Many have asked about how the wind damage of April 24 will impact our season and our long-term viability. Many have spoken words of encouragement and support, offered ideas, and asked for a plan.
It has been the expressions of encouragement from customers and friends that keep us going even when it is discouraging to lose two costly hoop houses in three years. Because people like you have been asking “What can I do” and “what can our community do,” I have been told by a friend that I just need to ask for help.
First let me give you a little background. On several occasions in recent years I have been asked why and what exactly do you do? The answer is not always comfortable. Sometimes it is said that the farm is small, an effort at sustainable, biodynamic, diverse method of food production sold locally, with goals of being fresh, nutrient dense and wholesome.
This work was not begun with a smartly defined, clearly articulated business plan, it was more a result of circumstances, interests and passions. I have referred to the task as a calling, and have felt an obligation to pursue, and persist at this project even though sometimes it seems we go backwards more often than we go forwards.
One supporter made it sound like I am an old testament prophet when he wrote “you are doing the right thing. An important thing – precisely because so many think it odd. Growing clean, quality, healthy food for people is a noble and cursed task. And you’ll continue to occupy an uncomfortable and prophetic space in Sioux county for many years. But the Lord will be right with you in that space and he will make you stand.”
Different people purchase food from us for different reasons, and we appreciate all of them.
I would really like to continue our work. The financial reality of our farm is such that the net income after expenses does not allow for us to set money aside for replacement of high tunnels. We take a good portion of net income each year for new equipment purchases to improve our ability to produce food across the farm.
Here are the facts and figures on our recent loss: The high tunnel space we had prior to the wind damage in 2012 was 7,152 square feet spread over 3 high tunnels: 2 26’x96’ and 1 30’x72’. Today we are down to 2,160 square feet. This really limits our early and late season potential. It is precisely the early and late season, which has given us income and opportunity to serve our customers beyond the standard expectation. It is where our growth in recent years has been
I could go on in detail about how this all works but it is beyond the point. You can ask me questions if you’d like to know more.
A friend asked; “What can we do?”
First, I would like to harvest what is currently growing in the space. Clean up will go much faster and easier when we can walk about without watching out for produce.
I have looked at the cost of replacing the tunnel or tunnels we have lost. They were Farm Tek Premium Round Tunnels. It was after I had purchased and put up two of them that I learned that they are not the strongest. The third we put up is also a Farm Tek but a gothic style with braces in the roof trusses. It has 3” posts compared to 2” and they are bolted to concrete. The fourth is an actual heated greenhouse from Rimol Greenhouse and it has polycarbonate endwalls on a tubular steel frame, and each post and bow is bolted to concrete.
The cost of this particular tunnel today is about $6500 from Farm Tek but there would additional materials needed to be purchased locally bringing it to about $8500 for one. If I were to rebuild I would really lean to using Rimol Greenhouses. I did look at costs. To put up two 30 by 96 high tunnels would cost about $27,000 in materials. To put up 1 high tunnel 30 by 144 would cost about $18,500 in materials plus site preparation.
The next step would be choosing a location. We could use the same place but we would be exposed to winds from the east and south. If we put it in the NW corner of our property we would need to prepare the site, but it would be more sheltered.
Granted none of this can happen without some funding. That’s where I need your help — your brainstorming, possibly your help with a fundraiser or two, any ideas you might have to help us invest in the future of this farm and our ability to continue to provide the fresh food that we love.
I am open to ideas and suggestions. I am only sending this to a short list of people who have expressed an interest in helping, and I would like to ask for your help and ideas in any fundraising efforts we work on moving forward, whether they take the shape of a per-plate dinner prepared with our food at The Fruited Plain, a Kickstarter campaign, or other ideas that we hope you’ll help us come up with.
Please let me know what you think.