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Intro

An introduction to the blog…

Welcome! This blog intends to give you — a person who undoubtedly eats, and maybe even grows some food yourself — a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process of growing healthful produce for market. What’s it really like, in this day and age, to farm the land?

It was definitely my romantic streak that got me into this business in the first place, and I’ll bet you harbor some romantic sentiments about farms, too. Big red barns. Romps in the hay. Fields of sheep baa-ing into the morning. Hens clucking merrily as they wander around in the tall grass, trailing a dozen little fluffy chicks behind them. A big ole John Deere tractor, shiny and green, in the driveway. That sort of thing.

That was my vision, too. And then there’s the reality: early mornings, no weekends, down and dirty, nitty and gritty, besieged by plague, pestilence, drought, fire, and flood. Invasions of cucumber beetles hell-bent on eating every last seedling. Forget the big red barn barn and fields full of sheep — you’ll be cultivating whatever tiny scrap of land you can afford (or are permitted to squat on.)

First and foremost, this is the behind-the-scenes look at the trials and tribulations of a first-year farmer (now a fourth year farmer!). But I’m also going to try and provide you with some information that might be helpful if you choose to “grow your own,” whether your plans involve a full-on farm, medium-sized market garden, a small backyard, or a three-foot windowsill.  I’ll offer tips on hardy crops and laying chickens, as well as some “do as I say, not as I did” advice gleaned from any of my many farming disasters.

I hope you enjoy it.

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Want to know how our story started?

[Here's the initial introduction to the blog, written during our first year of farming in 2008.]

I love a farmer.

Well, sort of.

I’m not a farmer’s daughter, not a farmer’s wife–in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m not even a farmer’s first cousin, second cousin, niece, granddaughter, goddaughter, or aunt. Nope: I’m in what seems to be a rather rare category. To identify my class, I prefer to spin off from the more common concept of ‘farmer’s wife': the ‘aspiring farmer’s girlfriend.’ The awkward tentativeness of the phrase is entirely intentional–because this, as you’ll see, is an entirely awkward business. On our best days we’re tentative; on our worst, we’re confused and helpless, arguing over whether the long skinny white Thing coming out of the flaccid potato is a root or a sprout. (Emmett, the sort-of farmer I love, won that argument. Although it lacked any evidence of chlorophyll or leaf and grew in a decidedly root-like clump, the Thing was indeed a sprout and after two weeks has finally budded leaves, proving Emmett’s theory.)

But before I clue you in on our trials and tribulations (and trials), a little background on the absurdity of our adventure. We’re both twenty-five, with a healthy appreciation for all things environmental. We both like cooking and eating food. Emmett even likes growing things, and has had success doing so in the past. So far, so good. But while he tended beets and radishes on the windowsill of his dorm room, I was busy pulling the last strawberries out of my backyard, thinking them weeds. (What that says about the fate of the royal burgundy pole beans under my care, only time will tell.)

After graduating with similar environmental science Master’s degrees in 2006 and 2007 — his emphasizing urban planning and mine communication — we spent a bit of time testing the waters. I took an internship as an environmental reporter in the farm-friendly town of Port Townsend, Washington. Emmett consulted part-time and spent one day a week at nearby Frog Hill Farms in exchange for a week’s worth of fresh produce. After that, we took our savings (along with a miserable exchange rate) to New Zealand, where we lived out of a van named Boris, backpacked through the Southern Alps, and worked on organic farms through WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). As the Southern Hemisphere summer turned to fall and then winter, bringing rain down on our leaky van and frosts through its ill-insulated frame, we returned home to California. Just in time for summer, although not — as you’ll see — quite in time for planting season.

So here we are, feeling a little out of place driving on the right side of the road. (NZ’s a true colony, remember.) While friends — many of whom have come to the conclusion that the economic waters are currently fetid, and should be avoided as much as possible — have headed to PhDs, law school, or just-squeeze-by-for-now jobs, we’ve decided quite the opposite: the time is ripe for a start-up.

Which brings me, finally, to the patch. We’re going one up on Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver. Not only are we going to attempt to provide for ourselves, we’re hoping to provide for a host of other people — and make money doing it. We have a few things going for us: free land, a roof over our heads, and some tools. Emmett’s dad grows grapes, and our veggie patch is a dusty brown anomaly amid acres of startlingly green vineyard. (The vines were ripped out of our 2-acre rectangle post harvest, and won’t be replanted until spring, giving us a window of growing opportunity.) The family business means that there’s never a shortage of hoes, shovels, water, or small farm vehicles to move things around. I admit: we have a bit of a head start, so it’s not a perfect experiment.

But nothing I do is perfect. And if you’ve read any of this blog at all, you’ll know that we’ve definitely got some handicaps when it comes to farming the land.  To hear about our successes and disasters, and to learn a bit more about who we are and what we’re up to, read on!

-Lynda

[Editorial note: we successfully finished our first season of market sales in 2008; we improved our crops and our sales every week, built up a regular customer base, and made many new friends in the process. And, well, we liked it enough not only to keep going, but also to expand... and we're now headed into our 4th season of farming, and our 3rd season of running a CSA!]


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Holly Shepard permalink
    September 3, 2008 9:32 pm

    Lynda and Emmett — I enjoyed seeing you 8/23, and
    later appreciated your good produce back in SF.
    And now, along with Kirstin Conti, I have a question
    for you about the possibility of your presenting to a
    group of 15-20 “young professionals” (22-32) in SF’s
    Presidio Sat., 9/27, around 2:00 — you have a lot to
    offer (plus if you are ever interested in CSAs, it could
    be a bit of an opportunity).
    I know you are incredibly busy — but I’d love to
    talk with you for a minute about it. Could you let me
    know contact info for you? all best. Holly Shepard

  2. September 9, 2008 6:26 am

    Hi Lynda. I’d like to interview you for my new blog about local eating/sustainable gardening in Massachusetts. Could you shoot me an email so we can talk? (And please feel free to delete this comment. I couldn’t find an email address, so I figured this would work.)

  3. Patrick Kirkhuff permalink
    March 24, 2009 8:09 pm

    What a beautiful website. My wife & I have some land outside Portland, OR, where we live. It almost breaks even growing winter or spring wheat. I was attracted to your site by the mention of quinoa, which I love and am startled by the price of at markets, when it’s available. I’m a little curious how your crop turned out.

    • farming101 permalink*
      April 7, 2009 1:00 pm

      Glad you found our little blog. The Quinoa grew marvelously–enormous plants heavy with seed. The only problem is that we have no experience removing the seed from the plant and soaking the seed to remove the bitter coating. So…our quinoa is all dried and piled up on the plant still, where it has been since last fall when we harvested it. It sounds like you have more experience dealing with grains than we do– any suggestions? I haven’t experimented with it much, just because, well, life gets in the way and it’s not my top priority. I would love to grow more though if I can find a good way to get the seed off.

      • Christina Pollock permalink
        July 23, 2010 6:15 am

        Hi Lynda, Thanks so much for your blog! I am an intern at a very small farm in the Santa Cruz mountains (hot days, cool nights, less than well-drained soil) where, in addition to tree fruits, berries and vegetables, we are growing some grains and legumes experimentally. Quinoa seems to be my grain of choice lately and we’re interested in growing some. I was wondering if you tried it out again this season, if you discovered a means to thresh the grain, and if you have any growing tips. I’m sure you all are super busy right now, but we’d love to hear back when you have the chance. Thank you!

        Christina

  4. Wendy permalink
    June 1, 2009 7:18 pm

    I am a local Girl Scout Leader in Windsor and our troop is learning about gardens and good soil and worm composting. I noticed Farm Trails lists you under worms, is worm composting something we could learn about at your farm? Thanks for any info.

    Wendy

  5. Zetta permalink
    June 15, 2009 7:26 pm

    Hello!

    Is your farm available for a group visit on June 27, Sat? We would love to do some u-pick harvesting! All woman from SF, about 15 of us. Your farm looks so beautiful.

    Thank you!

    Zetta

  6. April permalink
    September 9, 2009 8:59 pm

    Hi!

    Will your farm be open for visiting during the farm trails weekend of Sept. 26 and 27?

    Thanks!

  7. Deloria Many Grey Horses permalink
    April 10, 2011 11:34 am

    Greetings,

    I just wanted to say what an awesome job the two of you are doing! I just stumbled upon your website and I am really excited to spend more time on here and learn more about all the neat things you are doing. Also, really excited to pick up your new book Linda, “The Wisdom of the Radish.”

    It is inspiring to see young people motivated not only caring about their own health but also the health of others! Right on!

    Deepest Gratitude,
    Dee Mgh

  8. steve mangini permalink
    May 26, 2011 12:46 pm

    Lynda..can we get you to do a tv program about your farm experiences and spread the word..enjoyed your book it was awesome…I thought I was too old to learn something new ..but I did..great job!!

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