2013 reflections

Here we are at the beginning of winter–6 inches of snow on the farm, the chickens are about to go to *freezer camp*, and our final fall CSA delivery is coming up this Saturday. I feel deep guilt about neglecting to update the blog on a more regular basis this past season. I love the blog and the feeling of connecting with folks through it. This season, though, has felt like that thing on your ‘to-do’ list that just never seems to get to the top. Its felt like the thing you keep pushing down and moving around to avoid doing it. After chewing on this idea on and off all season, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve avoided the blog because this was our most challenging year so far. Singing your failures is more difficult than celebrating successes. Inspiration always comes easier to me when reality works out the way I expect.

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So here we are at the end of our third season. I’ve never felt so fully connected with our land. I look back at photos and can really feel each bed and the smells, weeds, tastes of each space. I can even remember what I was thinking about or listening to as I was working in each bed. Its a lot like muscle memory–it comes back to you immediately. This is one of the major positives this year. Knowing your land well is a big part of the learning as a farmer. Each piece of ground is different– the microclimates, wildlife and soil.

Another major plus from this season was learning how to think of systems. We grew 100% this year from last year (one acre to two) and with it came the realization that to make a living wage we need efficient systems. We were able to implement better bed prep, seeding and harvesting but this season I also narrowed down what we need to do better to meet our goals. We are  100% dependent on the apprentices and volunteers that help out during the season. Figuring out the type of intern we need is critical to our success.

The most exciting part of this year was being at markets. Rolling out the new trailer and really connecting with our customers was the most fulfilling…and really is always the most fulfilling. Talking about recipes and how to preserve foods inspired me to launch into a whole new aspect of the farm. A chef friend of ours is working with us to plan a series of seasonal cooking classes in Northville to help teach folks how to use whole foods in delicious and traditional ways. The potential of teaching and interacting with food in a different way feels fulfilling on an entirely new level and makes complete sense to me.

There are so many ways that I felt a failure this year though. We didn’t meet our financial goals. Although we’ve been in the black each year, not hitting our goals especially hurts when we are depending on the farm for income (as Andrew wrapped up his last full year in Grad School). It also hurts because I feel committed to proving that a family can support itself on a small farm (2-5 acres). I truly feel that the health of our food system depends the viability of small farms like us. Good thing I am stubborn and committed and have faith that 2014 will be ‘the year’. I think perpetual optimism is something most farmers have in common.

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I’m entering into 2014 with a full heart and the belief that this will be our most productive, profitable and fulfilling year yet. We are lucky to be where we are and have learned what we have learned thus far. Let the new year of learning begin!

 

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6 thoughts on “2013 reflections

  1. Meg keep up with the positive attitude you guys will make it!!!! I am really sad that we will not be seeing the DeLeeuw family this year at Christmas but I know you will all have a WONDERFUL time in Minnesota. Take care and remember how much you are loved! <3

  2. Umm… Let me get this right. You expanded the productive area by 100% and came out in the black, but you are disappointed that the black wasn’t as thick as you had predicted/hoped. Did I get that right? So the being in the black part puts you more or less ahead of, oh, 99% of the other small farmers in this country, eh? And the 100% expansion puts you ahead of I’d guess 100% of the corporations of any size in this country! Glad that you finish this year still with an optimistic outlook. I think that hearing more about the setbacks and the stumbling blocks would be really helpful to me and to other aspiring farmers. Oh, and by the way, did you know that you are a somewhat mythic hero among a set of young farmers who came through the Greening after you moved on? Seems like their admiration is well-placed! Keep up your good work… and your spirits! Jon*-*******

    • Thanks for the honest reply Jon:) I know we are doing well in comparison to some farms (its all relative, right?) but just trying to be transparent about whats going on in my head. I think it would do all farmers and aspiring farmers good to be a little bit more honest about struggles and successes. I would ask other farmers more if it didn’t feel so intrusive. Also, heard you were in Dexter for Thanksgiving? Next time you are in the area please call us–we would so love to catch up. Hope you are enjoying planning for 2014!

  3. Oh, Dearest Megan, it’s just the season and temps. You are a survivor and with that winning attitude you can only WIN!!! Don’t even THINK about anything but prosperity and it shall come:)))
    Happy Christmas to you and your family
    Ellen

  4. Meg,
    Let me know how I can help! Perhaps a sign-up sheet for weekend help?
    Or help getting unloaded & set-up on Saturdays?
    You rock!
    Hugs,
    Csilla

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