Helllllllooooo readers! Hope you’re still with me. It was a four month hiatus but we are back in action with some new players for the 2015 season. Before I introduce you to them let me give you a little update on what has been happening since we last spoke.
Speaking at the Gateway Fruit and Vegetable Conference
I have been trying to immerse myself in the farming culture over the last couple months, attending the Speciality Crops Conference in Springfield, Illinois and also the Gateway Fruit and Vegetable Conference in O’Fallon, Illinois. I absolutely love these conferences because not only do you learn so many new things from people who have been in the industry for years and years but you also have the opportunity to network with so many great and knowledgeable farmers and educators. I always leave feeling inspired and ready to apply the new ideas to my business plan.
My favorite restaurant, NYC
When I left you at the end of last year we were unsure of what would happen for 2015, except for knowing we received land. I am happy to say that we will be growing on 1.5 acres, which is triple the size we were for the previous two years. I spent the latter part of December eating my way through NYC, becoming inspired with food again. I got down to work in January and February though, developing a business and farm plan with projected costs and profits for the 2015 growing season. I also developed a marketing strategy to try and widen our customer base and touch a larger number of students. I will elaborate more on these topics as the season progresses. Since we tripled the size of the land we are to grow on I also needed to hire some additional help that will be full time when the students come back in the fall.
Let me introduce you to the 2015 lineup of players 🙂
Ben Ucherek is a new addition to the Hendrick House staff. He has been responsible for most of the planting in the last week while I finish up the school year. He comes from Prairie Fruits Farms where he worked as a herdsman for the last 6 years. I am so excited that he is part of the team this year and look forward to working with him in the 2015 growing season.
Jean Paul Gauthier Kodiemoka has been working with me since the fall of 2014. Originally from Congo, he has been living in the country for over a year and working for Hendrick House since August of 2014. If you ever pass by him please say hello. He is the most wonderful, good hearted and hardworking person you will ever meet and I am very fortunate to add him to the 2015 farm team.
Michael Douglas is a research assistant for Sam Wortman, a professor at the U of I. Michael and I are working together this year as he is doing a research study on part of my plot of land. I am really looking forward to learning the research he is trying to accomplish and also being a part of the educational aspect of university growing. Really, I am just super pumped I get to hang out with my friend all summer (and Hanna) :).
Jeremy Shafer, who runs the farms at the U of I is always a tremendous help to me every year. I’m so excited to be able to help him with the Beginning Farmer Program incubator plots this year. I can not say enough great things about that program and am sad this is the last year for their grant. I am looking forward to the new group of growers that will be next to me this year. It is such a great environment to be a part of!
(Not pictured whom I’m sure you will hear about as soon as I sneak attack them with a photo: Rick Weinzierl, Head of the BFRD Program and Entomology Professor at the U of I; Bryan and Kenny, U of I farm employees; Billy Bnizz, Turf Research; Matt Turino, Student Sustainable Farm; Jeff Kindhart, comedian extra0rdinaire and Dixon Springs Research Professor.)
We started planting last week and so far we have finished seeding our 1/2 acre of tomato transplants and 500 pepper plants. I am so happy to have the season underway and thrilled that my hands are back in the dirt!