New Jersey Ag News
Fortier talks about ideas to improve production
By JANE PRIMERANO
NEW BRUNSWICK (Feb. 15, 2015) — After his keynote address at the 27th Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey winter conference, Jean-Martin Fortier gave a presentation on his methods for creating a high yield, successful farm.
First, Fortier asked his audience what a farm needs to be successful.
Answers included: “Organization from start to finish,” “time management,” “minimize waste,” “network,” “design” and “efficiency.”
With 15 years in farming, Fortier said he is “learning to be a better grower every year.”
He also qualified what he means by success: “You must try to strike a balance between making a good livelihood and a satisfying life.”
He also reminded farmers they need to prepare for a stage in their lives when they “won’t want to work so much.”
“Time is the limiting factor, there is always a solution to money,” he said, adding, “we must be careful how we run our own time.”
He noted in year six of running Broadfork Farm, with a 5-year-old son and a new baby, he decided to commit to working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. He claims when he decided to put a limit on the workday, he almost doubled his production. He said he learned to prioritize and realized some things were worth his time and others weren’t.
“Obviously, I’m not totally off at 5 (p.m.),” he admitted.
He emphasized the importance of carefully planning the next day at the end of each day and that is done after 5 p.m.
He also said, “I never work on Sundays unless something must be harvested.”
Fortier tackled the subject of design next.
“Most farms kinda grow haphazardly,” he said.
He compared a farm to a kitchen which is more functional with well-designed workstations. “At least understand design and do what you can to make changes,” he said.
Some other tips he had for the small farmers in his audience included keeping the soil structure in tact by using a rotary plow then a broadfork.
He also advocates a cover crop or a tarp in the fall.
He has a tarp for each field and uses a lot of landscape fabric.
One of his suggestions is not necessarily compatible with certified organic farms.
He uses a paper pot transplanter with adjustable spacing.
The paper is biodegradable but it has a glue on it that is not 100 percent organic, so the paper may not meet all specifications.
Fortier gave some examples from his farm. He rejected the cheaper solution for bringing irrigation to the fields from a dug pond in a woodlot.
The least expensive solution would be a gas-powered pump.
An electric pump is more expensive because of the cost of the wire, but it could have a switch in the main building, so in case of a problem Fortier or an employee wouldn’t have to run down to the pond to turn off the pump.
Since a pump can require repairs several times in a season, it is more efficient to use an electric pump, Fortier said.
Another place for efficiency is the washing station, Fortier said.
Fortier wanted to set up a washing station for 40 crops in four-season farming in a cold climate.
A washing station needs good lighting, two bathtubs side by side and a concrete floor.
A friend helped Fortier rig up a washing machine with a food-grade basket for spinning salad greens.
One of the advantages of a small farm is having relationships with customers that big agriculture can’t match.
“Very few people can scale up their farms and keep the relationships,” Fortier said.