Why Winter Is The Best Season For Expanding Your Farm’s Infrastructure
Unless you live in Southern California, Florida, or other parts of the Deep South, winter is likely a fallow time with few viable crops and little income on the farm. While some farmers may use the time for vacationing, most market growers are operating on a tight enough budget that they need to do as much productive work as possible during the down season. Winter is the ideal time for upgrading infrastructure on the farm regardless of the size of your operation.
The Importance of Infrastructure Expansion
Infrastructure is just a technical term for the equipment, buildings, activities, tools, and other materials necessary for helping your farm function. Tillers and tractors are part of the infrastructure, but so is the ground itself, the structures that protect your tools, and even the software on your computer. Dedicating time, energy, and money to improving these parts of your farm is the best way to use up those days that aren’t good for getting any other work done.
A Flat Landscape
Winter is a prime time for infrastructure planning and changes in particular because it’s usually the time with the highest visibility of the property. With leaves off the trees, most grasses dormant or dead, and brush in a brittle state that’s easily removed, getting a clear view of the space you’re working with is easiest in winter. Market growers often rediscover a forgotten corner or even a few acres of viable growing space after the rush of the growing season ends and the cloak of summer greenery disappears.
Easier Work Conditions
Need to remove a cubic ton of brambles for a new field or want to erect more greenhouses without sweating out every drop you drink? In most parts of the country, as least some of the winter months are the perfect conditions for doing building and clearing tasks. Even when the ground is too frozen to break or there’s two feet of snow covering your work areas, you can take advantage of the indoor time to install new software that helps you track every aspect of your operation. You’d be amazed at how better harvest records and resource management tools can transform your daily workload during the busiest parts of the year.
As with most supply or retail industries, agricultural suppliers tend to charge a little more during peak times of purchase for equipment and materials like greenhouse coverings, building materials, and cover crop seeds. Buying during the off season allows you to trim costs and take advantage of sales, especially if you can afford to wait out the winter on certain products to wait for the lowest possible price.
Almost every market farmer has had a routine expansion project interrupted by an emergency with the current crop, secondary livestock, or a personal issue. While you can still have a personal problem pop up at any time, saving your building and other infrastructure projects for the winter at least eliminates the chances of a crop failure or pest from distracting you from the work. Many expansion projects, such as the construction of a farm stand or a new hoop house, must be completed in one go or the materials can become damaged from sitting out exposed to the elements. Having a clear schedule with regards to plants at least eliminates one concern that could take your attention away from the project at hand.
Gifting and Generosity
Finally, the winter holiday season can also be leveraged to help you achieve next year’s goals as a market grower. If you receive any monetary gifts from family members, using them on the farm or in the greenhouse can make a big difference. Even just a $50 gift card will pay for two non-electric greenhouse vent openers, which could save thousands of dollars worth of crops on a hot day. It’s also easier to solicit donations from supporters in the winter because the holidays inspire generosity.
There’s no need to dread winter as a period of wasted time. Any farmer or grower, no matter how small, should invest in their infrastructure this winter so that they’re not scrambling to catch up when spring arrives.
About: About: Jessica grew up eating homegrown tomatoes and showing rabbits at livestock shows, so it’s no wonder she has her own 3 acre organic hobby farm today that will soon be home to a small licensed nursery for valuable trees and native shrubs. When she’s not busy with her own gardens and chickens, she enjoys helping build greenhouses and weed the blueberry fields at her friend’s 30 acre organic fruit and vegetable plant farm.