Moral Imperatives

After my recent post about burnout I can’t believe I am even considering this, but here it is… I am seriously considering renting acreage. About 7 miles north of our home there is a 20 acre permaculture farmette that was until last year a small CSA/hobby farm. In addition to an orchard, small vineyard, sprawling small fruit stands, timber, and a 5 acre restored prairie, there is also a 1-2 acre garden that was devoted to a CSA. The CSA was run by interns and recent graduates from a local organic farming school, but this year it went without management, and is for the most part fallow. It is this fallow garden I have been musing about ever since the balance sheet of our produce business hit the “black”.

This plot has some significant advantages to it:

  1. Fertile, friable, living soil benefiting form a decade of love from highly trained organic management.
  2. Access to a shed full of market gardening accouterments-Glaser wheel hoes, Earthway seeders, and every pruning/harvesting/weeding hand tool you can think of.
  3. Water-there is a rain fed 750 gallon water tower on site-all it needs is the drip irrigation to be self sufficient.
  4. Greenhouses-2 full size poly houses for growing and drying produce
  5. The Owners have forgotten more about small scale ag than I will learn this decade-and they are on site and like to talk.
  6. Poultry: hens, geese, and yes even peacocks, range the land eating slugs and caterpillars while fertilizing as they go.
  7. Manure-a team of draft horses and several hogs are in residence.

This is why I went all gooey when the owner said he was very interested in having me out to talk plans. Here are some of my concerns:

  1. I already have virtually no free time
  2. It is 7 miles away-in permaculture speak if your back door is zone 1, this is zone 495. In real speak that means I am not going to be hitting it daily and will likely miss out on pest infestations, etc allowing things to get out of hand in a jiffy.
  3. It is 7 miles away so picking tomatoes and lettuce every day is out. And that is our current market.
  4. It is 7 miles away-sprout and bird can’t play on the playset while I weed and then go inside for lemonade.
  5. It is 7 miles away-that is even less time I am home to tend to our own gardens, housework, kids, reading, i.e. life.

I am completely torn, but moving ahead to see if we can make it work. Why in the hell you may ask? My moral imperative (which may be faulty). Here is my reasoning. I have discovered a market in some local restaurants that are craving local heirloom produce, but cannot hit the Madison or Milwaukee farmers markets so they are buying from Sysco. I have the ability to grow market worthy organic produce-at least on a backyard scale. For some reason, Gaia has dropped a 1.5 acre organic garden with a shed full of tools in my lap.

The compromise that I am working on is to plant less needy crops than lettuce or tomatoes-ones that are mostly self sufficient (they can out muscle weeds and have little pest pressure) and most importantly-can be harvest in large infrequent chunks. My plant list so far: potatoes, corn, squash, melons, garlic, and others. My second tier (need weeding) list would include: carrots, onions, and herbs like oregano and dill. Third tier that would need at least weekly attention-peppers, cucumbers, etc. I am ruling all the brassicas (broccoli, kale, cauliflower) as I am uncomfortable with bT and the cabbage moths are vicious hereabouts. the trick is to find a market for these crops-I plan on making some calls this weekend after touring the farm. But if I can find a root cellar (the owners may have one) I may just plant enough for our family-we are entirely hooked on home grown potatoes. If we do this the landscaping side our Someday Gardens would have to take a hiatus. Not sure how I feel about that, but I have wanted to be a farmer since I was 10-can’t ever say I wanted to be a landscaper.

We try to live our lives by “Being the Change” What would you do?

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