Thursday, August 20, 2009

Farming and the Reality of Failure

It's been a few weeks since I've blogged - I've been pondering what to say for one thing, and then I ran across this young lady's blog via the FRESH! link and I think she summed it up pretty well. Farming = failures. It is just going to happen and if we want to be in the business of farming, we'd better just get used to it. (click on the blog title for the link to the story.)

But, as she also points out, there are many successes to celebrate as well. Sometimes, they don't come at us as obviously as the losses, but they are there if we look.

We've hatched out many, many new little chicks this past year and soon, they'll be laying eggs. That means, we are several steps closer to having free range eggs available from Eden's for shares.

We have started to recruit younger people to the farm in a learning capacity. I have been working side by side with Chad for several weeks now and Charity and Butch, who have been in our CSA since day 1, are learning and helping with both field work and behind the scenes things such as web site development. Since she has a little one at home with special needs, it is not always possible for Charity to get to the farm on a routine, but, she's dedicated to doing what she can to help the farm and to learn about it as much as she can. This means as we continue to train folks, that our farm can become more successful and, as some will intern and leave the farm, other small, local farms will pop up for other communities.

We have harvested a lot of food off our first year's gardens. I know many weeks it may not have seemed like it, but if you think about how much food it takes to feed 20 shares+, it is a LOT of food. We have been short as far as full shares some weeks, but the quality of the food never had any complaints. We've had other farmers and chefs comment on the taste of the food harvested - that, you just can't substitute. Once we get the watering issue nailed down - we should be home free.

And, lastly - for now, we're doing it all off the grid! I've asked about the potential for introducing a gas powered pump - in situations where we have seedlings in the field and a cloudy, windless yet very hot day and we NEED to water. Consistent watering has hurt us a bit. That soil is just too hot and we can't water all day - our capacity just isn't there. As we build the soil, this won't be as big of a deal, but we've got a few years to go before we can say our soil is full of good, rich organic matter. It is nutritious now, but we need to build the tilth of it so it will not drain so fast. I know, most of you struggle with heavy clay that never seems to drain - not so here though. We have beach sand in many sections.

I think we've learned some great things in this our first year on the farm. I am learning what not to plant and what to try. (We'll NOT be planting little leaf cucumbers next year on the sandy soil), and we're really going to have to be more strategic when it comes to jumping on that small window of planting - soon as the soil hits a good temp - we're going to have to call in all hands on deck to get things in the ground more efficiently. That hurt us this year - it went from freezing, to sopping wet (and still too cold in the soil) to hotter than blazes within a very short window. We can't count on the season being average - it was much hotter than normal, much earlier than normal this year and that wiped out any possibility of re-seeding things that didn't germinate. We tried - several times. Corn, beans, okra, (which is just now coming up), and cantaloupes all had to be planted and replanted or plowed up. There is nothing more depressing than watching all those hours of work plowed under....

One more cool thing is that this seems to have been a good year for the pomegranate bush! I'll be sharing those with you all as soon as they ripen a bit. Last year the darn stink bugs got them, but they were soft and not very good. This year, they seem to be in good shape, a bit small, I suspect from the heat, but they are firm and I've not seen a bunch of bugs on them yet. So, I'll keep an eye and hopefully in the next few weeks we'll have a big picking party and get them harvested. They are soooo good for you!

In the meantime, we have to say good luck and good bye to Sam Walker - he's leaving for college next week. We'll miss his help and humor out here at the farm. But, the good news, for us anyway, is that his sisters will be staying for a bit longer as the family has not been able to move up to Denton yet. (Mr. Walker is getting his doctrine in Denton - way to go!)

Keep abreast of the HR2749 legislation, please. This is not just something we can ignore. The widely vauge way it is written, as well as some of the very clear stipulations, spell trouble for the local food system. I'll be posting some info here soon. It can spell disaster for small farms for a variety of reasons. Let's hope the Senate takes into consideration that one size fits all isn't appropriate for this law. It gives way too much power to the USDA/FDA and invades the privacy, not to mention takes away the right to farm naturally and sustainable - the way it has been done since Biblical times - from those who choose to do so, but don't want or can't afford to pay the USDA to do so. (It never made sense to me to pay the government NOT to do something - like NOT to spray poison or pollute the land.)

Hope you are having a great last summer weekend - school starts too soon I'm sure. But, maybe that means cooler nights are on the way. It sure has been a scorcher of a summer this year.

Don't forget Sept. 19th is Barn Aid and the free screening of FRESH! (gates open at dusk) and the traditional free concert afterwards. I hope you can make it. I'd like to give a public kudos to my supporters - it is because of CSA that this farm - is.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!