Happy New Year! Thank you all for being a part of our community. We are deeply grateful to each one of you who came out to pitch in with farm chores, ordered food, stopped by the farm stand, referred a friend, dropped off treats, made it out to an event to say hello, or asked to be added to our weekly list.
2018 marks our fourth year as farmers/business owners at Sunbow and each year our goal is to go bigger while making strides towards excellence. Our version of that is mostly to take many small steps in the right direction, at times we leap, but mostly, we step. It's how we learn, in increments. We aggregate the information we read, the observations we make, the feedback we receive and the wisdom passed on by more experienced farmers and then we figure out how and when to apply it. Sometimes, we have to accept that no matter how much to try to prepare, there are times when you just aren't sure what to do. One of the most challenging and interesting things about being a farmer is the unpredictability of it all. I don't know too many seasoned farmers that would say they aren't still learning something new with every year that passes.
2017 was the year of challenging weather. The year started out roughly for so many of us in the valley. The amount of rain we received killed most of our outdoor crops (because too much of a good thing is definitely a reality in farming). It took a really long time for the fields to dry out enough to start tilling, planting and mowing which meant that the grass and weeds were crazy tall and the amount of slugs was unmerciful. We hadn't seen anything like it in our three years of living here and were not quite sure we'd be able to make a go of it.
If we had been trying to grow a home garden, it may have been a different story. When you're farming to grow food for hundreds of people, time is of the essence. If you don't get your seedlings transplanted into the ground, you have to bump them into bigger containers or they die of malnutrition. If the field is too wet, using the tractor is not an option if you are interested in the long-term well being of your soil and equipment. Yes, you can do it by hand which is what we did in March with our cabbage crop that we had seeded on January 19. Having bumped them from seed trays to individual cells and then into their own 4" pots, the only other option was to let them die. So, with hand trowels we worked the ground as needed and placed them hopefully into their new homes where their roots could grow and work their magic. None of that would have been possible if we hadn't spread leaf mulch on that particular field 5 months before in the fall. The decomposing leaves added just enough height to the ground to prevent the cabbage roots from being submerged in water and suffering the same fate as the other over-wintered cabbages. Spreading leaf mulch in the fall isn't an uncommon practice at Sunbow but because the rains started so early, we only managed to cover a few areas. Talk about unpredictability.
When your year starts out like this, even the pluckiest of farmers will lose their good cheer and need a serious morale boost. Hilariously, knowing that it wasn't personal really helped...mother nature had not singled us out! What a relief! Seriously, we knew we weren't alone. You'll hear other honest farmers talking about their struggles in early 2017 and thankfully, we have gleaned a bit of farmer grit and put the rest behind us.
We're thankful to be part of a community that supports our lifestyle (because when you farm, you don't leave work at the office door). We are thankful to be part of your sustainability practices, and weekly routines. We look forward to expanding and growing our community in 2018.