Even though we are blessed with a temperate climate and the ability to grow food year-round, and even though we will continue harvesting through the winter, the farm is still very beholden to the seasons. The days are getting shorter and shorter, which means that the long work days of summer have come to an end. We sleep in later, have dinner earlier, the evenings are quiet affairs. The farm, although it doesn’t slumber in the same way as farms in colder areas might, still feels like it is getting quite sleepy.
Last week, the farmer planted the last of the last of things for the year–more garlic and pototoes. There is little field work for him to do, and although there is a whole lot of firewood to be cut still, he is spending most of his time these next few weeks working off the farm. The saddest part about going into winter for us is that our family togetherness becomes more disjointed. The kids and I spiral inward, becoming more focused, less stretched out into the world. Soon, the fire will be lit every morning, we will move through our day with this at the center of our activities: home, warmth. But like about 50% of all farmers or ranchers in the state of Oregon, for now, the farmer will spend part of this season working off the farm. So, we don’t all get to experience the wonderful slowing down and focus on home that fall and winter can be, together.
And even though we have thought that each year we might push past that place where we still need to do outside work, it doesn’t feel as bad this year, knowing that the main reason we need to supplement the farm income this year is because of the weather, not because we were still new farmers or because our soil wasn’t good enough to support us. This year, the soil in our main field was really so beautiful (especially when compared to the mess of clay and rocks it was to begin with), and the soil we are working with in our lower field is beyond beautiful–layers of topsoil, it is almost bouncy to walk on! Even though we had to deal with a fickle summer, we had more vibrant and consistent growth than ever before. And I swear, as good as the food we have grown in the prior three years has tasted, it tasted even better this year.
All of this to say that as we wrap up our fourth season and our routines shift to one market, one harvest day, little field work, more home time for us and less for the farmer, the outlook for our fifth year is a good one. Maybe we will make that 5-year make it/break it goal that so many businesses have…even though there isn’t much that could happen to really break the business. But to make it the sole source of our income, that would be great! We are patient folks, thank goodness. And we love what we do so it doesn’t really matter much in the end, the income is both necessary but secondary in many ways. Like the majority of those farmers and ranchers who keep their farms and continue working the land despite it not meeting all of their financial needs, there is something more that keeps us all at it.