As the farm activities of soil preparation and planting continue through spring towards summer, I am reminded of how much has changed in the way our farm operates.
About forty years ago, I completed our first farm market building. This structure, the green building beside our parking lot, was constructed from lumber sourced from trees cut here at the farm and discounted trusses found at a lumber yard in Concord. We started selling items in the middle of July when the first vegetables were ready and finished on Labor Day. Corn and squash grew where all our other buildings are now located.
In 1982 I didn't even know what a "point of sale" system was. All we needed was a steel cash box, and cashiers were taught to count change back to customers. Now it takes our highly skilled general manager, Jeff Mills, to keep the modern computer based system and the entire market up and running every day. It has been a long time since I have cashed out a customer!
With our farm market now opening in March, we start harvesting lettuce and greens and recently added cucumbers and tomatoes to our early picking schedule. All of this has come through a very intensive growing process, broadly referred to as "CEA" for Controlled Environment Agriculture. Many of you witness the application of various covers to our field crops. Some of you have been able to visit our advanced hydroponic lettuce, tomato, and cucumber greenhouses to see these crops growing.
The knowledge and skill required to operate these systems successfully is the result of the hard work by farm manager Kyle Lacasse. He has participated in a CEA short course at the University of Arizona. His friendship with Dr. Merle Jensen, a University of Arizona researcher and world recognized expert in CEA, has further sparked his interest in these growing techniques.
Land and soil preparation for field planting continues each day. My father did this with his 1946 Ford 2N Tractor. (I still own this perfectly operable machine. (It's tucked away in my garage, missing all the safety features of a new tractor.) Today, when our current plow tractor heads out, it does not even have a dashboard with any instruments. Instead, it's a screen and many buttons. It is heated and air-conditioned and may be pulling a piece of equipment linked to a GPS.
Wes Thomas, our operations manager, works many hours with his crew preparing our fields and gardens. He figures out this equipment a lot faster than I do, and I am sure he appreciates his air ride seat over the cold metal pan seat found on my father's tractor!
Well, times change, but our commitment to farming continues. What is on my "to list" for today? Many things, including checking in to see how our rock picking crew is doing. Some things never change about farming in New Hampshire!!