Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Real Life Reality Doesn't Have a Script

(This is the fuller version of a post from the farm's FB post, which also contained 2 additional tales by other farmers.) 

Sometimes reality is shocking to those who don't live and breathe it every day. Farms are hurting and many of them look like train wrecks. Not Better Homes and Gardens centerfolds.

I JUST THIS WEEK got cucumbers in the ground. Along with that, the 2nd planting of watermelon and cantaloupe went in yesterday, and some were seeds to make up for the transplants that expired in their pots waiting for it to be dry enough out to plant them in the ground.

I have half the tomatoes in the ground I usually do this time of the summer - but I'm still seeding with hopes some of the new varieties I'm trying will take the Dallas heat. 

As I pulled out winter crops in the high tunnel, because the ones in the field drowned, I put in peppers and tomatoes, beans and squash. The bees didn't find many of the squash blossoms in there - but, ironically, the squash vine borer and the cucumber beetles and squash bugs - did. So much for an early start. Squash transplants will go outside tomorrow in the last row I was able to get prepared - before it rained all day today.

Prior to this week's mowing (I've been spending at least one day a week, every week, mowing, for the past month and half) and disk/bedding, this place looked like a giant, overgrown, mudhole. 

It's slowly starting to take shape again. I outwardly heaved a sigh of relief last night - at 7pm - as I purveyed the work I'd started - at 7am - and saw it finally showing progress.

It was embarrassing to let my members wander out through the pasture last weekend, but they "get it" because I keep them abreast of what is going on here. Weekly. Pictures. A newsletter. An open invite to come see and work - mire in the mud with me.

And some of them do come. They see the evolution and then the ebb and flow of things when Nature goofs off and doesn't do her part.

Customers who don't get it, complain;
There's not enough choice in produce, I found a bug/hole/it's too small
The 3 different times/places to pick up aren't convenient enough for me.
I can spend $6 for a cup of coffee but a dozen eggs?
Well MY garden has xyz growing in it....

Planting a garden plot is NOT the same as growing food for 20, 30, 50 families, plus a market or two or three, etc. It's not the same as getting something from the warehouse and putting it on a shelf. Or ordering it on line from a clearing house and putting it in a box and shipping it out. Organic chicken feed is twice the price of the conventional stuff in a feed store - you are what you eat, eats, and we care about that.

You can not magically put in raise beds where you once planted 300' rows by tractor, when you farm alone. It's pretty much physically impossible for one person, without some equipment, to farm on that scale. Harvesting alone will nearly kill you.

And as much organic matter as you put in, one or two heavy downpours essentially makes it all obsolete when your ground is mostly sand and it filters it to the top and floats off. So you have to prep your land - all over again.

That's why I got the high tunnel. It saved our winter harvest. I listened to my mentor, Farmer Bev. She told me it'd help and it has. She's had her challenges with them this year - mice, grasshoppers. They're not a silver bullet for sure.

Thankfully, I found a huge snake skin in mine - and she/he seems to be doing a decent job, for the moment, on what was almost a mouse invasion in there. The local birds found a way in (and thankfully out) and seem to have gotten the grasshoppers under control - for now. That was after the I kicked out neighbor's chickens that got in there and ate down our spring seedlings to wash down some grasshoppers.

I got lucky. Not all farmers get lucky. Some of them lose it all - or their lives trying to save it all. And it shouldn't be that way. These people grow our food. We'd all die without them. If the auto makers go away, we can still walk. Or ride a bike.

No Farms. No Food. Get it?

We need to find ways to support our small, struggling farms, without breaking our own banks, so they can get through tough times. They aren't all good at asking for help, or for telling you how bad it really is, until it's REALLY bad. "There's always next season" is the farmer's mantra. 

Till several years of bad seasons string together and nearly wipe them out. 

Drought, followed by a dip in the economy, the insurgence of 3rd party Venture Capital backed mail order "farm to house" companies, flagrant lying "farmers" buying wholesale and selling it as if they grew it, floods, grasshoppers, health issues, livestock dying - and sometimes, ALL of this stacked up on top of each other over the course of 4 or 5 years - and there's nothing left. 

If you can afford a CSA but can't use it - find a farm that offers them, and gift it to someone. It makes a cool "I care about you" present for in-laws, relatives, parents, etc. 

Cold Springs Farm CSA is west of 35 and needs full share members for the summer season. Which will be starting late, b/c - RAIN. But Bev grows awesome corn, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers and more. 

Eden's is east of 75. I'm sorry, we don't service outside of downtown or Lakewood. I'm one person. Bev is one person. We don't have a fleet of drivers or even another part time employee. It's one woman operations. Two Lady Farmers, remember? Till the Dallas farmer's market went back to wholesale selling and treating their farmers like dirt. Now we each are back to CSA and a local market. But we need you to buy. Highway 19 produce and berries lost a ton of crops this spring to flooding. They're out east of me. They need your help, too. 

If a farmer has value added products - buy them. They also make great gifts if you don't happen to like pickled okra, dilly beans or whatever they had time to make. Yeah, $9 is a lot for a jar of vinegar and veggies - but it was made with care, attention to detail, by hand, in your farmer or artisan's kitchen - with you in mind. That's pretty priceless.

Many farmers farm as their sole way of earning income. They really love what they do, but if there's not enough of a market to buy what they grow, they can't stay in business. and then what? 

You are forced to then buy food grown from a big, faceless farm. And you'll complain. So why not complain about the small farm's prices and being out of the way to get to; than the big one's facelessness and all that comes with it?

This is not a local DFW issue. It's happening all over the country. More farmers are committing suicide now than ever before. Farming used to be sustainable. It CAN be. But we have to have a market for it. YOU are our market. 

No one expects anyone to spend all of their grocery money with one place. Find something you can afford or that you know you can't find at the supermarket, and commit to getting it from your favorite local farmer, dairy(wo)man, rancher, fisher(wo)man, artisan, etc. 

We'll all be glad you did.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!


PS - my hat is off to all small business owners everywhere. Owning and running one is hard work. Endless hours spent thinking, planning, doing - only to have an employee or you make a mistake that costs money and time lost, or Nature - in the case of farming - wipe out an entire planting, which can't be replaced for weeks, because, farming is not magic.

Keep doing what you do because it's worth it to someone. Hopefully it's worth it to YOU. If it's not - it may be time to do something different. Life is short and hard work is one thing, but please, don't risk your health or life for it. And whatever you do, don't end your life over it. Too many people value you beyond what your business is. Taken from the original post off FB that started this blog entry - if you are a farmer reading this and you feel helpless, hopeless and lost... there is help, and there is support.