As we enter the last week of our CSA season I can’t help but think back to the beginning of this year with a certain lightness that was not present in April. We spent the winter planning the season to a “T.” Our budget written out, crop plan in place, and planting calendar complete- on paper, it was nearly perfect. See, we had a lot riding on this season. Even though we completed a CSA season last year, it was small, only 20 families, and we were working off-farm jobs through the summer. This time around, we knew we wanted to do it differently and make it more of a full time gig. In order for us to take the next steps, the CSA membership needed to grow as well as the space upon which we plant. We grew the membership over 200% and started in June with 80 beds, 100 feet long each, organized into 5 plots. The season prior, we had one plot with 16 beds. It was a big leap and one we knew we needed to take. Right now there are so many cheesy quotes running through my head, you know, like “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” or how about this one, “if you never try, you’ll never know.” All cheesiness aside, this is true!
See, we are non-traditional farmers. Unlike so many of our farming counterparts, we did not go through a time of interning and farming for others and we do not come from farm families. Dan worked on a CSA farm through highschool, fell in love with it, and set his mind to farming. In the middle, we met, had kids, built a house and then looked upon our tillable acres with this forever dream in mind. The dream was finally ready to become reality and we finally had a chance to take a leap. Here we are now on the other side of the leap. We did it! Our first big season with over 100 members is coming to a close. It wasn’t perfect like the paper copy – it was full of missteps and completely lacked a head of cauliflower. It had less broccoli than we planned for and some of the tomatoes certainly had cracks. The first few boxes were light due to the nasty Spring and we compensated with plentiful boxes the second half of the season. We can honestly say that we’re proud of every box we packed.
If I’m left with a lesson here, it’s this, KEEP A LIGHT TOUCH. Every few years I’m confronted with some thing and this life lesson comes back front and center. Life can get heavy, especially when it’s something deeply important. But I think the lighter we are, the easier we can adjust, make changes, make things work. When the Spring rain felt like it was never going to stop, and the soil was more compacted than expected and things weren’t growing as planned, we could have crashed and burned in that moment, but instead, we adjusted. It was heavy at first, our stressed, weary bodies problem solving, but slowly we lightened up. We changed, we started growing on a 6th, then a 7th, 8th and 9th plot where the soil was more fertile and the drainage much improved. This first round of squash went poorly and we planted another and it was beautiful. We realized that there would always be something… potato bugs, cucumber bugs, heavy rain, never enough time, and sometimes there would even be an email from a member unsatisfied by some aspect of the share, but we had to keep moving, adjusting to each challenge.
The lighter I could be about our season, the more easily I could see the beauty. We are so thankful for all of our members, the emails of appreciation, our incredible pick up site hosts, and the people who banded around us to make this season happen successfully – Jake and Mary, our eternally positive, hard working employees, our Mothers, the best Nana/Farm-hands in the world, Dan’s Dad, who’s helped on the farm in so many ways and our children for loving the rhythm of a farm. As we prepare to fill the last boxes of the season, we’re happy to report that each box has been fuller than the last, harder to close the lid. We hope it doesn’t overwhelm people and we realize balance (too much/not enough) is very hard to achieve. We’ve learned, through lightening up, that this reality is all we thought it would be – it’s a dream to grow all of this food, and share it! We’ve loved this season so much and we are so thankful we get to grow food here in Minnesota – naturally, free of chemicals and sustainably. We hope this is our “first big season” of many. Each year I hope we learn as much as we did this year, and continue to become better farmers.