Tim and I just returned from two days at the West Virginia Small Farm Conference in Morgantown.
My head is full of new ideas as I stare out at our dormant fields and garden beds. Everything looks a little different to me now- my lens is wider. The land is pulsing with potential.
It was inspiring to be in the company of hundreds of small farmers dedicated to the same things- healthy living, healthy eating and a sustainable worklife. Our friend, Steve Martin of Church View Farm, says his farm life is his vocation, recreation and avocation all wrapped up in one. I understand that now. I wondered why I’ve had no desire to leave our farm even to drive to Winchester to shop. But it is true- everything I want is right here on our new farm- healthy food, exercise, creative adventure, spiritual sustenance, relaxation, connection to the living. A farm is a multi-dimensional life- one-stop shopping
The farmers we met ranged in age from early twenties to their eighties. Everyone of them seemed to care about each others’ success. Their backgrounds were as varied as one can imagine- those who are preserving a family farm tradition, those who have left the city life to try a life of farming, young people with college and masters degrees wanting to innovate and improve farming techniques while working outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and everyone caring about a healthier life for their families and community. At first, I was shy about admitting that ours is now a Hobby Farm (for pleasure first, production second) and that we are novices in our fifties. But the spirit of the workshops and keynote talks focused on our shared predicament- helping each other support the art and science of small farms. We are all in it together, no matter the size of the role we play.
Tim and I went to workshops together and separately… we have a lot of notes to share! He got very excited about the raising fish for local markets, small egg production and solar/wind classes. I was inspired learning about growing crops in high and low tunnels to extend the season. I learned alot about drip irrigation (that will save hours of hand watering!)
We both loved hearing farmers share their first-hand lessons on farming and marketing their crops in more sustainable, profitable, wiser ways. They smiled and shook their heads telling tales of “first year lessons”. Ha! That’s us. We are still in our first year. Everything is new learning. We don’t even know what we don’t know.
But like a toddler taking those first steps, we are pulled to keep experimenting. We are curious about what waits around the corner. We expect to “fall down” a lot and we know there is a large and generous community of fellow farmers looking out for us.
Time to go check on the melting garden…