Thankful, gracious, hardworking, humble, and steadfast.
These are all words that can be used to describe a farmer. A farmer of any crop be it grains, chickens or flowers. Farming calls to you. It brings you home or helps you find home.
During the week before the busiest holiday for a Canadian farmer (Canadian Thanksgiving) I am thinking of all the farmers out there, working hard against obstacles to bring in the harvest.
I’m thinking of my friends in the prairies who experienced their first frost weeks before fall even arrived. Their drive and work ethic to produce flowers in such a short season is commendable. I don’t know that I would want to work so hard for such a short season but they do it. Seeing their fields under a blanket of snow when other growers are still in sandals must be so hard. But yet they start their seeds year after year.
I am also thinking of the farmers in our circle who were affected by crazy weather this year. Drought, then flood, tornado winds, and hail. A farmer continues even after natural disaster. The farmer will pick up the blown-over trays, recover the hoophouses, replant the drowned plugs, and start over, knowing that plants will grow, plugs with bloom and tubers can be bought again.
I am thinking of the farmers dealing with tough times in their personal lives. Health and relationship issues, or just the trials of running a business, household, and farm. We don’t know what challenges others are facing. Some are very private and some take comfort in telling their stories. Farming can be all encompassing but we need to remember that life will pass you by while you are spending hours bunching stems.
At the National Conference in Raleigh, I had the pleasure of introducing Mark Cain. His presentation was about work/life balance. I’m sure right away you thought, “Ya ok, that unicorn”. But even small adjustments in the way you think about your farm can improve the balance. I’m not saying it’s easy to equal the scales but there is time for YOU, the you that isn’t the farm! The Raleigh conference was the first time my whole family had left the farm for more than one night in about 6 years. Before I left I made the week lists, wrote out the orders and tasks to be done, and guess what… the farm survived; my helpers knew what they needed to do and got it done. This was a major milestone for me. I learned that we can leave the farm! Too often farmers keep the reins pretty tight and think that they are the only one who can manage the farm. In reality the farm is running you and you need to set boundaries for the farm.
Megan and Jonathan Leiss of Spring Forth Farm talked about setting the boundaries for their farm and revisiting them each year to make sure they still apply. What do you want your “in between” to look like?
I think of the flower farmer leaders in our industry. Ones who are humbled, so touched, and almost surprised that they would be chosen for an award. Lynn Byczynski was presented the Allan Armitage Leadership Award at the conference. (CONGRATS!!) It was touching thinking of how many of us in the room started flower farming because of her book. Judy asked Lynn to come and moderate some of the sessions to make sure she was in attendance. Lynn was surprised when she was named the award winner. I couldn’t think of anyone else more deserving. It’s that humble nature that is so wonderful to be a part of, and there are so many in this organization that are very humble by nature. That willingness to help is one of the best parts of the ASCFG family. I had several members stop me in the hall or in a food line and thank me for taking the time to answer a question that they posted on the Facebook group. It may seem small to you but it is so important to someone else.
The Outstanding Service Award was awarded to Dave Dowling in recognition of years of valuable service and long-lasting contributions to the success of the ASCFG and its members. Not a more fitting recipient with that description. WWDD (What Would Dave Do) is a saying I have heard many times. His wealth of flower knowledge, humorous nature, and warm smile makes him the Dave we all know and respect. I appreciate him as a colleague and friend and thank him for all he has and will do for flower farmers across the continent.
During the bus rides for the conference tours and in the hallways on breaks, there was one common topic of conversation. Flower farming is hard work—can you really make a living doing this? This is where I wholeheartedly believe that the steadfast nature of a farmer is what it takes. Can you make a living? The answer comes back to the core values that you set for your business, family, and life. Rome wasn’t built overnight and neither is a flower farm. Start small, learn lots, ask a billion questions, but more importantly listen to the answers and grow your farm to the size you want or need it to be. Also be patient, while also being kind to yourself. And plant perennials and woodies early in your farming career!
I am ready to call it a day after hours harvesting for this week’s orders, working on fall cleanup, and watching the weather app to guess how many more days the fields will be spared from Jack Frost. Today I also made sure to have supper ready for my family while I attended a business mentoring meeting and then set aside the time to help my littles with their reading homework before bed. I am nowhere near having a work/life balance but I am working on being more aware of how I want to spend my “in between”.