In all too familiar territory lately the writing of this post begins late at night, 10 pm on the road. We are on our way back from a long day. We are grateful it ended with a visit to a friend and fellow farmer, where we shared an improvised home-grown dinner in the tipi where she lives three seasons of the year on her farm. We spent a good long evening stoking the woodstove, laughing, and commiserating on the complications, tough decisions, and inherent uncertainties of farming. We traded the stories of how it was that each of us came to know that growing food was some important part of us, something worth the sacrifices of time, income and, often, comfort.
We have learned much of this--what we are willing to do for this goal, and how it has expanded beyond just wanting to grow food for ourselves--over this past year. We have only begun to write about it, and we know our first writings, with forbodings of the possibility of losing it all, left many of you curious or confused of exactly what the situation was. It's not been our intention to hide the process or the status--honestly, for a long time we weren't sure, ourselves, what was happening and if we would get to stay here on this place we threw ourselves into so wholly over the past year.
We kept quiet in this space partly because so much was uncertain, and in part out of wanting to respect and preserve the privacy of the process with our friend the landowner we have been working with this past year. We held out hope, struggling and stretching to find any sort of solution that would work for all of us and let us keep growing and living on this space we'd fallen in love with. Sadly, despite so much searching for solutions, the simple truth is, we can't stay here.
In some ways it's been like a tough break-up. You know, one where you know for quite some time that things aren't really going to work out, but the reality of moving on is just too much to take. We've run several laps through all the textbook stages of grief.
The reasons are complicated. Many of them echo some that are regional, national, or even global: available agriculture land is shrinking, especially near population centers. Remaining land is priced for the growth of houses rather than food. Other reasons are unique to our neighborhood and location: zoning and building restrictions that meant no feasible way to live on the property we farmed. Others are purely personal. Our vision of a farm scaled to provide some income, one that integrated animals into fruit and vegetable growing systems, simply did not fit with the landowner's vision.
We'll continue to write about our time here in this place: our progress, our learnings--both record crops and failures--even as we look out onto very uncertain horizons to search for what comes next. There are still so many stories from this space and this time, even as we search for the next stage.
It's a time to consider everything, all kinds of creative business and livelihood options, all kinds of geography. We do hope to be able to stay in this region where we have some good community and are surrounded by a landscape that inspires us. But it may not be easy to do. None of it is a simple decision though, or a light one.
People keep asking what type of farm it is we want, and what we are looking for. In some ways it's simple; in other ways it changes with the place itself. We built our goals and plans out from this space here--a diversified vegetable farm with 15-20 families from the immediate neighborhood purchasing seasonal farm shares, picking up their produce weekly on an evening sweetened by the offer of homemade pizza baked in a wood-fired earth oven. Small-scale direct sales of eggs and meat animals. The gradual establishment of a you-pick berry patch, bikeable distance from town.
This vision may or may not fit the next place we find ourselves, and we know we'll have to adapt. We'll have to re-establish ourselves, and have to be creative. We know we'll need to find a way to connect the people to their food and the land that supports it. And, most basic, we'll have to build up soil, again, somewhere now.
Before joining that friend in her tipi this evening, we'd spent most of the day searching for a place. We toured properties in the region with a realtor who gradually began to understand that no matter how cold it was, we were going to get out, walk the field, and kick up soil, rub it carefully between our fingers, examine the vegetation, take a deep breath of cold air, and search for anything that will help anchor us in this hard, wide open search.
Editor's Note: Part 1 of this story is here.