And so it is: a brand New Year is here! Time to change habits (besides writing 2011 instead of 2010), grow in new ways, grow in the old ways (but better), and re-invent something smarter than the wheel (let me know). I like a poem by Thich Nhat Hanh that begins “Waking up this morning, I smile, Twenty four brand new hours are before me…” It is such a joy to remember this, and for the new year too: 365 brand new days are before us, each day filled with brand new hours!! What will you do with your brand new days, your brand new hours?
Here in the Northeast, snow makes the landscape look large and expansive, and that tends to be conducive to thinking in a larger perspective and re-configuring the farm plan. This year, I am concentrating on Holistic Farm Management, which I had the pleasure of intensively learning about for the year with a group of fifteen women farmers in Massachusetts.
The best way I can describe Holistic Farm Management is managing your farm and your business so that it has a healthy TRIPLE bottom-line: financially, environmentally, and socially. Using Holistic Management turns the typical “maintenance” mode of managing your farm business into an “investment or strategic” mode, thus leading to more fulfilling lifework (and wealth in a multi-faceted way).
I admit that I was struck by some of the questions at the first class and wondered when we were going to get to natural resource management and strategic business planning. At what point would I get to share how fantastic our lissies did in our new Haygrove tunnel and how we can’t seem to make sense of why we get more money for wholesale on some flowers than we do retail?
To my surprise, they asked us to: “List 3 things that excite you about farming.” and “List 3 things that replenish you when you feel depleted.”, and and practically in the same breath, “What is the percentage of bare soil exposed on your land?”. Of course all of these things are important, but to actually go through these different realms with the same group of people — that was new! Even though I tend to think about these aspects when making decisions, I usually compartmentalize them and switch to whatever realm is appropriate for the given situation or person I am talking with, and tend not to merge them with equal importance.
I learn that all too often farmers lose sight of the seriousness of the holistic view, and we muddle our business decisions by looking at only money matters, or just the temporary growing plan, and lose sight of sustainability and balance of our farm and of ourselves. Our profits, our environmental impacts and our social impacts are all interconnected, and for long-term success, all three have to be valued and examined. One thing is for sure: there are plenty of exciting things to fill these brand new days and brand new hours!
Happy planning everyone! May your financial, environmental and social aspects of your farm business plan get equally valued attention this winter.
A bit about myself and Old Friends Farm: I co-own and run Old Friends Farm, a Certified Organic farm in Amherst, Massachusetts in its eighth year. My business partner Casey Steinberg and I lease 12 acres and have about 2 acres of high tunnels. In addition to cut flowers, we grow an outrageous amount of salad greens, and dabble in veggies too.
Our top wholesale flower crops are delphinium, sweet William, Canterbury bells, callas, zinnias, lisianthus, and sunflowers, and we grow many other types for retail at farmers’ markets. In my spare time you may find me tracking in the woods with my husband Phillip, making felted creatures out of wool, or sword dancing (not as dangerous as it sounds).
Thanks for giving me an opportunity to be your Northeast Regional Director. I have hopes of creating some Regional Meetings that range from growing techniques to business techniques, and look forward to continuing the tradition of sharing skills grower to grower. If you have any suggestions of topics you would like to learn or share, please feel free to contact me: Missy Bahret, Old Friends Farm, PO Box 904, Amherst, MA 01004, [email protected] (413) 253-9182