Small farms face excitement of spring rush and joblists that keep them busy sunrise to sunset
Special to farmers Forum
CHESTERVILLE — Small farms face excitement of spring rush and joblists that could keep them busy sunrise to sunset
Spring isn’t a season, it’s a rite of passage. It tests your plan, it tests your knowledge and your resolve.
I learned that growing up on our dairy farm, where the best laid plans changed as quickly as the weather.
So it is this year on our 21-acre farm, Gar-Eden Farms in Chesterville, as we grow our largest gardens to date and continue to transition the land, using permaculture as our guiding principles. That means continuing to propagate, plant and seed native trees and shrubs as well as putting in their required irrigation and supports. They will form the foundation of our food forest and be a secondary source of income in the years to come.
Right now, we are consumed by our gardens. Each and every single day is spent working the soil by hand, seeding, transplanting and up-potting hundreds of vegetables and herbs. Each one has its own preferred soil temperature and conditions as well as growth rate, which is vital when you are working with limited space in a small greenhouse.
Our nursery stock, much of it pre-sold to customers for their own gardens, is our pride and joy and our biggest stress. With more than 30 of our own garden beds to fill, watching the weather has become an obsession.
Then there’s the irrigation. Laying water lines for the first time with more parts than a child’s Lego set and fewer instructions can be… frustrating.
Up the road in Brinston, Jaymie Thurler and her team are turning the corner on their one-acre biodiverse vegetable farm, Rutabaga Ranch, and heading straight into their first full season.
“It’s a little daunting, but we have a great team this year. It’s all going to work out in the wash,” said Thurler.
With 65 people signed on for a 20-week Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box, and two, potentially three, weekly markets, the days aren’t just busy; they’re chaotic.
She made her plan in November and all the seeds arrived in December. But her new 100-foot greenhouse, which was expected in November, didn’t show up until January 19.
Incredibly, the greenhouse was built in the ice and snow and is now up and running, albeit three weeks behind schedule, thanks in large part to friends, family and her team.
“I literally thought I was going to do this by myself. My mom was going to work three days a week and that was going to be fine,” Thurler admits when talking about the scope of the work in her market-garden.
A pair of Australians, who arrived in January after a two week quarantine, her mom, her fiance, and a volunteer help shoulder the load. A weekly diverse offering, although not customizable yet, is one of the keys for Rutabaga Ranch.
“Because it’s our first year, I set it up so it is the easiest facilitation possible,” said Thurler.
Dave Bower, who runs Bower Farms, a non-certified, organic farm in North Gower, also aims to have eight to 12 items available at a time even if that means adding a layer of complexity and stress.
“The risk level is much lower. If we have a crop loss, it’s no big deal to just cut the losses, flip the bed and move on to the next crop,” said Bower.
In 2020, Bower Farms went bigger than ever with his CSA membership and Bower admits it was a challenge with Covid related shortages and demands, especially with a young family.
“Balance is hard and juggling it all can be overwhelming. Trying not to sweat the small losses or details for me is key. Roll with the punches and do what you can and try not to stress about what’s not in your control,” he said.
Despite the stress, the unpredictability and the sometimes harsh lessons, the vibrancy and excitement of spring fuels you to push on.
Thurler loves watching her gardens progress and the first cucumbers, harvested from the greenhouse in April, tasted that much sweeter.
“I love the spring rush, it’s a high for me and a lot of excitement. The weather changing and getting to harvest the fruits of your labour is so rewarding,” according to Bower.
Spring is the season of the eternal optimist and as Margaret Atwood said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Take a deep breath. There is no better stress relief.