Last year at this time, David and I found ourselves at the farm, in the quiet. Our kids had returned to school. There were no employees. We had no lease and no plan for the year. For once, there were not a million tasks to do, only one big one. Figuring out what comes next. It was both overwhelming and a huge relief. The whole year lay open in front of us, plenty of time to figure it out. Not simply a day, or a month, but an entire year.
Even though the lease remained in flux and an unknown, we still needed to eat and couldn’t break our habit of planting and cultivating food. We had some savings to draw on and cut our expenses down to the minimum, but income was still necessary. So, we made a planting plan, a small one, just right for two middle-aged farmers, and got to work.
It felt comfortable to return to where we began, doing all of the growing and harvesting ourselves. We noticed things. Systems we had put in place years ago were not working any longer. We played around with plant spacing and varieties, with transplanting crops typically direct seeded, and so on.
Long-term plans were not an option until the lease was settled, but I did visit farmers I admire, touring their operations, learning from them, gathering knowledge, considering all possibilities. On a farm, there are many.
In mid-April we signed a lease everyone was happy with, but in the prior months David and I had planted an abundant garden. Now there were rows of strawberries to pick, salad greens to cut, tomatoes to prune, and there was only the two of us to do it.
Spring turned into summer, with school-less children and sweltering days. In August, we were finally able to take a deep breath and think more seriously about what comes next for us. For months we had been dreaming while worked in the garden, but it was time to reenter reality and make decisions.
I thought we would emerge from this year with a clear, specific long-term plan, a checklist. Instead, the main conclusion we reached is that we cannot do all it at once. It will take time. We’ll take it slow, choosing the next right thing. Already, there is a new shed in the field, soon to be outfitted as a packing facility, which is a big step forward. For twenty years we have driven ten minutes up a winding dirt road to wash and pack every single vegetable grown and harvested, and then ten minutes back to field to work. Now, we will be able to do this right away in the field. It may not sound like much, but it will make an enormous difference in our daily lives. Solar power and a new water system will come next. Other structures are under way as well. We have settled on a handful of changes to implement this year and feel strongly that remaining adaptable is critical. I still believe the greater issue is with our food system and larger change there is the only long-term solution, but I do see a way for small changes on this little piece of the planet to allow us to continue to feed our community, while nurturing the land and ourselves.
I realize taking a year to slow down and ponder, to re-envision, is a luxury not everyone can take, even after twenty years of farming full-time. That, too, should change. I wish we could have done this sooner, after ten years maybe. I hope one day this will be the norm for farmers. It has David and I excited again, hopeful. We are not hopeful that things will change, but that we can change things.
We’ll welcome back two of our H2A workers this spring and provide a small CSA to the Tuscaloosa area again this year, along with deliveries to Manna Grocery, River, and attending the weekly Tuscaloosa River Market on Saturdays. On top of that, we hope to invite you all out to the farm soon to catch up and enjoy the farm, together!
Thank you for continuing to support our farm and our family.
Information regarding CSA sign-up for the Tuscaloosa area coming soon.
All my best,
NEWS FROM THE BEND
From planting time to the growing and harvesting seasons,