Well, this week I was very keen to get some work done so I could have something work-like to write about. At the rate at which I was puttering around ó taking vacations, planning, shopping for and preparing dinners, lighting the daily bonfire, playing with kids and generally doing what I could to avoid actual work ó my earnest claim to be a working farmer in January, a public image I heartily cling to, was losing credibility, so I have duly done some work.
And not just any work. I donít want to overstate the exciting nature of the type of work I was involved in, but it has to do with high-stakes gambling. The game involves getting the best price possible for the remaining inventory of potatoes and carrots. If itís played well, then we might not have to dip too deeply into the line of credit to cover costs incurred before the 2014 crop is ready to sell. The crux of the matter is that as spring comes along the potatoes will naturally sprout, soften and become unsellable.
The best place for us to sell is at market where we get full retail. I think several varieties of potatoes are storing well enough to last for another seven of those. Potatoes sell best when there are varieties to choose from, and carrots sell best when there are potatoes surrounding them. Therefore, we donít want to arrive at the last few markets with only one variety or, heaven forbid, only carrots. The terrible fate of tanking market sales will befall us if we sell too much now wholesale.
Another terrible fate awaits if weíre tempted by better prices at the market, hold off on the wholesale sales and find ourselves with volumes of sprouty, soft potatoes ó which we can expect to sell for exactly nothing ó two months from now.
The idea this week is to evaluate the inventory, decide how many quality markets we have left and then wholesale the balance. Seven weeks from now, ideally, we would like only enough potatoes and carrots in the cooler to meet the demand from family and friends who want to eat our potatoes until June when they will be inedible, even by our own very permissive standards, and we will eat rice and pasta for a month before the first of the 2014 crop is ready.
Some years there is not much volume with which to play the game, but this is not one of those years: there are enough potatoes in the cooler right now to last for four months of markets, taking us into June when even the cows might hesitate before scarfing them. Any time now the potatoes might start sprouting, which is fine ó this is the inevitable consequence of spring. And although it renders them unsalable to wholesalers, market customers take it as a sign of organic-ness; conventional potatoes that are not sprouting in the spring are suspected of being sprayed with a sprout inhibitor. No, itís the soft, wrinkly look that kills the market sales, and that can happen any time after March.
So this week it was all about gambling. I suspect that I have succeeded in my goal to not overstate the drama of the situation.
The point, and I did have one, at least at the beginning, is that I do work in the winter, even if I am spending an inordinate amount of time tromping about the place on the hard-snow surface, which allows for unfettered access to every corner. You know what I mean?