This season has felt like a blur! This is a snowy photo from March, way back when we first leased the Thomas Open Space Farm in Lafayette. It’s hard to believe that was just this past spring. It was a much bigger challenge than we expected to move a large part of our operation to a new location. (But of course it was more than we expected! Isn’t that just the way these things go?) Now we have one season under our belts, an incredibly welcoming community in Lafayette, and a huge amount of support from the City of Lafayette Open Space staff. It feels a lot less overwhelming to think about next season now that we’ve been through this year and have an idea of how this new farm works instead of just a bunch of dreams about the future.
Like every season, we had lots of challenges and successes. I’m always reminded of the first few lines of A Tale of Two Cities when I think back on each farm season! The snow pack looked great in March but then we did not get a single drop of rain in April! We did our regular early season plantings in March and we had enough irrigation water in our storage ponds to water the seedlings for a month or so but then we ran out of storage water at two of our farms in May. And it was so dry that the irrigation ditches at these two farms turned on really late. We lost a few crops because we didn’t have enough water (the first of many reasons we didn’t successfully grow any carrots this year) and it was a near thing on being able to keep all the onions and potatoes alive.
Fortunately the City of Lafayette has a different water source for Thomas Open Space Farm and we had irrigation water available there in May. Wyatt threw away a lot of his crop plans and we moved the majority of our crops over to this new farm. That was a huge leap of faith! I would not recommend gambling the farm on growing crops in unfamiliar soil and an unfamiliar irrigation system. We originally thought we would start out slowly and grow just a few crops there this year to see how they grew in this new soil. We didn’t have much choice though. It was looking like our other two farms might have hardly any irrigation water this season. I can’t believe how lucky we got though! Wyatt and the crew did a fantastic job and a lot of the crops there did amazingly well. (Part of it may have been the fact that Wyatt panicked and thew a little extra organic fertilizer on the crops just for good measure!)
Our home farm on 63rd Street was more hit and miss. The tomatoes in our caterpillar
tunnels were unbelievable! I can’t believe we were still able to harvest some cherry tomatoes this week. But we’re still losing the battle with all the Canada thistle in our fields. Our winter squash plants really suffered and we got much lower yields than we were hoping for.
We’re also struggling with all the things the rest of the world is dealing with: the impacts of Covid, the continuing labor shortage, and my complete lack of knowing how to run a business in a period of high inflation. As far as the labor shortage, this is the third year in a row that we’ve been extremely short staffed. Our crew did an amazing job of getting our 500+ CSA members fed each week! I feel like we were worried almost every week that we wouldn’t be able to pull it off but somehow the crew made it happen!
There are so many ups and downs and challenges each season. There is one single reason we are able to keep doing it: our CSA members. Farming is so uncertain and our CSA members give us the financial stability to keep our farm going year after year. We receive payment at the beginning of the season so a lot of the guess work is taken out of budgeting each year. (Although, back to the part about inflation, I have no idea how to deal with this!) One example is that we don’t have to worry about the weather in terms of selling our vegetables. When our crops are ready, we have to get them into people’s hands right away. They can’t sit on a warehouse shelf for a few weeks if it’s a rainy weekend and nobody goes shopping with us at the farmers’ market. We lose those crops and those sales but still have to find the money to cover payroll. Our CSA members come to get their veggies no matter what the weather is outside! We also have a much better idea of how much to grow each year. It’s a lot easier to calculate how much food we need for 500 CSA members as opposed to guessing how much we will sell at a farmers’ market, our farm store, or through restaurant orders.
Another thing that keeps us going is the gratitude we get from our CSA members. It’s the little comments you make at the pickups when you tell us how much you enjoyed something like the peppers or arugula last week. I also have what I call our “CSA love letters”. These are emails or handwritten notes telling us how much our farm means to our members. My personal favorite is what I think of as “CSA kids”. These are the kids who have grown up in families who have been our CSA members for years. The kids get excited about things like peas, turnips, beets, and kale when they see these things on the table at CSA pickup. What normal kid gets excited about turnips?! It feels good to know that we are helping to teach kids that vegetables are delicious when they are grown the right way.
My sincerest thanks for being there with us for yet another farm season. I hope we’ll see you next year or even this winter! ~Amy
All of the veggies were delicious, Amy! Thank you to you and Wyatt and all the crew for all the diligent work and adaptability.