Week two of this season’s vegetable harvests comes with a big sigh of relief as we let go of all the tension and anxiety that built as we worked our way to the beginning of this season. After jumping head first into a large first season CSA farm business last year with a whole host of ideals, the many years of garden abundance and growing knowledge, and finally, finally, the land we needed, we came out a little tattered at the end of that season, having learned the hard but necessary lesson that I am sure so many others have learned before us that starting a business out of your passions is something entirely different than just having the passion and practicing the skill. Growing food to sell, to provide to the larger community, takes a number of skills that we had to learn along the way last year. And so, when winter finally wrapped his chilly and wet arms around the farm last year, I shuddered to think of finding myself right here at the start of a new season. That feeling, the clenching of muscles, the holding of breath, gradually lessoned, and slowly I found I could begin to see this season unfolding, to get excited again for what we still have a deep passion for. In many ways, it is more exciting to be at the start of our second season, to know that we have learned so much and to have a realistic picture of what it is that we will be doing. The vision is still the same, the philosophy as deeply entrenched, and yet, we now know that we cannot approach growing on a larger scale in the same way we would our home garden. We now appreciate the value of long rows of the same crop, so much more efficiently harvested. We even loved having a clean, tilled field to put those blessed seeds and plants into this year.
Still, as hard as sheet mulching such a large space proved to be, we will continue to try to find good sources of organic matter to lay onto the field in the winter in the hopes of getting to the point of a no-till system. And even if we move to cover cropping for soil fertility, we really can’t imagine using a tractor to grow this food. It is hard when labor is one of our biggest limitations to how much we produce right now, topped only by the soil we have to work with. Yet even when the flurry of activity that ended with this spot being our farm overshadowed some reasoned analyzing (we tested for chemical residues and heavy metals, we loved that it had a lot of infrastructure already…but we didn’t get to soil class and who knew that the top soil had been sold off of two of the fields!!), even with this, we see the potential for a diversified farm business that our mixed topography and our unique family structure provide. And, well, that was what our vision was. The children are enthralled for hours when we work with the animals where the younger two last about an hour in the vegetable field, so diversification works well for us.
I am sure we will continually look for ways to work the field more efficiently, not so much for the sake of money (I don’t think anyone farms for money!!) as to fullfill our vision– we really want to be able to provide a lot of food to this community. When we think of how little a portion we, and the other direct market farms in our area, actually service, that great dream of everyone supporting local farms and eating local foods seems a long way off. It helps that more and more people are interested in this kind of farming, but the more we can produce, the more of our community can realize the unbeatable taste and nourishment fresh food provides, not even to mention all of the other benefits to the local economy and environment at large!
For now, we are actually happy to have slowed down even though this means a smaller CSA. In the end we know now that this is how we will actualize our business, by building the soil, providing a better product to a smaller amount of folks while we fine tune how we will work this farm. And when we think about building this farm, we can’t help but think of all of you, our community of eaters. Your participation and support are as much a living component of this farm as our sweat and love. And as I mentioned last week, this community building, this sharing of food, is one of the biggest pictures in that beautiful vision that led us on this journey in the first place. Here’s to another week of good eating and good conscious as we work together towards something great!