"What do you do all winter?"
At this time of year I am often asked: "What do you do all winter?" I understand the curiosity. I also understand the sense that winter is a long stretch of time and that I wouldn't have much to do. It's definitely true that my workload decreases significantly in the winter; and I also feel as though winter will be a long stretch of time. After a very busy farming season, I'm ready for a bit of a break. But, I still have plenty of work to do and spring always comes sooner than I expect.
I love trying to figure out how to improve the farm. I think about what I can change to improve the experience for my CSA members. I need to consider the recommendations proposed by CSA members in the end-of-year survey. I need to collect and consider all my field notes and harvest information. What worked well last year? What didn't work all that well? How might I be able to do a better job? Attending workshops and speaking with other farmers is a great way to get some fresh ideas. In December I attended the annual Ecological Farmers of Ontario conference, and later this month I am attending the Guelph Organic Conference. I also have a stack of farming books to read this winter.
Seed catalogs have arrived in the mail and I have been busy crop planning, which means figuring out how much of each vegetable I will grow, when it will be seeded, what variety to grow, and how much seed to buy. With 30+ different vegetables and 100+ varieties, this takes time. I'm almost finished this task and seeds are about to be ordered. This might seem early but seeding begins at home under lights in less than a month; and these first tomato plants get transplanted into the heated greenhouse in mid-March in hopes of harvesting the first cherry tomatoes at the end of June!
I have also updated the website and CSA information. I still need to review my fertility plan, as well as my pest & disease control plan, and purchase any supplies needed.
On top of doing all this for Crooked Cucumber, I also do many of these same tasks for a few other farms where I work as a consultant....
And, I have been busy bookkeeping. I need to record all my income & expenses into accounting software so that my accountant has all the information required to submit my taxes. This is probably my least favourite task. I didn't get into farming because I wanted to run a business, and I always put off bookkeeping. But, a farm is a business after all, and there are tax returns to be done...
So, this is why I still have plenty of work to do through the winter, and why I always feel as though spring comes sooner than I expect. Nevertheless, I always carve out time off and make more time for family and friends, and I hope you can do the same this winter.