This past week was likely the most beautiful and abundant our farm will be all season. The high temps and lack of moisture have run our early summer crops through their full flowering cycle in a matter of 10 days. It’s absolute insanity. Word from other local growers is that everything is flowering too fast to get harvested and sold. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
It’s a bit heartbreaking to watch it all come and go and have no way to capture the abundance. My grand succession plans have long been tossed out the window and now we just work with what is and try and not stress out.
But this is farming. No matter how well you prepare the soil, baby the plants, choose the best varieties, put together the perfect harvest crew, plan every last detail out, you really have very little control in the end. You can only do your best and then see what natures has in store for you.
In our early years of farming, we experienced one of the wettest springs on record and basically our entire field rotted before it had a chance to bloom. 30,000 sunflowers and two acres of summer bloomers literally melted into a diseased mess right before my eyes.
We had just expanded to meet the ever increasing demand for our flowers and rented a new field a few miles away. Unlike the soil here at home which is sandy loam, it was two acres of rich, heavy clay. We were excited about the prospect of not having to irrigate or fertilize so much and jumped in that spring with both feet. I hired a bigger crew, ordered more seed, planned for abundance. Then the rains started and they never stopped.
We had bit off a huge chunk of debt to expand and when the flowers sat and rotted in the field, I learned a valuable lesson. You can do your very best but you’ll never have control of the outcome if you’re farming. Never.
When rains finally let up in August, our home crop of dahlias ended up saving the day and we were able to break even by year’s end. That season almost broke me. I let go of that big new field that fall and instead turned to maximizing our little plot here at home. Paths were tilled in and turned into more planting beds and in the end we found a way to grow just as many flowers on our measly two acres as we had planned for on four.
Looking back I can see it was all meant to be. Our success with small scale, high intensity production has been able to help so many other budding growers who also have postage stamp plots. That season was pivotal in guiding us in a new direction.
I know there is a big lesson in this season too. I can feel it. So, while the field is a blaze of color and most of it is going unharvested because no matter how much we pick, and no matter how late we stay up to bunch, we’ll never be able to get it all into the hands of our customers, I’m working really hard on letting my expectations go.
Every time I feel that tidal wave of worry, I try and remember to breathe and instead of clenching down in fear for what this means for the rest of the season, I instead listen for the message. What huge message is in this experience that I’m supposed to hear?
On the bright side, I’ve truly never seen so much beauty all in one spot. The abundance has made for a marvelous backdrop for the book I’m writing. Seriously, the images leave me breathless they are that stunning.
So, while this season isn’t going at all how I had planned or hoped, I’m looking for the silver lining. I know it’s there, it’s just a matter of time before I see it.
Mara - TheFarmAtOxford on
Oh I hear you on the strange weather, super hot dry spring, then crazy rains…a ton of my dahlia tubers rotted, so many I got from you in spring, sadness! I replaced them and soldiered on. Our weed pressure here is insanity, a great lesson for the future in how better prepared we need to be. Mother Nature is a harsh taskmaster at times. But you are so right in that the extra gloriousness of the fields is something to be appreciated, you may not see it again like this for years to come. Hang in there lady, I know your plate is full but you’re doing great work. <3