A Decade In The Making...
As we enter our 10th season of farming we have been reflecting on our long and winding journey. In this reflection we think of all the lessons we learned, all the people we met, all the choices we made, and how this journey continues to shape our farm. In some ways I have really struggled to write this post because the idea of communicating clearly what has transpired over these last ten years seems impossible, but at the same time the urge to share this journey is so strong. All we ever hope in sharing our story is that it may bring some clarity to your own life’s journey whatever it may be - you don’t need to be a farmer to feel struggle, growth, joy, etc. because we all feel it!
It all started in 2011 when Adam’s family decided to buy the family farm from his grandmother Myrna. I (Courtney) had literally just arrived in Nova Scotia from Florida about 6 months before, with Adam. Both Adam & I were very much lost and searching for purpose, but together we finally felt strong enough to take on life’ challenges - we would both struggle in different ways but we always had each other back.
The first two years of farm 2011/2012 was done as a family. Don & Deenie were really the ones that established the foundation of the farm that Adam & I would continue to work from. The idea was to establish a strong base of CSA customers and attend farmers markets to sell surplus produce. These two systems were very complimentary as they each had different pros/cons.
In 2013 Deenie & Don began to focus on off- farm jobs while Adam & I continued on with the farm. That first year we were very timid since we had only really dealt with the hands on aspects of the farming and really had no idea what was involved in the back-end operations. I began learning all those pieces and that winter developed a wildly over ambitious plan for 2014, with just the two of us we would run a 60 person CSA as well as attend a market 4 days a week. In looking back on that decision we were desperately trying to prove to ourselves and the people around us that you could make a living farming but what we didn’t realize was that quality of life counted for something too.
Thankfully in 2015 the Wolfville Market contacted us and said space was finally available for us, so we decided to take a big leap of faith and drop all other markets and scale our CSA down 10 shares and just offer one size. With just that one choice we went from one of our most stressful years operationally to one of our best. This is the thing about being an entrepreneur - your vision and your drive allows you to do almost anything you want to do and it almost doesn't seem real that we would be able to make such a huge shift and it could be a big win. This theme continued through the years to come. In 2016 we scale back our CSA another 10 shares due to the fact that Wolfville Farmers Market was bringing in more income than we anticipated and we liked the idea of maintaining a real high quality CSA which was easier to do with less people.
In 2017 another opportunity presented itself when Ann from Moontide Farms mentioned the idea of a small farms co-op and doing a collective CSA and Market Table. This seemed like a great way to promote sustainable growth. It was a huge learning curve for us and for me personally it brought up a lot of issues I had yet to deal with. This was one of the most valuable learning experiences I had in my farming career. It made me realize that no matter how idealistic I was, no matter how good I wanted to do, I would never be able to achieve these things unless I dealt with some deeply personal issues I had. Shortly after that in early 2018 I started struggling with my health - my mind had finally caught up to my body.
We decided to step back from the co-op and continue on with our CSA and the market by ourselves while we did some soul searching, and boy did we ever! This ended up being the worst farm season yet due to the insane weather we all had to deal with - late frost in the spring, early frost in the fall and a hot and dry summer. It was literally the first season we felt like what the hell are we doing?! We thought to ourselves that we should quit…. but how could we when we felt like this was more than a job but a life’s path?
So we decided to make a big change again and scaled down our CSA to 25 people and move it on to WFM2go, who would now take over delivery and pieces of the admin. Adam would also start another business with his parents alongside the farm. Yet, again another opportunity for everything to go horribly wrong - and it turned out wonderfully. It’s funny how often we equate scaling back with failure, but for us that never seemed to be the case even though we felt it would be.
Adam & I have always been people who thought deeply about how our actions affect the world. Always striving to be somewhere in the middle because the top seemed lonely and the bottom wasn’t an option. We wanted a life that was balanced before we even knew what true balance was. To examine what your heart desires and how that falls in line with what the world needs seems like an impossible mission but only if you think you need to have all the answers now!
I have surrendered to the idea that I am always moving closer to where I need to be, without having to be in control of how I am going to get there, but what I needed to know is what my strengths and weaknesses were. This is something that can be really tough to look at, especially if they don’t align with the world's view (or what we think is the world’s view is). The truth is we are all born with a unique set of gifts and it is our job to recognize them and use them to the best of our abilities.
In this search, this is what we have found over the years:
These are the things we must acknowledge about ourselves and our farm. They WILL be different for every person and every farm, which makes the world a beautiful place. Don’t just be different, but know why, and mold those things to be the best version of diversity as possible. Don’t be swept away by the fear of failure, taking you further away from your original and true purpose. You are weak and you are strong, you are the same and you’re different, you are nothing and you are everything, you are wrong and you are right, and in knowing that - you are free to just be!
Olde Furrow Farmers!!