Month six began with our first Farmer’s Market meeting. In addition to growing and selling wholesale to a local co-op; we decided to try our hand at the Farmer’s Market as well.
We were encouraged.
We had the opportunity to meet the market manager and other growers. We saw ways we could diversify our income by including craft items, cut herbs, and cut flowers in addition to our vegetables.
We went home and designed a booth as well as a simple marketing strategy including a market bag gimmick: purchase a nice bag with our logo, and earn a 5-10% discount on every purchase from us for the rest of the season.
We were happy. We were stoked. This was going to work.
Then…without warning things began to unravel one by one.
Our home in town sat on the market with little activity. Our realtor, the one who helped us purchase our first home, helped us get our second home, helped us find our land, who was practically a friend, and whom we saw as our golden ticket to a SOLD home in record time, let us know she had lost interest in trying to sell it.
It may seem like a minor incident but it took the wind out of our sails. We quickly rallied however, and listed it with someone else who promised an aggressive and enthusiastic marketing strategy.
We were back on track.
Then… the spinach started to bolt.
With the wonky weather we weren’t sure what would be featured in our slick booth and packed in those fancy bags. But the one thing we had pretty well banked on was this spinach. We hoped it would hold just a few more weeks, but the warming weather prompted it to put out little buds.
We had no choice but to harvest it and eat it ourselves. We gathered it up, and weighed what appeared to us to be quite a harvest ~ it was in fact only 3#. We realized with a sickening thud that the bed of spinach we had worked so hard to cultivate: nursing it along, protecting it from the snow and wind would only sell wholesale at just enough for lunch at a fast food restaurant.
We started to realize why those who said Farmer’s Markets were the only way to go were saying what they were saying. But even then, we needed to grow more. Much, much more. And we were exhausted.
I started to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. We’d done our homework, done our research, seen others doing what we wanted. But when it came right down to setting a working plan in motion, we were floundering.
I wanted to cry. Instead we fixed some spinach ravoili and planted radishes.
The weather continued to warm, and the remaining spring crop of lettuces started to come along beautifully.
There was hope.
Then…we had a tornado.
In the wee hours of a Thursday morning husbie awakened me to let me know we had water coming in through the office and bedroom windows. Our office floor was covered in a thin sheet of rain water. Three hours later the septic started to back up. With a leaky home, the tornado sirens blaring, and septic issues, the garden was the last thing on my mind.
At daylight however, clad in wellies and husbie’s bathrobe I surveyed the damage.
Whether it was the wind or the flash flood following the storm, I don’t know. But our beautiful tiny heirloom lettuces, radishes, kale, and beets had begun to uproot. In a moment of desperation, I wandered through the garden trying to push them back into the soil hoping to salvage what we could.
It seemed to work and a few days later they appeared to bounce back.
Then…nearly ten days after our traditional “last frost date” it froze.
I don’t ever recall a freeze warning this late in the season, but there it was. We didn’t have quite enough floating row cover to take care of everything so we had to pick and choose. I chose the large bed of red romaine lettuce that was within a few short weeks of being harvested: all things being equal (ha). We scurried to cover what we could, then went to bed hoping and praying for the best.
Everything survived. Everything. And ironically, the tiny seedlings we didn’t cover seemed to be happier than the ones we did. Go figure.
It seemed that month six was our most challenging yet. More so than the move, even more than the transition from a regular job to farming full time.
I think it was because for the first time in our venture we felt we’d had the rug completely pulled out from underneath us.
It was the first time we felt raw, unadulterated discouragement.
It was the first time (not surprisingly I guess) that we started to seriously wonder, can we really do this? Is it worth it?
It’s funny how one’s spirits (in our home at least) tend to rise and fall with the weather. Those cold, stormy days were some of the darkest.
But then, a new day would dawn, sunny and warm. We’d go out on the back porch, with the sun shining on the pond. We’d chat while we set the tomatoes out to harden off in the light breeze, hang the laundry out on our new clothesline, watch the dogs loll in the sunshine, and suddenly, everything would be ok.
And somehow, I think it will be.
We may not have lettuce and beets by the bushelful to sell at market this month. We may not make a killing selling radishes at wholesale.
But we will have something. And something is a start.
Lessons learned from Month Six:
*Take meticulous notes on everything: planting date, germination date, harvest date, amount harvested.
*When a seed packet says eight weeks to harvest, that should read “Eight weeks assuming the weather is providing optimal growing conditions. Otherwise 16 weeks. Or 24. Or just whenever. Good luck. “
Goals for next month:
*Make a showing at the Claremore Farmer’s market
*Sell red romaine lettuce to the co op
*Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and corn
Find this post and others like it linked to: The Homestead Barn Hop, The Creative HomeAcre Hop, The Scoop, Tuesdays with a Twist, The Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, The HomeAcre Hop, Farm Girl Blog Fest, Homemade Mondays