The summer season seems to sneak up on us every year, but this year, it's been extra sneaky.
This winter was a long one (aren't they all?) as we grappled with some health issues (mostly fine now!) that gave us a late start but also helped us better prioritize by focusing on what's important.
So, this season will bring some changes at the farm. We've scaled back on a few things (we've capped the number of traditional summer CSA shares and reined in vegetable production somewhat) so we can expand other enterprises (like the Farmers' Market Share program and a double-down on grains and sourdough bread).
Life (and business) lesson #458: Sometimes you have to say no to some things so you can say yes (and not just a yes, but a Heck Yes!) to others.
It's a tricky balance. You might even call it precarious, but that's running a small business or a family farm for you -- living in an almost constant state of flux. It means being vigilant in choosing which enterprises and crops and markets are going to best serve your land, your community, your bottom line and your family.
Sometimes, it feels like we should have it all "figured out" after seven years in business. But if we've learned anything, it's that "figured out" is like "caught up" -- a fictional state of being.
And with the right intention and mindset, flux isn't chaos. It's innovation and experimentation and the latter two is where true change and true progress happens.
So, here's what we're working on in 2016 on the farm:
Artisan sourdough bread made from the Sonora Heritage Wheat we grow, grind and bake. We're expanding the baking and adding in some variety: Seed bread, olive rosemary bread, focaccia and straight up sourdough, which we call "Papa Bread," because that's what our 3-year-old yells (and we mean YELLS) for in the morning. We will be selling bread at the Great Falls Farmers' Market (Saturdays starting June 4) but we're also in the midst of applying for a wholesale license, which will allow us to sell bread farther and wider eventually.
More sales and production of our ancient and heritage grains, both for home bakers and cooks and as seed for farms like ours. This year, we're focusing on Prairie Farro, Bronze Barley, Sonora Heritage Wheat, Einkorn, Japanese Hulless Popcorn (Popcorn!) and Early Riser corn (For cornmeal! Tortillas! Polenta!). We will continue to offer these grains whole but also hope to have our big mill up and running this summer to be able to start offering fresh flour as well. And soon, we'll start selling some of these grains as seed to other farmers interested in these unique, important varieties.
Fresh vegetables sold at the farmers market, through some grocers and restaurants and in our CSAs. As we mentioned above, we're focusing on a smaller traditional CSA this year to best serve that membership and offering more Farmers' Market Shares, which are like pre-paid cards for shareholders. Instead of us picking what veggies to include, customers get to pick whatever they'd like from our market stand at the Great Falls Farmers' Market. We're still growing all kinds of veggies, but we are scaling back somewhat to hone in on specific crops. You'll also find some of our fresh veggies at 2Js Fresh Market in Great Falls and on occasion at awesome local restaurants like Electric City Coffee.
Hearty, high quality vegetable seed, which we sell through the Triple Divide Seed Coop but also to national companies like Fedco, High Mowing Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. This year, we're planting for seed: Snow peas, mustard greens, arugula, fava beans, pole beans, lettuce, kale, chard, carrots, onions and tomatoes.
And, in general, giving longer-term projects like soil health and our budding orchard more attention and care. (The orchard -- pears, apples and plums -- is still in its infancy, as you can see in the awesome photo by Missy Sprouse below).
In the tech world, they'd call all of this somewhat of a "pivot" and that seems particularly applicable considering the other, agricultural, definition of pivot. We love the imagery the term gives -- the water direction and flow may change slightly but the whole thing still operates from its center. The engine driving the center of our pivot is running a farm that nourishes our family, our farm, our communities and our planet.
So, let's get rolling!