On the last day of 2011, convinced by the weatherman’s conviction that winter weather would finally arrive with the New Year, I pocketed my shears and headed out into the sun-dappled afternoon. We’d long since covered most of the raised beds in the small growing area behind my house with thick layers of leaves or straw, but a few patches of rainbow chard remained, wilted from repeated frosts, along with several Lacinato kale plants. Lifting the larger of the drooped and decaying chard leaves, I searched beneath them for small leaves still turgid and green, sheltered from the weather near the soil. Snipping them, I filled a gallon-sized Ziploc with leafy green treasure, then traded my shears for a garden fork.
I thrust the fork’s tines beneath a chard plant, then lifted it from the soil and flipped it over, pressing its remaining leaves into the dirt. As I worked across the bed, turning each plant over into the soft earth so that its nutrients could be recycled into next year’s crop, I thought about the modest goals with which we began the year—to supply a small CSA membership with a diversity of fresh and delicious produce, to try our hands at selling at a farmers’ market, and to at least come close to financially breaking even while maintaining our standards of ethical organic growing practices. It feels great to write that Diane and I have realized all of these goals and even managed to remain friends while creating a working business partnership!
We enjoyed meeting new and old friends at the Richland Farmer’s Market this summer and we look forward to selling at farmers’ markets again in 2012. We’re also looking forward to expanding our CSA in the coming year. We loved growing and harvesting for our CSA customers this season, selecting the best of each crop as we put together their weekly shares, knowing that our produce would be appreciated and enjoyed. Our own enjoyment of our veggies was enhanced as well, as our customers shared with us (and each other) their favorite ways to eat our produce. We provided our CSA members with over thirty varieties of vegetables in 2011 and plan to offer most of these again in 2012. (See Our CSA to find out how you can reserve a share for the coming season.)
Certainly, the year had its challenges. At times both Diane and I felt stretched to our limits as we juggled the demands of home, family, and other jobs with the needs of a fledgling, labor-intensive business. This will continue to be a challenge, I’m sure, in the coming year and beyond, but perhaps in time we will become more graceful jugglers. For now, we are grateful for the rest this cold season affords, even as we turn our attention to winter tasks.
In the short afternoon, it didn’t take long for the sun to slip into the branches of the maple and stretch long, cool shadows across the field. Grabbing a shovel and bucket, I spread a layer of composted horse manure over the upturned plants and finished each bed off with an insulating layer of moldy hay. “Okay,” I said to Bud, waiting patiently for our daily romp through the fields, “now it can snow.”