Time to Rest… And Begin Again

The 2022 Season is finally complete. What a ride this year was. My target was to finish up the season right before Christmas; it’s a good marker for most people and there’s not a lot left to harvest after the Solstice. But the late Spring start threw a wrench in that plan, and after forcing the cancellation of several Spring Season weeks, we started Summer Season two weeks late. I know that this resulted in confusion, especially because I couldn’t make changes to the reminders from Barn2Door. But here we are: we survived. A few folks even told me it was the best year yet, which is reassuring because I definitely felt like the CSA was in survival mode for a long stretch. However, aside from those few sparse weeks in June, I do feel like the farm produced a lot of food after July, and I feel good about that. Thank you for being patient and understanding and supportive!

The thing about farming is that there is always more to learn, and, more than any other year prior, 2022 taught me to be prepared for any weather scenario. I am feeling pretty cautious about starting 2023, hedging my planting bets in all manner of ways. Rearranging the early greenhouse plantings so that there’s food available even if it doesn’t stop raining until late June. Starting more crops as transplants that can be set outside even if it’s too wet to work soil properly and impossible to run a seeder. 2023 will be good.

My small house project is finally moving along, and I’m truly hoping to be moved in by March, before everything gets crazy. Della and Chris’ wedding is happening in June, Cosmo will be graduating with his Auto Tech degree this quarter, and I’ll be in school one more year, finishing my AAS in spring of 2024. I am doubling-down in the hunt for a younger person or team to help me operate the farm. I’m not getting any younger, and for a variety of reasons that require a separate essay, I need to transition. Many of those reasons are financial. But this CSA community that we have all built together is very important to me, and I want to do everything in my power to keep it going. Likewise this 15-acre wildlife oasis that I have had the good fortune to occupy and encourage. (I’m working on another essay about land ownership and occupation.)

I’m Looking for a Farm Operator/Manager

I have been frustrated and disappointed by my attempts at finding a successor up to now, so this time I am working with the Farm to Farmer organization, formerly Washington FarmLink. I have created a listing there, and they have advisors to help with all the aspects of transitioning. I’ll be working to refine my listing in the coming weeks, but I’m hoping to bring this new person(s) on board this spring to start the learning/weaning process. Please share this link with anyone you think may be interested: https://farmtofarmer.org/node/655

With so many changes in the works in my life and family, I feel the need to simplify some operations and work harder to make the farm more profitable. (“Profitable” has been a dirty word in the small farm world for too long, and it’s an odd thing. “Sustainable” used to be the big buzz word, and now it’s “regenerative”, but a farm really can’t be “Sustainable” if it isn’t financially sustainable, or it won’t be a farm for very long. I’m working on yet another essay about this subject.) But the reality is that when a mortgage needs paying, and farm families need to be able to set aside funds for college and retirement, the farm needs to be profitable. I scraped by for far too long, and I want to ensure that the next farmer(s) here don’t have to carry that stress.

Cutflowers: U-Pick and Pre-made Bouquets

I have become hugely interested in Wildflowers, and that prompted an expansion into growing Cutflowers. Last year’s Cutflower Bouquet subscription was an experiment, but Rebekah will be on board again this summer and we’re going to expand this project. I’m really excited about it! The U-Pick Cutflower Garden is going to be bigger, and we prepped it in the fall so it’s ready to start planting the earliest varieties in just a few weeks. I’ll be opening up the Cutflower Garden to the public, for a fee. Because some folks are happy to pay a lot more money for flowers than they are for food. As far as I know, there is no other U-Pick Flowers in this area, so I’m hopeful that this will become a profitable income stream as well. DON’T WORRY THOUGH: CSA members will always have free access to the U-Pick garden for their weekly bouquets! I may need to give you all a badge or something, but we’ll figure that out.

Soon the greenhouse will be filling up and look like this. I start seeding 2023 crops next week!

Bulk Pantry-Builder Boxes Instead of Mystery Boxes

I am simplifying the food crops that we grow here. When I was going to farmers markets (and was super stressed-out), it made sense to grow a lot of unusual crops, because that was my niche and I could justify their production needs with high prices. But the CSA-only model is most profitable and manageable with a shorter list of crops to maintain because it is easy to scale up, and easier to mechanize. Hand labor is very expensive, so all the investments made last year in machinery and mechanical cultivation are going to start to shine in 2023. This will (should) result in more food, and more people being fed, as well as more individual product that can be packaged and sold in bulk above and beyond what is needed to satisfy the CSA. Instead of our Mystery Boxes, I will instead be offering Pantry Builder Boxes. These are available as a subscription now (at a discount), but I will also be offering them individually during their seasonal windows. I hope to also offer them through one or more local Food Hubs.

A Reminder about Farm Finances…

The nature of the CSA model is that I depend on CSA enrollments in order to purchase farm supplies in the winter, as well as to pay the farm mortgage and utilities, and to buy groceries. If you haven’t yet enrolled for 2023, and are able to, please don’t wait. It’s a few months until we will have surplus produce available to market outside of the CSA. Here are all the purchasing links. Please share widely, it will take 200 CSA families to cover myself and another farmer. (That’s about 40 more families than last year.) Thank you so much!

More flowers in 2023!

2023 CSA Enrollment

2023 CSA Enrollment is open to everyone, and there are plenty of Summer and Winter Shares available. Here’s the store link

Flower Bouquet Subscription: 16 bountiful, seasonal bouquets. Here’s the Flower Bouquet link

Pantry-Builder subscription: Bulk boxes of Sugarsnap Peas, Basil, Pickling Cucumbers, Garlic Braids, and more. Here’s the Pantry Builder link

Next week, I start planting in the greenhouse! Let’s have a fantastic 2023 Season!

With much gratitude,

Shelley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s