Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let it grow, Let it grow, Let it grow (Part 1)

Here in the Portland area we received 4.5 inches of rain in the past month (since I’m writing this closer to the end of the month, chances are the amount will be higher).
Rain, while great for our water tables and washing all of last year’s dead leaves down my driveway, is not conducive to planting and harvesting (or highly lucrative farmer’s markets).

Friends, neighbors, people I’ve never met before in the grocery store, are all complaining that their got washed out in the past week and they’re waiting to replant.

While, as much as someone like me who barely gets around to mowing their lawn can empathize, regardless of the rain, this is going to be an even more interesting locally agricultural tied year for Little Pots & Pans Co.

Somewhere 50-70 miles south of us rows and rows (and fields and fields) of tomatoes have/are being planted, and some of those rows (and potentially a field or two) of crop yield will come to us, as I’ve been working with local farmers to contract grow vegetables for our tart fillings.

In past years, I’ve spent much time and energy running around sourcing (what I think will be enough) vegetables to make our tart fillings for the winter. At it’s best, the time spent was a great way to get to know regional farmers and what their ability to grow is. At it’s most frustrating last season became an organizational nightmare of trying to purchase produce, following up with farmers as to where it would be, and settle on a wholesale price (many farmers would rather sell direct to customers at farmer’s markets and take the sales risk over a guaranteed wholesale sale). Much running around for very little yield indeed.

This year, I decided it was time to take a more proactive approach. Using farm contacts from my customers (e.g. local grocery stores and food service providers) who purchase produce directly from regional farms, and a newly founded farmer-producer connection website underwritten by the Ecotrust, FoodHub, I put out requests for the amount of produce (tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant) we think we would need for the coming year.

The one thing that dawned on me (being consumed by the processing side of the food business) was whether or not I had missed planting season. Luckily, it was February when I was considering this and hit upon most farmers in planning season for their planting season.

In Part 2, I’ll talk more about the responses I received from the agricultural community and how far we’ve gotten in getting closer to crops, and how I have my fingers crossed for a blight-free robust growing season. 

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