“You are right on time and farming like a pro. Advance to the second week of January and collect your yearly wage of $5,000.” This is the text from one of the many spaces on my favorite childhood board game: The Farming Game. If you haven’t played, it is a hoot! I thought what better way to bring in my first 2016 blog with a nostalgia factor. I realize that I have not done a blog post in some time. For that, my sincerest apologies! This spring was a wild and crazy ride for our family. We bought our first house, started our first business and we have a fifteen-month old baby in our lives. The house purchase in many ways was an amazing thing for us, unfortunately it fell right in the middle of our planting season on the farm. It really messed me up; to the point where I basically lost two weeks of farming time right in and around the move. It’s now 2016 and there are still boxes that have yet to be unpacked. That is one of our many January projects.
Due to miscalculations in the spring, mostly because of my inexperience on how long and how much work it would take to convert a 1/2 acre of lawn into farmland, we got way behind on our planting. From late March until mid June, I had been working 12 – 16 hours a day, 7 days per week turning sod into farm land. Once we finally had all of the land converted, it was time to catch up on weeding and start getting ready for Farmers’ Markets to begin. For the rest of the season we continued to work the same obscene hours, weeding, picking, prepping/bagging, re-seeding crops and getting our produce to market. When you work those kinds of hours unfortunately your blog suffers; I found just enough time to update Facebook and that is about it. So to everyone who has been reading and enjoying and commenting, thank you. This is my first real blog and I am grateful and inspired from the feedback. It has pushed me to find the time, from here on out to make it a point to do at least a weekly post for 2016, so please enjoy.
It is kind of astounding when I think back to my first blog post in March, when we seeded the first plot. It’s hard to believe that was just 9 months ago because we have done so much since then. I’ve grown and learned as a farmer. I have perfected (or at least I think I have) our method for converting lawn to farm and I am getting better at irrigation and all of the humps and hurdles associated with what we are doing. Finding clients is stressful, somehow I thought organic local veggies just sell themselves; they don’t. At least 25% of my time is spent on marketing. That may be dealing with my restaurant and grocery clients, or meeting new clients, but it is also the time on Facebook doing updates and posting photos and promoting our veggies. If people don’t know what you are doing, how can they support you? Facebook has been an amazing tool for promotion and to get the word out. Without it, I never would have gotten the TVinterview. If you like my blog and want to see more updates and photos, please check us out on Facebook. I try to update at least every other day with some good photos and goings on of the farm. I guess I could do that all here too, but a man only has so much time in a day.
That is why I am so grateful to three very special people who are close to my heart. Jim, Daniel and Melanie you guys rock! Jim, Daniel and Melanie were volunteers on the farm in 2015. They came out every day and worked their tails off, all day turning sod and weeding and busting their butts for the sake of what we do. They want so badly to help urban farming succeed in lethbridge that they are willing to donate their time to make that happen. I really wish I could pay them, but at this point I do not even pay myself. Without them, the farm would probably have tanked. I would have died trying to convert all of that land by myself. I owe those amazing people more than they will ever know, I hope one day I can return the favour. Though they do love going home with super fresh and awesome veggies on a regular basis. I want to also personally thank Simon, my neighbour Phil, Gerry, James and Sheila and everyone else who has given us a leg up, or supported us because they love what we do. Without the support of these amazing people, I couldn’t do what I do every day. Thank you all, thank you for making this all possible. Myself and the city of Lethbridge owe you a debt of gratitude.
All in all 2015 was a good year for us. The farm didn’t really make any money, but it was able to cover its costs and secure its ability to continue in 2016. We are increasing our land base and our Farmers’ Market presence. In 2015 we found the weekday markets just were not profitable. This is why in 2016 we will be at all 24 weeks of the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge. We hope to see you there. We are also expanding our CSA program in 2016 by offering new basket sizes, more shares, and a pick-up location. Our CSA was very popular in 2015 and we hope that it is even better in 2016! There’s nothing better than getting a basket of fresh, chemical-free, non-gmo veggies delivered right to your doorstep weekly. Check out our CSA page here for more details.
We also would like to express our thanks to Execuserv Plus in Lethbridge. They offer a business training program for entrepreneurs and were gracious enough to accept us into their program. Prior to starting up or farm this year, we had no business training whatsoever. By completing the Execuserv Plus business training, we are now well equipped to run and operate our business. This increases our chances for success and we hope to be around for many years to come. We had to produce a business plan for the end of our course and 2016 is looking like it will be a good year. For any entrepreneurs out there living in Lethbridge, the Execuserv Plus program is amazing and free if you qualify. Why not get some free training and start the business you always wanted? The opportunities are there. Check out Execuserv Plus here.
As a final note I just want to express our gratitude for anyone and everyone who supported our farm in 2015. Thank-you to our land-sharers, our CSA clients, our Farmers’ Market customers, people who contacted us to order directly, the Farmers’ Market organizers, our suppliers and everyone else who helped make 2015 a reality. It was a great year and we couldn’t have done it without all of you. From the bottom of our hearts, Thank-you!
As I said before, we plan to update our blog much more in 2016, it’s a new years resolution! Our new CSA shares are up and available for purchase for the 2016 growing season and we will be offering more farm tours this year as well. Stay tuned for the new dates that will arrive sometime in the spring. Thanks for reading and best wishes for your 2016. Buy fresh, buy local, support your local economy and your local farmer. Come see us at the Farmers’ Market in May for some ‘Authentic Food’!