Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A hard lesson learned....Evolution is neither quick nor painless.

What is the deal with the weather here in the Ohio Valley the past couple months? Hot and Dry, Cold and Wet, Cold and Dry, Hot and Wet, and on and on and on.

Anyhow, sorry for the lack of updates lately to all my friends here and over at Homegrown Goodness (I miss you guys and I'll be back soon I promise) but the farm, record keeping, and some switchups in the business has kept me more than busy.

First of all the animals are keeping us very busy. For the first time in many years a farm in Indiana is actively ranging 85 turkeys on family land again. It's a lot to keep up with, particularly on the days when a new batch of young turkeys is either hatched, arrives in the post, or when they are first let out from their coops to explore the world, trust me, explore they do.

This year we are really exploring the biodiversity of the turkeys with a number of "Standard" heritage types as well as new crossess and some wild birds. From the top of my head I know we have Naragansette, Blue Slate, Black Spanish, Royal Palm, Bourban Red, Midget White, Red Slate, Chocolate, Bronze, Red Bronze, Phoenix, Rio Grande, Eastern Wild, Regal Red, and probably a few more running around at the moment, with more on the way in the post (more wilds for that Kiva turkey I previously wrote a priori proof on) and some eggs about to go in the incubator later this week. Of course we are hatching guineas as well, lots of interesting colors this year.

The rabbits are also becoming priority, given their propensity for reproduction and the rate at which we are currently selling them. Lots of good homegrown and healthy food to go around this year that's for sure.

The second reason for a lack of updates is the constant record keeping we are doing this year. We have been recording every last detail that we can think to record for future research and eventual publications (I will be making time this fall to start writing a few agriculturally based theory papers again), every chance I get to set down (which isn't often) is hampered by the fact that everything must be written down in the book.

Third of all the rapidly changing weather patterns have really put a hamper on some projects this year, lots of rain and cold weather caused seed to rot and to wash out of the ground on the slopes which we farm here (we are slowly terracing but this is a years long process). The stress that accompanied the failure of some of these crops this early in the year, coupled with the fact that some of these projects were very limited in the form of seed, and a few were in fact from varieties that we have been selecting from and breeding with for the past couple years, luckily nothing was completely lost, but for about two days nature nearly brought me to my knees, it humbled me, and made me thankful for what success I have had.

That said, something definitely snaped in my head, you could say I had a revelation about the future of my business and that just a tiny bit of alchemical evolution happened due to those unfortunate circumstances. Every year I fight the elements to get market to produce early and every year I cut my nose off to spite my face by being both a market gardener and a plant breeder. Anyone who has spent time doing both or one or the other knows how impossible a proposition such a posistion is. You will always wind up short selling yourself in the long run, no matter how careful you are.

As I was at my witts end (coupled with the even that transpired here detailed in the previous post and the stress which came with it) for a few days, I began to finally understand that it's time to move the business in the direction I have been yearning for in years past, that of a seed production oriented business.

I've spent six years building up the audience in Southern Indiana for "eco-logically" grown heirloom and hybrid- heirloom produce, an accomplishment I am quite proud of particularly when I recall that another market vendor once told me that what I was doing would never work. I have wathced as the audience of folks looking for something different and "real" has expanded fantastically, and I've also watched as others have pirated my ideas (I have no problem with this, in fact I anticipated it and have stayed one foot ahead) over the past couple years, theres not much more I could do within these basic premisis, other than expanding into the areas in which I have; plant breeding, poultry, vermicomposting, ginseng, grafting/nursery, and so on, other than to continue to stretch myself thin (you gotta remember most of the people who are my competition have some help on farm, with the way Kim works and my parents health I do 95% or more of the farm work) and stress myself out (and trust me, I excell at both), other than to find a way to evolve.

Nowdays I've got an economic back up, what with the skills and traits I have learned or taught myself regarding nursery stock, plant breeding, raising turkeys eco-logically ext. that I feel that I am ready to move Bishop's Homegrown/Face of The Earth into the realm of a full on Breeders Seed company. It will be nice not to have to choose between taking that nice melon to market or saving it for seed, it will be fantastic not to have to debate if it is still to early in the year to "risk" planting this rare green muskmelon seed, and it will be fantastic not to have to deal with the local competition who claim (via false advertising quite often) that they are "Eco-Grown" (as they, like the asshats they are, call it). Why compete with them when I can sell these very seeds to them, the ones they want and beg me for everyyear because I bred them and got people to like them and the ones that up to now I had failed to monetize (because despite the fact that I own a business I hate "selling" anything using the currently accepted system of commerce in the US, even touching a "Federal" Reserve note makes me feel, idunno, Icky) because I wanted to share them far and wide around the world with the people who need them (which I will still do, both via the seed company and via trades at homegrown goodness) as they are the people I really had in mind when I bred them. But, I've got to look at both my personal sanity and my ability to continue to run a business, work for myself, and deal with the "Bottom Line" (at least until the dollar can't deal with it's "bottom line" anymore, oh, and it is coming soon) at the same time.

I'll still run a small CSA, and I'll still go to the farmers markets to sell worms, rabbits, turkeys, guineas, seeds, plants, and nursery stock, but the priorities will have changed, at least until my orchards start bearing fruit anyhow.

I also this week took a look at what has and hasn't been successful here on the farm, the conclusion was actually quite startling, but the greenhouse portion of the business (annual plants here, not perrinials which make a ton of money) has made relatively little money, meanwhile the red worm business as well as the poultry and the nursery stock have suprising always allowed us to make ends meet. So, the big greenhouse is going through a transformation, I'll cover it with a hay tarp, throw up a couple of slaughter tables, raise some rabbits in the mid section, and add an additional 8 boxes of red worms to the end of the house. Later this year I'll put up a small greenhouse (12 x 12) in which to grow plants for the farm, the general public and the CSA folks and all will work out well I believe.

I suppose I should stop rambling now. Anyhow, I just wanted to say hello basically and let everyone know I haven't dissapeared off of the face of the earth. Hope you are all doing well and many updates will be coming your way soon. Just waiting for everything to get up and growing so we can start publishing some pictures and rambling on about what we are up to.

Off to make some wine for the night.



jason said...

Good luck Alan. Sounds like a good plan and I hope it lowers your stress level at least a little bit.

Bishops Homegrown said...

Thanks Jason! Me and you both buddy!