Sugar and frustrating

To correct my last post, Noah thinks we put out about 130 buckets to collect sap. And this brings me to why last post I could not tell you how much food goes to each place. No one knows! The farm has no accurate form of record keeping. An example is that no one counted the number of buckets we put out.

I hope to change this. I have taken on the project of creating an accurate record-keeping system. I think this will benefit both the farm and myself immensely. This is going to be a great trial run for me of managing records on a farm. Also, these records will provide me with some basic info on farm logistics that I can then use when Caitlin and I start our farm. However, I feel the most important part of this process is creating good business habits for myself.

As far as the farm is concerned, I think that this information can help them to better organize the farm program. This brings me into my experience on the farm so far. I have enjoyed all the activities and opportunities open to me on the farm, and I have been slightly frustrated and confused. My frustration and confusion is from feeling like there is a lack of effective management on the farm. This farm is definitely not a well-oiled machine. There is a gross of inefficiencies and major lack of using all resources to their full potential. As an example, we still have not hammered out the specifics of our responsibilities. Originally, we were told we would focus on the gardens and have some animal chores (about 1 hr a day). Then we were told that we would be taking over for the animal manager and have 3 hrs a day of animal chores plus implementing a new animal management plan. Now we are told we will only have 1 hr a day of animal chores. We are each contracted for 20 hrs a week on the farm; consequently, 7 hrs a week of animal chores is much different than 21 hrs a week.

Part of the problem with this whole situation is that after we were hired the farm was restructured. It went from a farm manager with an animal caretaker to separate garden and animal managers (each vying for our time). On top of this, the hired animal manager will be leaving March 29th – June 6th. For more clarification on this, his new management-intensive grazing regime (translate as: order of magnitude more work and planning) cannot start until the snow melts around mid-April or early May. So the new animal manager will not be here to do any of the actual work required for his plan, not to mention he will not be here for the arrival of the bees he ordered. This is another example of the lack of planning and management at the farm. I feel the directors of the non-profit should not have let him take the time off or shouldn’t have let him undertake several new projects. Ultimately, this has created some confusion about our roles here. Caitlin and I are going to meet with the head honchos on Monday to clarify this: are we expected to do the job of the animal manager while he is gone?

Don’t get me wrong; this is a great experience so far. I think that I will have some real learning opportunities that would not be available if the farm ran perfectly. As I mentioned earlier, I am going to design a record keeping system. Also, I will learn about bee keeping by being in charge of caring for a few hives. One of the greatest attributes to this farm is that everyone encourages you to take on whatever projects interest you (regardless of experience) and supports you through the learning process.

In this light, I told Noah I was interested in learning more about field management (crop rotations, companion planting, cover crops), so he gave me the crop plans for 2005-2008 and asked me to evaluate them. Noah said he would love to learn better ways to manage the fields and encouraged me to do the research. This is invaluable to me, having a mentor who is willing to let me experiment with approaches other than his own.

Tomorrow we are going to do our first maple sap boil. I can’t wait! I’ll write soon and have some new pictures (I added a link to my flickr page at the top).


Becky said...

It's so funny that you're implementing a record keeping system for the farm, where you're an intern. And I'm implementing a record keeping system for district hospitals, where I'm an intern.

And I have similar frustrations about the nonprofit I'm working for.

Keep writing, I like to know what you're doing and can't wait to visit when I get back.

Anonymous said...

where is the link to your pictures??

Jeremy said...

The link to my pictures is on the top left under the picture on this page. It is under Links and called My Pictures.