Portage River Farm

  (Pinckney, Michigan)
Notes on our struggles and successes on our family farm in rural Michigan.
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Wrestling With Ambition

I know that I will look back at this post a few years from now and laugh at myself. I am currently engaged in a wrestling match with my enthusiasm for our new CSA and am struggling to balance practicality and business sense with the overwhelming desire to do it all!

For the past month I have been spending every spare moment pulling together the planting/harvest plan for our little farm. We have had wonderful success in attracting and signing up a great group of people to participate and now we just have to deliver the goods, on time and in the proper quantities. Figuring out just how to do that is proving to be much more complex than I had imagined.

It all began with a survey to see what our membership would like us to grow. In my typical overly exuberant fashion, I put together a series of seed catalogue files containing well over 600 varieties of plants from which to choose. Amazingly, a large selection of the membership actually took the time to pick through all of it and provide me with feedback. With the help of that information, I winnowed the selection down to 90 vegetable selections that are currently on my not-so-short list of things that I would like to grow.

My next step was to lay out a schedule of starting, transplanting, harvesting and distributing each vegetable. Using the information from my survey, I developed a weekly plan for the entire year. I started with the most popular vegetables, maximizing the time they would be available and then working my way down the list filling in the schedule with progressively smaller amounts of the remainders. At this stage, I have a plan that shows us providing up to twenty items per week at the peak season.


This is several times the number of varieties that most CSAs grow for their customers. My understanding is that seven or eight items is more the standard. I know that I need to pare it down considerably but I just don't want to. We normally grow a large variety of things just for our family. Last year we grew 53.

According to my time-table, this task was supposed to be completed by January 1st. To buy myself a little more time, I went ahead and ordered the seed for those things that needed to be started indoors in January. Now I just need to get the rest of the plan out of the way so I can move on to preparing for the maple sugaring season that is looming just around the corner.

I am aware that there are numerous risks of growing too much. Besides the obvious risk of having production costs exceed income, there are also concerns with annoying members by overloading them with more than they can use. We have come up with a plan to deal with this and are arranging to sell/donate anything extra outside of the CSA. There is also the risk of creating unrealistic expectations which you can't practically support in future years. I know all of that but I still am just so excited about the whole adventure that it is hard to be practical.

I'm sure I will get this thing whittled down to something reasonable ...eventually. It is just much more fun to add things than it is to take them away. Whatever shape the final plan takes, I'm anticipating being far wiser at this time next year after spending a year trying to make my crazy plans work out.

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