It’s been raining quite a bit this winter. The last three years of farming we were pushing the CSA and farmers’ market year-round, and the weather more-or-less complied. This winter, had we tried to run the production vegetable program through the winter, we’d have had a business failure. We were fortunate in that we chose to shut the farm down for the winter to focus on policy work and strategic planning for the seasons to come.
A mixed crop portfolio creates a buffer for small farms, giving us the opportunity to focus on different aspects of the farming business at different times of the year. It is important to always maintain revenue streams because there are always outgoing costs that require capital. Getting started each season means making an investment in seeds, materials, labor and time; the investment won’t pay off until the end of the season, and if a crop failure occurs it won’t pay off at all.
We have managed to build a thriving small business; we hope that it will do well enough to enable us to save money and have some form of retirement as we age. Farming is a gamble with nature, one that I reflect on a great deal this time of year as the farm is lashed by storms. We’ve seen some crop failure already, though we’re only 3 months into the season, and are looking at a soggy planting season that will likely be slow to get going.
Farmers have struggled with the elements as long as there have been farms; it’s hard work in the best of times and can be soul-crushing during the worst. We are driven by a combination of factors; a desire to live on the land, to work for ourselves in support of community, food security, and to seek a more sustainable way of life than is presented by the industrial paradigms of our modern world.
There must be a balance; we need vehicles, solar panels, water pumps, etc; things that are provided by industrial manufacturing. I’m no Luddite; I type on a laptop and use my smartphone to communicate with the world. That said, we must also learn that some things are not meant to be produced in industrial fashion. Food and education come to mind; we must teach children as individuals and we must raise more food closer to the average home. We cannot afford the long-term ramifications of our current system; the model is broken.
We depend, as farmers, on our community. With no one to purchase the food we grow or to reimburse us for the medicine we produce, we wouldn’t be able to pay for the inevitable costs that must be acquired with money. The question is, how do we create beneficial models that regenerate human, economic and natural ecosystems ravaged by industrial practices? How do we provide for meaningful employment that provides positive impacts? Family homesteads farming crops that work within the ecological setting are the answer.
We need more people, growing more food and raising more medicine. We need hemp as part of the crop portfolio for farmers. We have a societal duty to step back and assess the industrial paradigms that have failed us; to look at the potentials; to use our human intelligence to craft new pathways forward.
The time has come to put aside the blinders that have been applied by a Prohibition mentality and ensconced by the lobbying powers of large corporations and special interest groups like prison guards and law enforcement. Growing your own food is like printing your own money; we need more people doing so and it needs to happen yesterday.
Six years ago, I wouldn’t have defined myself as a farmer. We are learning, times are changing, and we have the opportunity to cause that shift to happen. It starts with us; it is a grave and tremendous responsibility.