It’s time to wrap things up on the farm. We had our last market of the season on Saturday and final CSA pickup the week before. Even though our plants aren’t melting away like they usually do at this time of the year, they have stopped producing and are ready for their next stage of life and death in the compost.
While Fresh Roots winterizes the farms, we are also looking for someone to replace me during my parental leave in 2023. This person will be starting early in the year and working all season, overlapping with my return at the end of the summer. I’m hoping to find a person who will want to continue working with Fresh Roots for many years to come after I’m back. So, in an effort to recruit someone awesome, I’ve decided to use this blog entry to give a little breakdown of my position during peak season, and make it easier for folks to imagine themselves here.
Farm Manager: Season Overview
The FR core team spends the winter strategizing on how to make things smooth, fun, and true to our overall mission. This makes spring feel totally fresh and exciting. The first thing the farm manager does is review the crop plan, count the seeds, and place a seed order. Then, there’s organizing the spaces, figuring out what compost and amendments are needed, and spending more money (provided by early season CSA purchases) on all the good stuff. Seeds for our long-season crops need to be started either in the ‘grow-op’ in our storage space at the office, or in the prop house in the courtyard of David Thompson. Direct seeding starts at the end of February, so a portion of the farm’s beds need to be prepped and amended in preparation.
Next is hiring the farm team. The team looks a little different every year depending on where we are farming, but for the Vancouver site, I hire the following positions: 1) Market Lead, 2) David Thompson Field Lead, 3) Van Tech Field Lead, and 4) SOYL Jr Market Assistant. There may also be volunteers, interns and LFS students who need to be onboarded, too.
By May, all these folks should have their schedules and start a 5-week training program to get familiar with their responsibilities. This means that by the middle of June and the start of the CSA pickup, the staff and volunteers know what’s up and can graduate to beginning their leadership phase. This marks the start of Peak Season when we all need to work together as an oiled machine to meet our goals. By the first week of July, our summer youth internship program starts up, and SOYL youth will be directed by the farm workers in farm and market tasks for 6 weeks.
A Week in the Boots of a Farm Manager
Here’s what my week looked like in 2022’s peak season, keeping in mind that 2023 may look differently depending on which markets we sign-up for, how we structure our CSA, and who is helping us harvest:
Monday: Admin and Communications
This work can either be done on the Fresh Roots computers in our office or from home on the farm manager’s personal computer. I usually work from home with my cat on my lap and a steamy mug of tea.
- Email, orders, payments, newsletters, blog
- Data entry of harvest, sales & CSA records from the previous week
- 15-minute visits to the sites to see what veggies are coming up and making lists of what needs to be done
- This week’s harvest planning for CSA and Market. Record plans in the Harvest Plan and CSA Plan documents
- Field work plans for the week plus delegation of seeding & transplanting plans and ensuring data entry has been done
- Work plan emailed to all the farm team including links to Field Work, CSA & Harvest Plans
- Communicating in slack with all the other departments in Fresh Roots about what kids can do on the farm, and where we might need help. This means making clear plans with facilitators and managers in: Experiential Learning (EL), Sustainable Opportunities for Youth leadership (SOYL), & our Administrators (ED, Ops, and Comms).
- Fresh Sheet for EL so they can plan their farm lunches for day camp (feeds 40 kids)
- Expense reporting
- Review & approve the farm team’s hours if it’s the end of a pay period
Tuesday – Harvest Day
- 730am: meet at David Thompson to harvest tender veggies
- 1130am: ICC cooler – drop off harvest and eat lunch
- 1-3pm: Van tech harvest of fruiting veggies / hot crops
- 3-330pm: drop off harvest at the ICC cooler
Wednesday – Market Day & CSA Pickup #1
- 730am: harvest flowers & any remaining harvest needed for CSA or Market
- 1130am: pick up our bread order and maybe mushroom order
- 1-330pm: help set up the market (operates 3-7) with the Market Lead and whoever is helping out that day; either another farm team member, SOYL Youth, or volunteers
Thursday – Harvest Day
- 730am: David Thompson
- 1130am: ICC Cooler
- 1-3pm: Van Tech
- 3-330pm: ICC cooler
Friday – Field Work, Remaining Harvest & CSA Delivery for Pickup #2
- 730am: complete any necessary harvest for CSA Pickup / Saturday market. Otherwise field work! 230 CSA Delivery to Collingwood Neighbourhood House for their “Community Care Veggie Box” program
- 330pm: finished!
Saturday – VFM Market
Sunday – Everybody takes a day of rest!
Wrapping Up the Season
Once the farm team’s summer contracts are over – usually at the end of August – one of the workers will stay on through the fall to help wrap up the CSA & markets and to winterize the farm. In 2023, I’ll be back to help the acting FM wrap things up. Together, we’ll write the crop plan for 2024 and work on the end-of-season reporting. We’ll also staff any remaining markets together, likely adjusting our schedules to Tuesday to Saturday.
There are many other pieces of work that aren’t explicitly outlined in my weekly schedule – like all the planning and training that happens, community outreach events, volunteer events, tours, and workshops I lead. These bits and bobs are usually crammed into Mondays or Fridays, or woven into harvest days. Volunteer and youth training is also delegated to the farm team members during their field work time. Overseeing the schedules of each farm team member can be a jigsaw puzzle, noting that each member has their own domain to manage and it’s up to the Farm Manager to make sure responsibilities are fulfilled and deadlines are being met so we can meet our CSA and Market commitments. It’s also up to the Farm manager to make sure that mentorship is happening across the organization – so that the farm team members are supported and empowered to teach youth the skills they’ve acquired in their first 5 weeks.
Peak Season is incredibly dense but it’s a lot of fun. All of the folks working on the farm are youth – from the farm team to the 4-year old campers in the EL program. There is so much life and energy to play with in this job, and I hope whoever is looking for that kind of fun will apply!
– Farmer Camille
Do you have what it takes to be our Acting Good Farm Manager in 2023? Apply here: https://freshroots.bamboohr.com/careers/53