It has been almost a full year since Peter and I admitted that we were dead tired. We had hit a wall in late February, which is pretty normal for us vegetable farmers. We can usually manage to pull together the last of our strength to get through March. But when summer stretched into April...late Autumn/early Winter 2017 feels a bit like childbirth- we got through it and even though the Winter rest blurred how exhausted we had become, we decided to take a year off from running our CSA. The 2017-2018 growing season saw 2/3 of the farm fallowed with green manure crops. We grew just for our family and a few restaurants.
And we took time. Time to spend with our children and each other. Time to nurture ourselves. Time to enjoy where we live. Time to research more about soil, farming techniques, seed. Time to connect with other growers.
We continued to experiment with new crops and also grew to order for the restaurants - the chefs ordered in July 2017 for the whole season ahead. We were a state winner for our chicories in the Delicious Produce Awards - in great company with many other small scale sustainable producers.
So what have we been thinking about...this whole growing season…
We love growing food. We love soil, soil life, ecosystems in relationship, plants, vibrant produce, health and community thriving. We love why we started farming and we believe that those ideals are the ones to carry forward.
When we were thinking about starting a CSA, we identified several sustainability indicators that we wanted to achieve on our farm:
Providing local food security
Conserving the natural resource base
Being socially responsible
Interesting that one large sustainability indicator that was left out was us and our family. We approached our farm as a business...which a financially viable farm should be. But farming is so much more…
We now think if this farm is to continue as a CSA- instead of asking how can this business make money, we need to question what does the farmer need; what does the farm need; what does the community need.
What does the farmer need? Our farm is like another child. Its needs are acutely felt, with high priority. This is not unusual...we are learning...among farmers. So we need to accept that the farm needs to be equally balanced in our lives with the health of ourselves and our children
What does the farm need? The farm needs to be healthy...that seems like a given. To keep the farm healthy, we need to view it as a whole ecosystem, protect its resources, help to build humus, continue to proliferate diversity, and grow nutrient dense produce to sustain ourselves and our community - The farm needs the community just as it needs the farmer.
What does our community need? That is such an interesting question. Our larger community continually tells us that they want access to our produce - BUT...not everyone likes our CSA system nor do all restaurants want to preorder. Throughout the last eight years of running our CSA, we have spoken of balance, crop rotation, food waste, economic sustainability. And balancing all of this with offering what people want when they want when it suits them is not always possible. We would love a consistent weekly farmers market here on the peninsula but as of yet, the farmers markets move from place to place. And we have explored farm gate options with the council. We costed building a suitable farm stand, putting in the ample parking required and the additional costs of manning that stand. At this time, we are not able to pursue that option and question the amount of land we would need to clear.
We continually feel such gratitude to our CSA community and the restaurants we supply for supporting our farming endeavours and ideals and really making us the farmers we are today.
We have looked at this time off as a sabbatical - a learning holiday. But as that time draws to a close, we are finding ourselves lingering in the space of being - and staying committed to our promise to each other to not make any decisions until July-2018. We just wanted to share with you our musings and gratitude for all this season has brought.
We do hope that you are all revelling in late Autumn too.
Robin and Peter