Thursday, April 14, 2016

Unity Farm Journal - Third Week of April 2016

The Spring of 2016 continues to be highly volatile with hot, cold, snow/ice, and wind alternating, sometimes on the same day.    The wet/heavy snow combined with 40mph winds caused one of our large poplars to fall.  Although I do most of the forestry work at Unity Farm, I draw the line at activities that are likely to kill me.   Freeing a fallen 5 ton popular that is caught on a nearby tree qualifies as a true �widow maker�.   Next week a local tree company will use a crane to fix the problem.  At the same time they will cut down two old dead cedars that are about to fall on power lines.   I also draw the line on electrocution.

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.
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