If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Happy autumn everybody! Some of you have missed me, some of you have never received this e-mail from me, and some of you may have been happy to get one less e-mail in your inbox, but guess what? I’m back! Looking back, the last newsletter I sent was back in July… That’s a long hiatus. Over the past few years, I’ve realized that the burnout really starts to set in around the middle of July. The summers down here are downright brutal, and it’s around this time that the crops I’d put so much energy into, pushing and planting and weeding and harvesting and selling all spring long and into the summer, really start to take a turn towards the decline. Disease and pest pressure increases, revenue starts to decline as prices drop because everyone is selling the same things, and when it’s climbing into the 80s and 90s with what feels like 1000% humidity by 8am, it starts to take a serious toll on the psyche. So, I decided to slack a bit. I stopped writing this newsletter, I did the bare minimum to keep the crops maintained, and I spent many an afternoon resting. I did eventually rally, got seeds started for the fall, and was ready to serve you guys once again the beautiful, nutritionally dense, beyond-organic produce that you’ve come to expect from me. I was even in the black financially from a bountiful spring, so the coming fall was looking promising. Hans and I spent a lot of time prepping the beds and getting the fall crops planted out in the field, and then mother nature threw me a curve-ball. Her name was Florence.
The picture at the top of this newsletter was taken the Monday after Florence creeped through our region. This block of beds lies about 300 feet above a creek. That creek flooded, heavily, and washed away 200 feet of broccoli, 200 feet of cauliflower, 200 feet of cabbage, 600 feet of kale, and my lingering pepper, eggplant and okra beds. I have another plot that was above the surge of the creek where we had direct seeded some spinach, arugula, baby kale, radishes, turnips, lettuce, beets and carrots, but even though it was safe from the flooding, most of those crops were decimated by the pounding rain. All that remained was a bed of lettuce, radishes, turnips, and carrots. That was a big hit, both financially and psychologically, and it sucked. I didn’t know what to do. My beds were all but destroyed, and the ground was too wet to rework and reshape, and I didn’t have any transplants started as back-up. I highly considered the prospect of discontinuing Street Fare Farm altogether. I began weighing my options. I traveled up to Door County, WI to spend a week with my mom in their vacation house up there, and tried honestly to not think about the farm. I came back, and still couldn’t figure out what my next weeks, but as I kept rolling those balls around in my head, kept maintaining what I had remaining in the field, kept praying, and slowly those balls started to settle. I began to get excited about next year, and the improvements I could make to my production strategies. For example, I’m going to plan to have very limited production from the middle of July until planting starts in the middle of August in order to nip these periods of burnout in the bud, maybe even head out of town for a week or two. I still could pull out a little revenue with what crops I had remaining after Florence to maintain my dignity, and I had already started the ground-work here at home (on much higher ground) where I am transitioning my operations from the Lomax Farm. Then mother-nature threw me another curve-ball; those rats with hooves we call deer. I went to the farm earlier this week and found that they had eaten up all my remaining crops. This may be a blessing, though, because now I can put 100% of my focus on getting the home operation properly situated, but with my potential profits being washed down the creek or gobbled up by deer, it’s time to get a winter job.
I heard this analogy to farming recently that I think will give y’all some perspective on what it takes to run a profitable small-farm enterprise. Imagine a profitable company that sells t-shirts, but one day decides that they’d be able to make a higher return if in addition to the retail end of the business, they also grew the cotton, spun the thread, wove the cloth and sewed the shirts up. That’s throwing a lot of complexity into what was a simple and likely profitable enterprise. Well, that’s what I’m doing. Not only do I have to grow the crops and ensure they are healthy so they are healthy for your consumption, but then I have to harvest, wash, pack, and do all the footwork to get it all sold, all the while making sure I can take care of the personal responsibilities that we all share. It’s a lot of work, and there are only so many hours in the day. But you know what? I love it. I love working with nature and learning how I can build the health of my ecosystem to help ensure the health of the crops which translates to the health of the body. I love the hustle of networking, marketing, and conducting the the business elements of my operation. Hell, I even love keeping the spreadsheets that track my production and finances. I love what I do, and all I can do is keep trying, because to me farming is more about making sure the bottom line covers the expenses; farming is about living as closely as you can get to our original design as responsible stewards of this planet, our home. It doesn’t hurt that I get to eat really well, too!
This is a long newsletter… Thank you all for your continued support. I want to give a special thanks to my parents, David and Michelle, my girlfriend, Sky, my siblings, Josh, Bree, Abbot and Amanda, John and Holly Robbins, and my right hand man Hans, for sticking with me and helping me along this journey. Production will be limited throughout the remainder of this year, but I’m excited to climb back on top in 2019. We’ll still be at the Piedmont Farmers Market every Saturday from 9am til noon with eggs and microgreens. Tomorrow we’ll also have some butternut squash and shiitake mushrooms. I am excited to announce that I will be bringing back the Street Fare Farm CSA for next season! I’m still finalizing the details, so more on that next week, but please keep in mind that your participation in the CSA will not only ensure you the cream of my crops, but will also be very helpful in getting my operations up and running for next season by pre-paying for your weekly produce boxes. There’s a lot of work I need to do over the course of the winter to get everything set up for next years growing season, but I have faith that the excitement I feel welling up in my gut and my heart for next season is an indication that I’m on the path I’m meant to be on, and that’s encouraging.
I’ll conclude by letting you know that I’ll be starting serving at Gianni’s Trattoria soon to keep the farm going and build up the necessary infrastructure and purchase the irrigation, seed, compost and fertilizer for next year. If you are feeling ESPECIALLY generous on this beautiful autumn day in October, you might consider heading toStreetFareFarm.com, clicking on “Donate” link on top of the homepage, and making a contribution that I can put towards the farm. I hate to play the sympathy card, but it’s kind of all I have at this moment… I’m also kicking around the idea of starting a GoFundMe campaign to acquire some financing to have seamless start to next season… Stay tuned for more on that. Thank you, once again!
Now I’m going to get my butt off this couch and go do a second tilling on the 1/2 acre plot you see below… I hope to see you tomorrow!