November 16th: Crop Planning Workshop


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Crop planning is a vital part of running an efficient and successful farm.  Diversified vegetable farmers often raise more than fifty different crops on fields of variable size and shape, making crop planning time consuming and complicated.   This workshop will introduce beginning and intermediate vegetable growers to crop planning methods that the presenters have developed over years of trial and error.

The workshop will be held in a classroom at Dickinson College, with each participant seated at a computer work station running a sample crop plan on Microsoft Excel.  Starting with marketing goals and yield projections, the presenters will work through the development of a seed order, seeding calendars and field plans.  Time will be allotted for participants to experiment with the crop plan framework that they can then take home to use on their farms.

Unique to the Dickinson College Farm are related long-term student/faculty research projects including a smartphone enabled web-based data collection system for field record keeping and a computerized crop rotation modeling project. Results from these exciting projects will be discussed by the software developers.

Finally, veteran successful organic grower Mike Brownback will share his low-tech pencil and paper system for vegetable crop planning on the 255 acre Spiral Path Farm.

Participants are encouraged to come to this workshop ready to share their own experiences with crop planning and rotation.

PASA’s Farm-Based Education Program

Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Members or Dickinson students: $20
Nonmembers: $35
PASA membership + field day registration combo: $45
More info about farm based education at PASA:
Questions? Contact PASA at or (814) 349-9856



Jenn Halpin and Matt Steiman manage the Dickinson College Farm near Carlisle PA.  Each year, the farm raises 7 acres of produce on 15 acres of certified organic tillable ground.  Produce, grass-fed beef, lamb, and poultry are sold through a 100 family CSA program, a vibrant local farmers’ market, and the College dining hall.  Jenn and Matt have developed their evolving crop planning system over the fourteen seasons they have farmed together in the Cumberland Valley.   They are frequent PASA presenters and enjoy the opportunity to share their experiences with farmers of all skill levels.

Mike Brownback and his family own and manage Spiral Path Farm near Loysville PA.  Founding members of PASA and Pennsylvania Certified Organic, Spiral Path Farm is one of the largest organic produce farms in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Food from the 255 acre farm feeds thousands of people through a CSA program, farmers’ markets, and wholesale to grocery stores.  Mike, an engaging and passionate presenter, will share his “old school pencil and paper” method of crop planning.

Tim Wahls is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Dickinson College, and has worked with students and farm staff on developing FARMDATA over the past several years.  Tim teaches Dickinson’s database course and has extensive software development experience.  He was raised on a dairy farm in Iowa, and spent much of his childhood milking cows and caring for livestock.

Dick Forrester, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Dickinson College, worked with the students and College Farm to develop ROMO, a computer model for long term crop rotation planning on vegetable farms.

Workshop Agenda:  (actual times may vary)

10:00 – 10:15:  Welcome and Intros

10:15 – Noon:  Crop planning with Excel, from Market Goals to Field Plan

Noon – 1:00:  Lunch and practice time

1:00 – 1:30 FARMDATA web based digital record keeping with Tim Wahls and students

1:30 – 2:00 ROMO Mathematical crop rotation model with Dick Forrester

2:00 – 3:00 Pencil and paper planning methods with Mike Brownback

3:00 – 3:30 Small group discussions – crop rotation experiences

3:30 – 4:00 Closing group discussion

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