seneca St. See photo above.

And, oh yes, we did take a vacation from the farm to visit friends and family. During this trip we visited a couple good friends who are just starting to farm on their own. They bought a farm in Vermont last year and this will be their first year growing there. It was very exciting to visit and see and hear about all the progress they've made in such a short period of time. The two snowy photos above are from their farm.

As always we've been analyzing our growing practices and figuring out how to improve our systems. And we've been crunching the numbers on all the records we kept last year, we even wrote up our findings and sent them to a local farming publication, so they may go out to be of use to other farmers, and we're also figuring out what we want to do to get ready for this year. This means a lot of reading and "farm meetings". To this end we plan to attend an upcoming farming conference. We might come back with a dozen more items to add to our "to do" list. Ah well...
hope you are faring well this winter, matthew and liz