Monday, August 11, 2014

Complicated truths of a 3rd season farm

In our third season of this farm business, there are a few things we know to be true, almost all of the time. Farming never allows for absolutes, so we won't say these things are ALWAYS the case, but it's a safe bet.

For example, if you are trying to rush through chores, it will be at least 90 degrees and a sweat lodge, or you will need to fix a fence and chase pigs, or you will need to refill every water trough.

If the barn is dirty, someone will want to tour your operation. If you need the tractor for all of the days tasks, it will not start properly in the morning. If you are down to the wire on finances, you will run out of feed on the same day because someone broke out and ate a bag, or you accidentally spilled a bucket of water into the feed bin, or you just misjudged supply. If you are counting on a good crop, something will go wrong. It can be produce, or livestock, something will go wrong and your crop with be half. Maybe.

It doesn't sound fun, really, does it?

It guess, it's really not. But it is a lesson. We control absolutely nothing, really. Our roll is to just mitigate risk, to plan for most eventualities, and to exhibit self control when it all hits the fan. It's a lesson in being resourceful, problem solving and anger management.

Farming has forced more emotional growth out of me then anything else. I don't allow myself to get riled up, I just try to figure out what the plan is. Sometimes, the plan kinda sucks. Sometimes, it means we don't get a rest, or we are scrambling to figure out where the extra cash is going to come from. And it can wear a person out.

This isn't to say I ever don't want to go to work in the morning. Even when I'm standing, shaking my head as 100 chickens break free through a hole in the fence while 2 goats scream at me from behind and I'm bleeding from my shin because I slid in a patch of mud, I am satisfied with my work. I know my place in the world, I'm grounded. It's honest work. It's work we all need. Food never goes out of style, we're all going to need to keep eating. I know what I'm meant to be doing, and this is it. We can't always do things in the ideal way, but we don't compromise on the care with which we do things, and I think that matters most.

We've built this business from nothing. We have had help and breaks on the way, but it's mostly been our backs, no big loans, no heavy equipment, just hands and sheer determination. (Though the tractor has certainly save our backs, it's also tested our patience) We are so grateful for the helping hands we have had. But it is a labor of love, and it continues to be a scrappier version of what we envisioned. It's sunsets and quail hatching, it's selling out of farmer's markets. It's delicious dinners. It's sweat, and sore muscles, and running constantly behind. It's tight finances. It's blood, and death, and gore. It's the smell of decay. It's birth. It's making mistakes.

In our third season, we have found ourselves on the cusp of where we are, and where we want to be. The farm is growing, it's stretching tight against our limits, and we're just digging our heels in until we break through the other side. We've hit the point where we really need to streamline our operation, without sacrificing the quality of our products. It's a terrifying, lose sleep point, and also profoundly exciting and inspiring. I don't know if this is how it is for all small, first generation farmers. Maybe it is. But I know that we are getting there. It's not always how we planned, and it's never easy.

One of our New Year's resolutions this year was to become Resource Full over resourceful. And that has meant making some big decisions, most of which we will be talking about soon enough. One of those decisions involves doubling down on the farm work load for me, while Kim goes back to work off farm for a really great organization so we can fill the coffers high enough to make some big investments, rather than exploring taking out loans for those things. It feels more self sufficient to pay outright, rather than relying on some outside funds, and long term- it's more inline with what we want. It's a hard transition for us, a wonderful opportunity, but an adjustment from our routine of solid companionship and team work. But now, more than ever, it's the time to look at the farm as it is now, and envisioning it in the future. And it's also about changing our quality of life too, practicing self care (even farmers like the idea of a vacation maybe once a year, in the dead of winter), and making sure we feel secure. We rolled the dice to start this farm, and are coming out ahead, now it's time to double up.

The messiest truth is that that vision for the farm will continue to change, and so will we. But I think that's amazing--that you can transform so completely, even when the routines stay mostly the same. All the animals need to eat, have water, get cleaned up. The daily list is fairly regular, but each day it molds me into something different. Somehow simultaneously stronger and more flexible. Physically, and mentally. There is something so transformative about the mundane.

So yes, being a third season, first generation farm is not always what you want, but is more often than not- it is exactly what you need to become a fourth season farm-- and that's enough.

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