Growing into new roles

Since the time of our last post there has been some significant changes to our various roles on the farm. Rach has moved onto seedlings and Michelle is now taking care of irrigation up top in the fields. We are both loving our new jobs. It has been an exciting and challenging time for us both learning our new roles around the farm.

Rachel has loved the seedling house ever since we first started at Summit. She thinks of it as her nursery and the seedlings as her babies. She is doing such a fantastic job in there. Every plant looks loved. She talks to them all the time and she even plays them music, mostly classical music, but sometimes Whitney Houston or Michael Buble or even heavy metal other days. Their taste seems to be ecclectic.

Of course the seedling house has been a new learning curve for Rach. There’s new routines and watering procedures. Those little babies need to have a drink once or sometimes twice a day. There are also planting techniques to get your head around. Every second week Rach must plant 24 trays of seeds (in one morning). Each tray has 90 cells. And every plant has slightly different requirements in terms of planting. Some plants will require 4-6 seeds per cell planted only a few mm deep. Others will require one seed per cell planted 1cm deep. Getting this many seeds planted in a morning session requires some speed and accuracy, so its been a new physical challenge for sure. The music seems to help Rach as well as the plants!

Then there are pests and diseases to worry about. Tania has been teaching Rachel about such things as damping off and root rot. Damping off is a disease which attacks plants and is caused by several different types of fungi. Damping off affects most seedlings if the conditions are warm and moist, aka: humidity – and this part of the world excels at that sort of weather. Rachel has had to erect some of our old household fans in the seedling house in order to keep them well ventilated. Root rot is caused by excessive watering and is basically lethal to plants. The only method to stop this is to get the watering right and make sure the seedlings have sufficient drainage. Rachel and Tania are also working on improvements to the seedling mix, which is what we grow the seedlings in, to see if this can help improve root growth for our babies.

Rachel has also taking over doing the markets full-time with Tania. She loves the markets and is surprised that she is enjoying getting up at 3am every Sunday. The customers love her and now that Tania’s ankle is stronger, they can both manage the physical side of getting crates in and out of the truck okay.

This has freed Michelle up to focus on doing the daily watering of plants up in the fields. Like Rachel, there has been a lot to learn with regard to getting the watering right. For example, soils differ in their capacity to absorb and retain water, and this means some soils get wet quickly and dry out more quickly too; while other soils take longer to absorb the same amount of moisture, but they will retain this H20 for longer. This has a lot to do with how much humus is in the soil, but other things like sand and clay content affect it too.

The different plants have very different needs as well. Celery is a really thirsty plant. So is lettuce. But lettuce doesn’t like too much rain or its heart rots out! Luckily we use a drip-irrigation system, so the lettuce is safe from rot, and this also reduces weeds (although there never seems to be a shortage of them!!). New seedlings also need a regular drink because they are young, have just been transplanted from their trays and are still developing their legs (or roots). So Michelle now spends the first shift (between 6.30am and 9.30) running around to each of the rows where new seedlings have been planted and giving them a drink. If there has been rain, she might only give them 10 minutes, but if it dry or windy, they will get up to 30 minutes. In between watering, she has to keep up with her regular field tasks, which mostly means weeding Monday to Wednesday and harvesting on Thursday and Friday.

We have also been working through our roles as part of the larger team, with Rod and Tania. We call ourselves the ‘Core Four‘ – and we are meeting every week now to keep progressing our vision for this place. We won’t get into detail about that vision here, you can see it unfold on our new website (www.summitorganics.com). We are learning to work together in multiple roles – first and foremost is as boss and employee, then at another level we relate as the ‘core four’ team members sharing and growing an amazing vision, and finally we are developing in our role as friends sharing a lifestyle and a property.

It’s intense at times. But for the most part we are all surprised how much we find ourselves on the same page. Especially around the vision for this property. Our meetings have been inspiring, open, honest, productive, deep and richly rewarding. Its incredible how our different personalities and gifts all complement each other and we are learning to draw on these as strengths in our team work. We have started to articulate the roles that suit our individual strengths and assign responsibilities based on these…working together on many projects with our complimentary skills.

Rachel and I have really been refining our team work as a couple too. There have been some minor challenges around this, as we both like to be the boss. But in recognising and valuing each other strengths, we are supporting each other more and more to take the lead in the areas where we excel. A recent example of this has been Rachel taking the lead with arranging both Volunteer days and Farm Walk Tours. Rachel is such a people person and loves to be out front, talking, connecting, sharing. But when it came to website development, Michelle was the natural one to take the lead, being fast with technology, writing, photos and generally a lover of being in the background.

Both projects are going really well and have made a huge contribution to the farm. We are both enjoying our separate tasks immensely. One area where we hope to work more directly together, although probably inter-dependently, managing different aspects of the overall picture, is with our next major project – which will involve chickens!!

Can’t say much more than that right now, as the project is in it’s conceptual stages. But we are both excited and will share more when the project grows some legs and begins to cluck!

Okay, the boys want the computer, so its time to get back to the garden. We are planting a few things in our little vegie patch out front of the van. Plus, we have a compost heap to build! Shall fill you in on these adventures in our next post! Soon….

Rachel's little babies

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2 thoughts on “Growing into new roles

    • Thanks Karen, it’s a big job alright. That’s one thing we are finding out through experience – just how much work it is to run a successful farm. We continue to be impressed by our mentors, Rod & Tania, who have accomplished so much and manage this place so beautifully.

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