Monday, August 23, 2010

Misery Loves Company?

We have had the opportunity to attend a couple of events where we have a chance to visit and/or commiserate with other Iowa vegetable growers. Just yesterday, Tammy attended a field day on field equipment while Rob once again imagined he could be a baseball player. A couple of weeks ago(? - is that right ? really?!?) we both attended a filmed discussion session on local foods at the same location.

The reality in the state where we live is that a small farm such as ours is still a rarity. So, chances like this, where we find other like-minded and like-employed individuals aren't as easy to come by and are, perhaps, more valuable than one might think. In seasons like this - it at least gives us all a chance to vent about a difficult growing season. But, in a normal season, it gives chances to compare notes, share ideas and provide support to each other in our endeavors.

Some things we have heard from these folks:
  1. This year is, in many ways, worse than 2008. For those who didn't know, 2008 was going to be a benchmark for how bad it could possibly get for growers such as ourselves. However, it redeemed itself somewhat by not getting a killing frost until October.
  2. We are not the only growers who have had difficulties and been disappointed by the past three growing seasons. Weather anomalies are making it increasingly difficult for growers to plan for the season.
  3. One veteran CSA grower mentioned that they needed (and took) a short one-week vacation to visit family this year. Because, it was important to get away from the farm - it had become that depressing for them.
  4. Another experienced grower was relieved to hear that they were not the only ones putting seed into the ground and vainly waiting for it to germinate.
  5. Stories about field under water that normally drain fairly well, plants turning to brown mush are the norm this year.
  6. Disease issues are plaguing most growers.
  7. Each and every CSA grower we talk to is frustrated on behalf of their members. Not a single one of us wants to take advantage of the 'insurance' that CSA programs provide for the farmer. Yet, we all find ourselves in that position this season. As a result...
  8. There is a great deal of discussion and sharing of ideas to try to respond if this is to be our new weather norm.
Now, to turn this to the positive.

There are a number of small farms, including ours, that have tried to set themselves up to thrive (or at least do reasonably well) in the last three to five years. Two of the last three years have been near to complete disasters for growing years. And 2009, had a number of issues as well. It only seemed like a good year because 2008 was so difficult. That means these farms are actually managed well enough to survive even during very tough years (others can judge our own farm as you see fit).

So, if we can all find a way to emerge from these difficulties with new techniques and perhaps, some better growing years, imagine just how positive things could be for small farms such as ours.

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