How’s your farm holding up in these times of crazy weather? Across North America many got doses of weather this past season that isn’t what they would consider the norm. Heavy snow in unsuspecting areas, nonstop rain, rising rivers, and temperatures reaching new lows and highs. But are there really norms anymore?

I’m thinking that we should realign our thinking to expect the unexpected. Perhaps one of the greatest qualities farmers can possess is their ability to roll with the punches, weather punches especially. Weather is one of those things that as much as we want to, we cannot control it.

The most challenging times of farming for me was during our high production years. Pedal to the metal full-time farming with all the fixings: employees, lots of customer commitments, and all the financial obligations that are rolled up in all that business.

Weather issues on harvest days made me a crazy woman. I scheduled everything so tight that more than one hiccup in the schedule and our week spiraled into chaos. Maybe not such a good plan for someone who grows everything outdoors in the field. But I always tried to have a backup plan to pull us through.

Swamp harvest
Britches down

Most of the time it all worked out fine. We harvested, sold, and delivered on time, and everything was right in my world. Rain on harvest days is just one of many potential weather impacts that can interfere with day-to-day business on a flower farm. This list could, in fact, be endless.

This whole “You’re messing with me, weather.” concept has brought a couple of questions to the front of my mind these days:

• Are the good, smooth sailing times worth the crazy, pull-my-hair out times?
• How can a person manage this risky business and not just survive financially, but to manage in a way that it doesn’t make her or him crazy?

My personal answers to these questions are:

Yes. The reward is greater than the rocky roads traveled! And I manage the craziness by trying to always have a backup plan. I no longer romanticize this business. I plan for the worst and work toward the best.

Planning for the “what if” has become a part of my business life. Trying not to go overboard, but trying to do what I can. For instance, if I fall plant cool-season hardy annuals that are winter hardy in my region, I should have enough row cover and hoops on hand to cover them in the event of a polar vortex. True story: my email box was stacked with folks facing weather forecasts that had them in knots because they had zero row covers and a garden full of beautiful hardy annuals with no way to protect them.

Risk assessment and forward thinking isn’t the dreamy part of this business, but a backup plan can go a long way toward sleeping better and building a success business.

Row cover backups in place

Lisa Ziegler

The Gardener's Workshop

Contact at [email protected]