My days off are for recovery. Recovery from 18-hour store days, the pressures of timelines, and being beholden to timers, schedules, and management. At the same time, it is time that allows me to focus on the farm, store, and family. Trying to fix those things that have been put on the back burner, clearing head space to allow for clarity of mind to do it all again the next week, and develop plans for the future of our farm.
2022 has been an exhausting test of patience, productivity, management, trust, the future of farming, and personal growth. Farming is probably one of the most exhausting and at the same time, rewarding careers one could choose. However, most people living in and around farmers are only visually aware of what our lives are like. Visually seeing farmers out in the fields making hay while the sun shines, early morning lights in the barns to get animals cared for and milked while getting food harvested in a timely fashion in order to preserve or get it to market on time and in as nutritious of a state as possible.
Our agricultural magazines and subscriptions bring us the news of constant work by our USDA and state departments to help alleviate the depressed prices that farmers are getting for food, in particular, those in the Northeast whose cost of production is almost double what it is in the Midwest and beyond. Meanwhile, we are continually losing both organic and conventional dairy and crop farmers throughout New England. Why? Because the “Cows were out” over 6 months ago. For those of you not aware of that term, let me elaborate with a story.
A few years ago, Nezinscot Farm Store had a situation where 700 lbs of its organic pork was compromised at a butcher shop due to a disgruntled business owner. I turned to state officials for emergency help. That official was unable to respond until 4 days later.
“What can I do for you Mrs. Varney” I knew he grew up on a farm so I asked him the question. “If I say to you the cows are out sir, and you are having lunch, do you finish your lunch, or immediately run out to get them corralled before they run into the road and bring potential harm to oncoming vehicles”? Well of course I would run out to take care of the cows before finishing. I then responded and said, “The cows were out for me 4 days ago, and there is nothing you can do to change the damage that was created now.” 700 lbs of meat was tossed in a landfill. I thanked him for his call and asked that the next time a farmer called for help that he would remember that the cows being out should always take immediate precedence, and inform his staff of it as well.
For many farmers, the cows have been out for about a year now. Help is hard to find, the cost of keeping a herd of cows is getting out of hand, and the desire to continue to provide food for others is, for many in the northeast, no longer of interest or priority, and the future of farming for them is questionable.
It is times like these, that I need my days and weeks off to brainstorm, think of options for the future given the barriers that are present, and try to keep the cows, goats, and sheep in as best as I can.
In the meantime, the only message and help that I can ask for from all of you who are part of our growing family, is to perhaps make it a new years resolution to shop and eat local as much as possible.
Know and care where your food comes from, and go to farmers’ markets when they are in season while also encouraging your children to help and work on farms.
Don’t assume that just because the grocery store shelves are full of food the cows aren’t out; they are, you just don’t see them.
As bleak as this end-of-year blog may seem, know that I am more committed than ever to continue on. Gregg and I have always had this saying of being foolishly optimistic when it came to farming as a career option. It has worked thus far, we’ve seen lots of changes and have made changes to compensate for that which has been dealt to us each year.
I have to remember the meaning of the word Nezinscot- “to descend upon” and the importance that it plays in our community and my outlook on the farm because of this meaning. It will always be that place for people to gather, and I will always be one of the caretakers responsible for its upkeep.