We thought we were immune. We thought it had so much to do with the conscious effort we put into being a great place to work. But it turns out it must have been plain dumb luck. Because here we are mid-March without a full farmily in place. I try hard not to be afraid of the unknown. I know that things always work themselves out. But I can’t help the human part of me that wants to at least influence how those things work out.
So we talk sometimes about exit planning. Usually we talk about it in times of deep stress, which can happen, if infrequently. But I feel like I just learned, after 15 years of being here working this land, not to worry about our future as farmers as much—that we’ll figure out how to survive and keep farming. Farming is a tough career choice. As Americans, we have always paid a much lower percentage of our income for food, which makes growing food a very tight margin to live by. But it is also a deeply satisfying career choice. Feeding people gets you down to the very basis of existence. Your job always feels important on some level. This is one of the things I love about farming.
But now, we too, have fallen victim to the strange economy in which we’re operating. Our costs have risen dramatically, we’re in a record-low unemployment situation, and we’re, for the first time, encountering trouble filling out our fantastic farmily.
Every year offers up a new problem, it seems. Whether it’s a new pest or disease, a new weather pattern such as the 90 inches of rain we received a few years back (for reference, 50 inches is “normal” here), the Covid-19 uncertainty, or what have you. And we’ve pivoted, adapted, learned, and survived. But we have never ever had a dearth of applicants who wish to do this work and participate in this lifestyle. So of course, it’s terrifying. It’s the scariest new problem to arise, borne of our own hubris in thinking we were immune to this common theme because we had “put the work in”.
So here comes the ole’ exit-planning chatter again. “Can we do this with just the current crew?” “Should we downsize?” “Can we go back to working constantly, including nights and weekends?” And the fear of the answers, and the wondering what-in-the-world-else we might do, and back to the scrambling, and “am I too old for this?” Apparently, we have just joined the club of every employer looking to hire. It’s not a club we wanted or intended to join, but here we are, speaking the same language—scrambling to figure out how to get the work done with fewer of us.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.