Today marks the beginning of the 15th week of the Thornfield Farm market season—the halfway point. I can't decide whether to be amazed at how fast it's gone or terrified by how much further we still have to go. Every week moves by so quickly I can't believe it's over, and yet there is so much work packed into every day that it always feels like three weeks in one. I'm exhausted and very happy.
To celebrate the passage of time, this post is a little recap of some learnings and reflections.
1. Plants want to grow. The first seeding of arugula and spicy greens that I set out in March was a disaster—not because there was a problem with the crops, but because I was terrified that I would mess it up and the seeds wouldn't germinate and therefore we would have no crop. (My most constant, consistent, and irrational fear is that I will bungle something so badly that we will have no vegetables to offer). So the first week of the first seeding I tried to follow the directions and use the seeder, then I re-seeded by hand, then I fiddled with the rows and tried re-adjust the seeds and cover them better and added some more seed. Then I watched with vigilance and terror every hour for the three days only to find that every seed germinated (despite my efforts) and I had of course put out way too much seed. Now, after our 12th seeding of spicy greens and arugula. I don't worry so much about the germination. I still worry that I will mess things up, but so far the salad greens always pop up and there are now many bigger (buggier) problems to stew over. As my friend Toon advised me early on, "plants want to grow. That is their job. The most important thing we can do as farmers is create good environment for them and get out of the way."
2. I don't know anything about farming. Every now and then I think I'm learning something, I think that I might be able to replicate some good practices. But then, there's just a new challenge around the corner that I didn't anticipate. I really couldn't have imagined how many different speices of bugs would come to plague us. I had no idea what kind of challenges the heat and the mugginess would pose for my dreams of growing beautiful spring greens all summer. I really couldn't anticipate (even though I knew it would be a problem) the countless number of hours I would spend pulling shit thistles out of the saw mill garden. The list goes on and on. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but farming is a humbling experience.
3. My budget was way off. If trends continue, we will both make more and spend more money than I projected. This is probably not at all unusual for a new business. The budget was a helpful starting point that allowed me to manage my initial finances and startup costs. But, the truth is I had no idea what kind of an appetite there would be for organic vegetables here nor did I have a clear idea of the day-to-day costs of running a farm. I am extremely grateful to report that the desire for high quality (dare I say delicious :) local produce is much higher than I expected. And I'm only a little chagrinned to admit that everything (and I do mean everything) costs more than I had hoped..
4. People are awesome. In general I don't really like other humans—that's why I'm a farmer. But, I love our customers. I thought the marketing part of this job would be the hardest for me. I was not looking forward to spending many hours of my week at the stand peddling vegetables. But, I was wrong. It is actually one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I love having regular connection with people from all walks of life and sharing our work in such a tangible way. Hearing so many people's enthusiasm for our produce is such a boost that it makes all of the struggles seem worth it. The truth is, I've never been a "foodie." I love farming more for the dirt and the hard work than for the food. But, I do love how much joy, health, and value our produce brings to our costumers and to this community (not to mention my own table!).
Overwhelmingly I just feel grateful that this crazy scheme is working at all. The vegetables are growing, we have customers, and our customers are happy. Awesome.