Wow, what nice weather. It was nice working on the farm with the temperatures in the mid 70s! We spent the day planting garlic, putting down cover crops (after terminating the cover crops in that area yesterday), and planting Paw Paw trees.
We’re excited to finally get the Paw Paw trees planted. The trees we planted are 6 months old. We are hoping to have fruit from the Paw Paws in 3-4 years from now, but it could take longer. The trees came from 2 different sources to help give genetic diversity. One set of trees were propagated from the seed from Paw Paw fruit. The rest were purchased as seedlings. We grew them from seedlings in the spring to trees that were ready to plant this fall.
The next step with the garlic is to put down hay for weed suppression and feather meal as a nitrogen supplement. We’ve had 2 rounds of cover crops since we harvest the garlic. Both rounds of cover crops used buckwheat.
It is definitely warm out. We started the day out with a sprinkle or two and a nice breeze so it wasn’t too bad of a day to work on the farm. We picked tan cheese pumpkins and cushaw squash after weeding sweet potato beds. The first fig fruits are developing, but it is still going to be long time until they are ready to harvest. Most of the fig fruit is still at the small bud size right now. We are continuing to pick elderberries.
The moringa that we planted as a test is doing great! Getting the moringa plants to make it through the winter may be a challenge, but one step at a time.
We have been planting comfrey in the food forest area for the last few weeks. We planted comfrey root pieces and comfrey seeds around the fig and olive trees, between the blackberries and around some of the elderberries.
The cool weather has allowed the potatoes to keep growing so we are going to leave them in the ground as long as we can and let them grow. The sweet potatoes are growing as well.
The rain almost every day has keep us from mowing so the grass is starting to look like a jungle. Hopefully next Friday, the weather will be better so we can mow.
We have a few peaches, looking forward to future peach harvests
The fruit and nut trees are growing quickly while we are starting to pick blackberries. The blueberries will come later. The plants went in the ground this winter, so we will only get a few this year.
The goji berry plants are really growing. Nice to trellis both goji berries plants and the raspberries. We actually sampled our first blueberries on the farm today. That was a nice treat and milestone. It was nice having a few blackberries as well.
Simply Us Farm has been a giant sketch and prototype from the beginning. I like to think of the farm as a sketch and a prototype where the lines are drawn with a tractor and the trees and bushes are dots on the sketch. We are still learning what our farm can become. Join us as I walk you through the class I just completed on innovation.
First let me share what I learned by taking the IDEO Insights for Innovation class
Join me as we discover together what I learned about the farm from observing potential customers, interviews and pulling those insights together into meaningful statements that can help guide the plan for Simply Us Farm.
First we created a challenge. The challenge guides the project.
How might we create experiences and farm products for potential customers that appeal to their desire for healthy foods from local farms who create nutrient rich goods with sustainable practices?
One really important thought
It is important to note that this class wasn’t about marketing to the customer or confirming a pre-existing solution will sell. Instead we focused on understanding the customer, developing empathy and most important – inspired by the customer.
Here are some of my insights from the project
1) Better food oriented customers want something that can be integrated into their lifestyle, which requires a convenient location for regular and ongoing touch points or purchases. Since the farm is in a remote location, I called this the tyranny of distance“
A remote location is ok for less frequent interactions or purchases where the interaction becomes a day trip, especially with family, a common understanding is the concept of the roadside vegetable stand. How the buying and interaction patterns with the farm and customers are really part of a pattern of life for the customer.
2) Better food oriented customers are looking for more healthy options, but may not be able to articulate or even realize all of the options they want or might want
3) The concept of rent-a-tree / rent-a-bush isn’t something most of the people we interviewed have ever heard of. There were several concerns about risks associated with just having the production of one plant and what happens if someone picks off the wrong plant (intentionally or accidentally).
4) Many people seeking out healthier foods also want a deeper connection with the farm where their food is grown. This connection gives them confidence that there food is raised in a smart way that results in healthier food for them. The desire to have these roots is important to many customers. Something as simple as watching smiling customers interact with farmers at the farmers market highlights that desire for a deeper connection that results in a healthier food and lifestyle choices.
What was surprising, challenging, or easy about the process of crafting insights?
Having a consistent and structured approach that keeps digging in to ask why, reveals a lot about how the customer thinks. The process of asking why, why, why, why, why is quicker at revealing results than I thought it would be. The process of asking 5 whys revealed answers that sometimes surprised the wonderful people that I interacted with during the project.
This has been a busy week on the farm. We try to give a semi-annual update that talks about what is going on at the farm in detail. We’ve also been working this week on our potatoes, developing the back field and planting a few ornamental plants.
I had a few days on the farm this week to ponder the future plans for the farm. I’m taking a class with IDEO on Insights for Innovation. The class project revolves around the farm so it was good having time to ponder the future plans for the farm while working in the field.
The last few weeks have brought us rain every week. We had hoped to start planting this week, but it was just to wet to prep the beds for the winter squash, pollinators and summer cover crops. Instead we worked on planting olive trees and a Yaupon holly tree. We also trimmed the grass in the blackberry beds and put down mulch in part of the blackberry beds. We also started putting mulch around the mulberry trees and a few of the elderberry bushes in the food forest area.
We planted comfrey around the trees and bushes in the food forest area as we put the woodchip mulch down. It will take several work days to put all the mulch down and plant comfrey, but we are off to good start.
The garlic is putting out scapes. Those are great for cooking. The taste is similar to a green onion.
The bees are staying busy. We hope to have our first harvest of honey in June.
We planted our first hazel trees. This is a test planting to see how they do. We should have our first nuts from the hazel trees in 2-3 years, if all goes well.
We also pulled up drip feed lines so we can trim and to make it easier to cut the grass. Drip irrigation is great, but having lines everywhere does make for some management challenges when it comes to cutting grass and keeping everything looking nice and well managed.
We also had a few logs to move from a dead pine tree that we cut. Its been too wet to move the logs until now. It is nice to get them out of the way so I can mow that area.
The spring flowers are blooming and the bees are busy.
We’ve learned that young seedlings are often enough reason for a deer to want inside the anti-deer fence area, so we put cages around them.
Since we started the farm, one of the things I’m looked forward to is planting blueberries. We had a couple of delays putting them in, but now they are finally installed.
My wife Connie, came up with a wonderful idea. She suggested that we plant blueberries in the Hugelkultur mound. This gives the blueberries a wonderfully sunny place that is very well drained. The hugelkultur mound is approximately 85 feet long x 30 feet wide. It is now home to 20 blueberry plans (all rabbiteye), raspberries and goji berries. This area has easy access to drip irrigation and is inside the anti-deer fence. We planted a mixture of blueberries, including Columbus, IRA, Yadkin and Tifblue varieties. The raspberries are Fall Gold from Rabbit Ridge Nursery in Coates, NC. The raspberries are acclimated to this area, so we hope they will do well. We still need to put up the trellis for the raspberries and the goji berries.
Bees on the Farm, means Honey will be Available Later in the Year
We are excited to have bees on the property. We have partnered with a local beekeeper so we can offer honey from our farm later in the year. I’ll post a blog entry when the honey is available. The bees will also help pollinate our berries and crops.
We also plan to bees on your place in the mountains again this summer (www.troublesomegap.com) so we should have sourwood honey available as well.
The flowers are coming up on the farm, so spring isn’t that far away.
Office: Sanford, NC
Pickups: Sanford, NC
Email us to set up a tour or arrange a pickup
My wife and I love spending time outdoors. Having a farm and garden is a great way to do that. It also means we have more nutritious foods. Many of the people we have met on this journey like similar things and that makes it even better. I’m a mechanical engineer turned weekend farmer, so I’m just smart enough to know that there is a lot that I don’t know especially when it comes to farming, permaculture and food forests. Come on the learning journey with us!
We would love to share what we are learning so that you can grow at least part of your own food. It is within your grasp to grow part of the food that you eat. You can improve your food security and enjoy higher quality food in the process.
We also have limited opportunities for you to camp out on our farm, enjoying the serious peace and quiet. Sometimes we hold classes, usually on Food Preservation. Join us for those too.
Meet the Farmers
I’m a mechanical engineer turned weekend farmer, so I’m just smart enough to know that there is a lot that I don’t know especially when it comes to farming, permaculture and food forests. I’ve been heavily influenced in my love of farming and permaculture by my Mom and Dad and also by people like Jack Spirko (TSP) and Dan (Plant Abundance)
Connie has her certificate in Sustainable Agriculture from CCCC. She really enjoyed the classes at the community college and learned a lot. The program was a mixture of classes and work on the school farm. What she learned has really added to our technical proficiency on the farm.