It’s been a busy conference season for me, five in less than two months and two more coming up before the first week of March.
The Oregon Small Farms Conference is this Saturday. It’s one of the best conferences I go to anywhere in the country. I think part of that is that it’s really focused on Oregon and small farms. It’s only one day, but the day is full of quality talks that relate directly to production issues. I’ll be co-presenting in a session on Vegetable Pack Shed Layout and Ergonomics with Nick Andrews, Heidi Noordijk, and Andrea Kramer. My piece will largely be around the three pieces of equipment that I prototyped for their new pack shed, all written up over at joshvolk.com: an adjustable height spray table, a tote washer, and a packing table. The conference is sold out, but if you’re already signed up, come see our talk and we’re planning on having the prototypes there, along with the trailer that’s been converted into a cooler that Nick and Heidi made.
Not sold out yet (as far as I know), is a day long workshop I’m doing for SnoValley Tilth up in Carnation, Washington. The workshop is titled “Efficiency and Ergonomics on the Farm: Setting up tools, systems, and work spaces for speed, safety and happiness” and I think that pretty much covers it. Thanks to a generous donor the price is incredibly low so if you’re in the area it should definitely be worth checking out. I’m going to be mixing it up with both slides and hands on demos.
I’m trying to keep my workshops page up to date with upcoming talks as they get added. I also try to repost new additions here on the blog and on my Facebook page so you can keep track of where to see me by checking any of those spots.
Every year I take a look back at the previous year to see how we did and what I want to do better in the following year. Part of the analysis I’ve been doing is to add up the gross income and then subtract out the non-labor expenses. This gives me a net for all of the hours of work that went into the farm. Then I add up all of the hours worked and divide. This gives me a net per labor hour.
You can look back at my write up from last year to get a more detailed explanation of how I’ve been doing this over the years (and links to more write ups from years past). Instead of making this a long post I’ll just refer you back there for the explanation.
In 2017 I worked with Matt Gordon at Cully Neighborhood Farm again. We grew for 60-ish CSA members, and sold a little excess produce through the Cully Neighborhood Farmers Market. We grossed about $36,500 on about 1/2 acre so roughly $73,000 per acre, down very slightly from 2016. The non-labor expenses was about $10,000. Adding in the depreciated BCS expense brings that number up to about $10,940, a little under 30% of gross so we were able to keep the expenses down this year, despite making some infrastructure improvements that really improved ergonomics on the farm. The total hours worked on the farm, including marketing and administration, field work and everything else, was about 1910 hours, so we cut that back a little as well. That gives a (pre-tax) dollar per hour number of around $13.40 across the farm, up almost 4% from last year, which was better than inflation so I think we’re making progress.
For those with an eagle eye, you’ll probably notice that we’re right around Oregon’s minimum wage when you adjust for a “loaded” hourly wage (one that includes payroll taxes). Still, the bottom line is that for now I’m happy with that number for 2017 and we’ll take that information, along with the rest of the numbers we’ve collected and see if we can continue to improve in 2018.