In the early part of the farming season, there is a lot of excitement. So much “newness” all around. The seeds are sprouting and plants are going in the ground. The soil seems so rich and the air seems so fresh. Everyone is back from the winter break and there is a lot of energy for tackling the many tasks.
Meanwhile, at the end of the season, as the work winds down, there is also excitement. The planting is over, there is no more weeding (yee haw!), and the final harvesting is being done.
But right now, in the period between the equinox and before the solstice, the days are long and usually hot and humid, the plants (and weeds!) are growing so fast you can’t keep up with them. The amount of work seems overwhelming and most of us in the field have lost any momentum and energy is low.
This is the hardest time of the year. It’s a plateau. We all know it is part of the cycle we have to go through. But just because it is predictable doesn’t make it any easier.
Behind The Scenes – More Grind
This season, Joel has done less farming than ever before. To keep everything running smoothly, Joel has had to attend to all the administrative work that goes on (like any other small business).
But even though he isn’t spending hours in the sun, or breaking his back pulling weeds, or moving the cattle, or wrestling irrigation hoses to a new location, he is still feeling exhausted.
Keeping up with payroll. Installing new software. Organizing delivery routes. Answering emails. Updating work calendars. Making purchasing decisions. Dealing with supply chain issues. It’s all important stuff, but at this point in the season, he feels mentally fried. Just like the rest of the team, Joel feels the same mid-season frazzle in the office.
A big reason he got into the work in the first place is how refreshing it was to do physical work. But more than that, it was invigorating to tend to soil, cultivating the plants and animals, seeing the incremental changes in the garden, feeling a sense of satisfaction in harvesting really heathy food that benefits family and friends -- and knowing he is blessing others.
Just like any job, you have trade-offs. Aspects of work responsibilities that are less appealing. Farming is the same. A lot of very routine stuff has to be done behind the scenes – both in the field and in the dank basement office – stuff that you don’t see on the website.
Spending a summer as an intern on an organic farm probably looks romantic and idyllic on Instagram or artsy blogsites. But the reality is the field work requires hours of sweat and toil. Nothing shiny or compelling about it. It isn’t “raw” and “back-to-nature.” Getting blisters isn’t very appealing. Soaking your shirt with sweat one day and then working hours in a soaking rain the next quickly makes any idealism fade. That’s why Joel’s grandmother – who grew up on a farm 90 years ago – wondered why Joel wanted to be a farmer. She knew it was a lot of hard work.
For all of us – and especially in the next month or so – we get overwhelmed and lose enthusiasm. Whether its buying new nozzles for irrigation, or restringing the pasture fence the cows knocked down. Whether its weed-whacking the lawn (for the umpteenth time) or calling the veterinarian. It’s not the glorious narrative that many conjure up, but it is important so we just keep pushing through each day.