Farm Dispatch: 2014 Season Review, A Lesson in Resiliency
It’s a rare farming season that does not have a series of highs and lows. We all hope and pray for a good year—sunny days, regular rain, not too many pests, good health, steady sales, and enough time to reflect. But a typical year has both the good and the bad. 2014 was one of those years.
I was Fresh City's Assistant Farm Manager this year, working with Hannah, our Farm Manager, and later in the season, Paula, our other Assistant Farm Manager. However, our farming team extends beyond the staff listed on the website. We had our dedicated co-operative students, Ashley, Maxime, and Saghar and our small army of volunteer interns. Without all these hard working friends, the days would have been longer and not half as fun. For me, they are what kept me going, with their enthusiasm, good humour, and curiosity.
We also logged many hours alongside our member farmers. The member farmer program has been a part of Fresh City since its inception. It remains a program dedicated to connecting new farmers to land, resources, and a supportive community. One of the things I am most proud of this season is that we had high retention of our member farmers through the season and that we formed a strong, encouraging community. Many of our member farmers will be returning for the 2015 season, continuing their businesses and feeding their families and friends.
In August, in the peak of the season, we learned what all experienced farmers know: that in an instant, the weather can change your life. Over the last couple of years, we have experienced some severe storms. The resiliency of the farm always prevailed.
In August we witnessed the destructive power of hail, in a freak storm lasting just a few hours on a Friday night. By chance, Hannah stayed late and if not for her efforts, and the help of our member farmers, we might have lost the fish in the aquaponics system when the power went out. But there was little any of us could do to prevent the damage outside. Blown down plants, squash riddled with pits, damaged leaves, all of it opening our plants up to disease and pests.
In 3 hours, we were set back 3 weeks. It was devastating after all of our long hours and hard work. However, things did bounce back and at the seasons end in November with our first solid frost, we realized that in the end, plants want to live, they want to thrive. By making a better ecosystem for them using organic techniques, we were building a resilient system that could come back from any storm.
It is also important to note that this ecosystem included us, the farmers. I believe that because we had a strong, close community, we too bounced back and returned to our work with renewed dedication, despite the setback.
I was impressed with our farmers ingenuity, having “Hail Sales” at the farmers market, preserving food that could not be sold, and all along putting in the extra hours to make sure their plants got the best care in the days to come. We were there for one another, quick to offer a hug or advice on how to deal with the damage.
I think it is easy to forget how we are part of the ecosystem we foster. That time spent on our relationships and community are just as worthwhile, just as precious as the time we dedicate to our crops.
I look forward to the 2015 season knowing, not just hoping, that it will be better than 2014. The hail storm proved this to me: that our dedication to organic agriculture and a positive farming community makes us stronger, our crops better.
We are hoping to make these dispatches from the farm a more common occurrence in the New Year. I hope you get to know many of our voices, our stories on this agricultural journey.
We wish you the very best in the 2015 season and are excited to share our stories and our food with you.
Happy New Year.