Thursday, April 30, 2015

Look in the Mirror 2010 - Ten Year Tenure

We officially celebrate our 10th Anniversary as the Genuine Faux Farm this Spring.  We started GFF in May of 2005 (we have lived on the farm since 2004).  So, last year was our 10th year of offering a CSA program.  But, we figure we can continue to celebrate 10 years for a little bit yet.

As a part of this celebration, we're going to do some "retrospective" pieces.  For those that have been with us for some time, you might enjoy seeing some of this to remind us all how far we've come.  If you have not been with us all that long, you get the benefit of seeing where we've been without having to go through the growing pains with us!

For those who have interest, you may notice links in this post to other blog posts from 2010.  They actually give a pretty good feeling for 2010, so feel free to take them and explore.  If you want to see our "Top Ten" posts for 2010, you can take that link. They tend towards the humorous in most cases - so if you need a laugh, there you go!

Durnik the tractor is a hit for more than the farmers.
2010 - That Happened Too?
Rain, rain and more rain.  This is the year that could have been the end of GFF, but instead it was the beginning of our re invention.  Our first high tunnel went up in early July and the first harvests for the building occurred that fall.  Durnik the tractor joined our farm, we held our first extended CSA Fall, added the portable feed bin and made a room for the turkeys in the newly dubbed "Poultry Pavilion."  Oddly enough, we often forget that the year started with an emergency new furnace and a roof on the back porch/addition of the farm house.  The latter was planned, of course, which is why the former happened immediately after.

Many hands still meant alot of work!
In the process of preparing this blog post, I took a look at some of our summary posts for 2010 on our blog.  In particular, the Top Ten Events of 2010 reminded me of some things that I had forgotten happened that year.  It's not that they were small things, in and of themselves.  It's more the fact that there were many significant things that stacked up that year.  For example, I hadn't remembered that this was the first season we had the wonderful feed bin constructed by Jeff Sage (the Band Saw Man).  And, I didn't quite equate that year with the year a couple of our feline farm managers left us to go to the great hunting grounds and that Fall we added two new indoor farm managers.  It is really no wonder that we were exhausted by the time we hit the end of the year.

Something we hope to never see again.
The weather was the biggest issue for us in 2010.  It began to rain and it didn't stop.  We were able to get most things in the ground successfully in May.  But, heavy rains in June through mid-July caused many of our crops to.. well.. essentially drown.  If you look at the picture above, you'll see browning leaves on brassica plants on July 5.  And, of course, grasses loved the water, so we had a big weed problem we couldn't address because things were so wet.  We weren't the only diversified, small farm that was struggling.  It was just a tough year.  And, if we had not gone through with the investment of the high tunnel - despite the stress that caused - we might have exited the profession entirely once we had met our CSA obligations.

Peppers, not so good.  Cucumbers?  They loved it.
Some crops liked the rains.  In most of those cases, it was also because they were in fields with better drainage.  Looking back at our top ten veg varieties for 2010, we find that there really were some decent crops that year.  We actually put together a short picture-based review in October as part of our recovery therapy.  But, there were plenty of days like this one that really drug us down.  And, the radar frequently featured things like this.

Our first crop in the high tunnel.
 At the end of day (or year), we realized that we had fought through a very difficult year and we actually had some positive things to build on.  We even learned that leaning against the metal endwalls of the high tunnel could have consequences!  Every year since has had its difficulties, but the experiences of 2010, along with the added tools in our tool box that the difficult year pushed us to acquire, have made us a much more resilient farm.

Here's looking forward to a prosperous and enjoyable 2015 season.  We don't expect perfection and we do expect difficulties.  But, we know we'll do our best to address those difficulties and use our skills and tools towards what should be a great year!

Our second crop in the high tunnel (November)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why a CSA/Farm Share?

It is April, once again.  And, once again, we are pushing to fill up our CSA Farm Share program for the regular season.

Chumley, the truck - filled with CSA farm share goodness
Every year, we hope to get our CSA filled prior to January.  And, every year, we fail to do it.  We understand why.  People don't really want to commit to something that far in the future.  After all, so many things can (and do) happen.  Every year, wonderful people move on for any number of reasons.  But, that means we have to find new people to take their place!

And, let's also be honest about our own shortcomings on this front. We work very hard on the farm to bring good food to people.  And, once we get to December, January and February - we don't really want to dedicate every waking moment to promoting the farm.  Tammy is extremely busy with her work at Wartburg College.  And, Rob is trying to do things he doesn't get to do the other nine months of the year.  And, yes, he still has to do planning, farm purchasing, organic certification paperwork, taxes, etc etc.  The energy isn't always there to hit the pavement and yell from the rooftops that we need more subscribers.

But, then we get to April.  Seeds are being planted in trays.  Some in the ground.  And we realize that we still have over fifty slots open in our CSA.  And, so, we start pushing the promotions bandwagon!

Why does the CSA model fit our farm?
We're glad you asked.  Let me see if I can give you a quick summary so you can understand why we want this model to work.

1. We like diversity.
We like diversity in our crops.  We think it is the healthiest way to grow food for our soils, for the environment and for the farmers.  It is enjoyable for us to grow a lot of different things.  It provides us with a built in insurance program.  With the level of diversity we maintain, we're pretty well guaranteed to have something EVERY year barring an absolute catastrophe.  And believe me when I say, we've had some major issues occur on our farm - but not one of them has resulted in complete failure by us to provide some good food for our CSA members.

CSA farm shares promote the ability to be very diverse growers.  We make it even more compatible by using the 'menu style' distribution system where people pick up items from each station and add it to their box/bag.  This gives our customers some choice within the diversity provided.  We don't, by necessity, have to have 200 of a certain type of tomato on a given week.  We can mix and match with the diversity we have.

You can't do that and successfully make sales in a bulk retail market.  And, institutional buyers usually want things to be pretty uniform.  But, in a CSA like ours, the diversity is celebrated.  Some people want the small zucchini and others want the big bread makers.

2. A full CSA gives us a financial base for operations
We're sorry if this sounds bland and unexciting.  But, please believe me when I tell you that farming is exciting enough without the added tension that comes with not knowing whether the things you grow will even get sold!  Seriously, it takes plenty of energy and effort to make sure that we grow good food, get it cleaned up and prepped for delivery without having to work to sell things daily.

So, ideally, we need to get enough subscribers to provide us with a financial base to cover our expenses.  Then, we might like to be able to sell a bit more so we make a profit of some sort each season.  But, you can't start worrying about a profit until you have that coverage of your expenses.

3. We like getting to know our share holders
Having a consistent set of customers who come and pick up their food every week gives us a chance to share more than good food.  We can share some ideas about how to eat well.  We can listen to thoughts and concerns about how things are grown.  We can even respond by making changes if they seem warranted!  Some days, knowing who we are working for is the thing that keeps us going!

4. Less food goes to waste.
Now, hear me out on this one.  We DO realize that some of you have trouble getting through all of your produce each week.  In fact, we've had some people stop being members because they felt so bad about wasting food.  But, we can hazard a guess that less of the produce goes to waste this way than it would if we sold at farmers' market or through a retail outlet.  And, much of the food that does not sell when provided to these venues even have a chance to be consumed by a human. 

Yes, it is true that we do our best to donate food to various organizations.  But, it is also true that they will not or can not take some of the produce we grow.  It is also true that we can feed much of the produce to our poultry.  Again, you have to consider that we usually have enough for them already.  Why?  Because we select the best product for you and the rest is consumed on the farm by us or our poultry.  And, yes, we can also compost.   So, it isn't totally lost.

In the end, if we did the numbers, we're pretty comfortable that less food is wasted using the CSA method.  And, if our members can't eat it all now, we hope we can help them learn to freeze excess for Winter months.  Or, failing that, they can compost as well. 

5. Thank you for considering our CSA!
We may be preaching to the choir.  But, we have to use the tools we have available to us.  If you have joined - you have our thanks.  If you are considering it, please follow through and reach out to us via email.  We make it easy to sign up and we make it easy to pick up your produce.  Let's enjoy this growing season together.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's a Start

Well, as of last weekend (Easter weekend), we have some things in the ground.  Well, we have them in our raised beds.

There are three raised beds and we have spinach and radish planted in two.  The third?  We're trying some early potatoes.  Let's see what happens.  Won't hurt anything and the rewards could be good.

Now, if we can get Tammy through the current semester and Rob past the big batch of paperwork he needs to do in the next week, we'll be good to go.

Speaking of radish.....  ROOT for US! 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hawthorne and Pygmalion

Sometimes my 'former' life comes back and gets me thinking - which we ALL know is a dangerous pastime!

Many of you might know that I do possess a PhD in Computer Science and Adult Education.  Yes, I was silly and did two topics.  If you've been paying any attention to what I write here, this piece of information should explain numerous things to you.  In fact, it might give you insight into why I often do things the way I do them.  But, that's not actually the topic of this blog post.

Now - before any of you smart people out there decide you want to pick apart my definitions - remember, this is a blog post where I'm trying to simplify things a bit to make a point or three.  Give a little slack and if you want to discuss it further, let me know and I'll gladly do so! If you want more detail, I found this web page to be dense, but accurate and very interesting.

The Hawthorne Effect
One of the concepts I was introduced to as I learned more about educational research was the idea that persons who were aware that they were being studied will potentially behave differently simply due to that awareness.  On the surface, this sure makes sense.  If you note a person with a camera walking around at a conference, you don't change what you are doing much at all.  However, if that person points that camera at you while you are having a conversation AND you notice it....

You tell me - how many people keep themselves from responding at all to that?

Will our lettuce behave differently if we study it?
In short, educational research has to consider the possibility that any difference found may be partially a result of the subject's knowledge that they were being observed.

So, what happens if, in addition to the knowledge that you are observed, you receive additional clues as to the behavior that would be desired by the observer?  If the person with the camera tries to get your attention, you might immediately turn to face the camera and smile.  Similarly, if subjects in a study think they know what the observers want, they may give it to them, which can then skew research results.  It wasn't the change in teaching that caused the change - it was the fact that the learners knew they were being watched that encouraged it!

Many of you might know that My Fair Lady was an adaptation of Pygmalion.  Or you may know of the Greek myth regarding a person who made a sculpture that came to life.  In education research, the Pygmalion Effect refers, in essence, to the 'self-fulfilling prophesy.'  If you can convince someone to expect certain results of themselves, they are more likely to get them.

As a teacher, I was convinced that a key battle to win with each learner was to convince them that they could succeed and that, with the right effort, they would succeed.  In doing this, it was important to correctly assess what was possible since setting unrealistic goals would do no good in building the confidence for continued success.

Why Think About This on the Farm?
A perfectly good question, don't you think?

Yes, it is.  And you should answer it! I, the Sandman, have spoken.
The scary thing about this post is that I had a clear idea where I wanted to go with it when I started.  Then, I was distracted by thinking about these concepts and education and it was no longer clear to me where I was going.  Happily, it came back to me.

Hawthorne on the Farm?
Well, no, this isn't the Hawthorne Effect, but there is enough relationship to make a connection.  We do perform many experiments on the farm every year.  Some of them are as simple as running two different sorts of lettuce against each other in a trial.  If, for whatever reason, the evaluators (Tammy and I) are predisposed towards one of the varieties, is it possible that we will fail to assess the varieties fairly?  Of course it is.  But, in this case, it is simply more likely that we will give a variety we have a predisposition for many more chances than one we do not already have a liking for.

On the other hand, if we hand customers at the farmers' market slices of one of our favorite tomatoes and ask them to tell us what they think, we could have an issue with a Hawthorne-ish Effect.  The tasters may be responding to non-verbal clues (or verbal clues) that we give them. 

But, if you'd like a situation on the farm that is probably closest to the original Hawthorne Effect.  What if Rob decides to observe workers weeding the squash.  He's taking notes and times to determine how efficiently the field can be weeded.  With that data, he hopes to come up with a schedule that should provide adequate time/labor to complete the job.  And, his estimate is WAY to short.  Why is that?  Could it be because the workers were aware that they were being observed and perhaps, evaluated?

Pygmalion at GFF
Pygmalion was a sculptor who put great effort into creating the most beautiful statue he could.  His dedication eventually results in Athena bringing Galatea (the statue) to life.  While this isn't a perfect analogy for our farm, it is the dedication our CSA members bring, along with our own motivations joined with our workers desires to see good things happen that result in our farm coming to life each year.  While it is only April, it is the time for us to begin focusing on making this a great year. 

If we believe it will be so, then we can make it happen.  The tools are available, the experience is in place and the goals are ambitious but reasonable.  Join us and let's make this a good season!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Harder Than It Looks

Here we are at April 10 - only a third of the way through our April blog push.  And, I find myself without a blog post for today!  It's not that I don't have several started and waiting for time/inspiration.  And, it's not as if I don't have things I can write about.  But, I have much to do and I don't have the time to spend on making some of those posts what I want them to be.  So, instead - you get this!

Outside is better, just ask them.
 Duck and Cover
The ducks went outside to their pasture last weekend, something we were about a week later than we wanted.  But, overall, it is about right.  With greenery starting to appear and nights less likely to get brutally cold, it seemed pretty safe to move them.  The ducks were starting to look a little rough in their room.  But, now, they go out to the portable shelter called the 'duck and cover.'  The electric fence is up and they have access to a bit more water (it's much easier to clean the water, etc outside than it is inside).

 Smarter Than Wood
We had one incident with a raccoon finding a way into the hen room this Winter.  It managed to get in, off one chicken and then it was caught in the act.  This specific raccoon is no longer with us.  We have learned that once they find a way in and get a taste of chicken, they don't give up until they can get in again (and again).  We also spent some time sealing up the West wall of the hen room and covering up a couple of things a raccoon could use for leverage to pull/chew on our walls in order to get in.  We used all kinds of scrap wood for this, including some material kindly offered to us by Chris Haymaker (thank you Chris).

It was cold when we did this work.  And, this was an 'emergency' job.  In other words, we weren't planning on spending a huge chunk of that day doing this particular project.  So, needless to say, Rob wasn't as cheery about the process as he might normally be.  But, with Tammy's help, things were going pretty well.  Tammy even tried to offer up some praise by telling me that I was "smarter than wood."


I guess she could have said I was as "dumb as a post."  But, I am smarter than a post as long as it is made of wood, I guess.

Sadly, the wood had the last laugh.  During one of the final bits of work, a piece of wood slipped and smacked my thumb and hand a pretty good one.  That's what I get for starting to feel superior, I guess.

House for Wren(t)
This year, we are ahead of the game.  Our trellis with the wren house is ready to go.  Never mind the fact that we never took it down this past fall.  Just in case a wren should need it in, oh... maybe.. January?  Ok, ok.  We just ran out of time last fall.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stress Reliever

Early April can be a stressful time of year for many reasons.  So, we thought we'd ease some of the stress by sharing some favored cartoons that we have saved over the past few years.  Our gratitude to the cartoonists who have the talents that can help us to laugh.

Greystone Inn


Rhymes With Orange


Pearls Before Swine


Mother Goose & Grimm

Dog Eat Doug

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

23 Reasons to Join This Year's CSA Farm Share with GFF!

Contrary to the word on the street, our CSA farm share program is not full for the season.  We can take more reservations.  In fact, we'd like to hear from you now so we don't have to work so hard on the billing cycle.

What do I mean by that?  Well, if I go through the billing process with the CSA 60% full, that means I have to spend extra time on each person that joins after that.  It is much more efficient for me if I wait until we're closer to full so I can make the whole process faster for me!

So... here we go!  Reasons to join our CSA farm share program in COLOR!  Technicolor if you would prefer!

If you haven't tried a Boothby's Blonde cucumber yet, then you really should.  They are quite mild and have a tender skin that removes the need to do any peeling.  And, if you like the texture of spinach, Amish Deer Tongue lettuce is one of the nine varieties of lettuce that we grow.  Deer Tongue has a sturdier texture that is reminiscent of spinach and has a very nice taste.
We realize that not all greens are for everybody, but we grow enough variety that most people can find a green or combination of greens that works for them.  Rainbow Chard is one such item we grow on the farm and provide as a choice, often with kale as the other option.  And despite all of the Upper Midwest jokes about not leaving your car window open or else you will be given zucchini, we happen to grow four to six varieties of zucchini, including Cocazelle, a lovely striped zuke.  We do our best not to overwhelm with one type of veg, but we also try to give you enough to be getting on with... so to speak.
Many people enjoy our CSA simply because they will get to pick from over thirty heirloom tomato varieties once we get into August and September.  German Pink is often a favorite for both the farmers and the members.  Then again, maybe your mouth waters for some green beans?  We know ours does!
We've worked hard to extend the season for popular vegetables, such as broccoli.  Last season we were able to harvest over 600 pounds of broccoli for our CSA share holders.  And, we grow interesting varieties of melons - such as Ha-ogen, a green fleshed melon that has an incredible, different taste that will convert you soon after you figure out what it was that just hit you.
If you didn't believe me that we grow different varieties of things, consider Ice Queen lettuce.  We target varieties that allow us to extend the season.  In the past, we've been able to have lettuce available to our members for as many as 17 of the 20 weeks in a season.  And, we also grow items that might not be as well known to people who grew up in Iowa (like Rob).  Pok Choi normally makes an early and a late appearance during the growing season.
Kohlrabi is becoming much more popular as people figure out how good this is as a snack with a dip of choice.  And, if you are wondering if we only grow 'WEIRD' stuff - here are some Marketmore cucumbers.  Why yes, they do look like normal cucumbers, don't they?
Eggplant not your thing?  Well, maybe you've never had them cut into rings and put in a grilled stir fry or shish-kabobs?  Pintung Long eggplant are perfect for this.  And, we mentioned kale, but did we mention that we grow several varieties of this as well?  For example, Red Russian in the picture above.  We also grow Blue Scotch, Vates and Lacinato.
Some of the things we grow have good years and bad years.  For example, cauliflower is one of those on again/off again types of veg on the farm.  Sometimes this is because we're trying to find varieties that work well for us.  In the case of cauliflower, the varieties we liked were discontinued and we had to work and find new ones.  Amazing is shown above and should do well for us in 2015.  Carrots, on the other hand are difficult for us to grow consistently well for many reasons.  This is why Jeff Sage works with us - he's a wizard with carrots!  As a result, our members have had plenty of carrots for the past four seasons, without fail.
Other vegetables show up every year in some quantity.  Last year the summer squash and basil were a bit less prevalent than in some years because it was a cooler growing season.  Both of these like warmth.  But, we still got a fair amount to our members.  Why?  It's because we have some experience under our belts and have identified many ways to coax a crop even during difficult conditions.
We are not afraid to do research and trials in an effort to find vegetables that grow well AND are liked by people who join our CSA farm share program.  As a rule, if the variety we try doesn't taste good to at least a significant portion of our membership, we don't grow it.  For example, we do grow acorn squash because many people tell us they like them.  We grow the standard green acorn squash, but we also grow Thelma Sanders because we think it has a better texture and taste.  Most people who can get past the idea of a tan colored acorn squash tend to agree with us!  But, we still grow the green ones in case someone is a bit phobic about color differences in their veg.  And, romanesco - talk about odd looking.  But, it sure does taste good.  It has rapidly become a favorite in our house.
We hope we can tempt you to join us in 2015 so you can try our delicious Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes.  We often have a tray of snack sized tomatoes as a part of your share from late July through September.  We like to say that the person who picks up has the right to eat these before they even get to the car.  The rest of the family is just going to have to help pick the share up if they want some!  Although, we suspect there are many very nice CSA shareholders who do bring these beauties home to the rest of the family.  And, we try to have a watermelon treat for everyone at least once per year.  Of course - you can't expect them to be one type, can you?  It's us!  Variety is the spice of life!
Please consider making us your personal farmers.  Send us an email and reserve a spot today.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Is It About Tractors?

When people visit the farm, there are just certain things that seem to attract them more than others.  Things such as... kittens.

Well, ok, we don't always have kittens on the farm and people seem to be attracted to kittens anywhere.  So, never mind.

But, seriously, people love to see baby chicks, they like to see the turkeys, they'd love it if our cats didn't run away from them and...  they love to see Durnik the tractor.

Tractor lover at the wheel
We suspect that Rosie (our newer tractor) might be interesting as well.  But, there is something about older tractors that we all love. 
Not quite a hay ride, but they liked it.
I suppose part of the attraction is that it is something different than most people who live in town will see.  And, the other part is that when you go to a farm - you're supposed to see a tractor.  What's a farm without one?

Those of you who have a bit longer history with us will realize that we have been on the farm since the summer of 2004 and started GFF in 2005.  It wasn't until 2010 that we added anything bigger than a lawn tractor to our farm tool list.  And, it wasn't until the following year that we got any tools to go with the tractor.  Since that time, we have added a number of tools and a second, newer tractor.

We know exactly what we had to do without these tools and we are grateful that we now have tools that fit the scale of our farm much better. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Can't Beet This

Over the past few years, we have not done much with beets on the farm.  The primary reason would have to be a guy named Jeff Sage.  Jeff partners with us by growing carrots, beets, parsnips and sweet potatoes that go into our CSA farm shares.  And, has gotten particularly good at growing these crops consistently well, much to our members' happiness!

Chioggia, Touchstone Gold and Bull's Blood beets
I suppose an explanation is in order.  Why don't we grow these on our farm?

The short answer is that we DO grow these on our farm.  But, our soils and conditions, along with our other growing responsibilities make it a bit more difficult for us to grow things like carrots and beets on our farm.  Therefore, since Jeff has better soils and conditions for it AND because he likes to specialize in these items, it makes sense for him to focus on the growing.

What this does for us is it allows us to concentrate on other crops that suit us better and it gives us more time to figure out ways that these crops will grow on our farm.  That process includes identifying timing and varieties that work well for us.  All in all, this is a mutually beneficial arrangement for all concerned.  Jeff grows using organic practices that we would stack right up with our own.  We learn some things from him and he learns some things from us.  And, our members get beets and carrots.  What's not to like?

This post is supposed to focus on beets - so I'd better get to that.  Jeff grows the Detroit Dark Red or Red Ace varieties that are so well known for the rich red color that is common for a beet.  Since we trust him to get these things going for early to mid-season distributions, that allows us to concentrate on a late season crop and on varieties that are NOT the common red color.

Our favorite over the years has been the Chioggia beet.  We had several successful years for Chioggia until 2012.  Then, we hit some cool, wet Springs that caused us some fits with our normal planting schedules.  Sadly, that resulted in some aborted crops and poor germination levels.  This year, we are going to try a batch of Chioggia in the high tunnel for a an early crop.  We have called Chioggia the 'gateway' beet.  People who have had beets and not liked them all that much should try a Chioggia roasted in the oven.  They've got a taste that is a little less earthy and the red and white concentric rings make them an attractive item to put on your plate.

Chioggia beet picture courtesy of Seed Savers
We have grown Touchstone Gold beets once prior to this season.  We found them to have consistent germination and size.  The taste is mild and the beautiful golden color of the flesh is very pleasing.  Like Chioggia, we suspect people who taste these will be surprised that they are a beet.

Our goal for our early crops this year will be to combine some Gold and Chioggia beets with Jeff's red beets.  Later on, we hope to be able to provide choices to allow people to select that which fits their tastes and preparation choices best.

Grilled Veggies (YUM!) - Works for beets, turnips, summer squash, zucchini, potatoes, kohlrabi, etc - anything with some substance
Wash veg. Slice into rounds or half rounds, about 1/2 inch thick. Toss lightly with olive oil (putting slices in a bowl, sprinkling olive oil over and tossing the veg around works well) and add any desired spicing (sea salt, chopped marjoram or basil, pepper, garlic all work well).  If you like mushrooms, you can add those as well.

 Grill for about 5 or more minutes, depending on how soft you want the vegetables and the types of veg you are cooking.  Turn them once or twice - or three times if you feel that is a charm.  Just remember that the more times you open the grill, the longer it will take to cook. They are done when you can easily stick a fork in them.

Remember that some vegetables are harder than others and will take longer to cook.  So, you may choose to start things like beets and turnips before you add something that has more water content, such as zucchini.
Recommended by Rob and Tammy.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

How A Blog Keeps GFF Healthy

Rob has been asked more than once why he maintains a blog for the farm.

Ok, ok.  Rob has asked himself more than once why he maintains a blog for the farm.  As far as we can remember, no one else has asked why we do this.  But, if you are looking at it from a business perspective, you probably can't ignore the amount of time and effort that goes into the components that make up a decent blog.  At least, we hope this is a decent blog.  I guess that's for you to say.

So, if everything is about returns on investment, then let's think about it for a bit.  What does this blog do for us?

1. It encourages us to look at our farm in ways others might see it.
Look at the picture below and tell us what you see?  What stands out for you?

What I see when I look at this is a great deal of effort to try and make an old building work for us.  Please note the metal box at the bottom right of the building.  We added an improved electrical service just prior to this picture.  If you look closely at the side that is facing to the picture's right, you might notice the new siding as well.  You might even notice the home made cold frame at the lower left.  Surely there are some plants in there when the picture was taken.

But, what really stands out in the picture?  The ugly door with the loose siding.

Well, that's true - it does stand out.  And I bet most of you discounted the metal box and its significance and you probably didn't give the new siding and attention either.

2. It provides us a forum to explain to others how WE see the farm.
In short, our blog gives us a chance to share what we see AND it encourages us to view it as others might see it without some guidance.  We appreciate the opportunity to show you what we see and what we hope to do.  This blog gives us a tool to do just that.

3. It's a reminder to us that we are progressing.
I think we are safe in saying that very few people want to keep reading a farm blog that is all gloom and doom.  And yet, our human tendency is to remember the single negative event in a day and dismiss ten positive things - leaving them floundering in the wake of that one negative thing.

We can barely believe that this roof went up in 2011.

While we do use the blog to share issues and problems we are having at the farm, we also use it to share successes and progress.  Sometimes, when we are very tired and feeling like we aren't getting anywhere, it does us great good to consider the positive aspects and share them with others. It's amazing how reframing events can improve our point of view.  And, an improved point of view makes it easier to deal with the problems.  And, if you that isn't enough return on investment for you, consider this:

Would you rather pick up your veggies, eggs and poultry from someone who appears to be content with who they are and what they are doing or from someone who is full of angst?  If you answered that you would prefer the angsty guy, I am sure I can find a way to help you if you want.  But, seriously, when we patronize a business, we want a positive experience.  And a positive experience is easier to get when the people providing the service are happy with who they are and with what they are doing.

4. It's all about the chance to teach and learn.
We both love to help others to learn.  And, one of our farm missions is to help others to learn how food is raised.  We want people to think harder about where their food comes from.  We want you to consider how our food decisions affect our environment, how it impacts or society and our economy.  We want people to see that growing food the way we do has numerous trade offs and that the decisions we make are not taken lightly.

And, while we are at it - we believe that the best way to learn is to set yourself in a position where you are responsible for helping others to learn.  There is a great deal of learning that comes from taking the time to maintain this blog.  And, if you've read our blog for sometime, you have seen some blog posts that are more technical than others.  These represent attempts on our part to learn with an audience.  Some of those blogs have actually helped us to reach a decision or two as it pertains to our farm.

5.  Reflection and remembrance help us to remember our focus.
I'm not entirely sure I need to say much more about this one.  But, maybe I should.  Work on the farm during the growing season can be all-consuming for us.  There are challenges every day and the to do list only grows, it does not shrink.  One of the first things to go would be taking moments in time to reflect and think about what is going on and how things are going with a balanced view.  After all, those darned carrots still aren't weeded!

But, that's the point.  If we aren't inclined to take the moment to reflect, then the personal value of each day is diminished.  And, if the value of each day we live is diminished by our unwillingness to process what has happened and seek out the good and the bad, then the value of our entire life is diminished.  Ok, so I've taken a turn to the philosophical here.  But, it is true.  The blog is a tool that allows us to re-balance and refocus.  Just as it is a tool to simply record what has happened on our farm so that we can reflect and refocus once again.

Hopefully, the result is that we build up our strength for the season so that we can pursue things that are important, such as growing good food for others and being as friendly to the environment as we can in the process.

And, before you discount the value of using this blog to reflect and re-frame how we feel about things.. please consider the picture below.

This beautiful picture was taken in July of 2010.  We had rains for most of June and early July.  Our fields were under water.  Plants were dead and dying.  Some of our CSA customers were very disappointed and unhappy with the amount and types of produce they were receiving from us.  We had just sunk a huge chunk of money into a new high tunnel building and a tractor but the poor growing season was putting the whole farm health picture into question.  We were tired, overwhelmed and depressed.  We wondered if we were just too stupid to figure out how to handle things.  We were one more bad day away from deciding to call 2010 our final season.  In short, this was possibly the lowest point in our career as farmers at GFF.

And we get a picture like that.

We might have just viewed it once if it was just for ourselves.  But, we shared it and others like it on our blog.  Our attitudes improved.  And so did the season.

Of course, part of it was the break in the weather pattern that allowed things to dry up.  But, if our attitudes didn't get this adjustment, we would not have been ready or able to take advantage of the change in the weather.

And now you know!  Have a good Easter everyone!