What Happens When Your Farmer Goes On Vacation

What happens if we go on vacation?

One of the hardest things about farming is that it is relentless and can absolutely take over your life.  The weeds always grow.  The chickens need to be fed every day and they keep laying eggs.  The big farmer’s market day is always Saturday so you can’t take the weekend off.  We are obligated to our CSA customers every week and can’t just not bring the produce.  We need to bring weekly produce to the local chefs because a big part of being successful in the restaurant world is being consistent.  This can all come together to create a job with no breaks, which could easily become too much.  Because of this, Jay and I spend a lot of time talking about how to keep our world in balance, so we can do the farming that we love, be accountable to the customers we adore, and still have time to be with our family….maybe even get away now and then.

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We have been farming for over five years, and are starting to get better at it.  To begin with, we set up our CSA so that our customers know there are no deliveries the weeks of major holidays.  This seems to suit everyone fine.  Often they are going away anyway.  With this set up ahead of time, we know that several times a year we have a free week.  We also work constantly to “give our jobs away”.  It seems way too easy to just do everything ourselves, but that creates a situation where if we aren’t there, nobody else can fill in.  Every week, we try to put some focus on what our team can manage without us.  The goal is that we should be able to go away for a short time and the place still runs.

Recently, I went to a conference and Jay went with me. It was not one of the holiday weeks, so business needed to continue.  I think we did a good job training and entrusting things to the people who help us.  We have a high school young man who has worked with us for the past year and a half.  During that time, he has become the man in charge of packing our CSA bags.  He also helps with the picking and recently (now that he can drive!) went along to meet everyone at one of our CSA drop off locations.  We left him in charge of our CSA while we were gone! We didn’t have any CSA members complain that they didn’t get their bag or that their bags didn’t have lovely produce in them,  so we think he was fine without us.   We also have a great lady named Dell, who helps us pick up produce from other local growers, if needed, as well as fill in at the market. While we were away, she managed the farmers market as well as the CSA bags that were delivered at the market.  Without a doubt, she always manages fine.  

Sadly, we had to cancel our restaurant deliveries for the week we were gone.  We didn’t like to do that, but felt we had no choice.  Deliveries in uptown Charlotte are tricky to navigate.  Not only can it be hard to find your way around all the one-way streets, many of the restaurants require us to park for deliveries beneath the bank buildings.  These parking areas are secured like Fort Knox, and can be difficult to find, let alone figure out how to handle the security at the entry!  Anyone who has ever delivered to Halcyon will know exactly what I am talking about.  No one would want to send a teenager into that.  The training for the restaurant part of the business is also difficult.  It would require someone to shadow Jay on his deliveries for a week or two, to meet all the chefs and learn the ins and outs of where to park for deliveries, and how each restaurant likes things handled.  It is also quite physical, and involves hoisting heavy boxes of produce.  This means the pain of canceling the restaurant business needs to get a little worse, before it will outweigh the pain of teaching someone the ins and outs.  Now that I’m thinking about it, there probably are a few people who could take on this position.  

To sum up my thoughts on this subject, anyone who wants to make a life of farming will need to mindfully work out ways to farm, and allow other capable people to help.  Otherwise, farming can become a trap that can wear you down.  That is a bad thing.  Farming is a joy and needs to stay that way.  It will need some careful management.

Eat your veggies!

Robin

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