In retrospect, my farmer-destiny should have been clear to me as a kid when I realized just how much I loved the Winter Solstice. Maybe it’s that I’m an introvert, but while everyone else bemoaned the lack of light, I found it calming. The deep darkness of December and January gave me the chance to draw inward, to rest and refill reservoirs, to indulge fanciful dreams and ambitions, to make ever-more-audacious plans for the coming year. At the same time, the prospect of returning light focused my mind, knowing that the busy and chaotic days of spring and summer were on their way.
You see, that’s how farmers view winter, as a sacred time to be savored, as a vital time to be maximized. Because once the calendar turns to February, even, the sprint of the veggie-growing season has begun again. Talk to a farmer over MLK weekend, and you’re likely to get into a deep conversation about agricultural philosophy and vision. Talk to a farmer over Presidents Day weekend, and you’re likely to be bored by slightly frazzled talk of spreadsheets and soil amendments and seed orders.
Oh, right, I should introduce myself. Hi, my name’s Brian Massey, and back in November the good folks at Common Good City Farm gave me the honor of becoming their new Farm Manager. Ever since, I’ve been diving into the work of winter, I’ve been doing the sprint before the sprint. I’ve been trying to maximize that love of darkness I discovered as a kid, because believe it or not, even as the remnants of Snowzilla cover the ground, the growing season is right around the corner. I’m trying to grow as much good food as possible on our little farm, so there’s a lot to do.
For example, I recently completed our crop plan for 2016, and as I copy-and-pasted the final formula into the final column, I was shocked to discover that our first crops need to be seeded in the greenhouse on February 5th! As in, next Friday. Yikes! Just like that, the to-do list in my head auto-populated with all sorts of new tasks. I need to close the seed catalogs and find a greenhouse – almost there! – and buy soil mix and buy seeds and… no sweat, right?
Other winter-work in which I’ve been immersed includes: building new compost bins and implementing a new community compost system; learning about and managing the incredible resource that is our fruit tree orchard; designing (and then buying and installing) a new and innovative irrigation system optimized for urban agriculture; maximizing the potential of our new high tunnel to expand our season and grow more food throughout the year.
It’s a lot, and it’s glorious.
As you folks get to know me, you’ll quickly find out that I’m obnoxiously ambitious, forever restless, questioning and dreaming and planning far more than is good for me – or anyone around me, for that matter. But the joy and serenity of farming comes for me in that there’s an expiration date on that kind of work, and it’s rapidly approaching. Pretty soon we’ll just be moving, we’ll just be doing, we’ll just be enacting whatever hair-brained ideas I came up with in the darkness of January.
I’m pretty sure it’ll be fun, but I know it’ll be delicious. I’ll keep writing here as much as possible, and I look forward to having y’all along for the ride.