Hello Farm Friends,

It’s the first week of the 2024 CSA season! This year I’m going to handle the newsletters a bit differently.  CSA members will receive a specific CSA email with all the necessary logistics each week, as well as a link to this website blog.  Non-CSA members will simply receive this blog post.  That way general readers don’t need to hear all the CSA specifics, and CSA members get the info they need without being subject to my ramblings, unless they choose to click that link. So, let’s get on with the rambling!

This year feels very different on the farm than any other so far.  Things are in a bit of transition, as we reassess and reprioritize our goals, ourselves, our marriage, and our lives.  For 17 years, Rebecca and I have been throwing everything we have at this farm of ours to make a difference.  

It really started off as a way for us to live a simple life in line with our values.  Respect and connection to nature, working outside, and growing good food for ourselves and our community.  It was also very much an act of activism and resistance to a system and a culture that was degrading our health and the health of the planet in the name of profit.  It was a way to engage and contribute in a meaningful way so we could stand up for the values that were important to us.

It is a good path, but it is far from the simple life I imagined.  The physical and mental strain of building a values-based business against the headwinds of variable weather, increasing production costs, a lack of skilled labor, increasing costs of living in our community, and government policy and subsidies that undermine small organic farms.  And just the shear physical strain of doing the all the work without enough people.

By no means do I regret the choice, but I think we could have used some healthier boundaries as to how much we gave to the cause, and we are definitely feeling a shift in what we are willing and able to do in the future.   Rebecca began playing music a few years back and is now leading retreats that help people heal, relax, and reconnect with something deeper than what our culture is throwing at us.  This type of work really lights her up, gives her joy, and takes the strain off her body and soul.  It’s wonderful to see, and in support of that, this year she is splitting her time between the farm and her new pursuits.

As for me, while I’m still solely focused on the farm, I too am feeling the physical and mental wear and tear.   I injured a disc and nerve in my back about 20 days ago, and recovery is taking it’s sweet time.  Trying to farm without standing up straight, walking, or lifting is not something I have perfected yet.   And before you say I need to take better care of myself, or not work so hard, I actually hurt my back while taking care of myself 🙂   

So, while the farm can often feel like too much for too few people,  this year that is especially the case.  And we’ve invested so much into growing this farm, that the thought of shrinking it down doesn’t set well with me.  I would like it to continue in a similar manner, but I think that will require an injection of fresh energy, enthusiasm, and younger back at some point.  

There is so much potential for having a positive impact on our community through this farm and The Farmers’ Stand, which is a rare gift.  To be able to truly make a difference. That was always the primary goal of the partnership with the Goguens….to better serve the community.   There are so many other parts of our country where healthy local food is extremely hard to come by if you don’t grow it yourself.  Much of the country has succumbed to the industrial food system…. I heard the other day that 58% of calories consumed are now from ultra-processed food.   And while our community has always been so willing to support us by buying our food, consumption requires production, and I would like our community to ponder that side of the equation a bit.  This has always been a community supported agriculture model, and so this is just a slightly different ask.

The reason I’m saying this out loud is that as I look to the future, I’m feeling the need to start envisioning what the next chapter of Two Bear Farm looks like.  Is there a way I can serve in a more supportive role and let a new crop of farmers take the lead?   And no, you shouldn’t panic…this transition is not imminent, nor will it be rushed.  But I think it’s a good time to start thinking about it to explore creative and well thought out Ideas on ways to bring Two Bear Farm into the next phase of its existence.  A straight forward hand-off to a new farmer, a co-farming opportunity for many farmers, a non-profit, or a cooperative?  I really don’t know, but I’m starting the conversation by putting it out into the world.  And I realize my transparency can easily backfire, so I ask for your kindness and respect. I would prefer to not be accosted with random ideas in the store parking lot every time I get out of my car.   If you have a creative, well-thought out and workable idea, I’d love to hear it, preferably in an email 🙂  

.As it looks for this year, my injury and Rebecca’s shift in schedule is giving us fresh perspective about what this farm is and how it operates.  While I doubt customers will notice, things are certainly looking different around here in the early part of this season.  And that is ok.  I know the pressure from consumers will always be present, but at the moment taking care of ourselves is more important.  It feels like the right journey to be on.  And we’ll use this opportunity to learn the lessons that it gives us, and to engage the community around this issue.  

In the meantime, I’ll continue my rehab, enjoy the fresh veggies, and we’ll do the best we can here at the farm.   That’s the news from Lake Wobegon.