Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s hard for retail’s darker angels to parasitize a celebration that is essentially an observation of gratitude. And I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. This year I’m thankful that we’ve made it through to the end of the season in relatively good order. We’ve had our challenges.
The weather didn’t help this year. The exceptionally cool, overcast summer caused the heat loving crops like sweet peppers, tomatoes and eggplant to grow slowly. Then, all of a sudden we had 104 degree temperatures and the peppers especially, weren’t ready for it. Almost every pepper got roasted on one side by the blaze of the sun; an almost total crop loss. But that’s farming. Thankfully, other crops preferred the cool weather, and the tomatoes struggled through against the odds– maybe not it the quantities that I needed to afford our supporters a nice U-Pick this year, but there’s always next year.
Family life was far more challenging than farming this year. Julia was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. There were anxious months of appointments and waiting, tests and waiting, struggles with the insurance company and waiting, prescriptions prescribed and waiting. Thankfully, things could be a lot worse. Julia was accepted into the breast cancer program at UCSF and her program treatment has begun. She feels like she’s in good hands. The prognosis for managing the disease is good, and she feels well when she’s not feeling the side-effects of the chemo drugs. I want to thank Gayle, our book keeper, and Shelley, your CSA administrator, and all of Julia’s friends, for the support and loving attention they’ve given her.
This year I’ve sometimes felt distracted and stressed by the competing demands of farm and family, but thankfully Julia and I have got a great crew of people helping us out. I especially want to thank Gildardo, Jose, Ramon and Nato for keeping all the plantings on schedule. I first hired these men when I worked at Riverside Farms back in the early 90s. Then they worked with me when I was a founding partner in Happy Boy Farms. I’ve always been able to count on their work ethic and good will, but this year, seeing the worries I had, they really kicked it up a notch. I also want to thank Manuel, Lourdes, and Guillermo for their attentive work packing, and Elias, Adam, Miguel, and Gerardo for all their help with the driving chores. Thanks to our crew, Mariquita Farm’s fields are looking filled out, well groomed, and winter ready.
Julia’s diagnosis has prompted us to reassess our priorities. The Two Small Farms CSA program started out over eight years ago when Julia and Jeanne would meet each other in the park with little kids pulling on their legs. They talked about what it meant to be married to farms and farmers. They speculated that two small, too small, struggling farms might not have to struggle so much if they cooperated, and that two struggling farmwife/mothers might not have to work so hard if they shared tasks. So Two Small Farms was born; Jeanne, Stephen, Julia and I working together to solve problems. And thanks to you all, our community of supporters, for eight years, the Two Small Farms CSA has been a success.
A lot has changed in eight years. The kids are older now and aren’t pulling on our legs any longer, only stretching our patience- and our minds- at times. Each farm has developed into a sturdy little business; High Ground Organics with a new ranch, a farm stand, and a farmers’ market stall, Mariquita Farm with a restaurant delivery route, a bulk sales delivery program, and additional leased acreage to farm. Julia has “retired.” She works too hard and she likes to work too much to actually stop doing things for the farm, but she needs the liberty to pay attention to her health. I need to focus my efforts on our issues and can no longer hold up our end of the Two Small Farms partnership. I’m not “retiring” from farming or from community supported agriculture; that’s not an option or a desire. But each of the two small farms is now strong enough and diversified enough to stand alone, and I want to focus on a farming program and business plan that fits my life. Starting in the 2011 season Two Small Farms CSA will once again become two small farms; still small, but no longer “too small.” And finally, I want to thank Jeanne and Stephen and the crew at High Ground Organics for eight great years of growing together.
Going forward, each farm’s CSA share-box prices and policies will stay the same in the 2011 harvest year, and the quality and variety of the produce we each grow for you can even get better. Look for details on how we’re dividing up the csa delivery routes between High Ground Organics and Mariquita Farm in our Two Small Farms December newsletter. And thank you for all your support.
copyright 2010 Andy Griffin
Julia’s Note: so… this is the same letter we’re sending out to our Two Small Farms list… but we likely won’t send the same letter in the future? and me? well… I’ve started a little blog about this cancer nonsense called Four Crying Out Loud (stage 4 cancer… get it?). And while the docs tell me “I will likely ultimately die from this disease” we’re looking at it as a chronic thing, with decades left in me. I feel good nearly all days, and I’m fired up about life. Yoga, kids, cooking, farming, traveling, art, music, all of it. Let’s just say it’s not the last you’ve heard from me. love, Julia
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