Crop planning

I’ve been pouring over my crop plan for next year. Looking at how things did this past year, how much of everything people got, and what the CSA members wanted more of and fewer. It is a little time consuming figuring out how much of each crop and variety to grow. There is no quick way to do it.

I started  with looking at the survey results for last year’s CSA. I was first interested in what people thought there was too much of and what there could have been more of. There were are few surprises, but mostly I was not surprised at what I saw. There was a resounding sentiment that there was too much swiss chard. 65 % of the people who took the survey said there was too much chard, the remaining 35% of the people was fine with getting chard every week of the CSA. Kale and beets were the other significant crops that
people thought showed up too much in their CSA share. The top vegetables that people would like to have seen more of were broccoli followed by peppers and carrots. Broccoli is always one that I could probably not grow enough of. I’ve tried to bump up production and this past year we had problems with ground hogs so we didn’t see any till September. Peppers also had a bad year, which resulted in low number, but I did bump up pepper numbers for next year.

Here is a little behind the scene look at how I plan and why things like kale and chard show up every week and why it is hard for me to grow enough broccoli. For the past three seasons I’ve filled the 2.5 acres so I have to figure out how I want to fit everything in each season. Some great crops take up much more space to get one item compared to others. For example in a 100 food bed I can grow 400 heads of lettuce, but only 122 heads of broccoli or brussels sprouts.

To see this visually the graph below may help. The graph shows how much space each crop was planned to use for 2015. Not all the crops show each crop on the bottom, but I just want to explain a couple. The three tallest lines are potatoes, corn, and winter squash respectively. They are all grown outside of the fence and don’t take up any space in my precious deer safe zone. crop usageHowever, those next four tallest lines to the far left are beets, brussels, broccoli, and carrots. Based on the survey I can drop the amount of beets I need to grow, but do I grow more carrots or broccoli to cover for the space freed up by the fewer beets? Plus, all four of those crops have a single harvest then that space is done where things like kale and chard I can harvest all season long from. Speaking of kale and chard, the kale is right above the .05 line and the chard is about .025 acres used. So for just .025 acres I can get a productive crop that will produce all season opposed to using up 4 times the space to give out 4 stalks of brussels sprouts for the month of October for each full share.

I don’t know if this helps for some of my reasoning for why some vegetables show up in much higher volumes than others. Ultimately, I am trying to get the most food to each of the CSA members in the space that I have while not over using the land and offering a good variety. I’d love to grow more broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and romanesca, but they are not very spatially efficient. Is that a phase? However, I am planning to grow less chard this next year and I’ve bumped up the amount of peppers and broccoli. We’ll see how it will all shake up. Maybe the broccoli will be amazing this year and next year’s survey will show too much broccoli and we won’t have enough chard. Probably not…





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