Thursday, January 26, 2012

Life is what happens... you while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon)

That may be the case, but even so, Ben and I have spent quite a lot of the new year planning for the rest of 2012. As of yesterday, we finished our crop plan! This may not sound like the impressive feat that it is if you're not aware of the time and effort that it takes to try to decide how much of each item we would like to have available for every week of 2012. Consider on top of that that we'll be growing almost 50 different crops and over 150 different varieties of various crops (e.g., we'll have 10 different potato varieties and 13 different tomato varieties). Diversity is the spice of life!

In addition to finishing up the crop plans, Ben and I have spent some time running around getting all of our new business eggs in a basket. We canceled our listing as Ben's Produce with the Wake County Registrar of Deeds and we applied (and were approved) for our business name of In Good Heart Farm with the Johnston County Registrar of Deeds. I imagine changing a business name is something like changing your own name. We've had to open up new bank accounts and close old ones. We've applied for and received our new EIN number as well. Ben's cousin, Roy, is working on our logo for us and it is well on its way to being finished. Once we have our logo, we'll work on changing our electronic communications (new website with new URL and new Facebook page and the like). We also need to get a new banner for market. We'll miss the old hand painted banner April made for us.

We were pleasantly surprised this month with a week-long visit from Ben's mom, Jody. Jody is a fiber artist. She is employed by Rambler's Way and also is a small business owner of Botanical Shades (a natural dye company). You can see a beautiful shot of Jody at work here. Jody came to NC to work with the folks in textiles at NC State and we got to visit with her, so it was a win-win situation :).

I've also spent a lot of time reading since the new year. Some of the books I've read include Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers, The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff - and Making a Profit, and Ecology for Gardeners. I've read through the first two once already, but the latter is a little more slow-going for me (although I find it more fascinating than business planning, planning has been the task of the year so far).

In other news, Ben and I have purchased a manure spreader! We'll be able to use it to spread manure in the future (when we have more farm animals) and we'll be using it this year to spread compost. Last year Ben spent days upon days spreading compost by the truckload, *by hand with a shovel*! I am not kidding you when I say he spent days upon days. I posted quite a few pictures of Ben engaging in this task last year on our Facebook page, but I'll post some here too:

You can get a good glimpse below of the area that Ben covered in one day.

The picture below gives you a good idea of what our manure spreader looks like (we don't have ours yet - we're picking it up at a farm in Snow Camp this Sunday) - except ours has rubber tires. 

This year is going to be substantially less physically taxing (or that's the idea anyway) with the help of the manure spreader and our tractor (we no longer have to depend only on the walk-behind tractor - aka tiller). Although, of course, when you have equipment of any kind it requires maintenance and repair. And of course, the tractor needs a little bit of both. Here's Ben driving the tractor 2 miles down the road to take the tractor to the repair shop (we are so lucky to have a garage specializing in tractor repair so close to us!).

In addition to our usual farm chores and tasks, we've been getting involved in some events in our community. Last week our interns, Meredith and Aaron, and Ben and I all attended the first Local Food Micro Enterprise Working Group meeting of the year. This group emerged out of an Advocates for Health in Action (AHA) event, "Connecting the Dots: Creating a Local Food System in Wake County." Over 20 movers and shakers were able to attend this first meeting of 2012. Thanks to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle for letting us use their board room for the meeting! We will be having many more meetings in the year. If you are interested in joining the discussion, please feel free to email Ben ( or I ( to let us know you're interested and we'll add you to the listserv.

In addition to the working group, yesterday Ben and I had the pleasure of speaking with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at the Sterling Montessori and Charter School. Juliann, our market president, invited us to speak to her son's class - taught by Teacher Tom. We were so impressed with how engaged and smart of all the kids were. We told them a little bit about ourselves and the farm and sustainable farming more generally. We also played a game, "Star Power" (thanks Emily and David!), to talk about how the system rules are often created by those in power so that the rules allow them to maintain and even increase their power. The driving home point we tried to have for the kiddos is that gain that comes at the loss of another is not sustainable and that gain that is absolute (as with increasing fertility through crop rotation, cover crops and the like) - or gain that does not come at a loss - is sustainable. We strive for the latter. Here we are with the kids after we finished playing the game. 

Finally, tomorrow Ben and I are attending the first meeting of the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) in the Piedmont region (CRAFT-UP). Here's what the email that piqued our interest has to say about the organization and the meeting itself:

The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) is a farmer-led coalition organized by sustainable agriculture farmers in a self-selected geographic region. Participating farmers offer up their time, talents and experience to help prepare the next generation of farmers. The secret to CRAFT’s success is simple -- farmers learn most effectively from other farmers. CRAFT provides farmer-to-farmer learning and access to the social network and culture of local farmers.”  (   Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training – United Piedmont (CRAFT-UP) will offer resources for farmers (and farmers-in-training) of the Piedmont bioregion. CRAFT-UP will be a venue for established Piedmont farmers to streamline and network their training opportunities, while providing beginning farmers with a formal network and more resources for entry
into farming careers. Many CRAFT groups also host social events for beginning farmers to get together casually and celebrate! CRAFT members will gain access to on-farm training and learn skills that will support their transition from farming beginners to market farmers.

We don't know much beyond that, but it sounds right up our alley! :)

Well, I suppose I've said enough for now. I hope you enjoyed the update. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Beginnings In Good Heart

It feels like Spring around these parts, even though it’s still about three months away. The days are beginning to grow longer once again and life is full of new beginnings for Ben and I this year.  For one, we have a new name. Ben’s Produce was never really our first choice. Actually, our first choice was Veni Vidi Vegetables (as in, I came, I saw Vegetables). We were so proud of ourselves when we came up with that name, but when we told folks about it, no one got it and others people told us they couldn’t pronounce it. So we scrapped Veni Vidi Vegetables and decided on Ben’s Produce for its simplicity. It’s been a good name for us. It’s good to have your name in your business name – it means everyone knows your name. But we also feel the name limited us in two main regards: 1) we want to move beyond just produce and 2) well, it’s not just Ben. Ben and I talked about changing our name last year, but when Ben’s Produce was voted Edible Piedmont’s farm of the year, we decided to delay the name change and resolved to change it for 2012. We threw around a lot of names, some serious, some not so much, before we finally came to In Good Heart Farm. In Good Heart has a lot of meanings, but we decided on the name based on the Old English use of the phrase. To say that the soil is in good heart is to say that it is healthy, in good cultivation, and in good spirit. To say that a person is in good heart is to say that they are cultivating wisdom, courage, and good spirit. Ben and I felt that our farm name should represent our vision and we couldn’t think of a better representation of what we want to do and what we want to be in our world than In Good Heart.

In addition to our changing the farm name, we are also changing the farm input – which is to say that I am now also a full-time farmer, along with Ben! I have gained a lot from working toward my PhD in Sociology at NC State, including mentors and friends. And while I will always think of myself as a Sociologist, I no longer feel that earning a PhD is an important goal for me. I never knew farming would be the life for me. It’s physical, cerebral, spiritual, immensely rewarding and it enables me to feel like I am doing something – and more than that, that I am doing something positive in conjunction with the people and the things that I care about. Ben came to his realization a few years ago when he decided to leave his job working for Smithsonian Magazine in Manhattan and move to NC with me. Now we’re on the same track and we couldn’t be happier, which is great – because the other new beginning in our life is that we’re going to be parents this summer! Ben and I (and our families) are thrilled and can’t wait until we get to meet the little one sometime in June (I’m due near the end, but my mom swears I’ll give birth two weeks prior to my due date). Life is good and we’re ready to take on this year with all the vigor it deserves! Stay tuned!