Vegetable Farming – February 2015

BY DEREK CHRISTIANSON
In southern Bristol County we’ve dodged the worst of the snowfall the past few weeks, at least in comparison to the folks north of us. We’ve taken quite a break from fieldwork on the farm and I’ve been appreciating our decision to delay winter CSA distributions originally scheduled for late January/early February. Leaving us plenty of time to catch up on office work (read: tax preparation ) and celebrate the winter season with our young daughters.

We were a bit slower reassembling our fieldhouse on the new farm last fall, so didn’t get the greens seeded down in November/December as planned; instead we’ll look forward to a nice bounty of later winter/early spring greens. Last week we were doing a final round of bed prep and came across more than a few spuds which escaped our harvest efforts last fall; our fieldhouse was sited on land which we planted potatoes in 2014. The potatoes under cover since early December were just breaking their dormancy and beginning to sprout ever so slightly. Although we typically reserve our fieldhouse beds for high value crops, I’ve been interested in trying an early crop of potatoes seeded down in late February… for harvest in early June (a la Eliot Coleman) – while not practical in most seasons, I reckon the late construction of the fieldhouse might give us an opportunity to see how potatoes can fair under cover. These would be “high-value” new potatoes sold by the pint before the summer solstice and likely still not compare to the value of greens. Over the years, we’ve kept detailed records of our planting dates in the fieldhouse and also yields (some years better than others) so that we can make decisions based on real world data Our plans for the tunnel next summer include 2 beds of late transplanted, late-blight resistant tomatoes (set out last week of June for harvest beginning around Labor Day) so the potato experiment should fit into the rotation quite nicely.

At our SEMAP sponsored tax workshop in early February, I queried Max Glebocki from Farm Credit East what was the most common “mistake” farmers make on their tax forms. While not a mistake per se, his response was to highlight the importance of keeping accurate accounting records through the season; which can dramatically reduce the time needed for tax preparation (saving you $ if you hire a professional to help with your taxes). Laura Petrucci (who works out of the H&R Block office in Dartmouth 508-991-4800) is another good option for farmers seeking help with their tax filings this year. We’ve typically done a fair job during the slow season, but rarely keep up with data entry of expenses during May & June. We’ll give it another go this summer… I’m using a bit of time this slow season to review our accounting systems in the office and making a few minor changes which should help us keep up to speed. Richard Wiswall offers valuable suggestions in his book The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook and is well worth the read (especially check out Chapters 6 & 7: Effective Management & Office Paper Flows and Leaky Finances).

After spending about 5 years doing our own business taxes, we reached out to Joe Baldwin at Farm Credit East back in 2013 (they typically offer a free review of your tax filings for first time customers) to see if there were any tax credits which were under our radar. Among the advice he provided, we qualified for the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (Form 8903) – a deduction which we qualified for based on our farm’s production and hiring of employees. Catching that omission alone easily would have paid for the services of a tax professional. The bottom line, I suggest you take a moment and talk to a qualified tax professional when you are working on this year’s taxes, their time is typically well worth the investment.

Hope to see folks at our upcoming Ag & Food Conference on Sunday March 1st.

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