This Thanksgiving I am so grateful for land, soil, sun, aquifer, plants and animals; for our customers, for local restaurants, and for the La Grande Farmers’ Market; for our new barn, irrigation system, hoop house, farmstand, and deer fence; and especially for my parents, family, friends, neighbors, fellow farmers, and my community who made all possible.
This year folks have often recognized the success of the farm and business and congratulated me on my hard work. I sure appreciate folks’ compliments, but want to make it very clear this farm is a community project, not a solo one. It would be false advertising to say otherwise.
One year ago this farm was a marginal pasture. Since then we have put in a road to the farm, an excellent well, brought in 10 loads of soil and manure for terraced beds, put up a hoop house, installed a drip irrigation system, built a deer fence, constructed a barn and farm kitchen, installed a septic system, built a farmstand, developed a farmers’ market stand, and moved our tiny house to the farm. If you think this could be done by a single person, you’re insane!
But in our country we highly value entrepreneurial spirit, fierce independence, and the idea that anyone can boot strap their way up–alone. Farming attracted me because it seemed to fit this narrative. I have always liked to work independently and for myself; to see my own ideas made real; to do things my way. Even as a tiny kid my favorite saying was, “I do it myself!” and I would. But that meant I was often wearing red cowgirl boots on the wrong feet.
Every day of this growing season the independent boot strapping narrative was handily defeated by reality. Reality had only to roll its eyes, gesture at the work waiting in the fields that day and the boot straps would slink away to be chewed on by the dog. Many times a day I was calling on family, friends, friends of friends, neighbors, fellow growers, customers, and strangers (off and online) for advice, information, ideas, time, hands, strong backs. My mom was up working long days every day with me, planting, harvesting, weeding, pest controlling, back breaking. My dad and good friends and neighbors Sandy and Dick were basically on-call to help with everything from carpentry to weeding to irrigation blow outs to pest identification. My family, Michael and Chloe, spent every weekend at the farmers’ market with me. A few friends got random “help me I’m desperate for a tomato picker” calls and responded. Customers, friends, and strangers came out of the woodwork to help. Furthermore, I received a grant to construct the hoophouse and drip irrigation system from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and a low-interest loan from the Farm Services Agency to build the barn and septic system. In short, every structure, every plant, every idea on this farm and every dollar earned has the fingerprints of dozens of people in my family and community on it.
This farm and this year have taught me to freely ask for help and advice, to ask questions and be open to suggestions in a way I never have been. I still have a long way to go. My independent nature made accepting help and asking for it a challenge. But my pride is easily overcome by the grounding, comfortable and joyful feeling of complete interconnectedness. It is shrunk by the deep feeling of safety and gratitude I have knowing I have access to well of friends, wisdom, help, and love. I’ve come to find out that being prideful and fiercely independent isn’t as great as getting things accomplished together and wearing your red boots on the right feet.