Welcome to 2016! We hope your holidays were wonderfully full of rest, laughter, and loved ones. Ours were spent with dear family and friends. We had a full house with family visiting from South Africa who came to experience a snowy white Christmas (although none was had). Hmm, maybe climate change is real after all.
Our winter is normally consumed by making preparations for spring and the beginning of the growing season. It is often a time of sending out emails to remind you of our upcoming CSA season and browsing seed catalogs for new varieties and old favorites. But that is not happening this year.
It is with heavy hearts that we write to inform you of our decision to close down our farm. As it turns out, 2015 was our last year of growing food and feeding the Richmond community. Since 2012, we have worked so hard at trying to figure out how to make our business financially sustainable. The first two years gave us great hope–and then the following two years snatched it away. We kept pushing the idea that more people should support local food growers through joining CSA’s, shopping at farmer’s markets, and building lasting relationships between eaters and growers. While this has worked with some success, the numbers are still very low and not enough to support us as a family.
You have been an incredible supporter of us and our work and without you we would not have taken the risks we did. Now that we have a young daughter, we are more risk-averse, and she has become our first priority. When we purchased the farming business, we had no romantic notions of its realities and the potential for making a living through it, yet we wanted to give it our all. Which we did. Growing food for our CSA community has offered so much love and connection, whilst it also caused great heartache and disappointment. We have loved how you have embraced us over these years, and how you have made us a part of your family. It is what we had hoped for and more. But one cannot live on love and the generosity of community alone. One must also have a reliable source of income and nerves of steel to embrace the uncertainties of farming.
As Rebecca and I considered our decisions, we read a few news articles of how others have struggled to keep their small farms alive. A piece by farmer Jaclyn Moyer stood out. Her words ring true for us when she says “A businessman once advised me never to admit my business was struggling. No one wants to climb aboard a sinking ship, know what I mean? he’d said. At the time, I agreed. I believed if a business was failing it was because the entrepreneur was not skilled enough, not savvy enough, not hardworking enough. If my farm didn’t turn enough profit, it was my own fault.” We personally know two other farm families who have closed their businesses and moved on. Knowing how the food system sometimes sucks people in, works them to the bone, and spits them them out on the other side, dog-tired and broke, is so sad. Experiencing it ourselves has been even sadder.
It remains unclear what the next few months will look like for us. We will continue to sell what is currently growing to our wholesale clients. We will likely sell all our farming equipment, machinery and tools. If you are interested in any of these, a list will be available soon. We will also offer a few more This Farming Life reflections in the weeks to come. There is more to share in the story of our farm and the roads that led us to the here and now. As we continue to make sense of what this means for our family, we hope to hear from you and to see you in person every so often. We welcome your feedback or thoughts and look forward to dreaming of what’s next.
It is only right to include a poem here as it has been a delight to do every week. My family and close friends know how growing food and running a business has tired me. Regardless, it has been a love affair I would return to any day, given the right conditions. Though, for now I must pause. Like Robert Bly in The Call Away, I want to sit here, to take no part, and be called away by the wind.
A cold wind flows over the cornfields;
Fleets of blackbirds ride that ocean.
I want to be out of here, go out,
Outdoors, anywhere in wind.
My back against a shed wall, I settle
Down where no one can find me.
I stare out at the box-elder leaves
Moving frond-like in that mysterious water.
What is it that I want? Not money,
Not a large desk, not a house with ten rooms.
This is what I want to do: to sit here,
To take no part, to be called away by wind.
I want to go the new way, build a shack
With one door, sit against the door frame.
After twenty years, you will see on my face
The same expression you see in the grass.
With all our love. Be well, eat healthy, and be kind to yourself and others.
Alistar, Rebecca & Georgia