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.