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January 30, 2012

There is so much to “getting the goods,” as I’m going to call it, when starting a farm (and a business, although I hate calling it that). In the past couple weeks, I have ordered and received seeds, applied to farmer’s markets, built a starter hoop house, written a rain water catchment proposal, bought a domain, signed my first lease agreement, and planted my first crop of raspberries.  I am continuously collecting used pallets, making seed flats out of the non-treated, used wood, and am constantly thinking about design and access to enough farmable land for year one.  I am also starting to build my tool and supplies inventory and continue to attend farmer events and network with the community about Mama Tee’s.  To say the least, there has not been one dull moment.

Most of my seed supply has arrived. I am due one or two more shipments in by the end of this week. Half of the raspberry canes (Red Heritage and Williamette varieties) and all of strawberries arrived first. Thanks to a 3′ x 50′ strip of land leased to me for 3 years, I was able to plant the raspberries within a week of them arriving. They are in dormancy, but I will be watching the weather and the raspberries closely to make sure if they start to bud, they will not get frost-bitten.

The first planting for Mama Tee’s Farmstead: raspberry canes. Two more varieties are due in this week and will fill the rest of the row. The t-posts and twine are used to keep the vines from hitting the ground and make it easier to harvest berries.

The hoop house has evolved.  The skin is up and I made slight adjustments to anchor the bottom a bit more securely. I am working on finding some used work benches to get in there but, for now, pallets will do just fine. I am collecting used pallets around town (Craigslist works wonders for this) and re-salvaging the  decent wood to make seed flats for my starts. I learned this trick from the CSA I worked for back in Humboldt County. It saves money and reduces the use of plastic. And they look awesome!

Where all the propagation will take place for Year one.

Re-salvaged, non-treated wood from pallets make great seed flats.

The strawberries, which are also delivered in a bare root and dormant state, are heeled in temporarily to await their final bedding establishment. More than likely, these plants will find their home in my backyard raised beds or another close by piece of land I am checking out.

I have also finished the rain water catchment proposal. This was a process: finding resources, estimating costs, and designing the system. Almost overwhelming at times. And, now that it is finished, it frustrates me with how unreasonably expensive it is for a farmer (and a land owner) to set-up a sustainable system for crop production. I am meeting with the land owners this week to discuss feasibility. Since their land is zoned Exclusive Farm Use, they might be able to get some grants or loans to help with creation of the pond. And, if they want to go ahead with this, I will be trying to raise funds through Kickstarter and applying for a few grants through rain water harvesting and drip irrigation suppliers to meet my ends on the cisterns and catchment system. This is a work in progress and will need support to get it implemented. And, as I told Danielle and Michael: ” I believe we  (as the small, sustainable farm movement) will not get any where until we start accessing the potential farming land available (not just the land already set up and ready to go) as well. Which, takes a hell of a lot more work to figure out and we need a shift in the old farming paradigm and policies to a new one that is better for the land (which is starting to happen) and better for the water (which needs to happen and actually might be more important in the long-term).”  So, stay tuned for more information and ways you can help.

Regardless of whether I seal the water deal on this acre, Mama Tee’s Farmstead is going to produce veggies and fruits this year. I still plan on selling at the Farmer’s Markets (veggie starts, veggies, fruits, pickles, and preserves), enlisting a few to several CSA members (email me if you are interested), having homesteading workshops, and possibly hooking up with a few local restaurants.  It has been fantastic how word of mouth opens up opportunities to farm in the Portland neighborhoods. I have already felt an out pouring of support and would like to thank, in no particular order: Friends of Family Farmers (Michele and Nellie), Seth, Mike D, Scott at Portland Purple Water, Clair Klock, Natalie, Aaron, Jessica, the other Aaron, Linda, Michael, Danielle, Julie, and Debbie.  Mama Tee’s can only survive with community support and Portland is the right place to be.

Mama Tee’s Farmstead is working with a local web hosting company to get the website up and running. Thank goodness I don’t have to do this myself! I will announce when it is up and active and will still run the blog (which will connect to the site) as often as possible. Look for it in another month or so.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 31, 2012 7:09 pm

    Ah, good progress, Carrie. I do believe that you’ll be able to call your farm a “business” with your head high. We need more businesses as thoughtful, sensitive and sustainable as your business model. Once we have them, the concept of “business” can be pulled up out of the muck. So keep it up!

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