Seeds and Spreadsheets

One of this month’s biggest projects is generating the farm’s planting schedule — basically a long spreadsheet that tells me how much of what to plant when. The spreadsheet calculates most of the data on its own once I enter my required yields, and it keeps things running well and on track, so long as I use accurate data.

Last season, I made a good educated guess where I needed my yields to be, but it was still only a guess. It turned out I estimated a little on the low side, so I had to miss market a few times to make sure that the CSA was well served. (Last year’s weather challenges didn’t help any either.) Skipping market was a tough business decision, but it was the right thing to do for the CSA. This year, though, I have the great benefit of all last year’s experience, so I can enter better data into the schedule.

What’s more, since I am adding twenty shares to the CSA, my seed order becomes large enough to start taking advantage of some economies of scale. For example, I can buy an eighth of an ounce of Blue de Solaize leek seeds for $2.20, but a whole ounce costs me only $9.00. What’s more, one of my main sources, Fedco Seeds, offers some pretty generous volume discounts. The upshot is that even though this year I ordered more than two and a half times as much seed as last year, I paid less than twice as much.

Another advantage to a larger seed order is that instead of doubling the amount of one variety, I can add a second. That may not optimize the volume discounts, but it does increase the diversity of what I put in the shares. It also helps me hedge my bets in the fields, since different varieties like different growing conditions and possess different disease and pest resistances. Put another way, the more the merrier.