Friday, January 4, 2008

What do you do all winter?

People always ask me what we do at the farm all winter. We don't grow anything in the greenhouses (or in the ground) so how do we employ people year round?

This year is very different from other years because of the flood this summer. We lost about half our acres to the floodwaters, much of it our late season crops! Usually we can keep the packing shed busy washing & packing veggies for sale to stores and restaurants at least through February. Then in March it's time to start growing again. Last year at this time we still had beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, rutabaga, soup mix, turnips, and winter radishes to clean and pack. This year, we only have burdock, crosnes, garlic, horseradish, dried chile ristras, dogwood & willow, shallots & turnips - in limited quantities. So the packing shed crew is busy cleaning totes and preparing small orders.

This is Adelina, someone we'd like to employ all year round, washing totes this morning. The tank is full of soap & suds and she rinses, stacks and stores the totes to use next spring.

We have a small office staff comprised of Richard (farmer/owner), Brian (accounting), Andrea (seed database/meat coordinator/packing shed supervisor), and myself (CSA coordinator/marketing).

I am getting ready for the 2008 CSA season, preparing a member 'Welcome Pack', answering questions from new & incoming members, finding a couple new Twin Cities delivery sites, recruiting new members, preparing a member survey, and updating the website. We also have a pretty good benefits package for our employees (health insurance, health savings account & retirement plan) that I will maintain and administer. We're working on job descriptions for everybody too, so we can do performance reviews and the like. Fun, fun, fun!

Richard and Andrea are looking at seed catalogs and planning next years plantings. We have some delicious and nutritious items (some with very funny names: Mellow Yellow carrots, Skywalker cauliflower, General Lee cucumber, Bull's Blood beets, Orion fennel, Freckles salad mix, El Jefe jalapeƱo, Dagger & Javelin parsnips, Crocodile spinach and of course, Lancelot Leeks!) for you next year! Andrea will update you soon!
Brian our bookkeeper/accountant, processes all our incoming CSA orders & is working on our 2008 customer database, a complete overhaul of what we had in the past. He does payroll & pays all the incoming bills, too.

Our shop crew will be maintaining and winterizing all our equipment. The wagons' wheel bearings get lubed, chains get tightened, machines get cleaned and stored. They still have goats to look after and they're still clearing trees from the creek & river banks too.

The packing shed staff is also working on updating our Employee Manual. It originally came about as part of getting organic certification so it goes into a lot of detail about sanitation procedures, weed & disease control, and harvest & handling. Plus lots of information on our water management practices, crop outlines & planning, seed germination and general storage information. It's all about how we do it & do it well at Harmony Valley Farm.
We get a vacation week at the end of January. Where should I go?