Farm Story- September

These are the first September weekends in 20 years that I haven’t been at the city markets selling potatoes. It is the result of suddenly completing a 10-year plan that began 5 years ago with the vague idea of finding alternate revenue streams for the farm. The vision: loosen the golden handcuffs that are farmers’ markets and spend more time with family and farming.  COVID came along, offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to impulsively transform the plans for gentle, reasonable, and well-cushioned extrication into a somewhat mis-managed and much more interesting business strategy. Therefore, we have a total severance from summer city markets, with the income replacement plans still unproven, and mostly untried.

On-line sales, farm stand, local markets, wholesale, a new pricing model for the seed potatoes, these are all in play. While change feels necessary, and even normal, it qualifies as a crazy way to conduct business and is not being done blithely.

I am stressed right now.

I probably needn’t be so fussed, given that I am not sure what exactly I am stressed over. Too much work, too little time? Nope, no markets: time abounds. Crops not working out? Nope, not an issue. Mechanical breakdowns? Nope, blessed at the moment. Where are the sales coming from exactly? Pass. Middle age approaching? Oh.

It is super bad form to self-therapize in this public manner. I think it is time to move on to an easier topic, something less fraught, not so charged with emotion.

Let’s talk about family farming!

When I say that I work on my family’s farm, I usually, and wisely, leave it at that. Those readers who also work with family will know that there is all kinds of drama. Those who do not will remain in the dark as to how it all works.

I am in the dark myself as to how it works, but am familiar with some of the rules, prohibitions, unspoken agreements, and topics to avoid. The policies and procedures, if you will, that when followed, contribute to but do not guarantee, a successful family enterprise, complete with enjoying one another’s company.

An important rule to remember must surely be this: don’t write about the family in articles. Every few years however, I just can’t help it and off I go. I consider it a public service. Maybe someone is struggling on their family farm and something I say might help them get through the rough patch. I’ll get right to it: pull yourself together. There. Happy to help.

Here is what I think I know about family farming: essentially the term “family dynamic” is any point on a spectrum that spans two points: total harmony and total dismay. Following the policies and procedures, one does what one can to keep pinned to the harmony end of the scale. Inevitably, there will be wild pitches over to the dismay end of the spectrum, and the situation will explode, much like dynamite.

And all because of that we have the near impossible, easily forgotten and absolutely necessary rule of getting back to harmony: drop it and move on.

So. I believe that exhausts the topic.

Unfortunately, it’s September, which I am not very good at. l am reluctantly concluding with the observation that I can’t blame markets or family for making September difficult. No, it’s more likely I am just quite tired. It’s been a long haul since about March, to be honest. And potatoes are so darn heavy.

Anna Helmer farms with her bubble in Pemberton and was never really going to dish.