Updated: Jan 24, 2020
We are just a couple of weeks inside the new year, and I feel as if a giant weight as been lifted. I won't lie - as the new year bells rang, I greeted 2020 with open arms and was not sad to see 2019 go. It was without a doubt the hardest year I have ever endured. While the list of trials is long (never ending rain, flooding, cutworms, hail storms, equipment breakdowns just to name a few...), the noted good column far outweighs the bad. At the end of my first season with Fifth Gen, I can remember writing something along the lines of, "I hope that I feel this grateful at the end of every season." In truth, each year has been slightly different, but I can say for certain that the sentiment is true. That year I was grateful for the chance to try something new, for the opportunity to improve my life, and for the overwhelming support from my friends, family, and first-ever CSA members. There was something that triggered that statement this year when I (finally!) made it to the end of the season, marked by the last CSA boxes and the final swath of canola. We ran our hats through the combine, an act of good karma, and as I walked back into my truck to bring in the last load of grain to the bin, I was moved to tears. I was overcome with an immense feeling of appreciation that I had made it through such a hard year. It was a battle from the very beginning, but the good news is that I fought hard and I persevered. I am grateful for the knowledge I have now gained from growing in a wet year, and I am thankful once again for the unwavering support my members give me. That to me is reason enough to continue ahead with another year! As I look over the 2019 season, I can see certain areas that are in desperate need of attention, and with that I have set new intentions for how I would like to steer the new year.
First and foremost, I need to create some sort of balance in my life. It is the one thing that I struggle with most. I am constantly trying to juggle work and personal lives, toeing the line between small scale and conventional farming, and am famous for having too many irons in the fire at once. There was a time, not that long ago, that I took a leap of faith and put my personal life first. I quit my job, left the toxic environment that was hurting me, and followed my heart to literal greener pastures. Over the past two years, that way of life has gone from a leisurely activity to an over-demanding, never-ending type of work. I love it still, but there has been a shift in balance where my work life takes all precedence and controls my every waking moment. Farming has never been a 9-5 kind of job, it is a lifestyle, and I am so grateful for the chance to find that again, but I also have noticed that I am susceptible to the inevitable August burn-out and want to recognize that there could be a better way. I work hard, and I have never been known to shy away from a dirty job, so to speak. I love working outdoors and on the farm - no matter how long the hours are. I take great pride in the work ethic that I inherited, and because of that, I can be incredibly hard on myself. Asking for help is also something that has never come easily to me. I would rather figure out a way to do it myself. I’m stubborn beyond belief, and ridiculously determined to pull my weight, and as much as it can be the force that drives me to be that ‘Boss Babe’, it is also taxing and adds a great deal of sleepless nights. My solution to this is to find a way to be more efficient during waking hours, specifically in my distribution system of my vegetables. I believe that often times you have to try something first before deciding whether or not it works for you, and I have found that a large portion of my time is being spent delivering boxes. Instead of sacrificing product quality, I hope to adapt an integrated system of both door-to-door delivery and drop-spot locations. This will then allow me to offer more boxes throughout the summer, with the same great tastes of the veggies you’ve come to love. I started this business because I wanted to share good, wholesome food with people, and that is something that I continue to strive for.
2. Create New Connections
My CSA program has allowed me to create relationships with so many like-minded people that appreciate knowing where their food comes from. This subculture is exactly what I was hoping for when I first envisioned delivering boxes. The unexpected outcome of promoting this lifestyle has been the chance to collaborate with other local small businesses. And an added bonus has been reconnecting with our neighbours, who have welcomed me home to the community with open arms. Despite the horrible growing conditions, 2019 led to some pretty incredible opportunities for me:
-Picture A Farmer: a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience to tell my story and sit beside two of the most kick ass women in the ag industry. I thoroughly enjoyed myself for all the filming hours logged, and it was a very special day to go the screening premier at the Garneau theater.
-My First Restaurant Sale: fresh corn on the cob was awarded to Cilantro & Chive
-Numerous local collaborations including The Northern Table (try the Minty Sencha, made with wild mint from our farm!), The King of Tarts, Little Bird Baking, Cherry Grove Florist, and Poppywynn Flower Co. just to name a few.
-Doing a write up for Eat Local magazine about a family recipe, something I hope to do more of in the months to come!
-Open Farm Days: we had a great turn out and I am already planning for 2020!
-Garlic Harvest: learning from the best, Steel Pony Farm, and working with the most positive group of people I’ve ever met.
-My First Farmer’s Market!
The list really does go on and on, and please believe me when I say that there are so many others I could have written about but I’m trying to stay within a certain word count. Going forward, I would very much like to expand my connections to include many new faces, restaurants, markets and more! I have spent a large amount of my time this year devoted to recreating my website to include an online store, and even though it isn’t up and running just yet, I’m confident that it will be shortly. 2020 has already proven to be a good year for this, kicking it off with a bang as Popowich Meat Company offered to sell my smoked garlic in their shop! I’m excited to see where this will take my business, and as always, I greatly enjoy working with fellow local producers/businesses! And most importantly, I want to thank each and every one of you for creating these new relationships and working together!
3. Intentional Writing
The third thing I would like to focus on for this upcoming year is my writing. For those of you who are non-members, each week my CSA boxes are accompanied by a recipe and a newsletter that highlights the happenings on the farm. I love writing, especially when it pertains to my farm and/or gardening as both are topics that I am so passionate about. I found that it is a great way to express myself, especially because I am someone who struggles with showing emotions. I hate being vulnerable, but for some reason, when it comes to writing about the farm I am overwhelmed with an urge to be completely transparent and I really do love sharing my story with those who want to listen. When thinking on how to be more efficient during the crazy summer months, I was trying to decide which tasks were deemed essential in order to keep my delivery days operating smoothly. My first thought was to nix the weekly newsletter, something that I’ve done every single week of operation, but the number of people that commented about the newsletter being their favourite part changed my mind. One customer even showed me the stack of 2 years’ worth that she has saved! It touched my heart, and meant so much that somebody appreciates my words, and the work that goes into them. I’d like to change my delivery system, however, and instead of focusing on just 12 weeks of the year, I propose to make frequent blog posts over the entire year. I hope to be better organized so that my newsletter does not become neglected and writing can be a priority. Over the last couple of years, it has become more and more obvious to me that someday I might like to write a book about my garden ventures and our farm. In order to make that happen, I want to commit to setting aside “writing” time, and to create a blog following, be consistent in my posts and make this happen!
These three intentions are really just the beginning. I have pages of lists that are narrowed to more specific aspects of my life, i.e. business goals, soil ammendments, health related, etc, but I wanted to focus on three that will help navigate the rest. This is a new year and I want to set the tone early, before the stress and chaos of the growing season ensues. My mom recently shared a wise adage, “A farmer’s mantra is, ‘next year will be better’.” I am not arrogant enough to even come close to thinking that I actually have this farming thing figured out, I only hope to learn from my mistakes and look forward to the lessons that will shape me in the years to come. One defining thing about me is that I won’t give up. I learned a long time ago from long distance running that I am more than capable of winning the inner struggle of mind over matter. I dig my heels in, put my head down and push through - I never stop. I see 2020 as a blank slate, made up of a million possibilities to see wonderment and bring my dreams to fruition. And truth be told, even with the hard times, I am so grateful for this life because of how connected to our land I am now. I can’t imagine not spending the majority of my days with the sun beating down on my shoulders. I can’t imagine not riding in the tractor with my dad, soaking up every iota of information possible in hopes to understand the depth of his knowledge in the field. I can’t imagine having to buy vegetables year round and to have to go back to the bland taste that they offer. I can’t imagine life without impromptu photoshoots with my mom… it all adds up. No matter how hard it gets, now that I’ve had a taste of how meaningful my life can be, I can’t picture myself without it. Thus the reason for finding ways to be better, to be more equipped to overcome adversity, and to make this season the best one yet!