Saturday, November 7, 2009

Planting Party Weekend at Farmer Mac's

This weekend is planting weekend at Farmer Mac's Berries. We are in a transition phase on the farm. Blueberries have a life of about 25 years and next year will be our 25th year. Can you believe we've been doing this for that long?

Are any of you customers from the very first days when we were selling out of the packing shed that we turned into the downstairs of my house? Remember the garage doors on both ends and the drive through lane in the middle for the ancient green volvo station wagon we used to use to bring harvested blueberries in out of the field? Do any of you remember Ralph Sanderlin? He was the best friend and farm hand that we had in those days. I still miss Ralph.

Anyway, I'm sidetracking myself with memory lane.

We started about 3 years ago planting small plants to replace the aging bushes on the farm. Our plan was to convert the front field first then the back field. To that end, we started a nursery on the far end of the front field with O'Neal plants and we actually transitioned about 1/2 of the field into new plants. Then the Easter freeze wiped out half of our plants right away and the residual effects have nearly finished off the rest. Many of you may know that some customers dubbed the sad, puny looking O'Neal plants as our 'Charlie Brown' plants. We've now taken out all of these Charlie Browns from the far corner of the back field and have replanted with new O'Neal plants. We did that yesterday on day one of marathon planting weekend.

Earlier, in October, mom and I moved all of the sticks (small New Hanover plants) that were growing in the back field nursery into their permanent locations in the front field. The rest of plants for the back field will also go into the front field for right now as it has more free space than the back field does. We put permanent plants in the 4 row nursery section in the back field where the New Hanover plants were temporarily residing.

So what this sounds like is a confusing way to say we've been, and continue to be, planting fools. It also says that we move plants around alot. If we were larger with more land at our disposal, this wouldn't be necessary. Since we aren't and don't have more space, we are trying to disrupt production as little as possible. We have a 3 year transition plan in place where each year we'll have reduced production, but by the 3rd year we should be able to start harvesting on what we already have in the ground. After this transition phase, our production should ramp back up to what we consider normal levels.

I hope that all of you will bear with us during this renewal process. It happens only every 20 - 25 years, but with the freeze problems coming right at the very worst time possible, our transition phase expanded from 3 to 6 years.

And if you're not busy, you're welcome to join us on the farm today. We've had such support and assistance offered to help get these plants in the ground given the short window of opportunity to ensure the healthiness of the bare root plants. We've had lots of help already and we are truly and honestly grateful for the generosity of our friends and neighbors for volunteering their services to us. Some helped with row preparation, some with planting, others with irrigation, and just as important, some with cooking and feeding us all and with child care. Every single one of these volunteers are appreciated.

I had photos but something happened to the conversion and they are now gone. Grrrrr! I'll take more today and upload them this evening. The Planting Extraordinairre Group for Friday for whom we are deeply indebted include: Lars, Stan, Mary, Clayton, Bradley, Carla, Clarence, Bob, Margaret, Hollie, Lou and Mariah.

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