Sunday, September 27, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why I Like What We're Doing

The growing season is drawing close to the end for this year. With only a couple more weeks left at the Farmer's Market and maybe a couple more weeks of harvest boxes after that we have begun to wrap things up at the farm, and have started thinking/talking about what the future holds in store for us Skeeter Farmers.

One thing is clear - all three of us want to continue on this business adventure, at least in to year two. To me that means that despite the low returns experienced in the first year of a business start up, we are all getting something out of this experience. I know for myself, I get a lot of things out of farming the way that we are doing. So here are my top ten reasons why I like farming like we are out at Skeeter Farm.

1. I get to hang out with cool folks like Jamie and Hannah and everyone else that has come out to the farm to lend a hand or offer advice or support in some way. Farming and food has certainly proved to be a common love that brings together folks, who wouldn't necessarily find common ground in other situations. Farming and food has and still is building a community of local food supporters and enthusiastic eaters some of which have gathered at Skeeter Farm.

2. We get to eat like farmers. There is nothing more satisfying than a meal made mostly out of things that you grew yourself, and the rest sourced from places you know and trust. Between produce from the farm and our home garden we have spent less money on food from the grocery store than I can ever remember. I should add that I have significantly upped the amount of Timmys in my diet, but that is excusable when you are a farmer, right?

3. As small business owners we are doing it all. We make all the decisions about what happens on our farm and how our food is produced, and although we get advice from many different people, we are ultimately get the say in how the farm and business is run. This really speaks to the independent side of my personality, which sometimes can get lost in the typical work setting.

4. More on the business front: in addition to learning (sometimes by trial and error) how to do the actual farm work, we are doing our own marketing and promotions, communications, product pricing and facing, financials, business planning and showcasing, team building, reflections and all the other fun stuff that comes with running a small business. All of these aspects are made more exciting when business meetings take place outside surrounded by pretty plants and tasty food to snack on.

5. People think we are cool(er than we actually are). But honestly, people think that because we are selling them vegetables or have a little dirt under our fingernails that we are really interesting or doing something that so few people do so it must be really hard and worth some sort of hero status. Jokes on them because we actually think THEY are cool ones for buying our stuff, we are just dorks who like vegetables and digging in the dirt.

6. There is a lot to be said for working with your hands. In general, I don't think that we get to do enough of it these days. There is nothing more satisfying than doing a hard days work and being able to actually see your results.

7. This next reason is probably more specific to our farm - but I have had some pretty cool wildlife sightings this year so far. The most recent one was a black bear that came sauntering down the laneway to the farm. There has been little otters frolicking in the canal, eagles and hawks daily, and amazing amounts of dragonflies, bees, lady bugs, butterflies and other little critters.

8. I haven't had to wear business casual much at all this summer. And that is a beautiful thing.

9. I am exercising my body in ways that results in more than just toned muscles. And I haven't had to pay for a gym or try to work it in to my schedule. Similar to those folks who ride a bike when they commute, staying in shape just becomes part of your lifestyle and it all just starts to make sense.

10. Good, clean, fresh, and delicious food is one of the only things I think I would feel good about selling to people I like and love. If I could find a way to make it my career, I feel like it would be an honest and important living, which is all I could really ask for.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Box vs. Market

There is no denying that something magical happens at farmer's markets. Friendly folks set up beautiful booths showcasing items that they produce and people of all stripes show up to look, chat, sample, and of course, purchase things. I have loved almost every moment of being at the market- arranging our veggies in little baskets, smiling at babies, explaining to little girls why they can't just plant one of our big sunflowers in their yard and expect it to grow taller...

However, doing the market well takes a lot of time. To prepare for the Abby market, at least two of us have to spend a full day harvesting and then a full day setting up and staffing the booth. In addition, keeping the booth looking good throughout the market means bringing more veggies with us than we will sell.

Filling veggie boxes is not quite as magical as being at the market, but it sure is efficient. We get to give our box customers whatever is convenient for us to give (while honoring some special requests) and we make a guaranteed amount of money for each sale. Most importantly, we get to fulfill the weekly veggie needs of each box customer, providing a real alternative to other sources of food. There is something really satisfying about that.

Ultimately, I think it makes sense to continue utilizing both marketing methods. Having a presence at the farmer's market is a great way to market our veggie boxes, not to mention that the booth itself makes a great veggie box pick-up/drop-off location. Certainly, different methods suit different types of customers. Luckily, our veggies taste delicious regardless of whether they come out of a bag or a pretty little basket!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pretty Things at the Farm

Indulging in a particularly lazy Sunday and will continue that trend with a lazy blog post filled with photos of the farm.

A couple of photos by Betty Johnston, a lovely photographer who came to the farm the other week.

Corn is an amazing and delicious grass. Did you know that the silky part at the top of the ear is actually a flower?

2 of our 17 potato varieties.

What seems like acres of winter squash thriving at the farm. (Photo by Jamie).

The scenic laneway onto the farm. Watch for bear scat. (Photo also by Jamie)

Skeeter farmers/documentary stars. Stay tuned for Jayne's documentary on our first year farming. (Photo by Gavin).

Retired parents make great farm labourers. My mom and I planting sweet potatoes (Photo by Jayne).

A regular market goer enjoying the fruits of our labour. (Photo by Dutch).