It’s official. Finding Eminence Farm is three years old and we’re about to enter our fourth growing season. We are not the same people we were when we moved in. This business and land have changed us.
In 2015, we had a handful of seed packets, an 18 month old baby, a freshly bought farm, and a crazy idea that left our family and friends wondering what the hell we were thinking.
Fast forward three years and we have established peonies we will cut on in a few months (see past blog post about how I didn’t believe we’d ever be able to cut on them), a hoop house full of growing ranunculus and tulips, a 4 1/2 year old, an assload of seeds and plants, classes filling up, weddings booked, and our family and friends still wondering what the hell we’re doing.
Somehow we’re still here, somehow our marriage is still intact, and somehow we have a resilient kid who LOVES this farm.
The most baffling thing about our farm is the things that were textbook and should have worked did not. The things that were pipe dreams, weird, and should NOT have worked did. Here’s a list of things we’ve learned the past three years:
There is no manual on how to start a business in Illinois. There’s some pretty crummy and very vague advice online. But no one sits you down and tells you about 1099 forms, or how quickbooks works, or if you should be a DBA or LLC. We’ve paid out the nose to figure this garbage out.
Information on how to grow on our farm, with our soil, in our zone does not exist. And we have no desire to write that manual, but if you ask us a question, we’ll answer it as honestly as we possibly can.
Reach out to people, build relationships. Knock on doors virtually and physically. It’s been super surprising who is willing to open the door and who isn’t going to answer even though you know they can hear you knocking.
Visit other farms. We have learned SO MUCH VALUABLE INFORMATION about how a small farm should run by getting off our farm. And when you get to visit a farm – never show up empty handed, a small thank you gift needs to be in your hands.
We have no business acting there are “secrets to farming” or hiding growing information. The only secret we have (and it’s not a secret) is that we work hard, we work consistently, and we get back up when we’ve been knocked down or told “no”. We can tell you all about our drip irrigation, the thickness of landscape fabric we have, the types of organic pesticides we utilize, the size of our raised beds, or where we bought our BCS Tractor…we aren’t able to teach work ethic or determination. Successful farms run on a lot of sweaty ass, back breaking work by people who are blindly in love with what they are doing.
Opening up your life to strangers online is terrifying and requires stupid amounts of vulnerability. Doing close ups of my face with no makeup on in Instagram stories is not my favorite, but that’s how I look most days and I’m not going to sugar coat it when showing the behind the scenes of our business.
We have to take breaks from the farm. Spending time as a family off the farm, having dates as a married couple, and having fun are necessary in making sure we don’t lose ourselves. It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of entrepreneurship. We have to be the best versions of ourselves to be good parents and a good team. Having a love-hate relationship with our business and farm is natural. Not all of life is rainbows and unicorns and nether is running a business. It’s also taken us awhile to learn that when winter comes, we hibernate and we rest. No exceptions. Period.
We have worked like dogs, made millions of mistakes, scored amazing clients, lost really big accounts, felt like failures, royally messed up our books, spent hours fixing our books, met other kick-ass business owners, sobbed uncontrollably, and have laughed so hard until our sides hurt. But most importantly, Chris and I get to work together. And Chris is the driver behind why we’re hard working and he pushes us to be better people and challenges me to always choose kindness. We will never do this farm perfectly, but damn it it’s an honor to try.
In a few weeks, we will replace the roof over the back half of our home and the front porch. It’s not really how we want to spend our money, but we knew what we were getting into when we bought a 100 year old farm house. The peony class we will teach in May only has one seat left. Spots are still available for our other two classes. Chris will be teaching a microgreen class at Green Top Grocery with his sister in a few weeks.
I leave this post with the most important thing I have learned: chase your damn dream. Life is too short not to. If you fail, who cares. It will be messy. But you tried and now you know. Time will still barrel forward. Wouldn’t you rather say “why not” than “what if”?
Images by Finding Eminence Farm, Studio Fuze Photography, and Sara Gardner Photography.