The News from Windflower Farm
What’s in your share?Kale mix
- Kale mix
- Red Gold potatoes
- Sweet peppers
- Green beans from Markristo Farm
Your fruit share will be peaches from Yonder Farm.
The authorities have told us it is no longer permissible to reuse pint and quart containers. We request that you recycle your berry boxes at home.
This week’s delivery marks the halfway point in the farm season. Let us know how we’ve done so far.
What’s new on the farm?
How my fellow vegetable farmers manage to make a living by working the land has always interested me. Early on, I wondered if one could still actually farm full-time for a living or whether an outside income was necessary. The first farmer I worked for, it turned out, earned most of his living selling pot. What other crops are profitable, I wondered? Here is the story of a man who has inspired me and one of the most entrepreneurial farmers I know.
A friend of mine, Guy Jones, from Blooming Hill Farm, one of the founding farmers at the Union Square Greenmarket, had for a time made most of his income by growing and selling gourmet salad mixes, or mesclun, as it was called then, each leaf hand-picked and triple rinsed. He was among the first to add nasturtiums and chervil and a host of other herbs to his beautiful and aromatic mixes. But as everyone got into the business, prices came down and he had to find new opportunities.
He found them in cut flowers. First, it was avant-garde arrangements featuring juniper branches and other unlikely wild cuttings. But then he found something special. I was reminded of Guy on a recent bike ride along a stretch of nearby swamp. There they were: cattails, Boneset, Joe Pieweed, and the invasive Purple Loosestrife, all in their prime. Guy and his team handled them just right, they made cuts on the diagonal, transferred them to clean water and buckets back at the farm so that they’d last, placed them in floral sleeves and kept them cool until market day. And he sold them by the hundreds, and quite possibly the thousands, a bit of the countryside brought to the city. I think he built his farm on that wildflower bouquet. And the beauty of it was that he didn’t have to sow a seed or pull a weed – he’d just load his team and a heap of buckets into his van and head to the nearest swamp. And they could be harvested sustainably, so long as they were not overharvested, and for as long as swampland continued to be regarded by developers as wasteland.
I was with Guy and another friend in the audience when Wendell Berry, after giving a talk about the joys of farming in his beloved Kentucky, asked the farming audience for their greatest sources of joy or hardship. “Farming is hard!” said someone. Guy stood up with his large round face, long blond ponytail, the elder amongst us, and shouted out, “Making payroll!” which is something he’d been doing for 25 years by that time. I still don’t know which it was for him – joy or hardship.
I farmed near Guy for a few years when I worked with a dozen homeless men in a recovery program, and he gave me a great deal of advice in those early days. Most valuable might have been this: “Ted, farming, like most things, is mostly about showing up. Get up early, bring your best ideas, and get to work.” As Guy has stepped back from the farm, his three sons have stepped in to take the farm through its next iteration: a farm-to-table restaurant, CSA and wedding venue. The entrepreneurial spirit has clearly passed to the next generation.
Have a great week, Ted