Richert/Phillips Farms

  (North Liberty, Indiana)
ventures of a small fresh pick farm
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finely sapin'

   We finely was able to get our taps out for maple syrup cooking. This cold winter has set sap run back by nearly three weeks, but that is all right the sap is flowing now.

   Soon we will open our green house up and start planting plugs for the fields.

  

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seeds and such are rolling in

   The season is not here yet, but thanks to the return CSA members we are able to have our seeds and supplies purchased early and the seeds have already been coming in. We are very happy that our farm does not need large loans like before we started the CSA offers.

   The CSA membership money is treated like a loan, funds that are payed early goes to the coming year's inputs. But , I will say if you are a new farmer do not rely on CSAs entirely, be diversified for a few years until you work out the kinks and see if it is for you.

   2013 was a good year for the most part--we decided that because works are hard to find and rarely stay we will adjust our farm so if no workers are around the work will still get done. Though employees and interns would be nice--they will not be relied on.

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What a season

   What a season thus far-- every year proves to have its ups and downs.

We are hoping to increase CSA membership this year by 65-75 new members. Also, to add some specialty crops to the mix for members. Overall we are pleased with the CSA members--they are a good group of people to work with.

   This years downs where we had no workers on the farm but two and they left before the first week was up. We do not ask workers to do anything we won't do--we are right along side them in the fields doing the same as they are. It takes about 3-7 workers plus ourselves to manage this farm.

   Ups, it was a great year for production for most crops. Yields were up from last year and quality on most items has remained in the tops.

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This weather

What is going on this weather is jumping all over the place--dry, wet, snowy, raining, cold, warm don't know what to expect from day to day. The good thing is we have gotten a lot done in the buildings, but the taps(maple taps) are not producing like they should. That is all right the farmstead has not been this clean in a long while--if not for the first time ever.

   CSAs are rolling in and we are anticipating turning are wholesale field into production just for CSA members. Wholesale markets take up most of our production over the past many years, but CSAs may pass that portion of the farm. We have always set land aside for commercial buyers, markets, and CSAs by dedicating those fields for that specific purpose. In away by doing that we have several small farms all rolled into one.

 

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Organizing the greenhouse and seeds

   We were planning to be collecting sap for cooking.But, after about half the taps were set a cold front came in and we have been looking for stuff to do. It is a little early to start organizing the greenhouse, yet it beats doing other things around here.

   It did not take long working in the greenhouse, so we decided to tare-apart the plug chamber and redesign and move it into one of the sheds--a plug chamber is where the seeds are started and the temperature as well as the moisture is monitored regularly.

   Having thousands of dollars wrapped up in seeds and knowing that one's entire planting can be wiped out in less then an hour is not a pleasant feeling. So, the plug chamber is very important to a vegetable farm--we enjoy this profession, but from now till harvest and sales we will be tense, on edge, and more serious. Ninety percent of our income is made in less then sixteen weeks and yet it takes twenty plus weeks to get us to harvest and on the other end the remain part of the year is preparing the fields and equipment.

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Making a seeder and maple syrup

   We drove over to Leon's house today to pick up a tank for to transport the sap collected for cooking and he was quite excited about a contraption he made. The contraption was a narrow box with many holes drilled though the top and a vacuum connected to the side to provide suction for holding the seeds in place. When the box is turned up side down over the plug tray the vacuum is turned off and the seeds fall into place on the tray. He was excited about it, but we had to tease him for a while before telling him it was a good idea.

   Maple sap has a higher sugar count this year, which means less cooking (boiling off excess water). But, brix change all the time according to the weather.

   We are still taking CSA applications but time is running out, so if you may be interested please contact us. We are not planning on taking CSA applications at the markets this year--only excepting them before hand.

    

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cleaning things up and tapping trees

   Starting to get busy around here. Cleaning and preparing for sugaring season. Tomorrow we will run a few test taps and with some luck--if the sap is flowing start running all the lines.

   Today we really dug in and got a lot done--we have been taking it easy and being lazy for a spell. That might be why our muscles are a bit sore.

   Most of the seeds are here and nearly all the supplies are on a truck heading this way.

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Vacation and farming

   For the first time in twelve years we were able to take a vacation. Southern Louisiana is the best place I have ever been to and I have traveled the world exploring new places when in my twenties.

   Many people we come across, nearly all the people, think farming is easy. They so often want to have what they call the simple life and yet hold on to the city life of living it up in various ways. But if one wishes to be a farmer that or those people must give up the life style they have completely and embrace the dirt fully--we have a simple saying," are you farming for money or are you farming with money?" Several young farmers who did not give up their previous life styles have lost the farms they had...they blame cost, weather, consumers, gas prices, and what ever else can be thought of--but they do not look at the real reason of not putting the long hours in(some times 16-19 hours the day before market), not knowing tricks of the trade because they are to busy talking and not listening. When a produce farm goes under most of the time it is the farmers endeavors that caused it not the excuses.

   My advice is when you attend a market or any place a small farm is selling goods for reasonable prices make sure that it is a farm that is farming for money and they do not have another job. Because small gardeners are not trying to make a living.

 Jesus Loves

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fallow the seasons

   We checked the orchards in the area and most of the apples are damaged or gone from the frost. There is another frost coming tonight and it makes me think of all the people who, when the warm weather was here got excited about summer and believed the cold was over. Part of this life we choose is about not knowing what is around the corner and that uncertainty is what separates the dedicated from the ones who just play.

   Meat chicks arrived today, we put them in the greenhouse for now--they sure are cute. We think are order is wrong because some off the birds have discoloring on them, time will tell if they are meat or layers.

   The funnest part of farming the way we do it is are work and income is always changing according to the season. In the beginning of the year it is greenhouse and maple syrup. In spring chicks, planting, and tending to the bees. Summer brings weeding, planting, harvesting. End of the year is trapping, cleaning and repair between attending seminars. There is rarely a break, but when there is we take full advantage of it.

   The markets open next week so we are running a special offer to new CSA members if they sign up between now and next week the cost will be $500.

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Farming life

The other day we went to the fields and started working--planting early seeds(beets, lettuce, peas), discing, and cleaning up the equipment. The day started off like an average day chickens need tending and coffee for us. But about noon the so called nostalgic life of farming came to the reality of this life stile we farmers have chose to live--a 9 year old boy was killed on a farm we know well.

   Boys play on the farm as boys do it is part of growing up, but on some occasions tragedy happens--he was playing on a pile a feed stuff by digging a hole on top of the pile and jumping in, the stuff quickly engulfed him, his father dug frantically and a foot or so down found his little arm to pull the boy out. He died at the hospital...it is sad, but this is part of farming one will be hard pressed to find a farm family who has not lost some young person to an accident on the farm, either there child, sidling, or cousin, parent, etc..

   So, if you think farming is nostalgic, getting back to the way life is meant to be--you need to rethink what you believe farming is--

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warm weather and frost

Hello,

   The warm weather has tricked people in thinking it is summer time--even the plants was tricked. Good news for the CSA members if there are any apples on the trees you will be getting them and not the tables at the market. The frost and cold snaps realy done some harm to the apples and early blueberries. The drought we are in should not harm to many plants, but sure did allow us to get a lot of field work done early.

   I must say only the Lord knows what the spring and summer is going to bring--makes farming a heart acke and yet at the same time exciting.

 

Jesus loves

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sapping has come to an end

   Another season of sap collecting has come to an end rather quickly with this warm weather. But, that is alright because we can concentrate on other work. The greenhouse is going well the plants are doing good with the bright sun beaming down and the heating cost is low this year--there is always an up side to most everything.

   Today we let the chickens out on higher ground and they had a ball. Many took to flying and others after gorging them selves on larva from insects that are starting to hatch dug fresh dirt up rolled around in it then took a nap right in that very hole.

   After burning some of the fields I disc-ed and harrowed so to plant some peas and beets plus with the high tunnel there should be some early summer crops this year.

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What a wonderful day

Hello,

   A company that never has gotten our seed order correct--either running out, forgetting some of the seeds, or even missplacing the order has shocked us. Yesterday we recieved the order from them, not only on a timely fashion, but everything was there--right amounts, types, and in proper order...must say very pleased this time. The greenhouse is cleaned and once the stove pipe is in place seeds will start to get planted.

   Maple sap has slowed down alot--its flow is about a fouth of what it was in previous years. That is alright for now because other work is starting. We plan to finnish the high tunnel soon and start some early plants growing. The high tunnel will allow us to get early produce to CSA clients and to markets. Early produce always brings a great price...that helps.

    

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New varieties and

   We have new varieties of plants this year from Europe and Asia. These varieties are heirlooms, but new to us--eggplants, greens, peppers, and not sure what the one is...kind of looks like a stubby cucumber but has a sweet melon smell and taste. Hopefully these new products will reach the customers this year. The seeds took a lot of time to get, so we will concentrate on more of keeping the ripe vegetables for seeds this year.

   The taps are out, almost, and sap is flowing well. I was over to Leons with the first run and watched him get the cooker ready to boil down the tree juice to make syrup. It is such a pleasure to run maple syrup--we get cold collecting the sap  but when we take it to be cooked it is quit the pleasure standing in all the sweet warm steam.

   One days work gets us about seven gallons of syrup that we split two ways. Some times people say it is not worth the effort, but they don't live this life we do and when combined with vegetable and fruit raising, livestock, and trapping among many other things--us people are content on the choices we made to live off the land

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Starting the greenhouse

Some of the seeds that has been ordered has come in so we plan to open the greenhouse soon. Sanitation in the greenhouse is very important--a disease that could have blown in from some where else very well can still be in there. Wiping down tables, shelves, picking up debris, cleaning trays etc. is all part of the business. We do not want the season to end before it even begun--diseases can wipe out the entire house in a matter of weeks.

   While cleaning I stirred up a nest of rats, about 10 or 12. So, I covered the nest back up and when Dan got home I asked him to clean that area--thinking that the rats would take off in all directions as they did me, I could barely hold the laughter back. But, they did not return as anticipated, how disappointing. He knew I was up to something, I told him of the devilish plan a brewing--instead he laught at me for a foiled attempt of fun.

   Leon and I went to E&R to pick up some soilless mixture and other supplies--about a four hour trip. Every time we are together he gets us lost. Leon does not drive(Amish) and apparently he cannot read maps either or we get to joking around and miss the turns...we always have fun non the less. The trip took twelve plus hours.

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