Food Works Farm Planning

Food Works Farm Planning 2013

People often ask the Food Works Crew what they do in the winter as farmers. The answer is PLANNING. As soon as the winter squash and root crops are harvested and sold, the team gets busy planning for the the next season. We have a four step process to farm planning at Food Works.
Step 1 -Crop Evaluation and New Trials
One of the key skills to have in organic agriculture is keen observation. The crew puts those observation skills to the test by evaluating each crop from the past season. The youth create a criteria for what makes a successful vegetable.  Then they put each crop into one of three categories; “Definitely”, “Maybe” or “No Way”. If they are not in agreement, they use consensus decision making to get the vegetable into a category. Once they have decided on the crops from last year, the team has a opportunity to select  new vegetables to trial the upcoming year. If it’s in a seed catalog we’ll try it, but they have to give three reason why it would be a good fit on the farm and get the consensus of the whole youth crew.
Step 2 -Farm Map
Once the team knows what they are going to grow, the next step is to figure out where on the farm it will grow. Using organic crop rotation practices, the team figures out where their Spring Brassica, Salad Mix, Summer Crops, Succession Crops, Fall Brassica and Cover Crop  block sections will go. Each block section is about 1/4 acre. Using a large map and color coded strips of paper for each block section, the team decides what will be in each bed, all 130 of them. Food Works generally grows around 60 different vegetables from year to year, so it is no small task to fit them all in.(picture bottom left)
Step 3 – Variety Selection
This is the teams favorite part of farm planning every year! It’s the time when the youth get to pour over all the seed we have on hand (left over or donated) and look through those amazing seed catalogs newly arrived in the mail. This is one of the most empowering parts of planning for the team, they have the opportunity to make some big decisions on the direction of the farm for the next year.  Some new crops they are trying this year are fennel, dry beans and kholrabi.
Step 4 – Farm Calendar
The last step to planning and probably their least  favorite is the farm calendar. They have determined the what and the where, now they have to figure out the when. Using their projected harvest days (farmers market and CSA days) they count back the vegetable’s days to maturity to find out when they should plant that crop. From there they count back the days the plant start will be in the greenhouse (from seeding to the time they are ready to transplant) to figure out when they need to seed that crop in the greenhouse. (picture top right)

The farm planning has played an important role in the youth ownership of the Food Works Farm and is an opportunity for youth to make empowered choices individually and as a team.