No matter how often we talk about how the seasons are flipped here in South Florida, we always end up answering endless questions about why we don't farm year round or the why the farm "closes" in the summer or why we don't take volunteers between May and August. I think there are a few reasons why it's difficult for most people to accept the fact that we "close" during the summer months. The biggest reason is marketing. National marketing. The rest of our country, literally, every other state, is ramping up local farm production at the exact time we are closing up shop. The majority of commercials, magazines, blogs and big box stores (including Whole Foods) are tuned into the country's rhythm, NOT our tiny micro climate in South Florida. The other major factor for the continued confusion is that some of our local farms DO stay open year round, particularly the farms with an emphasis on tropical fruit. These are older farms; farms that own their land and have invested in long term tree crops. LNB Groves is a great example of a local farm that is thriving year round, but you have to look at their business model, look at the products they sell at the market. They are not focusing on annual crops like we are. We focus on annual crops for many reasons, most importantly because we don't own land so we need to focus on crops that will make us a financial return asap because we don't truly know if we'll be farming on our land the next year, or in two or three years.
Although we'd love to buy land for our farm one day, we are perfectly happy with what we've got and we're proud that we are able to make the most of it. Making the most of it means we have to be creative about how we generate revenue and it means we have to slow down a lot during our off season.
Being creative about revenue for us means constantly rethinking our business plan and changing it to adapt our jobs to better meet the demands of our community. Our garden installations and maintenance services have grown a lot this year. Some of our garden clients want to keep their gardens growing year round so we stay pretty busy maintaining those and keeping them looking sharp through the toughest months of the year.
Every summer we also tend to spend a lot of our time and resources on new infrastructure or developing programs for the upcoming season. This summer we have BIG plans! We're moving our nursery to a new location (we're staying the Little River neighborhood) where we hope to build a fancy new greenhouse, a large demonstration garden, an outdoor classroom and a small shop which will be stocked with all of the good stuff you guys like to get from our farmers market booth, local eggs, bread, honey, pickles and of course freshly harvested veggies! Another big project this summer is our urban farmer incubator, which already has it's own page on our website, check it out. We're going to expand our workshop programing to offer farmy activities almost every week of the upcoming season at our new nursery location; things like beekeeping, kids workshops, ongoing garden classes and many other things we're exited to plan out over the next couple of months.
The actual farm spends the summer months in a combination of being covered in reusable tarps and quick cover crops. We use the tarps to keep weeds under complete control and to break insect life cycles. This is a vital aspect of our organic pest and weed management regiment. Cover crops like buckwheat and sunn hemp are planted towards the end of the summer and turned into the soil to add fresh organic matter to the fields right before we start using them again.
Honestly, the very best part about summer is that we get to spend extra personal time to be with family, read books and dive into hobbies. Our job during the growing season is super intense and for months at a time there are barely enough hours in the day to finish work responsibilities. The only way we stay happy and healthy is to offset the busy season with a slower season.