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Although it is dryer than one could hope for at this time of year, these are the quiet days on the farm that I always look forward to and cherish. During the busy months I have an underlying sense of guilt because I am too busy to appreciate this amazing place that we live and farm in. My daughter Amelia is usually the one who keeps tabs on our natural surroundings. At the dinner table she will mention what new bird visitors she has seen or give us updates on the family of bobcats we suspect are living in an impenetrably brushy area on our side-hill.
Winter is the time when I too can take the extra moment to appreciate the view from our back hill out over Harkins Slough and a thin sliver of the Monterey Bay with the Santa Lucia Mountains for a backdrop. Nothing is so pressing that I can’t take time to slow down and watch a squadron of white pelicans circling overhead or one of the bald eagles perched on a snag by the edge of the slough. For a brief few months, the bustle of trucks and tractors and workers and banda music are dialed down and the wildness around us reasserts itself.
Even though things slow down greatly in winter, we never truly stop farming, and it is difficult to draw a line at the point where one production season ends and the other begins but this is pretty much as close as it gets. This week I will start to set out seed for next season’s transplants and because the ground is dry, we will work up a few fields in preparation for direct seeding a number of crops starting in a week or two.
These slow months also give us the needed perspective to think about changes to the farm we would like to make and to get re-energized. We have already had to make some hard decisions this year, and 2018 will mark a turning point of sorts—in a way, back to where we started. We have decided to greatly simplify our operation and to sell off our other property in North Monterey County. The drawbacks to farming on parcels that are geographically separate (the Lewis Road Ranch was a fifteen minute drive from here) are numerous. Trailering equipment and tractors back and forth was time consuming and something I looked forward to with less and less enthusiasm—it always seemed like when you really needed something it was inevitably on the other ranch and needed to be brought over. Scheduling the work crews between the two sites became difficult and at times inefficient as well. Too often we had to send somebody over just to harvest a case or two of something we were short on. In addition, to justify farming on the added acreage we had to plant much more than we could use in our CSA and farmer’s market which meant that we were selling much of it at the wholesale level where it was less profitable.
Although we are sorry to lose the Lewis Road property, we are getting excited about this opportunity to reinvent our farm. I always had the underlying feeling that we were over-extending ourselves between the two properties—we would reach a point every year where things would feel out of control. I am looking forward to tightening things up production wise and becoming more efficient. To spending all of the time we will save not having to move people, equipment and produce back and forth on refining our planting, weed control, harvesting and packing systems.
This also means a renewed focus on the CSA which has always been at the core of our identity as a farm. In addition to the 18 or so acres that we farm on here at our home site, we are leasing two contiguous parcels from our neighbors The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. This gives us plenty of ground to continue to grow all of the things you expect from us, and to expand on that variety by trying some new additions as well. We have a great crew lined up for this coming year and are getting more and more excited about the possibilities that 2018 will bring. Onwards and Upwards!
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