When I made the decision to farm, I did so imagining my winters would be spent traveling far from the farm. I romanticized the idea of a January spent leisurely wandering around Asia, backpacker style, on a farmer’s budget.
During many long August days, the thought of being somewhere else in January was the fuel that kept my desire to farm hot and burning long after many other professionals were already two deep into their happy hour drinks.
Instead, I'm here, closer to my farm than I had imagined and having the below conversation on almost a daily basis:
Friend: “Hey Frank, how is the winter? Are you still farming?”
Frank: “Yeah great thanks. Yes, I’m still farming”
Friend: “Really?! What vegetables are you growing?”
Frank: “Well, I’m not growing any vegetables, its zero degrees outside.”
Pregnant pause and quizzical look follow.
Closer to the farm and further from the "reality" I had imagined for myself, I have learned that farming is a year round profession. Yes, farming is about managing relationships between soil and sun, pests and fruit, and weeds and plants, but it is also about constantly learning about nature and how to interact within natural boundaries in the most effective and unobtrusive way possible.
Learning, I’ve come to find, is as much a part of farming as the field work. It is such a large undertaking that it cannot be accomplished entirely during the growing season when the field is moving at lightspeed (pun intended).
This winter, YES, I am farming. Rather than vegetables, I am growing a farmer. I’m growing my knowledge and experience as a farmer. I’m growing my ability to deal with problems that may occur during the season, I’m growing from a first year farmer into a sophomore farmer, and this in turn will grow better vegetables, I hope. The farming never ceased, it has simply changed venues.
This winter, my evenings have been spent trying to stay warm by the fire, reading the latest and greatest information and solutions for natural forms of weed suppression, and researching organic ways to control pests, and occasionally, I allow myself a minute or two to daydream about a next January spent in Asia.