Every year in this journey of developing Sola Gratia Farm to further serve our community, we find ourselves ready for another new step, twist, turn or leap. This year it’s a leap, or rather a few.
We have been teetering on the small to medium sized farm edge for a few years now, knowing that just a few more acres and investments in a more mechanized operation will allow us to achieve greater production with enhanced efficiencies. Last year, we were fortunate to receive
a grant from the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois (CFECIL) for the purchase of a plastic mulch layer that greatly reduced our weed pressure, and hence labor needs. We expanded our acreage in trial fashion at the Riggs Beer Company as well as intensified growing in
our onsite hoophouse. We purchased a 47 horsepower tractor and soon will be ordering a tiller and flail mower. At our February board meeting, we were awarded funds, again from CFECIL, to purchase another key piece of equipment, a water wheel transplanter. Each of these pieces has been key towards achieving our goals, but if anyone has looked in the shed or around the farm lately, you know we are already out of storage space and running out of clever ideas for repuzzling our storage needs.
We greatly need to build a storage building this Spring to house our existing and soon-to-be acquired equipment. Knowing this was going to be needed at some point, we have been saving funds for this purpose and have what we need to construct a hoop structure for equipment storage just east of the greenhouse. Albeit modest, this building, sized 30’ x 65’ x 15’, will both meet our near-term needs and provide sufficient space for anticipated growth and additional equipment purchases. The City of Urbana has approved a permit for this structure and we are working closely with John Warriner on the construction plan. With the equipment moving out of the shed and into the storage building, we then plan on redesigning the north part of the shed for an improved wash/pack area. We will be adding stainless steel sinks, new tables and wall coverings for better sanitation as well as improved lighting and ventilation. There are many food safety regulations that will be coming into effect for small farms in the next few years and our new design will help in keeping our produce and the washpack area clean, safe and in compliance. It should also be noted that with our reorganization, considerable storage space will be made available once again for church property and items.
The last leap to share…this year we were planning on taking the next step in expansion by increasing production on three acres at the Riggs Beer Co. site, while letting more of our land here behind St. Matt’s lie in cover crops to improve soil health. Meanwhile, we have been seeking
permission to, at some point, be able to grow our crops next door on the five acres to the north. (!!) This has been the big dream due to its proximity, soil health, and ability to draw water from our own well. A few weeks ago, the call came in delivering the news that we are welcome to rent this land for production this coming year!
We couldn’t be more excited to be at this point of development of the farm and feel 100% ready and able to take these leaps and know we’ll land on solid footing. All winter, I’ve been working with our community partners to make plans for enhancement of our mission with this increase in production (that Hunter has been working on). More details on these projects and programs soon!
Thanks for everyone’s support as we take these next steps. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns at email@example.com or stop by the office anytime myself, Hunter or Tod are around!