At EarthDance, we strive to operate an efficient and profitable farm, while welcoming the public to explore organic farming, and training beginning farmers in organic methods. We demonstrate best business and production practices so that our apprentices will be equipped to start farming and earn a livelihood. With this in mind, EarthDance sought a Value-Added Producer Grant from the USDA to conduct a feasibility study for scaling up our operations, and to produce a business plan charting the path to greater farm revenues. The grant, which we received, allowed us to hire longtime farmer and consultant Chris Blanchard to help us write the business plan for our farming operation. Chris’ plan yielded many insights. He recommended narrowing our marketing focus and retiring our CSA distribution model. While CSA has many benefits, he helped us see that it isn’t necessarily the best model for us. Chris has also helped us identify the crops that we grow really well and recognize the ones that continually prove problematic. Keep your eye out for more greens and roots, but expect fewer potatoes and winter squash from us.
One of the most exciting recommendations from our work with Chris was that we move to a permanent bed system of growing. Permanent will change our production practices significantly. Rather than tilling the soil after each round of crops, our permanent beds and their adjacent pathways will remain in the exact same spot. We are very excited about this change because there are so many benefits to shifting to a permanent bed system. What are those benefits you may ask? Well here they are:
- Reduced compaction. With permanent beds we can remove the heavy tractor from our growing fields and thus lower compaction on the land
- Lower weed pressure. By maintaining the same beds each year, we reduce our need to turn over the soil. The less we disturb the soil, the less weed pressure we should have as the years pass.
- Better soil health. Allowing the soil ecosystem of worms, mycelium, and diverse bacteria to build structure with minimal disturbance = happy soil = happy plants!
It will be a steep learning curve as we adjust to this new system but we are really excited about the potential for positive change. Stay tuned for updates throughout the year on how things are turning out with our new crop mix and permanent beds.