Friday, November 20, 2009

New Farmers


I'm not sure how many new farmers read this blog, but I'm re posting a reply I made on a "new farmers" forum to a young lady who has had a bit of a bumpy road her first 2 years. To my charter members, that rings so true - and bear with me as I re-live our first 2 years so far anyway, to date.....

I have to agree with Julie - you can't give up just because of a few bad seasons, well I guess you CAN, but....

The first year for me, which was last fall while I was still working a full time day job (for a chemical commercial grower of ornamental plants - in the office I might add), on what is now soft and squishy, sandy-red-clay beds, was as hard as a parking lot - so hard, in fact, that we couldn't even get it plowed and planted in time for a warm season fall crop. And the broker messed up my order, placing it 3 weeks too late, so my first order of plugs arrived in December - not when you should be planting anywhere short maybe southern zone 9.

The winter may have been our best shot weather-wise, but due to the late planting, the cole crops sat there - and sat there. Then, my 67 yr young father took critically ill - and eventually I lost him to the neglect of a nursing home basically..... That happened in late Jan - when we should be focused on spring starts, potatoes, onions and such. Well, if you've never lost a parent, even under "normal" circumstances, I can't even begin to explain the feelings that whirl through your head, but it wasn't good for keeping my mind on things. I missed ordering onions and had to take what the local feed store had left over, potatoes went in late and ironically - those 2 things probably were everyone's favorite when they did come in.

To top it off, a young woman who was a self proclaimed expert in what CSA was supposed to be based on her experience on the Angelic Farm CSA in IL, riled up the troops and took half of them off the farm with her after the very first season. (Apparently, after reading her emails, she was also a lawyer, accountant, farmer, small biz owner and expert of everything - except as a supporter of a new farm)

Needless to say, we didn't have a very fruitful 1st year....

This year, we've had to come out of our summer's drought and record heat (which kept our tomato crops at an all time low across the region and killed most of my sweet potato slips as I couldn't keep enough water on the 120 degree sandy soil at the far end of the gardens), to 20 something+ inches of rain in 30 days. (heck after 20 in less than a month, does it really matter anymore? I got tired of dumping out the rain gauge!) And at least 30days without sunshine.

Our crops are dwarfed, the ones that survived, and not yielding much of anything. I've got 200' of tomatoes - GREEN as they can be, and I'm praying for some sunshine and warm temps for about 2 weeks - BEFORE we get a darn freeze.

But - after over 20 years doing various other occupations, this is my chosen life and so long as people will support my efforts, I'll get my rear up out of bed and out to that garden and talk to it till I'm blue in the face if need be - positive stuff of course. And I fertilize and I re-plant until I get something to grow! (we planted 3x now on root crops; after 2.5 inches came down in 45 mins. of an unpredicted rain, and the 2nd time the ground was apparently still so saturated that while we were planting on almanac days in-between rain events, it rained before and afterwards and they never even came up. The other day, again with the almanac, we planted turnips, beets and carrots - and again it has rained - 1/2 inch the first day after - no problem, but then again all day today - about 1.75 inches probably when it is all said and done in the morning. It was at 1.5 earlier, and it is still drizzling out there.) The ground is so wet I'm afraid it will suffocate the roots of the seedlings that should just now be sprouting! And, while all the rain was coming down, caterpillers were chomping because the BT wouldn't stay put - now, I'm not sure if something with 4 legs or 6 is eating the brocolli starts, but I'm not happy about it either way. And the chard seems to keep disappearing as well!

A wise farmer lady friend of mine told me this about farming - as that first 2.5 inches I mentioned was coming down at my farm, unknown to us at the time while we were shelling peas on hers 20 miles away - "if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!"

And she's right - but, I feel like it is a noble and very important thing to do and in a way, I feel honored to have the opportunity to do it. I'm a first generation farmer - no kids or spouse, so it may end with me as far as my family goes - but I'm training others to farm and hopefully they'll take over the CSA when the day comes I want to hang up my hoe, and I'll keep this land in cultivation via an ag-easement, to keep the city's grubby hands off it, and lease it to the new farmers/owners of the CSA. (so I'll have a retirement to live off of. Not counting on any gov't to be left with any much money by then, so I"m planning to take care of myself.)

It gets in your blood when you look at your supporters and know they are counting on that good, clean food they can trust you for. Diabetic, autistic, cancer survivors and other auto immune disorders, die hard supporters who pay AND come work on the farm.
I'm dying to provide a market table - heck I HOST a farmer's market on my farm 2x a month and I can rarely provide anything cuz my CSA comes first. But I know in my heart that one day I'll have an abundance - and it will all have been worth the worrying and the long days & nights blogging, recipe hunting and dishing out work day chores.

I hope you keep after it; the country needs more small, local growers. Keep in touch with other farmers, like you're doing here, or on facebook, and on other forums, get involved with regional farmer organizations (down here in TX we have the state-wide "TOFGA"). Stay connected and stay positive - it will affect your planting if you aren't. I believe in the energy we give off when we are in the gardens - if you're having a bad day - go back in the house till you can recollect yourself and then go back to work. Grow with and out of love for your people and the earth. You are doing something so important!

(Julie - you should write a book! ) (Julie is one of the other farmers I take some of my inspiration from)

To Eden's Garden supporters - I thank you all very much, and I mean that - because what we are starting here doesn't end with us - it goes on and touches many beyond us for generations to come. And I could not execute what it takes to make this farm successful without your support.

The community will grow around it and we'll all have stories to tell and books to write some day about our connections to the farm.


Marie
Eat Your Food - Naturally!

2 comments:

  1. You go girl!!!

    Garlic Man

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Mike. It was late - I really rambled didn't I. :)

    ReplyDelete

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