Friday, September 4, 2015

Balancing It Out

Our previous post struck some nerves with some of our farmer friends and you can take that as either a good or a bad thing depending on how you are feeling.  What it means to me is that it is perfectly normal for us to feel this way this time of year.  It's just part of the process.  And, we received other reactions from persons who support our farm that were kind and supportive.  We are very grateful for these words of kindness and they will go a long way to helping us pull out of what is likely just a natural progression through any long season.  As I said at the beginning of the prior post, we will do fine and we know we'll be fine.  We also are aware that we work for some fabulous people and we have amazing friends and family.  And, we are very aware that many things are going quite well this year.

And that is why we made the post we did.  We all gain strength in the telling and the understanding.  And, when we get ourselves to talk (or write about it) it usually means we are ready to move on.

And, if you don't believe this isn't a cycle for your farmers (and likely other farmers who do what we do), consider this post from December of 2013 extolling the virtues of a perfect, but flawed, season on the farm.  And, in case you want to see the other side of the coin - the season when the farmers think all the rows will be straight and the weeds will be well-behaved, go read about Farmer Delusional Syndrome.

One way of moving on is to remind ourselves of what is going well.  Because there ARE things that have gone, or are going, quite well.  In fact, we're very aware that we've had a pretty good season compared to others who have fought a very difficult battle with the weather this year.

1. Excellent variety in our shares
The contents of our shares this season have been very good, if we do say so ourselves.  Thus far, our shareholders have received thirty different vegetables in their shares.  The value received is well above the cost for the season and the quality has been very good.

In short, the CSA has gone very, very well this far into the season and I'm sure we'll do a decent job for the rest as well.  Remember, we let things on the farm bother us, this is true.  Yes, many things didn't and aren't going the way we wanted them to.  But, no matter what, we have found ways to provide our members with an excellent experience.

2. Excellent people in our CSA farm share program
Thank you all for a great festival!
Every year we are reminded exactly how special the people in our farm share program are. With an odd and rare exception here or there, they support our efforts and give us positive feedback when we need it most.  We were reminded strongly of this at the Summer Festival that was just a week ago at the farm. 

But, this is another reason why we ride the roller coaster we do.  We very much want to do well for our share holders.  We take mistakes or failures on the farm even more personally because they could reduce the quality of the CSA experience we want our members to have.  And, when something doesn't go particularly well, we do everything we can to minimize the impact to our members.  It's part of our commitment to the program and it's just the way we think it needs to be.

3. Really, we got some major things accomplished this year.
Getting a new high tunnel up and running was no small thing
The farmer's current "to do list" is eight pages long and several hundred items in length, so it is no wonder he can get overwhelmed and not see some of the great accomplishments of the season.  I believe I am not alone in having a very long list of things that are waiting for me to get to them, so I am not special in that regard.  I can tell you that if any farmer on a diversified, small farm such as ours were pressed, they could easily come up with a similar list of things they need to do.

We should not forget that we did put up our second high tunnel in June and we have still managed to keep everything going this year - despite having a good week taken away form our normally very busy planting/weeding time. We actually had a hatching of our own ducklings this year - which is also a new thing for us.  We'll count that as a fairly major accomplishment, though we can't take much credit for the actual efforts our ducks put into it.  And, we finally get to re certify the West half of our farm as organic this year.  What a relief that is to us!

4. There have been some very successful crops this season.
There is a reason peas were featured in more than one blog post this year.  And, the cucumbers did very well for an abbreviated period of time.  So, we really did mind your peas and cukes!  I took a quick look at the numbers and realized that part of the issue was that we had a rough year with the small cukes (Boothby's Blonde, Parade and True Lemon) - and some of that was simply a matter of running out of time to harvest.  As it was, we picked a record number of A&C Pickling (858) cucumbers and just missed a record with Marketmore 76 (952).

It's still hard to believe this year's onion crop
While they won't set records for us this year, the volume and quality of the peppers, beans, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, kale, chard and other crops have been quite good.  Enough to give our CSA members plenty to enjoy and enough for us to freeze for the Winter months as well.  Other crops that are doing less well, such as the tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant and lettuce have done well enough that they've made their presence known in shares.  And, while quantity has been low, the taste has been there.  And, we're still looking at some amazing returns for our onions and we've got to explore the potato crop further.  On top of that, those sneaky melons are showing up in shares and treating people to a very sweet bit of Summer!

But, perhaps we are happiest with what seem to be some very successful efforts to support our pollinators on the farm.  We attribute part of the effort to a renewed commitment this year to getting annual flowers interplanted into our crops this year.  We've done this since we started the farm, but recent seasons found us having some trouble getting the flowers into the field at the levels we would prefer to see.  We'll add some pictures later - but I witnessed some of the rewards just this week while I was harvesting.  In a very short period of time, I witnessed at least 2 dozen monarchs, 4 hummingbirds and countless bees and other smaller insects in the row of zinnias by the tomatoes.

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