Living the Dream: Courtney Bailey

Courtney Bailey
Co-founder
Giving Tree Farms
Anderson Valley, CA

The winter is progressing and we have completed the intricate task of identifying how we can improve our farm operations. Our team converged, looked critically at the formula we used this past year and designed a blueprint of our new and improved operations for 2020. We examined our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and are now excited to lay down our path to success.

With our SWOT analysis converted into an implementation strategy, we select priority projects. These differ every year, but some greenhouse repairs and overall maintenance points always make it on the list. If we want to set up a side-by-side comparison of soils or nutrients, start a breeding area or expand our cultivation space, those items will end up on this list as well. These three months are imperative to our growth as a business. We must stay competitive in an ever-growing market by moving forward at a pace comparable to that of our competition. To keep our ship ahead of the fleet, we have to monitor the waters, make repairs and find new efficiencies to maintain speed.

Beyond these priority projects are soil and pest maintenance. Each year, we send out soil samples to be tested so that we can buy the appropriate amendments and begin rebuilding the soil before the cultivation season starts again. Our integrated pest management practices must also continue during this time because although there are no plants in the ground, pests can still harbor themselves in our greenhouses and outside cultivation spaces. In Northern California, it’s rainy and humid in the winter, a climate that can encourage mold growth. Without a continuous IPM regimen, those spores can multiply quickly and cause problems at the start of next season.

To enliven our routine, we also spend time designing our cultivar lineup. We love this part because we can look into our past numbers, decide what sold the best, what was most popular and where the new market’s interests lie. We talk to our clients during this time and learn what they believe will be in demand next year. Custom cultivation orders are becoming more frequent in the industry, as planting in the ground specifically for a client is a weight off both of our shoulders. We all gain from custom cultivation — buyers can anticipate their menus and cultivators don’t have to worry about dreaded sales calls. We can cultivate, harvest and process the product to meet the buyer’s specifics, ensuring our clients are happy.

Our “downtime” in the cultivation schedule is a period of creation. What we put forth in these winter months will grant us opportunities in warmer seasons. As we peer into the near future, we must ponder what others will bring to the industry this year. Will new strains gain in popularity? Will new brands lead the march? One thing I know for sure is the Emerald Triangle will see plentiful fields and warm, sunny days after our winter rain has nourished the earth.

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