survey

Chris Sawyer css at ioa.com
Mon Sep 3 08:58:12 EDT 2001


I just tried your site with bravenet, and it did not load. 7:55 am monday should have been
light traffic on the server. I did get the ad banner but no content. After waiting 2 minutes
I gave up. I had previously been to the site and did not answer because I think that if
everyone puts the cards on the table about the high value crops they will no longer be high
value.

In our case here the mountain ag research station produce seed for blight resistant tomatoes
and everyone grows only them, thereby making the box price drop in season to the 5 dollar
range for conventional produce.

Besides you don't ask who is certified organic and who is not. That does make a difference.
I for instance am certified. We sell through a co-op wholesaler,
www.carolinaorganicgrowers.com. Our product availability and price sheet along with codes
that tell what farm is offering how much of each commodity is posted on-line weekly on
Mondays. Our orders come in each Monday night and we only harvest what is sold. One week we
left 25,000 in produce unsold "on the
table" so to speak. We have a weekly run that crosses the state and even gets into South
Carolina. We also sell to the Wellspring grocery chain among others.

My particular farm, www.jakesfarm.com, sells at tailgate, by subscription using a four week
package system, and retail at tailgate and at the farm stand. I bought this land four years
ago and paid 6K an acre, then had to put in septic, well, roads, blacktop, packing
structures, and about 10K in drip irrigation. We have 15 miles of drip line which I only
used for a month this year. In fact it has been too wet to even mow grass for three weeks,

and I wonder how
we are ever going to control the flea beetle because any spraying will be totally
ineffective. Last year our loss figured by a reputable CPA was 85K. I have 6000 sq ft of
greenhouse, heated and we sell and grow year round. Since I turn 52 this month and am
disabled with ruptured discs I use a lot of 'hired' help. We have doubled the income this
year and cut payroll by half, using interns, and wwoof'ers who have been a blessing in many
ways. One of which is the
fun of meeting and working with those from overseas.

We have a lot of high value greens and such, but the market does not always move them. One
thing we always sell out of is corn, but that is a low income producer for the sq ft
involved.  There is a large farm in the area that grows, processes and markets medicinals,
gaia herb farm in Brevard NC.

I also think this survey is not going to work because there are too many differences in
customers from the east, west, north, and south. What may sell in Washington will not to
these rednecks in NC> Many have not even seen okra for example and have to be taught what to
do with it.

I have one greenhouse planted in chilies and peppers because it is too wet outside to grow
them. The other in okra. I hope to have great sales on these two around Thanksgiving when
the other farms have already ceased because of frost. Our average first frost is Oct 15.
Those vegetables that are considered gourmet, like heirloom tomatoes and those that don't
ship well are the highest return for us, that is assuming we can sell them. I composted
about 2000 pounds
of tomatoes this year and did not pick another 2000 lbs from our two acre tomato patch.
Besides a CSA farm cannot attract customers without growing all, the profitable and the
unprofitable to serve our customer, else they would leave because of not enough variety. In
this manner we lower the income we could have produced possible with our six acres in
production.

We also have another 58K invested in machinery, like two tractors, one for plowing and
another for cultivating, and a back hoe for turning the compost and loading and moving
'stuff'.

Broccoli is a high value crop, so is lettuce for the sq ft involved. Potatoes were supposed
to be good this year but we experienced fierce competition from Albert's organic, who is
shipping in from CA at the ridiculous price of .40/lb for cert organic yukons, we always got
at least .80-1.00/lb in previous years. This blindside hurt. Same thing with carrots. I
won't grow them anymore because Ca carrots are shipping in here for .15/ lb and I can't even
weed a
carrot patch for that.

We also grow strawberry, blackberry, and blueberry but I won't even get into that now. They
are very high labor crops in the weeding arena, and only produce for a short season but have
to be tended year round.

I farm because I like it, I don't have to work any longer, but sitting and standing hurt
because of my physical condition, and this farm gives me a reason to keep moving, and hence
I hope extend my productive life a few more years. If we can just make enough money to meet
the payroll that will be ok with us. We do eat the best food in the world here on Jake's. We
plant those crops we like to eat, cause Lord knows how fickle the market can be, and if we
can't
sell it at least we can eat it.


It is too far and too much hassle to give the food to charity, and so far, in spite of my
pleadings, they won't come and pick it up. It does make for some mighty fine compost.

In closing I would add this is my fourth year of market farming, having been a contractor
and construction leader for the past 20 years before this venture. We attend courses and
seminars on growing and marketing whenever possible, and for the past two winters I have
attended the comm college farm programs. There is a higher level of co-operation among us
farming in the co-op in order to avoid gluts in the wholesale markets. We meet every Jan and
lay the cards
on the table. COG has 32 farms as members.

I hope this info is useful to you.

Chris Sawyer
Jake is my yellow lab. He kills the darn rabbits and is training Bo and Lucas to do the
same.




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