Viewing entries tagged
market farming

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Some say it can't be done... we're proving them wrong

Photo by Erica Wagner, 2015

When people say "you can't make a living from farming" I am always disheartened. People believe the stories they tell themselves. And why do people feel so compelled to 'only' make money from growing vegetables/grain/animals/etc? Is there an award out there for that? For limiting ourselves in our creativity and passion? We make a majority of our income from growing vegetables, but we each have other passions that also lead to income generation. Personally, I am also a birth doula. I support families during pregnancy and childbirth and LOVE doing it. I'm not getting rich doing either thing, but the satisfaction they bring me, the balance they provide in working outside, with my hands, producing amazing food for my community and the emotional process I help parents through in one of the most intimate and spectacular moments of their life. I feel whole and complete doing both 'jobs.' 

So why do we feel the need as farmers to judge one another on how we each choose to make a living. I am so fortunate to have no one to answer to when figuring out how to pay the bills, I work hard, sometime being pulled in multiple directions, trying to figure out the best balance for me in the moment. As for Greg, he has found happiness working alongside his best friend Isaak, who we decided could make our farming venture more fun, more productive, and more creative. We hope to make more money with him on board, but for this first season together as a trio, we're pretty darn happy to grow food together, have some good laughs, and continue to find out where each of our passions may take us. Of course, we each need to make money, but we have each committed to living a lifestyle that is simple and uncomplicated by the daily barrage of advertising, telling us what we need to buy next. We have lived this intentionally meager life for so long now, I can't imagine needing more money to live the life I want to live. Its the intention we set for our life and our business. Money isn't a bad thing, but we've chosen to not let it dictate to us how we should live our life. Follow your bliss. Take a stand for what you believe. 

If your interested in my work as a birth doula, you can find more information here.

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Joel Salatin & I

Marci in the field 2013. University of Idaho photo.

Yesterday we attended the Idaho Center for Sustainable Agriculture symposium in Nampa, ID. We were fortunate to be asked to give a workshop on beginning farmer topics along with information about low cost hoophouses and season extension. We had never given a presentation of such length and were a bit nervous about filling the time. But as we created our presentation, it came with ease, these were things we were so well versed in and so passionate about that filling up the hour seemed less daunting and more like too short of a session! As the room began to fill and we saw the faces of young farmers being reflected back to us, it became clear that people want this information, they are craving guidance on starting a farm. As we were beautifully introduced by a fellow young farmer, Jessica McAleese from Swift River Farm in Salmon, ID, all of the anxiety and jitters I felt beforehand melted away. I was among my tribe in that moment. I was talking to friends.

I look forward to breaking down the information we talked about yesterday and fleshing out some of the topics we skimmed the surface of here on our blog. Right now I am so inspired because the talk we gave yesterday was perfectly mirrored by the ever honest and passionate Joel Salatin. His 10 principles for starting a farm talk were exactly, on the money, what we covered earlier that day. SAY WHAT?! Did we plan that? Did we confer ahead of time? Sure, we had a great conversation the evening before and we talked with him about what we were doing and why we were there. He knew our talk was specific to young farmers, but the word for word list he gave was the same list I had in my head. So what does that mean? It means that we farmers are on the right track. It means that when we move to action with passion and attention, big things happen. It means that we are a tribe. We are a community that should continue to rise each other up as we do the hard work of growing food for our communities with integrity and love. 

I look forward to talking more with each of you reading this, to strengthen the threads of connection between us, to move knowledge of passion back and forth with intention. Please join us in this journey.  

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The 'End' of 2014 Farming Season

I say the 'end' because there is still a lot to do to finish putting the farm to bed and we'll be attending four more winter markets at the 1912 Center in Moscow and give a beginning farmer workshop at the Idaho Center for Sustainable Ag Symposium. But the bulk of the season is over. Now is our time to rest, rejuvenate and plan for next season. 

We begin planning right away. On our end of the season trip, the first thing we do in the car is make a list. What worked, what didn't, what do we each want to change. Then we rank each item in a scale of 1-5. 1 being must change or do away with with 5 being 'do more!' or expand that part of the operation. Its a really simple exercise that helps us capture on paper what just happened, when sometimes the season feels like a speeding train and we have just jumped off. What the hell just happened?! So to sit together and organize each our thoughts is really helpful before we take our respite into the wilderness. 

Once we return and hopefully the snow starts to fly, we sit for hours looking at seed catalogs, reading books and websites about what other small scale, direct market vegetable growers are doing and thinking, then we plan. We make our seed order, this year our plan is to have that done before the end of the year. And then we read some more. Mostly just for fun at this point. Since we miss most of the months other people get to enjoy reading in the sunshine or by the beach. Our days of rest and reading are mostly done under a blanket with a cup of tea. Ahh, sweet rest.


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We're teaching a workshop & Joel Salatin!

We're really excited to share with you that we have been asked to teach a workshop at the Idaho Center for Sustainable Agriculture's annual symposium this November 18th in Nampa. We will have one hour to talk about beginning farmers, urban farming, low cost hoop houses and season extension, AND backyard chickens. It'll be a jam packed session, but we think it'll be exciting and worth every minute. Joel Salatin is the keynote speaker for the event. We farm very differently but have many of the same feelings about farming the way we do. 

So if you or someone you know would like to attend this awesome one day event, please go to the eventbrite site for details on tickets and more! See you there!!

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-sustainable-agriculture-symposium-featuring-joel-salatin-tickets-10944975717

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Planning: Spreadsheets

It is supposed to be the dead of winter right now. But it feels more like spring some days, with sunshine and a lack of frosty mornings. We haven't had noticeable precipitation in weeks and we're getting a little worried. But we're right where we're supposed to be... We're planning.

As part of our farming seasonal schedule, January is the month that we pour over records of last season, make lists of what we want to grow, what we grow because of different markets and our CSA, and drool over seed catalog pictures, knowing that some of those beautiful tomatoes won't taste the way they look in a picture. It's a fun process, reflecting together over what we enjoyed last season and what gave us the headaches. What can we change? What can we do better? What can we do better without? 

Greg has created a most beautiful masterpiece of a spreadsheet that keeps track of everything. Its so important for market farmers to have a working knowledge of what has been done and what we have to do in our future. Its a living document that is constantly tweaked and referred to throughout our busiest greenhouse seeding months of March and April. Every plant is accounted for, nothing is done in haste. We try to have a game plan. That game plan, when printed out for our trusty field notebook is about thirty pages. While we don't refer to all 30 pages, its all important information that we use in different ways throughout the year. In January, when that spreadsheet is reborn for the new season, we laugh at how this spreadsheet is truly an extension of these farmer brains. You can see a snipit below of our beloved production schedule and how we've tracked it for the last 3 seasons going on 4th.

Its jam packed, we know. It tells us how much of what we need to grow to meet the demands of our CSA, two farmers markets, online market, restaurant sales and more. While we know farmers who fly by the seat of their pants, or who know their routine by heart, this is an example of how each farm does things a little differently. We feel having this sort of detailed plan makes ordering seeds easier, determining how much we need to grow to meet our projected income for the year, and in general is makes day to day operations a little more smooth. If you ask a farmer right now what they are doing this time of year, some form of this is likely. So, even if we're not out working in the soil, it doesn't mean we're not busy.

 

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Winter Weather

We are at the tail end of some extreme temperature lows for the northern intermountain west where we live. Five days of below freezing high temps, and single digit low temps at night are both a blessing and a curse on our farm. The rabbit waters freeze within minutes of putting out, the chickens molt, and the row cover freezes to the ground which means no more greens for us until it thaws.

On the bright side, we anticipate these low, low temps to kill off some of the pests we have and in the last few years have had larger and larger populations of. Specifically the Green Soldier Bug or green stink bug (Chinavia hilare) which is a sucking insect that has some pretty detrimental effects on the cosmetic value of tomatoes, peas, beans and other more succulent crops. If populations are high, a significant portion of the crop can be affected. We estimate that nearly 30% of our tomato crop was damaged enough that we wouldn't sell the tomatoes. So as with lemons and lemonade, we made tomatoes into salsa. 

Hannah is helping too.

This winter weather is giving us a chance to sit down and start planning for 2014. The seeds catalogs begin to roll in this time of year, so its easy to start dreaming. One of the important things that we do is to replay the year in our heads and talk about what felt good or what needs changing. We do this causally over coffee or while driving to/from family visits. Its easy to sit down with a notebook of details from the season, look at harvest records, seeding charts and organize thoughts based on that. But its also good to pick out what our feeling were over the season and make changes based on fact and feeling. 

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