Farm Blog

Thank you again for braving the blizzard to celebrate, connect with great food, and 'planting an orchard'! Just imagine all those future cherry trees (don't forget to squat:-).
I am so uplifted from all the good vibes, intentions, laughter and seeds shared and planted.

We were able to raise $850.00 in funds! This will go a long way, thank you! Additionally, with all the seeds donated today and from what I've gleaned from others, The women growers in the Sine-Saloum region will be able to plant out a couple hundred row feet/farm. In the past we've planted shared 'demonstration beds' ie since many of the farmers share space/land to grow on we've constructed seeds beds to trial different varieties, plant insectory herbs and flowers and share techniques. From there seeds are harvested and shared forward amongst the individual farmers. So in essence your generosity helped plant teaching/learning/eating/

sharing beds of veggie, herb, and flower goodness!
 

I will honor my commitment and extend the immense gratitude, generosity that was shared during the workshop with the women farmers in the following ways:

Work with NCBA CLUSA Farmer to Farmer Program to transfer funds and mail seeds.
I'll also email and share highlights, photos forward later this week in celebration of our workshop success.

I am tentatively set to travel there Nov/Dec. or January in 2016.

I also finally remembered the name of third grower group, JUBO (means widespread). If you're interested in learning more about how they got started, here's a link to an interview I did as part of my last Farmer to Farmer adventure in Senegal.

I Will keep you in the loop as the project evolves and thanks again for sharing your generous spirit!

For the chocolate lovers:
Becky Otte, who made the amazing truffles, has more of her chocolate goodness to share and is selling some of her creations just in time for Valentines. if you're interested send her an email: raonine@gmail.com

Also Here is a link to Roots Chocolate website.

For the Fruit Lovers:

I've enclosed a handout of some of the different fruits we grow at our farm as well as a flyer highlighting this season's events at the farm! We'd love to have you venture out and tour the orchard, come visit us (though not nearly as cool as the orchard poses we did during the workshop).

Thank you again for helping me transition from being a butterfly weed seed (ie wind pollinated, not knowing where or how my intentions, projects might stick) to more of an oak or cashew seeds - wherein I can deepen my awareness, provide support in the same place(s) in Senegal for the growers and in my backyard in Wisconsin:-). Here's to planting the seeds of the as yet to be imagined on and off the yoga mat! Wishing you all much abundance.

Happy Mid-winter!

Yours in hardy kiwi,
Erin


PS If you are into exploring the planting side as well as enjoying more local fruit creations, we'll be hosting a Local Fruit Tasting May 16, details on our website.

 

A Floral Feast Reflection...2017 Flower CSA Breakdown

  My gratitude to Diane Mikonowicz, my mother for her help with bouquet making and instilling in me a love of flowers.

My gratitude to Diane Mikonowicz, my mother for her help with bouquet making and instilling in me a love of flowers.

I have always grown flowers – in my mother's garden, as part of my own garden landscapes, apartment balconies, and kitchen windowsills. When I started farming with Rob in 2009 (Rob has been a CSA farmer since 1993) flowers were always part of the field mix, work/life balance and experimentation, and soul nourishment. The last 4 years, however, I have been consciously shifting from vegetable production to fruit and flowers and this is my second season with a 'formal' flower csa program. I enjoy how it balances and compliments other areas and market channels for our farm including wedding flowers and fruit and vegetable share program.

  Leading an orchard tour as part of a 2017 Field to Vase workshop. Growing the community of farmer florists alongside fruit/flowers is part of our farm's mission. Photo by Betsy Haynes Photography

Leading an orchard tour as part of a 2017 Field to Vase workshop. Growing the community of farmer florists alongside fruit/flowers is part of our farm's mission. Photo by Betsy Haynes Photography

We also see our farm as a community asset rather than a series of commodity crops—which is one of the reasons Rob and I so enjoy the CSA model and are honored to have grown for you. Throughout the season, I hope you have experienced a glimpse of our love of land, community, fruit and flowers—opening our farm and hearts in the heat and grit of the season to you and in turn you giving us honest feedback on what's working, what isn't, what you would like to see more of. As petals and leaves fall, and all the outward energy of the season is cycled inward, composted and transformed back to the soil, I also wanted to give you a glimpse of where your Flower CSA Bouquet share investment went. Here is a summary of how the bouquets shook out this past season.

Your money directly supports local, organic farms and a model of agriculture built on sustainability, relationship, and care. Accounting for sustainability means assessing the numbers and taking into account economic value as well as the ecological and social structures at play that manifested in your season's bouquets. Reflecting on the season's investment as a whole and individually, your flower csa investment broke down as follows:

Flower CSA Share Investment:

Total Flower CSA Income - $3,477.56 (accounts for 5.5% sales tax on flowers)

    • 21 CSA Members Total - 11 Seasonal Shares ($230/share - 10 deliveries); 6 Monthly Shares ($195/share - 4 deliveries); and 4 Sampler Shares ($50/share - 2 deliveries)

    • $23 average cost/bouquet

    • 178 Total Bouquet made for CSA program

    • $353.37 Input costs (seeds, plants, tools)

I did not account for our flower csa program's proportion of overall farm expenses such as % of insurance, depreciable equipment expense etc. This is something that we assess in our end of season budget analysis. I'd be happy to share with you if interested.

While we maintain lean overhead costs on our farm as part of our production model, the biggest expense is our labor. Here is a breakdown of time allocated to your flower csa shares.

Labor considered from a per bouquet perspective (my average pace is 5 bouquets/hr):

  • ¾ hr/bouquet for seasonal care (field time)

  • 11 minutes/bouquet of harvest time

  • 12 minutes/bouquet design time

  • 12 minutes/bouquet delivery time

  • 6 minutes/bouquet communication/outreach time

Labor considered from a Seasonal Perspective (March - October) tending to flowers broken down as follows:

  A September Flower CSA Banquet. Photo by Erin Schneider

A September Flower CSA Banquet. Photo by Erin Schneider

    • Field/production and maintenance = 362.5 hrs

    • Harvest time = 33 hrs

    • Bouquet making = 44 hrs

    • Delivery = 10 hrs

    • Member support/communication = 12 hrs

    • 'Off season' marketing/outreach/communication = 32 hrs

    • On-farm events/hosting = 10 hrs

Total Time = 503.5 hrs

*Ave hourly wage = $6.91

My goal is to optimally grow our flower csa program so that it does not need to be subsidized by other market channels on the farm. As I was assessing the numbers, reflecting on the season as a whole, there is always room for fine tuning in terms of operational efficiency and production that minimize time and input needs, the cost of which increase on average 8%/yr. I look forward to checking in with you all in finding a healthy balance between supporting an optimal number of shares and pricing for your flower csa bouquets.

Being part of our CSA also means investment in our farm's ecology - Our farm is run on 100% renewable energy, both in the food and flowers we produce and in energy generated through our 5.1 kwH ground mount solar array. Our farming methods emphasize low fossil-fuel inputs; use of cover crops, composting, mulch, and crop rotation; habitat enhancement such as field borders, native prairie plantings and windbreaks; and soil and water conservation practices such as swales and rainwater catchment.

  Honeybees feasting on Mt. Mint in our fruit guilds. Mt. Mint attracts pollinators, is medicinal, and works well as a cut flower in mid-season bouquets. Photo by Erin Schneider

Honeybees feasting on Mt. Mint in our fruit guilds. Mt. Mint attracts pollinators, is medicinal, and works well as a cut flower in mid-season bouquets. Photo by Erin Schneider

Our foray into flower production highlights ways we grow intensively on small acreage—integrating perennial flowers and fruits into our annual cuts for bouquets. In 'farm ecology - speak', this is called 'stacking functions – or multiple functions for a single form'. Mixing and enlisting flowers as farm helpers in the orchard understory, as vegetable companions and habitat enhancement of our prairies and field borders provides multiple functions. Flowers serve as 'aromatic pest confusers' (alliums, feverfew, and rue especially), as attractors of beneficial insects and pollinators, as trap crops and soil stabilizers, and as peak expression of beauty and botanical evolution, before the descent to seed and soil resumes. For example, the native perennial flower, baptisia, that showed up in your early July bouquets are legumes –working in tandem with rhizobium bacteria on their roots to 'fix' atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form for plant uptake. The blooms also attract pollinators and beneficial insects and every part of the plant, save for the root showed up in your bouquets – the foliage, the blossoms, and the seed pods. Perennials are a permanent fix in your bouquets and on our farm.

Another way to account for your Flower CSA share investment is to assess the numbers from a biodiversity perspective. Of the 122 different species (not counting the number of differnent varieties of the same species), that we intentionally cultivated and wildcrafted for your bouquets, 47 were perennial cut flowers, 23 represented woody perennial fruit, shrubs, and vines, 44 were annuals, and 8 were vegetables. As a percentage of production, 58% of our flower production consisted of perennials; 37% was devoted to annuals/biennials; and 4% highlighted vegetables (for example hot peppers, broccoli seed pods).

From an energy and conservation perspective, growing a diversity of perennials means a minimal footprint on the land, including: less time needed for site preparation; less soil disturbance and microbial disruption that comes with tillage; reduced need for investment in infrastructure such as hoop houses and greenhouses that use energy for heating and materials (plastics); increased soil and water holding capacity; increased diversity of pollen for our honeybees and native insects, birds, and bats that feast on flower 'power'; and (hopefully) increased intrigue and appreciation of what can be grown locally and withstand Wisconsin's fluctuating weather and growing season length. They also embody the 'multiplier effect'. Start with one penstemmon, and by fall it's divide-and-transplant season and soon you have 5 penstemmon plants.

  August flower palette, a peak season culmination of perennial and annual cuts. Photo by Rob McClure

August flower palette, a peak season culmination of perennial and annual cuts. Photo by Rob McClure

On the design front, we hope you enjoyed the diversity of blooms, textures and changing colors throughout the season of blooms, in my attempts to create billowy, dreamy, fresh-from-the-garden bouquets to adorn your tables. For example, June brought a banquet of perennial blooms with peonies, delphiniums, and lilies demanding attention. In July and August, it was all about peak season blooms where wildflowers, fruits, herbs, and cultivated cuts merged for a floral feast. In September and October, it was a deep dreamy formal harvest feast of dahlias and cuts such as gomphrena, celosia and native grasses. By the numbers, on average, bouquets consisted of 33 stems and 14 different species. As narration, I hope you enjoyed learning more about a few flower friends featured in your bouquets.

I am in the business of growing and designing flowers through our CSA program and weddings, as it is a way I can freely express my love for the Earth and share this with you through the bouquets I design from seed to vase. Love is indeed sustaining, though we all live in a space/time where currency and not just currants are needed to sustain us. Above all I hope you found your investment in our farms' flowers worthwhile, enriching, and were inspired by nature and the relationships that emerge. I also hope to continue our relationship and extend our network of mutual support. I am so grateful for your open communication, ideas, comments, and willingness to serve as site hosts. May you be showered in bouquets of gratitude—bringing you beauty and balance, in the seasons' ahead and I hope you will join us again come June 2018.

  A Flower Mandala that Rob and I created along the bike path this summer. Flowers provide livelihood, love, and gratitude. We look forward to sharing this with you in the season's ahead. Photo by Erin Schneider

A Flower Mandala that Rob and I created along the bike path this summer. Flowers provide livelihood, love, and gratitude. We look forward to sharing this with you in the season's ahead. Photo by Erin Schneider