By Tracy Potter-Fins
The first frost of the year has come and gone. It came really late for us this year, waiting until October 18th to freeze our row cover into crispy sheets. We were able to get our cukes, squash, onions, peppers, kale, and collards out of the field before it hit. The tomatoes, arugula, and some greens are still good to go under fabric. We’ll have fresh salad for a little longer if nothing else.
This week we planted two beds of garlic and mulched them just after it froze. We’ll mulch our carrots under a good foot of straw later this month, after they’ve fully sweetened with the cold.
Our Farm Shares have ended for the year. We left our members with a bunch of storage produce, melons, salad greens, pie pumpkins, and a giant jack-o-lantern. We asked them to fill out a short survey about the season and, with a few really solid suggestions, the response was incredibly positive. Many of our members have signed up for our 2012 Farm Share email list, and we’re really excited to offer more shares next year. Our EBT shares were very successful and our SNAP members seem happy with their experience. We’ve learned a few things too: Next year, we’ll offer up to 50 pounds of canning produce to our members, instead of offering unlimited cukes, tomatoes, and beans. Our prices, though they’re not changing by much, will more accurately reflect the work we put into our shares. Of all the things we enjoyed this year, our members were our favorite. They were appreciative and excited about our vegetables and happy to see us every week.
There’s one more market left for the year, and, while we’ll dearly miss our regulars, we’re psyched to have our Saturdays back. Right when we have our market routine down and our set-up has become habitual, it’s time to close up shop for the winter. Next year we’ll know what, and how much, to bring. We’ll know how to set up and what draws our customers in better than anything else—looking good, while it can be a pain in the butt at five in the morning, does help, it turns out.
Margaret quit the Good Food Store and is now working only fill-in shifts. We’ve finally moved out of the house we were renting in Missoula, and the farm house feels more and more like home. We’ve loved having friends and family around us all summer, and for the first time since May we have the house to ourselves.
More than the money (we did better than break even), this year was a success because we were able to grow beautiful, fresh, sustainable produce for our friends and community. Our backs hurt, the goats continue to escape despite our best efforts, and there’s still a lot to do: fabric to pull, drip tape to coil, and a new garden to plow under. Still, we ate better than kings and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to work a regular job again—nothing beats running your own life.
For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I’m waiting for the next thing. From high school to college to working for other farmers, I always felt like I was preparing for something more sustainable, something I could sink into. And now I’m preparing for what’s next right here. The things we do this year will directly impact our experience next year. Where we put the garlic this fall is where we’ll harvest it from next summer. The manure we spread (or don’t) will determine how well our veggies grow next spring. And the pickles, tomatoes, peppers, cider, pears, apples, grapes, and everything else we preserved will stay in the cellar until we go get them, one jar at time.