About 6 years ago, Dean and I were driving along the back roads of rural Western New York when we decided we were going to buy a farm and try our hand in the bigger picture of agriculture. It had been a long day, but somehow we both knew that our lives had been leaning in this direction for some years. We had not been farming, but growing and making and thinking about food, sustainability, community and how we fit into it all. Our road to farming is long, but we believed in making a difference, in rooting ourselves, growing food, love and community. Had I known how much we'd struggle to impact our food system and culture, would we have started farming? Probably, but I'm not sure.
With our friends and family, there is discussion about what makes a good healthy farming community. One challenge is that what works for farmers doesn't always work for everyone else. What makes a good market for farms or for customers? What makes a good farm for everyone involved? A good store? A good community? It depends on who you ask.
Despite all of our disagreements, religions, and politics, there are things that are clear. The challenges of running a small scale farm in Western New York are real. There are just 6 months of market, 3 months of frost-free time to make the bulk of income. We constantly push those boundaries with row cover, cold hardy varieties, planting improvements, and the addition of high tunnels for season extension. Speaking of which, the lettuce, beets and onions we are currently selling, were planted back in March. It can be easy to forget, as many of us work to extend the season, that getting these items out in May and early June is no small feat. We have had late night talks and research on pest management mistakes and lessons learned. There are stories everywhere, about growing food. Each year most of the farmers we know and keep up with make daring, wild improvements. I was hoping that the pandemic would help us all slow down a bit and take time to ponder those stories, about our food and our lives. But lately, it's whether we get time for reflection at all.
Building a local food system, coordinating between our growing plots, high tunnel, cooler space, markets, and figuring out how to run a sustainable business can feel like bailing water at times. There is no hard and fast rule to any of it. Many times it's trial and error.
I wish I could express to our community, our customers and all who we intact with on a large and small scale, what farming means to us. The importance of it. The difficulties, as well as the pleasures. How much we love growing and raising natural, healthy, organically grown food. REAL FOOD. No chemicals, no hormones. Nothing processed. The food our ancestors ate. The "good stuff". This is what makes me proud to call myself a farmer. This is what makes it all worth it. When I know that what we are doing is important because it is real. We haven't faked anything. There are no short cuts. It is the fruits of all our planning, worrying, and working till we almost drop, then getting up and doing it all over the next day.
Not everyone gets it. Not everyone appreciates our vision. But we will not give up. We may not always succeed. However, from our failures, will arise new ideas, new visions and hope that the future holds new promises of success. Yes, we will continue to look to the future because farming important. It is a dying art. And what no one realizes is that when the small farms are all gone and the big commercial farms have taken over, a small important piece of our history will be lost forever. Somehow, in the art of farming, we have the ability to hold onto a tiny bit of our culture, our legend and what helps us remember who we are.