This has been another crazy week here on our farm. I did a lot of traveling for photography jobs and for our farm. So much, that I set a new record of eating McDonalds for lunch three days this week. #winning
Here’s what goes on behind a photoshoot our farm:
I had a lot of awesome opportunities to talk to people about what we’re doing (in case you’re just joining us, we’re farming 1/10 of an acre in cut flowers and vegetables and are bumping up to 1/2 acre next year) and also got to listen to what others are doing in the local, small-scale farming industry as well.
I walked away from this summer with a lot of things to mull over. We’ve only been doing this since March 2015, and I still have so much that I want/need to know, but here are some key things I want you to know about Finding Eminence Farm and about other viable, strong small-scale farms:
- Farming is back-breaking work. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to produce a high-quality, marketable product. A grower or farmer who tells you otherwise isn’t doing it right.
- There is no such thing as “chemical free” farming. Everything on Earth is a chemical. You are a chemical. Oxygen is a chemical. Water is a chemical compound. You can farm without “synthetic” chemicals, but a farm can never be chemical free.
- Weeds are awful and a good farmer will do everything they can to keep the weeds at bay. Weed management is NOT an option, it is a requirement. At Finding Eminence Farm, we’ve busted our buns keeping ahead of the weeds. We don’t spray herbicides of any kind, we utilize landscape fabric, organic mulches, and collinear hoes to stay ahead of the weeds. (See #1 regarding “back-breaking work.”) If it’s hard to distinguish where the crop is in a bed of weeds, the crop is not growing at its full potential and you are receiving sub-par products. Weeds will always exist in any growing situation, but you should be able to tell the difference between crop and weed.
- Ultimately mother nature plays the biggest role in a farm’s production. It’s scary giving over control and knowing there are some elements you don’t have any say over. That being said, a smart farmer will do everything in their power to control weeds, irrigation, and diseases. At Finding Eminence Farm, we utilize drip tape, landscape fabric, and spray a crop if we’re about to lose it. We have put too much time and especially money into our plants to just “see how it goes.” We have mouths to feed and contracts to fulfill, so we’ll be damned if we don’t have a viable growing plan in place. So far, we’ve been able to grow without the use of synthetic chemicals for all of our produce and nearly all of our flowers, and we’re mighty proud of that.
- We keep extensive records on everything we plant which leads to a very educated decision-making process for how we price things. We know exactly how long it took to grow, water, and weed each crop and have done research to know what that crop is selling for across the country. We also take into account the added vase life, fragrance, and vibrancy that our flowers have over the stuff being shipped from Timbuktu. We hope to one day send our son to college, so we don’t just guess our pricing models.
- We do not have horticultural backgrounds. Chris is a full-time high school English teacher and I’m a full-time graphic designer and photographer with a background in Marketing. We have done everything we possibly can to educate ourselves on how to grow well on a commercial scale. Chris has had the wonderful opportunity to attend the New Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers Class through the U of I. We have spent an exorbitant amount of time following the industry leaders’ blogs, pouring over books, and understanding that we’re never done learning. We have not relied on YouTube or looking at pictures to figure it out, nor have we just thrown seed in the ground hoping it will grow. We’ve done research on what grows well in our zone and talk regularly with our clients and markets about what we need to be growing. We don’t just grow what we want to grow, we grow what YOU want us to be growing. (See last week’s blog post…)
- We have a hoop house to extend our growing season beyond the summer. Again, we’ve done extensive research on what plants go in that prime real estate.
- Everything we sell to you, we have grown. All of our flower varieties have been specifically bred for cut flower production. This ensures that you receive a high quality product that has been grown and processed correctly.
- Lastly, we believe that you should be aware of every part of our farming process. Which is why we have a website, not just a facebook page, where you can quickly and easily discover everything about us removed from the white noise of social media. We don’t believe in spouting off facts that are completely based on emotions, instead of research. We want you to be aware of our growing process to see we have nothing to hide. It can become easy for any grower to dodge questions or be false about origin. We think that our story matters. We want you to know where your food and flowers come from.
There is no sort of professional designation that distinguishes a profitable, professional farmer from a hobby gardener pretending to be one. Unfortunately, it’s on the consumer to know what questions to ask about how their food and flowers are grown.
So what questions do you, the consumer, need to ask?
Well, we’re right here. Ask away. We have no secrets on this hilltop. We’re not afraid of helping out the competition. In our minds, the more of us there are, the more people will feel compelled to buy local and care more where and how things are grown.