AMES, Iowa — For many beginning vegetable farmers, surviving the first few years however possible is the top priority, even if that means making do with less efficient processes or infrastructure. But Michael Kilpatrick argues that establishing efficient systems from day one could be the difference between success and failure.
Michael and his brother, Philip, started Kilpatrick Family Farm in Middle Granville, New York, in 2005. In less than a decade, they successfully grew the farm to over 500 acres, with 15 acres in field vegetable production rotated on 50 tillable acres; 100 acres of pasture for poultry; and 350 acres of woodlot. The brothers pushed the boundaries in winter vegetable production, and sold their products via a 250-member CSA, farmers markets, co-ops, restaurants, institutional buyers and wholesale.
“A lot of farms go out of business in the three- to five-year range, because they haven’t gotten those systems in place,” says Michael, who also offers consulting services to vegetable farmers. “Fifty percent of labor and expense on a farm is usually spent after the crop is grown. Being able to save as much time and do everything as efficiently as possible at the beginning is key for taking the first steps to having cash every month to support the business.”
Michael will teach sessions on this and other topics at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2018 annual conference, “Revival,” Jan. 19-20 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. Register at http://pficonference.org, or contact Erica Andorf: firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 232-5661. Those who pre-register by Jan. 11 will save $10 per day. Special rates are available for students and PFI members.
· In “Pack Shed and Post-Harvest Efficiency,” Michael will share principles of a well-designed facility, tools and equipment to make the job easier, and systems that speed up the process and reduce stress levels.
· In “Field Preparation, Cultivation & Fertility,” Michael will cover the principles of field preparation, cultivation and fertility, and how these principles relate to various scales of vegetable production.
· In “Winter Vegetable Production,” farmers will learn about principles of winter production, structures needed, how to plan for winter-long harvests and tips for preventing pests and disease.
· In “GAP, FSMA and Post-Harvest Handling for Food Safety,” Michael will unpack the regulations associated with Good Agricultural Practices and the Food Safety Modernization Act, discuss areas where farmers should focus and show easy ways to track the required information.
These sessions are part of a suite of offerings for fruit and vegetable farmers on topics ranging from orcharding to accessing capital, CSA models to injury prevention – and more:
· Managing a Young & Growing Orchard
· Non-traditional Methods of Accessing Capital
· Ecology & Management of Iowa’s Common Vegetable Insect Pests
· Using Habitat to Increase Beneficial Insects on Fruit & Vegetable Farms
· Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital –Alternative Models & the Future of CSAs
· Physical Strengthening, Recovery & Injury Prevention for Vegetable Farmers
· Separating Science From Pseudoscience
· Q&A: Hiring Migrant and Seasonal Workers and Year-Round Employees
· Learning From On-Farm Research: Horticulture
· Pragmatic Approaches to Sustainability and Profitability
· Growing Better Brussels Sprouts
· Off-Target Movement: Can Herbicides Be Kept in Place?
· Indoor Mushroom Production and Marketing
· Q&A: Strengthening and Recovery With Tony Gallo
· Foraging for Market: Morels and Greens
· Land Access: Pitfalls and Potential
Soil Health Short Course: Those who want to gain an in-depth understanding of soil health and the role played by soil microbes and farm management practices can sign up for a pre-conference short course – “Soils: Cultivating a Deeper Understanding” – that runs Thursday, Jan. 18, from 1-6:30 p.m., and Friday, Jan. 19, from 8-11:30 a.m., at the Scheman Building. The course is divided into four sections that move from the basics into more advanced topics. Certified crop advisors can earn 7.5 CEU credits by attending this course.
Keynote Address: The conference will also feature a keynote address by English farmer and bestselling author James Rebanks, who raises native Herdwick and Swaledale sheep and a British cattle breed called Blue Greys, in the mountains of northern England.
In his address – “An English Shepherd’s Vision to Revive Rural America” – James will share what it’s like to farm using old ways in the modern world, both the challenges and opportunities. He’ll discuss how traditional ways provide many of the answers we need for a farming future in which the efficacy of antibiotics, wormers, pesticides, herbicides and oil may all be reduced or in scarce supply.
Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2018 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; Clif Bar & Co.; Grain Millers; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Niman Ranch; Premier 1 Supplies; and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
— Practical Farmers of Iowa
For more news from Iowa, click here.