We had another successful year this year despite some weather related and crop disease challenges. Mother Nature has a way of keeping farmers on their toes:-) We lost some crops because of the drought and we spent a lot of time scrambling to get water to everything. The strawberries with their relatively short season and high moisture needs seemed to take the worst hit with out crop down about 70%. We also lost most of our tomato crop to late blight. Fortunately the hard work and previous care of the soil paid off and there was still what could be described as a moderate bounty. We were certainly able to keep our CSA customers baskets full and we had only slight less than planned for the market. We actually ended the last few weeks of the season with better market sales than last year. After hearing from my neighbour that it was the worst growing year he had seen in the nearly thirty years since he had bought his farm, I thought maybe we were actually doing pretty well given the circumstances.
As in the past, this year brought a wonderful bunch of young people to the farm to work an learn. Andrea, Ben, Bethany, Christine, Ryan, Trudi spent all or part of the season farming with us this year, and Joe and Jordan also helped with the house construction. I think we were more than ten at the dinner table sometimes. Many thanks to them as our farm is very much a team effort and we couldn't grow such great food for so many people with out their help. Each of them brought something special to the group. I think that watching people learn about growing and food is just as rewarding as growing food itself and although not all of them will become farmers, I am confident that a season spent on this farm will be memorable and change their lives in many ways. I have watched people become more comfortable in their bodies, more thoughtful and observant, and develop skills they never thought they would. I also expect that they will never look at a plate of food in the same way.
One expects that things will get easier as time progresses in a relatively new venture, but this was in many ways the most challenging year yet. Fortunately, challenges do teach us lessons and drive improvements. I certainly learned many lessons this year, and many improvements are planned for 2013. Late blight and other diseases have destroyed much of our tomato crop for the last two years so we will be moving them into plastic tunnels. We also continue to refine our crop planning and marketing. Farming is a low margin business and although we have been successful, there is plenty of room for improvement in our bottom line. This year we may have taken on to many projects at once and it was a little overwhelming at times. In addition to expanding our acreage, we were building a house and also developing and running a compost project that took more hours a week than expected. Sometime the weeks did not seem to have enough hours for everything.
Although there is a surprising amount to do at this time of year, winter for a vegetable farmer is a great time for reflection and I have already thought a lot about the year to come. I have also been reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to pursue my dream as many people cannot for various reasons. I love what I am doing. I love being on this beautiful piece of land and caring for it. I love that my community is expanding as customers become our friends. I love that I eat the best food in the world and I get to share it with so many people. I am lucky that I have friends around me that are so supportive and customers that are so appreciative. It is a good time to be a farmer.
New Years resolution #1
Blog once a week!