Spring is always a hectic time for farmers. It’s the heaviest planting time, for one thing; the most transplants go out at this time, as well as many of our direct-sown crops like carrots, beets, radishes, and salad mix. In order to plant at all, however, we need to work the soil and form beds, lay down compost and organic soil amendments, and then do the work of planting. But tilling and bed-forming are best done when the soil is on the dry side, requiring a good stretch of warm, sunny days. Such stretches are hard to come by in the spring in our climate. Once planted, the crops need to be cultivated, which ideally requires similar weather conditions. And seeds continually need to be started and sown throughout the season, and the cycle goes on. You see what a race it can be against time and the elements, always fitting things in here and there when the conditions are right. Oh, and the vegetables need to be harvested, washed, packed, sold and delivered on top of it all.
This particular spring has been the hardest yet at Excelsior Farm, and indeed one of the hardest times of our lives. Take the above scenario, a typical spring, and throw in having a baby. Our daughter Marion Violet joined us on March 9, just as all our earliest transplants needed to go out, just as we launched our first wholesale orders to natural food stores and restaurants. (We seem to have a knack for terrible timing, having also gotten married in the middle of July a couple seasons back). The first three weeks postpartum have become infamous in Excelsior Farm history. As I was recovering from the rigors of childbirth, Farmer Jeremy shouldered the farm responsibilities by himself working 7 long days a week for over a month. This included sowing, harvesting, washing, packing and delivering orders as well as continuing to work on winter-now-spring projects, and staying on top of regular farm work. All the while I was at home with Marion, breastfeeding around the clock, reflecting on one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and struggling with postpartum depression. A lot of days we felt like we were in a long distance relationship instead of married people.
What a way to begin a growing season, and parenthood! It is certainly not what we anticipated. But every day brings some kind of small breakthrough, and we are grateful for them. We’re getting more assistance on the farm, both in the form of a part-time employee and kind volunteers. I’m mostly out of the woods in regards to my depression, and physically recovered enough to work on the farm, which feels great. And little Marion gets cuter (and heavier) by the second, and we are starting to feel the joy that comes with having a child.
This week on the farm we are starting to see some of our “winter” projects take shape. We are now finishing an additional cooler which will enable us to store more produce during the growing season and extend our season further into the winter. Because of this essential piece of infrastructure we will be able to store enough fresh-harvested and storage produce to offer our first ever winter CSA!
Another exciting project taking shape is a cultivating toolbar which enables us to cultivate some of the crops we grow with the tractor. This may not sound like an exciting thing to some people but after hoeing 4 miles of garden bed by hand last season we are REALLY excited about this great improvement.
When we got into farming we knew it would not be easy, and it hasn’t been easy. It has been hard and we have been hit hard this spring. This is what it takes, and it is what we are willing to give. We are growing food for our community and we are gearing up to kick some ass this season.