It's that time of the year again... Summer is in full swing, I'm exhausted, over-committed, the "must-do" lists are pilling up, and I can't stop thinking about what comes next.
This isn't a new feeling, but every year it has a new flavor. The first year I started the business it was a feeling of dread: "how on earth am I going to keep it together for the rest of the season?? This job is impossible!". The second year it was: "holy moly I've grown too fast. This is too much, there's no way we can keep this up". This year it's more like: "wait, I thought I was supposed to have learned something about this business, why is it still so hard?".
So to help myself process, here are a few reflections for the record.
- There is a demand for what we're doing. I remain incredibly grateful and surprised at how appreciative, supportive, and forgiving our customers are. People need and want good food and they respond well to our style of growing and selling. Even when I feel like we're not doing our best you all buoy my spirits by showing up to market week after week. This keeps me going, and it makes me feel like this business has potential no matter how hard or long the days are.
- The model is still not sustainable. I think we're getting closer every year, but we're not there yet. I have this elusive vision of a farm business that can support a family. We will do it through a diverse set of activities which, combined, should be able to provide enough income without too much work—I mean, 12 hours a day in the summer is cool, but 15 is too much. After all, I'm going to get old one of these days... So how do we make it work?
- We're doing too much. To date my strategy for achieving the elusive sustainability goal has been to just throw everything out there and see what sticks—farm share meets markets, meets farm camp, meets farm dinners, and educational tours. Now let's add chickens and sheep and maybe beef? But what about the flowers and the events and the weddings? There just aren't enough hours in the day. And, as a result, things start to slip—beds are are not weeded on time, the bug pressure escalates, the marketing projects linger.. I know the first rule in business is to focus on your core strength and not spread too thin, but my dreams are big and the financial challenges are real. So how and what to we pare back?
- I'm not giving up. My two true problems are impatience and unrealistic expectations. This is only our third year in business. Most businesses take 5 years before breaking even—we've been in the black since the first year. We have room to grow, experiment, and shift our strategies. Even with this season's particular setbacks we're still meeting our financial goals, and there's no reason to believe that the rest of the season won't be just as positive.
Anyway, that's it for now. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts and dreams to put down as the season progresses, but for now there are chickens to feed and family to enjoy... it is Sunday after all :).