Hello Farm Friends!

I hope everyone has wintered well! I’ve been trying to write for weeks, but our WordPress is not working, so my apologies for the radio silence.

Life on the farm is shifting back into work mode. The greenhouse is up and running, the earliest crops are being seeded into high tunnels, and there are a ton of infrastructure project to tackle before the main growing season kicks in. At this point our CSA enrollment is up to 225, which means there are just 25 spots left. If you are still interested, and haven’t signed up yet, I encourage you to head over to twobearfarm.com and follow the link to sign up.

One of the things I appreciate about the farming lifestyle is that it follows a natural pattern….there are times of heavy work, but there is also a time of year when the weather strongly encourages us to take time off to rest, focus on other aspects of our lives, and reflect. Having the time to reflect on the previous year, to process what happened, and to integrate it into a plan for the next year is in many ways a gift. 

Not only looking at what worked and what didn’t work, but also assessing where we’re at in life, what we want to focus on and prioritize, and what the world needs. Just kidding, that last one is way to depressing!! You’ve all heard the saying “Think globally, act locally”. Well, I question if that is a good approach in the age of information, because what’s happening in the world with our food system, our health, our ecosystems and all the conflict is too troubling to think about all the time. So, I’m proposing the opposite approach. In the past few years I have really begun to work on my own perspective and my own habits regarding where I put my attention and how much I ruminate on things beyond my control. And doing this “inner” work, aided by lots of yoga, music, and getting outside has really helped me navigate this world a bit better. This is not a new idea….many wise thinkers in the past have given us this advice. Basically,”if you want to change the world, change yourself”. And I do believe that is the path we need to be on at this time in our history. It’s only by getting ourselves straight, and changing our mindset, that we can have a positive impact on the world around us. So, i think the saying should be “Think inwardly, act locally”.

You probably didn’t sign up for a CSA to hear about my self-care practices, so let me give you an update about some exciting new projects we are working on this year.  When I run into frustrations regarding healthy food and good land stewardship, whether it’s a cultural perspective, influence of corporate power, or government bureaucracy, I often turn my attention back to the farm, to figure out how to make a difference right in front of me, rather than out there in the system. It always feels more manageable and approachable. So, here’s what in the works for 2024:

First, we are working to place the farm into a conservation easement, so that this land stays open space and does not get developed like so much of the farm land around us.  It’s still in the works, and I don’t know if I’m even supposed to mention it yet, but it’s very exciting to know that the wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, and the food production value of this property will be kept intact in perpetuity.

Maintaining open space and wildlife connectivity are important goals in addition to growing healthy food for the community.

Second, we are applying for a REAP grant that will help us transition the entire farm to solar power.  I mean, it only makes sense.  Our entire job is to grow food via photosynthesis, which is solar power……so why not run all the buildings on it as well?  The application is in, so fingers crossed.

A mockup of the rooftop solar panels required to provide all the energy needs of the farm

Third, there is so much talk about the need for new young farmers, even just here in the valley, and yet some of the projects I was hoping would address this have failed to bear fruit.  Patience is not my strong suit, and in my frustration, I often fall back on the old adage “If you want a job done right, do it yourself”.  I’m not claiming that is a good trait, or a good way to say it, yet here we are.  This year we have arranged to mentor a new farmer.  Florence (Flo) Parsley worked on our farm for 3 seasons, and currently is part of the team at The Farmers’ Stand, but she has always wanted to have her own farm.  We have provided her access to her own piece of land on the property to establish her own farm (Three P’s Farm), access to  housing and equipment, support in finding markets, and mentorship in learning the ropes.  It’s something our community needs to do if it wants to maintain a local food system, and it’s a way for us to pay forward the support we have received in the past by maximizing the benefit that this land can offer.  

Proud new farmer, Flo Parsley, preparing her raised beds

It wasn’t that long ago that Rebecca and I were the new, young farmers at farmers market, struggling to find a foothold.  And while we worked really hard to get to where we are today, and I know our growth as a farm and our presence at market has helped grow the local food system, I also realize that our farm can cast a big shadow on other farmers at market.  While my typical advice to new farmers is to find new opportunities, as opposed to just competing for the same customers, in this instance I feel like our farm can do more.  In creating our store The Farmers’ Stand, we created our own market to better serve the community, and so attending the Whitefish Farmers’ Market is a bit redundant.  This year, for the first time in 17 years, we have decided to step aside from that market with the hopes that it creates space for other farmers, such as Flo, to thrive and grow.  And hopefully that helps strengthen the local food system

So, that’s the news from the farm on this chilly 16 degree “spring” morning.  

Stay tuned for more updates.  For those who are wondering, I would imagine the CSA will start sometime between May 15th and June 1st, depending on weather.  And hopefully we will have some fresh veggies appearing at The Farmers’ Stand well before that.