Last weekend I finished building 15 �biological test beds�. I divided the forest into a grid of 15 sectors and placed a raised bed surrounded by a deer fence in each sector. I added compost/peat/perlite/greensand/kelp meal/rock phosphate to each bed and planted 100 ginseng seeds per bed. The intent is to discover what microclimates of sun/shade, heat/cold, wetness/dryness create the best growth. Once we figure it out, we�ll expand our woodland cultivation efforts.
Our Spring mushroom flushes are in full swing and we�re delivering Shiitake to local markets. There is a real demand for gourmet mushrooms - they are an essential part of our business plan.
Speaking of business planning, I�m finishing up the final paper for my University of Massachusetts Farm Marketing course. My paper will begin with a summary of my meetings with potential customers - local wholesalers and restaurants. I�ve completed those meetings and have insight into what products are in demand and how much I can charge for them.
That knowledge has enabled me to refine my business plan and understand potential income/expenses.
The end result is that there are a few structural reasons our farm will need a creative approach to sustainability. We are vegans and have 150 animals, all rescued from suboptimal situations. We will not eat/sell any of our animals so we�ll have a $10,000 annual animal expense with little income from them. As I�ll present in my paper, our accountant recommends creating a 501 c(3) non-profit farm sanctuary so that all animal related expenses will be charitable contributions taken from pre-tax income.
The combination of an educational mission/ecotourishm/charity plus sales of mushrooms, hard cider, and apples/berries is likely to be sustainable.
Just as we completed the process for becomming a federal/state licensed farmer winery, I�ll begin work on a non-profit farm sanctuary application.
Also, I�m working on our organic certification, starting with the mushrooms. We use organic spawn on fresh oak logs harvested from a forest that has never been exposed to herbicides/pesticides. Hopefully we�ll pass!
This weekend I�ll finish up the shade house in the summer pig paddock. As some have told me, �when I die, I hope I�m reincarnated as one of the Unity Farm creatures�. The irrigation goes back on line this weekend and I have a feeling there will be many broken heads to replace and pipes to repair after a challenging Winter with too much temperature variation.