Many of you have already recieved these words from us via email. To our greater community and readers here is the formal update about what has been happening with us in the last few weeks.
An update about The Collective:
Some of you may not be aware, but Bubba and I have always rented the land where we farm. This was an intentional choice: at our ages of 29 and 30, we didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak, before testing our business model and building a customer base. Not to mention, it’s just darn hard to buy farm property these days without winning the lottery or inheriting land.
For the past several years we have been fortunate enough to find local property owners willing to lease land to us in exchange for certain mutual benefits. For instance, we’ve traded vegetables from the garden as well as an animal (usually a pig) in exchange for a year’s use of the land. This year has been no exception—until recently. It became clear that the relationship with our current landlords had become untenable. As a result, Bubba and I had to make the very hard decision to move our farming operations elsewhere as soon as possible.
This is not an ideal situation, having just planted lettuce, beets, peas, and onions. The first crops are just weeks away from harvest, our pig just had five babies, and we have over two hundred meat chickens foraging on pasture. Additionally we were excited to be partnering with Linfield College’s Office of Sustainability to provide three students with internships this summer. Despite all of this, Bubba and I simply had no other choice.
So, the hard part: The Collective has been forced to forfeit its current operation. We have had to abandon our crops and will not be able to produce a CSA for our members this year. We are doing everything we can to relocate and set up operations once again, but at this late date we cannot fulfill our obligations of a 20-week CSA season. We are fortunate that a number of our CSA shareholders will still receive their 20-week CSA boxes through a farm in Sheridan who has agreed to serve our customers. The remaining CSA shares will be refunded their deposit money and directed toward other farms in the area with spaces still available in their CSA programs.
Know that this situation is devastating to us, and to our business. Having already invested shareholder money into the ground (quite literally), we need to liquidate our business in order repay our shareholder deposits.
As The Collective rebuilds and reorganizes at a new location, we hope that you will continue to follow us. This year we plan to continue offering products such as pork shares (next shares available at the end of May), fresh pasture-raised chickens (fresh and frozen whole chickens available May 28th), eggs, classes on food preservation, and more.
The silver lining: Despite this terribly unfortunate situation we still have a great Summer season ahead. Bubba and Ulysses look forward to assisting the Sheridan farm who is graciously taking many of our CSA members. We will spend time regrouping and looking for new opportunities for next season and will still enjoy participating in the farming community.
Thank you for prayers and thoughts as we quickly transition to rebuild our farm and continue to source fresh and local food in our community. To our fellow farming friends: we cannot thank you enough for all of the support and grace you provide to us daily, during this time. The transitional space, words of encouragement, and the offers of help make this storm possible to weather. To our family and friends: your listening ears, meals provided, and the offers to provide care for Ulysses while we work quickly to transition are invaluable. We are speechless and humbled to have such a family members and friends so close.
Our friend Beth posted this piece on her blog last week. The same friend Beth who buys a pig from us once a year, and we cut it up on the table surrounded by her five kids while the oldest draws pictures on the wrapping to depict what part it is and how to prepare it. And when Beth forgets to take out that artistically packaged porky product, she feeds her kids crap mac n’ cheese because she’s GOT FIVE KIDS PEOPLE- and that’s just what you have to do when the pack of wolves is after you. It’s okay Beth. We love you and all of your people, and next year when Ulysses is old enough, we’re sending him to Easter Egg Hunt boot camp at your house.
What’s the point?
Both sets of my grandparents have asked our friends and family members the same question.
“What exactly are Sarah and Bubba doing? Or rather, what it is that they are trying to do?”
They (like many) don’t know or understand the letter combination, CSA. They don’t understand why we are toiling away, making just enough money to pay for this “hobby” of ours, as they call it. For goodness sake, you can just go to the store and buy all that stuff that you’re trying to grow and it would cost you a lot less money. You wouldn’t have to spend your days getting up early to go feed the animals (even on Sundays) and all of your spare time in the summer peering into a canning pot and listening for the ting, ting, ting of the jars that seal successfully. And what do you mean you don’t buy tomatoes? How can you have a salad in the middle of winter without tomato sliced on it? Wait. You mean, you don’t eat salad during the winter?
My grandparents, whom I admire and respect greatly don’t understand why we choose to do these things, that was they way it used to be done. Fred Meyer and Amazon.com didn’t exist. They spent year, after year doing all of the things above because if you didn’t, you didn’t eat. And then things changed. The world got bigger (or is it smaller?) and pretty soon they didn’t have to work so hard to eat and sustain themselves and their families. Soon, they discovered that they could get rid of the dairy cow because it was cheaper to go to the store and buy milk. And that instead of working on the farm all day, they could work in an industry that actually paid them in money, rather than in blisters and sunburns and food. They got things like paid time off- and retirement. So why after all of their hard work to get off of the farm would we want to undo everything and go back to it? Don’t we understand that it’s hard work, and long hours, and you can’t take days off, or call in sick? And you certainly won’t get rich from it, you likely won’t even make enough to ever retire.
Our simple answer is this: we don’t want to get rich, we want to live richly and a fully. And we do.
When we started “farming” it was really that we just decided that we wanted to learn more about the food that we were putting on our plates. When Bubba and I first got married I shopped en masse. I loaded up on canned goods at the bulk grocery- bought cases of soda at Costco and stocked a pantry with enough prepared foods to survive an apocalyptic snow storm. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.
But then, something changed. Bubba and I noticed that the food we were eating wasn’t making us feel very nourished, and we certainly weren’t enjoying it, or the process of making it. And we were starting to hear about this trend of people raising their own meat or growing veggies in raised beds outside of their kitchen. So we thought we’d give it a try. I mean, how hard could it be? Put some pigs on the pasture- watch them grow and then fill your freezer. It had to be less money than we were spending on pork from Costco.
So we did it. And we made mistakes. And the pigs got out and made a mess of the pastures we put them in. And I didn’t like how much mud they created during the rainy season. But when we finally did the deed- and the first pork chop graced our lips, there was no turning back.
When we launched the CSA last year and so many of our community members asked us to help them eat like we do- we cried in humbleness. We were being asked to help nourish the bodies of the families around us. We were being trusted to make sure that kids went to school with real carrot sticks in their lunch boxes and that the tomatoes we gorged ourselves on during the summer weren’t picked by slaves in Florida. The apples we provided came from a gentleman named Ralph who meticulously trims his gorgeous 75 year old apple trees, but doesn’t eat to many because he has diabetes- though he is sure tickled that the kids like them so much. I filled myself last year with berries that my husband picked and ate eggs from our chickens by the dozen, growing a baby boy in my belly that is now eating his own ration of eggs and applesauce and squash that I picked and preserved for him during the harvest last year. We get up early to feed the animals and crouch over rows in the garden because we feel better. And the food that we produce tastes better and we take great satisfaction in preparing it because we had to work for it. We get to share all of this with our friends and community; growing, nourishing and sustaining one another, living richly and in fullness.
That’s the point. And our purpose.
Under today’s commercial farming standards I would never take a baby on a farm, hell I don’t even want to go to one. But, on our little homestead away from home, I have Ulysses with me every day- and it has been interesting. I live and die on his schedule, and some days he creates a whole new schedule that can be quite unpredictable, as many of you know.
If Mother Nature is in our favor for the morning, I try to leave when he gets ready for his first nap so he falls asleep in the car. When we get to the farm, I leave the car running and I can usually get most of the animals fed. If he wakes up, I can leave him in his bucket (car seat) and put him in E-Z Go (the golf cart that has a utility bed) and we troll around the farm from the pigs, to the hens, to the meat chickens, and on to the chicks, stopping all along the way to pick up each animals’ food.
If its raining we call this good for the day on the farm and will typically end up at Chapters, our favorite coffee shop, and try to get some work, fueled by coffee and wifi. Ulysses usually flirts with baristas and college chicks, and gets passed around to friends and community members who happen to stop by. He’s also been known to couch surf.
Now that the weather is getting nicer, and naps are getting shorter, we try to head to the greenhouse and start planting seeds. Needless to say the ergo carrier is becoming more and more handy around the farm and greenhouse.
I still thank God every day that Sarah works in town and gets to come home for lunch to feed the little guy. Let me tell you, when he is ready for lunch, I’m ready for a break.
After lunch we will typically stay home and play for a bit. But again, as the sun shows its self more and more we are going to have to make a second trip to the farm to tend to the produce part of the farm. I’m still not sure what this looks like, but so far Ulysses loves to be outside so this should work to my advantage. This summer its likely the pack-n-play will be set up under the apple tree where he can take his afternoon nap.
All this being said, I am not doing this on my own. Sarah’s mom normally has Fridays off and loves to take him for the day. And starting soon my sister will start coming to watch him one or two days a week in exchange for a CSA box. Without this help I’m not sure how much actual farming I would be able to get done. When Sarah gets home at night she gets to take over so I can clean up after the day of dirt, poop and spit up (none of that necessarily from Ulysses). We usually entertain Ulysses and finish up dinner and then Sarah reads him a story and its off to bed for him, with Sarah and I not to far behind.
We’ve finally gotten the routine down just as Spring arrives, and Ulysses is going to be mobile very soon (scooting and crawling before we know it) so that will make for even more chaotic fun.
Your stay at farm dad