June 21, 2007

Whatever levels of busy-ness I have whined about in the past are NUTHIN compared to life these days. Part of that is, we’re doing too well.  We are now doing business with the Davis Food Co-op, our first retail customer!

This is a really big deal, because we have now jumped on the bandwagon of another small farm outlet. There are really 5 sales outlets for a farm of our kind: Farmer’s Markets, CSA subscriptions, restaurant sales, retail sales and sales to distributorships. The first 3 are easy, the second two are usually a much bigger deal in terms of time, commitment, volume, sanity…… I never really considered approaching a grocery store before, because the volumes one needs to have in order to make it worthwhile for the grocery store to purhcase would usually exceed whatever we can provide. But, we are in the middle of a very large amoung (by our standards) of a particular kind of lavender. Also, the Co-op has also agreed to purchase cut flower bouquets, which is even more exciting. Right now we have something like 8′ x 80′ of solid zinnias. This doesn’t include the other cut flowers we are growing like the cosmos and dahlias. Basically, we are drowning in flowers, and flower sales make up at least 40% of our income during the summer. So we hope we can do well and sell lots of flowers to Davis.  It felt a little strange to finally be someone selling to the food Co-op. Both Ken and I lived in Davis for years before our move to the country, and we find that we are doing more and more business there. So far the biggest order has been for 48 bouquets. We had to have about 550 flowers cut by the farmworkers, then after work on a Monday I spent somewhat over 3 hours making tied bouquets ready for delivery. About 11 flowers per arrangement, with filler, and 6 bouquets to each labelled bucket. We are paid $3.75 for each bouquet. It’s sort of like getting paid to have fun, as long as it’s before 11pm. After that, it’s something else……..

The bathtub is full of chicks. The 6 chicks as from 3 weeks ago have been moved outside to the cruel world, and the next 14 chicks that hatched last Saturday are in there instead. We lost a lot of them during hatching, which seems to be my lot in life, and is a lot of why I don’t care for incubators.

We received a check a few weeks ago for the sale of 5 of our roosters for meat, $84. I guess this marks the start of official chicken sales, even though we’re about 5 months away from having meaningful quantity to sell. We’re getting faster and better at processing, and at $4/lb at least, it just may be financially worthwhile in the end. We are now harvesting apricots, plums, the first peaches, summer squash, cucumbers, beets, carrots, kohlrabi and lemon basil and a few peppers. Squash always are popular. A few weeks ago at the Saturday Farmer’s Market I spent half the day talking about two humongous orange beets that we had for sale. No one could figure what those were since the color was different. Well, the guy who bought them was the luckiest one, in my opinion. Those are some good beets…..I was hoping they wouldn’t sell so we could eat them…. Some hundreds of melon transplants went into the ground 2 weeks ago. It is heating up more and more and afternoon work in the greenhouse is getting to be sauna-ish. Some of our cilantro fried, but since it shouldn’t still have been in the greenhouse anyway, I guess that’s my fault.

One big problem we are having is our blackberries. Things are not going well, and I’m not sure how much of the crop is going to be OK. The fruit is shrivelling rather than ripening. Hopefully we can figure the problem and bring things around, but we may not be making much $$ in that department. Good thing those flowers are making up the difference. This illustrates the importance of diversification when you have small holdings; it’s cheaper than insurance. 

I attended the CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) field day, which was hosted at Drew’s ranch. The topics were beekeeping and cover crops, but the really great thing was to meet people from CAFF and discuss all the various projects that are underfoot in our world. I was encouraged to hear that there may be grant money out there, available for different projects of a relevant nature. Right now we are drying our very high-grade lavender flowers, and have several gallons of primo stuff. I’m trying to work out just what to do with it! We will sell some to the Co-op, packaged. But I’d like to (in all my spare time) make sachets or lavendar pillows or some such items that can sell at a higher price. We’ll see……….