Welcome to the 2018 growing season!
Wilson Home Farms grew from the fields of Tait Farm Foods and the classrooms of Penn State’s College of Agriculture. My goal then, as it is now, was to grow the produce my customers wanted at the quantities they desired (and had space for) as close to them as possible (their backyard). I started the company in the spring of 2012 with one season of growing experience. Fast-forward to 2018, with six years behind me, Wilson Home Farms has gradually changed and was due for a refinement.
It has always been my goal to not grow my company faster than I could physically and mentally keep up while maintaining a high level of quality. In 2017 I began toeing that boundary line. I did, for the first time, hire a part-time employee to assist me, largely with new installations in the spring, but took him on my garden management trips to get a feel for what it would be like to manage an employee. I asked myself “what would it be like if this employee was out here on their own?” My answer, I began to realize was, chaos. I was holding too many of my methods, techniques, planting schedules etcetera in my head. Rather than help, my employee was more like a shadow, he could not do anything without me walking a step ahead of him.
I also began to question the general “bi-weekly” management system I have been employing since the conception of the company. Bi-weekly is a great catch-all, but I found myself either needing more trips in the spring, or needing less in the summer. While it is almost a perfect interval, bi-weekly does not adequately reflect the needs of each individual client’s field plan or leave room for a variety of client types (Hands-on vs. Hands-off for example).
All of this has led me to entirely re-imagine the generation of my field plans for each customer as well as the schedule that is created from each field plan. I started at the beginning of January by determining what crops and varieties I wanted to offer. I built them into a planting schedule, then I looked at that planting schedule and refined it to create “planting weeks” each month. Following this, I was able to see when each of these crops would be ready for harvest. I analyzed, I added new varieties of some crops, like Leeks, to help extend the harvest season for each crop on the list. My goal was to create a near continuous harvest of each crop during its expected planting season. For some crops, there was no room for change; Peas are an example of this. I can only get one good planting in the spring, and hope for one in the fall. Other crops however, like the Leeks I mentioned; I was able to add planting dates and new varieties to have a harvest period from the middle of August to the middle of November. This new field plan tool has also allowed me to estimate the trips required to manage each crop, allowing me to dial in the number of trips required for a garden (and in turn the price), while also allowing me to offer the option of these additional management trips to my customers.
In 2012 I only offered traditional soil gardens and what I was calling “CSA-style” garden management. I have added a huge number of services since then, some of which you may be aware of, some you may not.
The list could continue into minutia, but I will stop it here.
This season I am introducing a more “A-la-carte” option system for my garden management customers. This starts, as it always has, by choosing your crops. I have updated my “Vegetable Checklist” to reflect the changes I have made to the field plans. Using my new tool, I will be able to more accurately determine square foot requirements for each crop, and when it will return to open space. Oh! I almost forgot one of the best parts: part of the new field plan is a custom field map that shows the location of the crops throughout the season. This portion of the field plan tool has allowed me to achieve higher accuracy for planning as well as a great way to document each year’s layout. I will offer my services a-la-carte as well. My basic service offering will be planting only and be dictated by the planting schedule. I will then offer additional trips for things like weeding, irrigation adjustments, bed preparation, fertilization, scouting and pest / disease management. This is all to create a truly customizable service for each of my clients.
Thank You & Happy Farming,