Winter on a Farm

One of my new resolutions is to blog more often.  I really enjoy writing and I don’t get very many chances to indulge my habit.  I stay very busy as you guys can probably imagine.  I often think to myself that I really have two full time jobs and one part time.  Teaching and being a mom of course are my full time jobs and then farming I consider part time, although at times it takes over.  One of the problems with blogging more, means I have to come up with more topics to write about.  I can’t just keep updating, because eventually that keeps getting monotonous.  One idea I had, is to talk about what each month means for our farm.  Most outsiders who don’t know much about farming probably think that wintertime is a slow time or a vacation time for farmers.  I can definitely compare that to teaching, most outsiders think summer break is a vacation.  But just like a teacher preparing for a new year’s class, farmers are preparing for a new year’s worth of growing.  I can also add that if you are a farmer who has livestock, there really never is a break.  The animals still have to be cared for, fed, and checked on daily.  We basically consider ourselves grain farmers even though we have pigs and chickens.  Although the sweet potatoes are a fun piece of our operation, it is still in the beginning stages, so we are still calling ourselves grain farmers.  I can’t speak for other farmers(our operation is small) but the winter time tends to be less stressful for us.  We aren’t rushing to meet the next deadline or stressing over getting this planted/harvested.  The things that my husband does during January are usually things that I don’t have to be a part of.(silent yayy from me)  He usually works on equipment and helps other farmers in the area work on their equipment.

Conferences/Conventions are another big part of what we do in January.  This past week actually my husband has been in Savannah, GA for the fruit and vegetable conference.  He was pretty excited, because he spent a whole day learning about sweet potatoes.  Louisiana State was there and they gave him lots of information and contacts for sweet potatoes.  Louisiana has done a lot of research on potatoes.  He is also going to the National Sweet Potato Convention in a couple of weeks and this one is a big one.  It will have people from all over the world to talk about just sweet potatoes.  I’m sure everyone at home is reading this and saying geez that sounds boring.  Believe me I know it does, but when you want to do something you have to do all the research that you can about it.  These conferences are also great times to make contacts for selling our product.  The husband also has to go to our grant orientation this month.  So he is going to be staying busy learning!

One more thing that we are doing is cleaning out our sweet potato trailers and selling the last of the potatoes.  I am happy to say we have almost sold out.  Over the next few weeks, we will be boxing up the last few and throwing away what we can.  The goal is to be down to just the potatoes we are saving for seed by February 1st.

We will be watching our fields and caring for those crops as needed.  As of right now they don’t need anything, but with crops you have to check on them ever so often.  Well just typing this list made me tired, so you can imagine how it makes us feel.  Plus as I already said, January is one of our slower months.  Oh yeah one more thing we squeeze in watching NFL playoffs too!

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I have an exciting announcement!

Well 2016 is here and we get a fresh start with a brand new year.  I am both excited and scared for this year.  We have struggled a lot over the last two years and there is a lot riding on this next year.When my husband came home 3 years ago from the southern vegetable conference and started telling me about sweet potatoes, I laughed at first.  Then I listened and we decided to give it a go and we said all along we would give it 3 years.  It takes more than one year to see if a business will make money and we wanted to give it a fair shot.  So this is the third year and there is a part of me that is scared that by the end of the year we may have to wave a white flag.  But then again, things may go perfectly this year, so only time will tell.  We have definitely learned a lot about sweet potatoes over the last two years.  My husband has all our equipment set up so that it plants just right and we have added some things that are very helpful.  We have also made some good connections for selling our product and have options for more next year.  In our first year we lost a lot of profit, because we made stupid mistakes.  In our second year we lost profit, because of things beyond our control.  I do have to say that on a year when we had a devastating drought having sweet potatoes was great.  Sweet potatoes are more drought tolerant than field crops and although they were affected, they still did well.  We were still able to fill up both our storage trailers and ship sweet potatoes all over the country.

With so much riding on this year, I guess I need to make my exciting announcement.  Late last Fall, we decided to apply for WNC ag options grant that would help us to add some things to our operation.  We just received our letter that we got the grant!  My little family is so excited that we are going to be able to keep making ourselves grow.  This could be a make or break us year.  And I’m hoping the grant will definitely make us for the year.  My prayers are for a great growing season, so that we can see what that looks like with sweet potatoes.  Then maybe we will know where to go from here.  Oh 2016 I am happy to see you!