Summer is in full momentum and Mother Nature is taunting us to keep up on Harbin Hill Farms.
I, for the most part, understand the biology of a plant’s life cycle and what it takes to grow. Even so, the abundance of this year’s crop leaves me scratching my head with these dark green tomato fingers. I get it, but it still doesn’t make any sense! I can’t think about it too long because I need to focus time on my two objectives I set for myself for this internship, microgreens and hemp.
In my last blog post I mentioned how I could not sell any microgreens. I became a nutrient-dense charity having to give them away before the chickens got them. I am not a salesperson. My method of selling is based on letting the product sell itself. Guess what? It has worked! I now have returning customers looking for their favorite microgreen. Two of my learning goals are complete, growing and selling. Now is the focus on the infrastructure. I have purchased two racks and installed LED lights. I now have a growing capacity of 20 trays. Another goal I am trying to achieve is lowering my costs. I am starting with the soil. My first few batches of microgreens were grown in Coast of Maine seed starter mix. It was expensive but worked very well. I decided to mix my own growing medium. It contains coconut choir and micronized azomite. It did decent, but I might throw in a cup of worm castings to see if I can gain a little more final product at harvest. I am also in the planning stages of investing in a small solar kit to power the fans and the lights. It will be a long term return on cost but will be my first step to sustainability. The final goal is expanding my reach into restaurants and different markets. I need to stay focused because I heard there is a young renegade starting microgreens in Bulls Gap…
Our hemp pilot crop seems to be doing well at this stage of growth. There has been low pest pressure and no real signs of any disease. I know it is early to make any claims but things are going smoothly. I have learned some lessons so far. We had a mother deer and two fawns that lived in the hemp yard for about three weeks. To my amazement, they did not touch the hemp. This made total sense when I decided to juice the leaves and stems left over after topping the plants. As sweet as the plant smells, it surprisingly tastes spicy but awful. We have probably two more months before harvest and we need to address the next major concerns of drying, curing, and selling. If this crop does well, I don’t want to lose it in the final stages. It is worth mentioning that I am doing the same thing that some friends and family have been incarcerated for many years for doing. Although these individuals always promoted local homegrown organic produce and their form of medicine, they had been labeled criminals. These honest hard working friends and family are now a valuable resource.
I am currently in the process of working with the NRCS and the extension agent on some property in Scott County Va. I am also figuring out the business and insurance side of things. This knowledge would not be fully understood if it were not for the winter intensive class put on by Dana and Lexi. Thanks ladies! I am also leaning heavily into my next endeavors of mushrooms and agroforestry. I know I have a long road ahead of me and there are many paths I can take to reach my goal. I am certain though, through grassroots organizations like ASD and ARCD, that my dream will be reality. Thanks to all that have helped me on this journey.
By Josh Grigsby, 2019 FARM Intern
Harbin Hill Farm, Mountain City, TN