By Caitlin Arnold, Furrow Horse Farm
As we head into our second year as a farm, I am amazed at what we accomplished in just one short year. I remember back to our first few weeks on the farm, when our main field was just a cow pasture; we had yet to put up a deer fence, hoophouse, or wash station; and were thick in the process of starting up a business.
When we got started in January 2015, I was often overwhelmed by the amount of work we needed to put in to turn our leased property into a production farm. The list of tasks seemed endless, and I was dubious of our ability to get it all done, especially on top of working our off-farm jobs. But with the help of our friends and family, we created a productive 1.5-acre plot that successfully provided for a 15-member CSA, two farmers’ markets, and multiple wholesale accounts.
Looking forward through 2016, I am thrilled to not be putting up a deer fence and buying all of our tools— instead I can put more energy toward planning, advertising, and fostering business relationships and new possibilities. We can also focus on our relationship with our team of horses; our goal is to not have to rent our landlord’s tractor for any field work this year.
Last year taught us many lessons. We know what sold and what didn’t, what we grew too much of and what we need to grow a lot more of. We have one season of local weather under our belts (although that is bound to keep changing), and we are starting to be known throughout the community. One big plus from serving as a NYFC Bootstrap Blogger has been the amount of press we’ve received lately. The farm was featured in the February 2016 issue of Acres USA, and our local county-wide newspaper just ran a great feature article about us this past weekend. Hopefully the publicity will help us double our CSA numbers this year and allow us to continue building awareness about the issues facing young farmers today.
My energy for farming remains high, although the winter off was a much needed rest. I feel just as excited to be starting seeds in the greenhouse this year as I was last year, if not more so. I feel more confident in our business and optimistic about our ability to grow as a farm. In all honesty, I am feeling the downside of physical labor more than ever before; I notice my back aching often, and my energy for anything outside of the farm is waning. One hard lesson that last year taught us is that we definitely can’t do this alone—we are planning to hire a part-time helper this year.
We continue to struggle with questions of permanence and longevity, as well as our desire to own land some day. These are the bigger issues underlying our day-to-day farm existence. My hope is that we continue to grow throughout the next few years, enabling us to put away money towards purchasing land.
I also want us to continue to become better farmers and not lose sight of why we started farming. We do it because it is what we love. It is invaluable work that needs to happen, and we want to encourage other young people to do the same.
This is Caitlin’s last post for our Bootstrap series. For the past eight months, Caitlin and three other young farmers have been blogging about what it is like to start a farm. Read all of Caitlin’s posts here, and wish her well in the comment section! Apply now to be one of our 2016 Bootstrap Bloggers.