*Note that I wanted to post some pictures of us working on the farm, but I forgot my camera two weeks in a row! Luckily, Rachel came along this week and got some photos… Thank you to her for sharing!!!
This week, Jacquie Monroe shared with us what Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays look like on Monroe Organic Farms.
Last week I started to tell you about a week on the farm finishing only Sunday and Monday. Today I will talk about the next three days.
As I mentioned before, I have worksheets I use to tell not only the employees what to pick each day, but also to tell the working members on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday what to put into each bag. This worksheet breaks down each Distribution Center into Single, Half and Full Shares; adding the totals of each category so that I know how many total Shares. Cucumbers, for example, are calculated to give the Single Share one, the Half Share two and the Full Share three. These numbers are multiplied to the total number of each category and I get a total number of how much to pick. The working members know how many cucumbers to give each share and I have a total number to be picked..all in one swoop of the pen!
I do this Sunday evening for picking on Monday for Tuesday Distribution; again on Monday night for Tuesday picking for Distribution on Wednesday and again on Tuesday night for Wednesday picking for Thursday Distribution. This is why it is so important for you to call me at least two days in advanced if there is a change to your share. If you wait until the day of or the day before Distribution to make a change, it is too late, we have already picked the produce!
Working Members arrive no later than 7:00. They will help unload produce into the barn, count the number of red, white and purple bags, count small and large bean bags, get the containers out to measure beans and potatoes, unload delivery trucks if needed, fill egg orders into coolers, count produce not bagged into boxes or baskets for delivery, fill bean bags; basically get everything ready for Distribution.
Team leaders give instructions to the Working Members on how many of each crop goes into a particular colored bag. There is one person stationed at each crop. The rest line up at the “potato bar” and get a bag filled with potatoes. From there they go down the line of crops each being added to the bag. They then go outside the barn and line them up in rows of 10, by bag color. When all is done, the bags are counted one more time before loading them onto the trucks, just in case we are one short!
There is a Team Leader stationed at each vehicle. They call out the number of white, purple and red bags needed; egg coolers are loaded; fruit & honey too if available; corn, tomatoes & melons (depending on the time of year) for each Distribution Center until the entire truck is filled. During melon season, we have to pull a trailer because it cannot all fit on the truck!
After the working members get the produce on the trucks, empty bags that are put into the coolers by Distribution Centers are removed, sorted & stacked. The coolers are cleaned and stacked. The barn is raked, any produce not good enough for members is fed to the chickens (except onions and garlic). And everyone heads to the fields to work. Working Members spend early spring/early summer planting and hoeing, but by the end of summer, the Working Members spend quite a bit of time harvesting.
At 6 am, the employees have finished the animal chores and are now pulling out all the produce picked the day before; lining it up in order listed on the worksheets. Once all the produce is lined up, the employees get their instructions on what to pick for the day, all heading in different directions! Jerry, in the mean time, has gotten up at 4:30 and has changed his water. He has given instructions to the employees and is checking in with the team leaders on what their day will consist of. Then he is off to ditch rows of crops for irrigation.
This will need to be done every time we have either hand hoed or used the Weeder to remove weeds from the fields. It tears down the humps of dirt needed to keep the water in each row. If each row is not intact, something will not get watered!
After greeting the Working Members and answering any questions that may arise, I am in the office writing a letter to each Distribution Center. I tell them how many bags they are getting for each share size & the color of that bag. If there is anything extra, such as corn, this number is also reflected so that when the Non-working Members arrive, the Distribution Center knows what to give each member. Newsletters are added to this letter for each Center.
At the beginning of the season, the Distribution Centers are given a list of all the Members picking up at their homes, phone numbers and information about eggs, fruit and honey. They turn this list into a check off sheet to use during Distribution. This is how they know who gets what and how much of it! If we are delivering any produce to restaurants, an invoice is typed out and added to the pile of newsletters with Distribution letters.
Between 10 and 11 am, the trucks are ready to leave for Distribution Centers. Two trucks leave on Tuesday, one heading toward the South Denver Metro area and one heading to the West Denver Metro area. On Wednesday, two trucks leave heading toward Central Denver Metro area and the Ft. Collins area. Thursday, only one truck leaves the farm and follows the Turnpike towards the Boulder area. It will take most of the rest of the day to complete these routes, getting us home around 4pm. Where upon arrival back at the farm, Jerry will check his water and I start dinner! Wednesday I will do Distribution for the Greeley area, starting at 5:30 and I will work until dark.
The drip irrigation system is a wonderful tool we have fallen in love with. Not only does it keep down the weeds in each row/bed, it really conserves water. But at the same time, it is very labor intensive! Everything has to be hand planted into the plastic, each row has to be hand weeded, (no hoes allowed!) and the procedure for watering is extensive!
Every day that Jerry waters through the drip tape, he first has to fill the pond with water by turning on the pump at the bottom of the field where the irrigation canal is located. This canal carries the water from the reservoir throughout the entire irrigation basin. Once Jerry has chosen a field to water, there is at least one turnkey at the top of each bed. There can be as many as four rows and two drip tapes per bed with turnkeys. After turning on the water to several beds, he walks down each bed to check for leaks or breaks. He also has to walk the entire main line to check for leaks or breaks. A small leak can turn into a big problem because there is a lot of pressure in a drip irrigation system! It can wash out the crop, but more importantly, it will release the pressure and all the water will go to that spot and nothing else will get watered.
In the fall, all the drip tape and plastic has to be removed and discarded. However, when we do keep the drip tape for more than a year or two, the mice get into it and chew it up!
This really sums up the work I do as a working member. There is lots of counting! Last week after all the share bags were filled and loaded onto the trucks, we sorted garlic by sizes into crates. Some will get distributed, some stored for the winter shares, and some stored for planting in the fall. We also do things later in the season like spreading hundreds of onions on black tarps to dry in the sun for the winter shares.
This week Rachel worked really hard, and to thank her for her work, she got to take home a share of produce! She really earned it!! Thank you again, Rach, for sharing your rockin’ photos! p.s. – Rachel is amazing, and she can be hired to photograph you!