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HeartEye Village CSA - Our test farm
Original article written October 2009
HeartEye Village CSA in Lafayette, Colorado was planned using the Fantastic Farm and Garden Calculator. It is roughly a 1/4 acre micro-farm (actual planted area is about 4000 s.f.) with a 25 person CSA, and a farm stand. We also sell to a few restaurants and a food co-op. The retail sales calculator on the Farm version of the Fantastic Farm and Garden Calculator helps to determine retail sale potential.
We are growing 37 different annual crops, and around 90+ different varieties. We also have a perennial/permaculture forest garden area with even more varieties of plants. (Perennials are not currently part of the FFGC since they are not replanted each year.)
Since this was our first year of growing for CSA members and retail sale, we didn't have a clue about how much we should plant of each item. The Fantastic Farm and Garden Calculator simplifies the planning process by allowing you to enter how much growing space you have, how many people you want to feed, and offers a list of some of the most common crops you can plant. With each crop, you enter details such as: how many pounds per person do you want to provide each week, how many pound for retail (in the farmer version of the calculator), succession planting dates, average days to harvest, and more. Once you enter all your details and update the calculations, the Fantastic Farm and Garden Calculator does the rest of the work and gives you details on: Total row feet needed per plant type, the number of row feet per week to plant (if succession planting), the number of plants required, and the annual yield per plant type.
How has it worked for us? Well, it definitely saved us a LOT of time and brain damage trying to figure out all these details by ourselves. The time savings alone is worth the very low fee to use it.
How accurate has it been? We weigh all of the produce we harvest and are keeping very good notes on harvest weights, harvest dates, as well as when we seeded or planted seedlings. In late August we compared our notes with the harvest totals as well as our expected harvest dates or date range, and I have to say that we were very impressed. I'd say that the majority of our crops are producing close to the figures the Fantastic Farm and Garden Calculator gave us, in some cases -- more!
We did have a few crops that were producing less than the figures the calculator gave us, these were herbs and leafy greens. For example: We had five rows of various types of lettuce that were succession planted 1-2 weeks apart. We planted the lettuce on the side of the garden that is in shade for part of the day, hoping that the shade would help it from bolting too soon once the weather got hot. The first row we planted had germination problems probably due to watering issues. That row also had not received llama manure as fertilizer, and the growth was extremely poor until we started adding a fish & seaweed based organic fertilizer. Because of these issues, our lettuce ended up being a month behind what we projected. But once all five rows were going strong, we had a LOT of salad mix for people. We also had issues with growth with our spinach which was also planted in the shady side of the garden.
Overall the figures the calculator gave us were pretty accurate, and with feedback from users, the Fantastic Farm and Garden Calculator will be updated as needed. The only update we saw a need for was to allow the user to input their own plant spacing in case they don't want to use a biointensive method, or prefer different spacing than what was locked in. (That has been updated in the calculator.)
Final 2009 Harvest Update: Now that we have had our final harvest, we took a hard look at our figures, and our 4000 s.f. of growing space produced over 3700 pounds of produce. In comparing harvest totals for each crop to the estimates that the Fantastic Farm and Garden Calculator gave us, while herbs and leafy greens did poorly, most of our crops produced about as much as the calculator projected, and many produced much more. Click here for the full report from our pilot study farm.