February 19, 2009

Today was a rare, beautiful day in Arbuckle. Sunny, no wind, green grass, blooming trees, and fresh smelling earth still absorbing the last rainfall. I took a clue from just about every other farm in the area, and got in one last application of copper dormant spray. Dormant spray didn’t go as planned this year. It took a very long time for the trees to go dormant at all. Maybe the 70 degree days into the late fall had some part in that. Then the usual procrastinations reared their heads. So the trees were sprayed twice, which now that I think about it, is one better than last year. Two plums have already started blooming. They both have alarming numbers of blossoms on them, which will mean loads of thinning. Oh well, that task won’t be barking for attention for a few months. All the broccoli were pulled up and fed to the birds. Those two jobs took up most of the afternoon. Tomorrow it will be time to transplant some babies out of the greenhouse and weed more. And tonight, it’s time to order some Asian Pear trees. We have really slowed down from the days of purchaseing 25-30 trees each year. The orchard is getting full. This year we only added a Highland pear, a medlar, and another mulberry. What’s a medlar? I don’t know, it just sounded good. I feel obligated to own one of every fruit tree known to exist, I guess. Which explains the loquat and the jujube. And the pawpaws. At least I draw the line at subtropicals and tropicals…no guavas in the greenhouse.

February 6, 2009

I received an email recently from Local Harvest, an online
organization that helps farmers and potential customers connect. It
noted that "CSA season is beginning!".

Like a bright light
through the fog, clarity arrived…….Right around the end of
Thanksgiving, I was worried, alarmed, and a whole host of other
indigestion-inducing feelings, because we were experiencing a mass
exodus of clients out of our CSA program (that’s boxes full of fruits
and veggies for direct sale to customers each week). For a few weeks,
it felt like watching the lemmings go to the cliffs, and I wondered if
we were going to still have a farming business. I figured it might have
been the economy, the holidays, people hating collard greens, or any
combination of random factors. With everyone around me chanting "Don’t
Panic", I buried my head in seed catalogs and hoped for change. As of
about 3 weeks ago, the great reversal happened. We are already back to
pre-December levels with more folks joining our program weekly. The
Farm Bureau reports that according to consumer research, folks
experiencing the economic downturn are still prioritizing the purchase
of fresh produce. I find all of this to be heartening. We try SO hard
to grow all this beautiful, chemical free food, and sell it
picked-yesterday fresh for less than the grocery stores do. It just has
to work, because all of us have to eat, or so I tell myself. And now I
realize what other, more experienced CSA farms probably figured out
long ago…December and January are just doldrums months for produce
sales. This is normal, this is why most farms take a 3 week holiday
during this time, and next year I need to just plan on it. This also
causes me to realize that my sideline work of heritage turkey sales is
a valuable addition to what we do here–at a time when produce income
hits rock bottom, it’s the opportunity to make up the difference by
selling wonderful holiday dinners.

Sometimes I think of what it
takes to run a farming business, and it’s really boggling. Constant
thought has to be given to "right now" and "three months from now". I
know that I have to prepare my fruit orchard for bloom, because that’s
coming in a few weeks. But I also have to start the seeds that will be
April’s garden plants. If I forget, or don’t place the orders, or get
distracted, I’m out of luck for the near future. Today I’m receiving
payments, doing the clerical work needed to start 5 new subscriptions,
managing the planting of a new asparagus patch by my farming partner
(complete with arguments about how far from the grapefruit trees the
patch needs to be) and hoping there is enough time in the day to start
picking up the horrendous pile of tree prunings in the orchard since
the tractor has a flat tire. Oh yeah, and how to move three beehives
from Zamora to Arbuckle at 7pm tonight, right after the latest kitten
comes home from having her spay operation. And do some trays of
tomatoes in the greenhouse. Well, it’s a lot, but I’m frankly grateful
to be here and working hard instead of sitting in a cubicle wondering
when my pink slip is coming.