Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Business versus Lifestyle

Back when June seemed like a good time to have a baby, because "everything would be in the ground, but not ready for harvest", I think we were thinking of farming in the "lifestyle category".  Reality however, is that April-November is very much the height of the "business category" of farming and having a new baby in June is a terrible idea.  When I had Lucy in November and felt house-bound by the weather for the following 4 months I thought THAT was a bad time to have a baby.  Wrong.  I'd take the relative ease of November right now, in a heartbeat.

I have this personal internal struggle with agriculture and this pull between it being strictly business or a lifestyle.  I know that it's really a bit of both, but what a difficult balance to achieve.  I think there's added complication by the fact that I grew up on a farm, different to how Mark grew up on a farm, so we have a different perspective on where that balance lies. 
It's easier to justify the insanity and pure exhaustion that is this summer when we put it in the 'strictly business' pile, insisting that we need to remain competitive, innovative, daring, successful and most importantly profitable.  But then that makes the necessary 'lifestyle' parts of it seem frustrating and annoying when they should be the fun part of the farm.  Like chasing that damned cow around the pasture at milking time because she doesn't want to come in, after a long, hot day.  Why do we keep that cow?!  When you compare the time and resources that go into that cow, to some of the super-efficiencies we've implemented around the farm in other respects, it sort of throws everything up in the air and makes me wonder what the hell we're doing. 

I'm sure sometime I'll look back on this time and appreciate how much work we put in and the foundation we were laying for better days ahead.  I hope that more than the exhaustion and frustrations, I can remember the kids faces as they laugh at Gail getting hosed off and rolling in the mud, or them snuggling up to fuzzy yellow chicks, or them covered in grease as they 'fix things' in the barn.  Because lately it seems often the tiredness weighs much heavier and eats up far more of our lives than the fun. I often wonder how I can create a love of farming in the kids when I hardly look to be loving it myself and am often not making it very fun for them.   

So for starters, we're implementing some changes when it comes to our direct marketing:
  • Our farm business hours for feed, meat or anything requiring our presence at the farm are like most agricultural retailers; 8-4, Monday-Friday.  If you show up at 5, we won't be there and we won't be happy to be called over there.  This does not apply to eggs- my egg customers know the scoop and I'm happy to see them nearly anytime.  This does not apply to my CSA members either, who also know the scoop and how to serve themselves accordingly. 
  • If you want a quantity of feed, you should put in an order at least a week in advance.  Even if you have put in an order in advance, please ensure you come during the afore-mentioned hours or make arrangements that do not require our assistance at pick-up.
  • If you have vague questions about organics in general, GMO's, what 'pasture-raised' means or just want to chat about the farm, please direct your questions to our email so that we can either respond directly or set up a time to discuss your questions.
 One of our ways of dealing with the fluctuations of an emerging market like organics, is to be a diversified farm with many avenues, but having many avenues makes one wonder how much simpler life would be with only one or two to rely on.  What would life be like around here with no livestock?  Or if we relied on one cash crop like potatoes?  Or if we didn't have to market our own products?  Sometimes I wonder what it's like to leave your job at 5 and not think about it again till the next day when you show up.    Or have specific weeks of designated vacation in which life switches from one trail to a very different, relaxed trail.  Or even follow a TV series every week.

Also, just in case you didn't know, I've been writing two other blogs this summer (which is partly to blame for my quietness on here).  One is for the Chicken CSA which is going great (the CSA, not the blog) and the other is a food blog for the veggie CSA I'm a member of.  I provide recipes each week, using the veggies provided by my favorite vegetable farmer, Jen Campbell of Jen and Derek's Organic Farm.  
I'm really excited about the CSA, and loved meeting my first group of members last Saturday in Charlottetown.  The initial set-up of registering people and filling the spots was a pile of work (way more than I expected), but hopefully it'll all fall into a routine after these first few weeks.  Our processing facility is nearing completion, with the electrician at work as I write this.  Our contractor has been doing a fantastic job and we're so looking forward to getting it going.  Having our equipment all set up and ready to roll each week will make a big difference to how we're doing it now, having to start from scratch every week.  The new chicken houses are such a huge improvement over the old ones, I can't wait until Mark has time to renovate more of the old ones to the new model (hopefully this winter along with the rest of the items on an increasingly long list).

Well, rather than venting on here, I should go compose a post for the food blog and draft up a note to my CSA members.  The cool breeze coming in the window is certainly making bed look inviting, given the last couple of hot nights here.

I hope this finds you sleeping well after gratifying days.


1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Sally. Sounds like our daily conversation around here, especially at garlic harvest when all else, including our anniversary, seem to be pushed to the background.
    We're interested to know what you've done differently in your new chicken housing that helps you out and what lessons you've incorporated into the new design.
    All the best for a wonderful rest of your summer.