News! News! Market Credit/Shares Now Available!

InstagramcarrotsThis just in.

Local folks!  Growing Wild Farm is now offering market credit/shares.  This is a wonderful option for those of our shoppers who prefer picking and choosing what vegetables from the harvest they would like to take home each week, but who have also wanted to become more a part of our farm family.  A CSA is not for everyone, and this we can appreciate, so this year, we are offering a market share option.

Paid in $90 increments, market members will receive a $100 credit at our farmer’s market booth.  Then with ease and without worrying about how much cash to bring each week, you can just swing by and grab what catches your fancy.  We will subtract it from your credit until it is used up.  Then, you can pay again.  We, in return each week, will harvest a lovely selection of what is ripe and ready from the fields, with lots of our standard favorites~salad mix, beets, kale, chard, onions~plus loads of summertime goodies~summer squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  We will also send out our popular and helpful weekly newsletter to each of you.  Part cooking ideas, part farm philosophy, you will get a big hug of farm love to your inbox with fun, interesting, sweet, and new recipes both for your kitchen and for living.

And all of our farm family is invited out to share in the summer-loving potluck evenings we host once or twice out on the farm each season.  Consider joining us in the adventures and flavors of our 2013 farm season.  Come by the market booth and sign up today!

summer: check in

Another beautiful summer week, we’ve been busy weeding wonderful summer crops that are flowering and fruiting and almost ready for harvest like green beans and cucumbers, planting winter crop starts like crazy and working up the rest of the ground those transplants and seeds will go into, and taking a wee bit of time on many of these hot days to splash in the river!
Still, as hot as it is, I think that until crops like green beans and cucumbers and summer squash start making there appearance (next week or so for some of that), these beginning of the season harvests are the ones people have the hardest time with.  Larger farm operations utilizing acres of greenhouses or growing with synthetic fertilizer on black plastic can grow things faster than we can with the slow but steady release of nutrients organically provided from well tended soil and out in the field.  With things even behind by a few weeks, it can be hard to wait, but there will be weeks and weeks of those crops we associate with summer eating; once they start, they must be harvested over and over again!
The idea of helping out on the farm and of work parties continues to come up in conversations with members and we are still trying to figure out how to make that work in a positive, fun, and helpful way.
All in all, things are well and good on the small cosmos of our farm.  We are trying to stay present in the moment and not live too much in next year, a tricky thing to do in the business of farming it seems, since we are in the thick of summer at the same time we are planning and planting for harvests up to nine months away!  Still, it is summer now, and there is nothing quite so beautiful as the sunlight glistening off the river droplets all over my children’s bodies as they splash around, nor anything quite like watching summer plants grow, so fast and vigorous compared to the rest of the year.  We all can probably do that in these months if we keep ourselves well watered and in the sun!

Lighting a spark

The post I had in mind for this week was going to be about Independence day; about our little bit of farming here having to be our way of “doing” something to make the future brighter.  Our way of saying yes to this country, this state, this county, this small piece of land we live on.  In a time when many people agree that the government in out of hand but no one agrees on how to make it better;  in a time when even if we think we have an idea of how to make it better, it is so easy to feel helpless in the grand scheme;  in times like this, we have to believe that our small bit of farming is a legitimate act of patriotism (as we define it), that our act of creating a vibrant and connected small scale economy we feel can weather the storms is our pledge of allegiance to the future of our country.

I’ve already briefly mentioned how farming = freedom for us in last year’s thanksgiving post, and I thought I might expound upon that.

Happy 4th of July, you know.

But the fourth of July this year was the day before market, and that night and the next morning were kind of rough.  As much as I feel like I can’t share the harder parts of our farming life here, let me tell you this–when I was driving to market this Thursday, I heard myself in my head telling my children to never become farmers.  Bleck!

What was wrong, why was it so bad?

Like I said, I usually like for this space to be inspiring.  It is for all that is good and wonderful about our farm, and it is ultimately the bigger look into our lives on the farm for all of our farm members.  Since it is all pretty fabulous at its core, and since we want to bear the brunt of any problems in private, the big stresses are discussed elsewhere.

But this is it; we are in our sixth year and we felt so overwhelmed to be facing harvest snafus still, even though we know that every year we will see unpredictable outcomes from the given mix of crops and yields and weather and pests, even though we know that they are always manageable in some way.   We were hit with the realization that we had needed to make a hard but necessary decision that would have been best for our farm and our family as we went into this year, but we didn’t because we just weren’t sure, and now we have to wait the whole season to right that even though we both know now without a doubt we should have done it.  Having one shot at some things for a whole year, having so many factors out of our control changing our plans on us–it can be frustrating.  I think we had a mini crisis this fourth of  July, and for the first time ever (out loud at least), we heard ourselves saying, “Will it ever be too much for us to bear, will we ever just give up?”

And so in this funk, I went to market.  It was hard to rally myself and about halfway through the day I decided to grab a cup of coffee from the coffee shop.  One of the employees asked me how market was going and I didn’t give a very lively response.  The other asked what we sold and we started talking about the farm.  They asked why it was a bad day and I said, mostly jokingly, but clearly coming from the stress I had been feeling, “whatever you do, don’t go into farming!”

And the second employee, the new one whom I was just meeting that day, said, “That’s what I want to do, I want to be a farmer.”

And I smiled and laughed and felt so elated for the first time that day.  I told him I didn’t mean it at all, that he should definitely become a farmer!!!  That yes!  you can make a good living.  That yes!  the demand is still way higher than the production!  That yes!  it is the most wonderful way of life!  And that yes, some days are hard, but oh my goodness, please do become a farmer.

We talked a bit more about it all and then I had to hurry back to our market booth.  I was giddy.  I couldn’t believe that the conversation had come up, but in talking to him and encouraging him to try this whole thing out I was affirming all the reasons it is good and right for us and certainly not too much to bear when weighed in the correct light.

The farmer felt better today too.  We both wondered if we weren’t under some kind of cosmic black cloud; looking around today under the hot July sun showed us that things really look great out here– beautiful soil, healthy plants, loads of fruit.   They say that summer doesn’t start until after the 4th of July here.  Today it felt like things were shifting.  So much yummy food coming into harvest, the bounty of summertime.  We probably won’t have any more stressful harvests from here on out.

Sometimes I think it is good to find yourself on a hump, stuck on the road.  Getting yourself off requires either going back down or finding the strength to go over.

Looking at the fields today and the whole farm, really, we see so much life exploding out here.  We are proud of where we have taken this land and committed to continuing this work.  Whether or not this has as much significance as I was going to give it in my original Independence day post, I don’t know.  I do know, most assuredly after this week, that it has the utmost significance to us.

And to some of you, I hope too.

Working together

I snapped these picture months ago.  It was during some of the first nice weather of the spring and I was sitting on the porch watching these kids build this fort, marveling at how well they were working together.  They don’t always; they have to negotiate a lot and at a young age, that isn’t the easiest thing to do.  Still, they did so well on this project, no one getting upset, no one becoming bossy, no one feeling left out, the baby was even playing along.  I was tickled.   And the fort stood at the end, the product affirming the work they did.

That day I started thinking about this post, about what it is like working together on the farm, about what I thought this year might look like in regards to the laboring on the farm.  We knew that on one hand, with a tractor in play, the farmer would be able to increase the space he was growing on while still saving time that could then be used to keep up with growing more food on more space.  But ground prep is just one small part of the growing of food and everything else, from planting seeds and transplanting plants to weeding to harvesting and washing and bundling…this is all work still done by hand.  It takes quite a few man hours to do this.

When we first moved to the farm and thought about starting our farm business, we made our business plan and set our goals with the thought that we would have two mostly full time farm workers, the farmer and I.  I’m not sure why we thought this since I had been a stay at home mom for the prior five years working a handful of part time jobs here and there, but nothing too intense and always while the farmer was home with the small fries.  We had this idea that we would all be here, all together, working and playing and schooling.  Picture perfect.

But the reality is, of course, that with children and a home to care for–that first year a one year old, a three year old, and a six year old–this mama did not a full time field worker make.  We adjusted our plans accordingly, and since then, the farmer has done it all for the most part.  I have always worked behind the scenes and helped at the markets, but the work I have been able to do in the field and even on harvest days is paced by the children at my side.  Some years, at various stages, each of them have been good transplant helpers, great potato planters, pretty helpful harvesters, and generally good playmates.   This year–although the oldest boy has long since stopped waking early to pick rainbow chard on Wednesday mornings because he loves the colors of the stalks, and the middle boy who loves to work by his father has only begged over and over again to learn how to drive the tractor (because he loves machines that one), and the little girl who used to sing, “grow, plants, grow” as a blessing for me each time I nestled a transplant into the ground with her help has moved on–the baby (who I’m not sure I can call that anymore since he is almost two) is so darn independent with these three older siblings to learn from and play with that I have, more than ever, been able to work and help in the fields.

Which is good, because as we try to expand from the one man acre and half operation we are to hopefully a  4-5 acre  one, we can see the limitations the farmer has doing it all by himself.  We are still not at full production, but we are realizing that what we want to do will take two workers but will only be  the size we need to be at just to support ourselves, not at the point to have any employees.  We’re not sure how we will work all that out, but for now the kids and I dance our way through the days and weeks trying to balance our time on the farm working with our time playing and doing special kid stuff and getting in those important summer treats.  Then, if I am lucky, the dishes get done at the end of the day too.

But oh!  We do love working together!  The farmer is fond of watching me in the field and I am fond of the feeling of physical labor.  I know that in order to balance this with my love of time with my kids, we are going to have to rely on help.  This week we had a friend come over and play with the kids for the morning; next week we may have a friend come over to help finish planting some things we wanted in the ground yesterday.  I know that other farms get this kind of help and utilize volunteers and friends to make things happen, but it has been hard for us to accept and/or ask for this.  Although part of this farming gig is the building of community, we are also very private, quiet people who get along best with each other.  Lately, I guess we have come to realize that our definition of “working together” will have to expand in order to make it all work.   I suppose that is part of the original “community supported agriculture” movement in the first place, not just fiscal support but usually help on the farm, support and connection on an even greater level.  Friends, grandma and grandpa, community members, me and the kids–hopefully with a little bit of help from all these extra hands, the farmer will be able to do it all!  Just like in so many of the folk tales we tell to our children–sometimes even the smallest bit of help can make a world of difference.

Simple Pleasures

It probably isn’t a good idea to star the mushroom in this weeks CSA newsletter-blog post since there weren’t enough for everyone today; but when you are walking out of your front door to harvest shiitake mushrooms your husband “grew” to bring inside and saute with the spring green garlic–or perhaps with the fleetingly appearing garlic scapes–to start your meals, then it is hard not to stop and snap a picture and get a little excited.

Growing our own mushrooms has been a bit of a trial and error deal, but we have started getting some every year now, so that is definitely a step in the right direction.

And of course, it is really nice to gorge on all the funky or slug bitten ones ourselves.  It is a lot of fun and the whole thing is so different from growing vegetables.  The flavor, too, is a special and wonderful thing.  I have never–not even when I have bought mushrooms from local producers–tasted mushrooms like these, eating them right after plucking them off the oak logs they were grown on (except of course when doing the same with mushrooms in the wild).

All of that is part of the beauty of choosing small and local.  A farm member remarked today that she barely ate any salads through the winter when CSA harvests were off, the flavor of the farm’s salad mix lingering in her memory with nothing available at the store quite the same.  I know what she means–it is hard to find produce that comes close to what you are going to receive from your CSA or find at your local farmer’s market–or better yet, grow yourself.  Even market shops that hope to include truly local produce in their selections have a hard time finding farmers who want to go that route.  Although there have been a handful of times when we have sold extra produce to our local market, this is definitely our last stop.  We prefer selling things directly to the eater, it is much better for us and a lot funner for them.

As I found myself mentioning to anyone looking curiously at our green garlic on the farmer’s market table these last few weeks:  there are foods that are “farmer’s market only”  kinds of things.  In general, anyways.  I don’t make it to the city often, so I don’t know what markets offer there; but for the most part, green garlic is a spring treat you are only going to see at your local farmer’s market or in your CSA harvest.

And there’s a lot to say for that.  As simple and humble as what we offer is, it is as equally gourmet and foodtastic and unique and special.  The amazing flavors of things as mundane as lettuce and the offerings as special as ultra fresh mushrooms and spring pulled garlic are a small bit of what makes this adventure–for all of us–pretty awesome.

What I love about this the most is that these are all simple, tiny pleasures we bring to the table, but they really do add such an inordinate amount of depth and beauty to our lives.  Food is the most basic of human needs and human pleasures.  For very little and with very little effort, we can magnify the delight and joy of “eating” a hundred fold.

Another farmer that we know–probably not the first to do so–turned the old phrase “dirt poor” on its head when he was being interviewed about his life as a farmer by claiming that yes, he was poor, but not dirt poor…he was dirt rich.  It is true, there are things a farmer is rich in beyond measure.  We, alas, would also probably be classified as the stereotypical poor farmers because even though this model of farming can be quite lucrative, we have many extenuating factors that keep our bottom line lower than we would like.  Still, besides being rich in land, we are also exceedingly rich in food!  Those mushrooms!  So good.  All our meals, really.  We can’t even go out to eat except for at a few special places because with the ingredients we have access to, we are eating like kings at every meal, even if we aren’t living like them.

But really, that all depends on how you define living like kings…because I think that we are.  And I hope all of our farm members and market customers are enjoying their food this much too.  I hope that these humble vegetables and our weekly interactions around them ultimately result in happy tongues and full and fulfilled bellies.   I hope that for all of us, our meals bring us the most simple of pleasures.