From the Farmer

Week 27 – 11/20/2015
Well, here we are, the end of our fourth season at Willowsford Farm.  This was another season of growth for us; growth in scale and growth in experience.  The Farm has grown from fifty shares our first year (Allison, I think you were our first!  Do you remember being just about the only person living here when we started?) to 215 shares this year.  We raised one hundred laying hens two years ago and four hundred this year, collecting over three hundred eggs a day.  We raised close to a thousand dinner birds for the freezer.  The Farm Stand grew an appendage this year, too. We’ve seen a lot of new faces at the Farm Stand and we’re grateful to see those of you who returned.
There are a lot of people who make the Farm wheels turn and you don’t often meet them. You know Deb of course, as She Who Runs the Farm Stand. What you may not see are the hours behind the scenes to manage inventory and systems, bring vendors in, respond to emails, care for the garden, give tours, host volunteers, respond to emails, fill-in in the field planting, harvesting, packing, collecting eggs, moving chickens, respond to emails, holding chicken feet…In only a short tribute, Deb is the motor of the Farm, and the ignition system, and the check engine light. She keeps us moving and in our lane, regardless of what parts may be falling off the truck, which she usually makes time to pick up, too.
This is our strongest crew since we started Willowsford Farm.  Al and Lex were our full-timers this season. Al came with the experience of running his own small farm and is a rock; steady, responsible, big brother.  Lex, well, let’s just say Walter didn’t know what he was in for. Lex is going to own this Farm in the not too distant future. Nate, Jen, and Elizabeth were also here from the beginning of the season to the end. Nate is a culinary genius – avocado cupcake? Yes give me three – and reminds us how lucky we are to grow and raise things to eat.  Jen: it turns out that Jen only worked part-time, but I can’t really think of any time that she wasn’t here. Didn’t your shift end three weeks ago, Jen? Elizabeth has an eye for detail and helped us improve our focus in the packing shed, particularly. Hayden, who lives in The Grange, was here all summer and James and Pete joined us after he returned to school. Hayden is the youngest brother but may be the most mature.  James is a math wizard and Pete a pig wrangler.  You are correct that we don’t have pigs this year, but he is. They both arrived in an hour of need and then we couldn’t shake them.
The 2015 season belongs to them and this is their farm as much as anyone’s.  It’s been rewarding to work on this team. They work long hours, they come in regardless of the weather, they take responsibility and they share the good work. They laugh a lot.  Everyone in their own way helped us Escape The Room. This is our nuclear family and I’m looking forward to having them back in 2016.  Expect to hear and see more of them then.
We also have an extended family that is just as much a part of the farm.  I have to tell you that when we started the farm in 2011 I was hesitant to look to the community for help.  I realize just how wrong it was to think so.  Who knew it was so comforting to feel supported like this?  If you pick up at the Boat House you will recognize Anthony D, Loree P and Nancy M. It was invaluable to have help at our pickups away from the Farm; George P and Julianne M, too, at the Ice House and OM Center respectively.  Donna and LM for their hands and their cheer and their coffee at the Farm Stand. The Nolton’s for covert operations.
There are a lot moments in the course of the season that remind us just what we are doing. Many of those come from your greetings, stories, food in Tupperware, kids laughing, and fruitless attempts to pet Bella. One of the team was saying that their favorite is watching someone come in for their share, show their kids what they’re putting in the bag and then leave. CSA is unique in that while there is a (vital, winter) financial transaction, there is no money exchanged each week when it’s time to pick up food.  
My own favorite is when someone chooses us, chooses our veggies.  We know you don’t have to shop here. But it’s the best feeling that you do.
What we are doing all winter, to answer your question.
So what are we going to do all winter?  The question of the day these last couple weeks. Well, we’re going to start by coming in when we feel like it, after breakfast and maybe even after reading the paper. We’re going to close up the Farm, sharpen tools, pressure wash the implements and winterize the irrigation system. We write down the last of our notes from 2015.  Then we’re going to take a nap.
There is really a surprising amount of work to do in the off-season. We’re in the greenhouse in February and doing field work as soon as it’s dry enough. We start growing the crops you see in May and June in March and April. Before that that we look at the numbers from the season before; plan and respond to changes in the plan for crop rotations, quantities, varieties; place seed order; maintain, repair and set up new equipment. 
The most important equipment we need to take care of is ourselves.  Truck farms like this require a lot of attention over a long season, and most of us give to the fields and market before we give to ourselves; we stay late to close up the chickens, we’re here on Sunday because rain or frost is coming and plants need to be planted or protected; we cover when a team member doesn’t come in. And for most of us, producing and selling a product for direct market comes with emotional tolls.
Winter rest and inspiration now is as much a part of next season as seed orders.  We come to this work and life by choice and renew our commitment annually. Each year we need to remember to put ourselves in control of our own destiny, to put ourselves before the farm, and ask, is this working for us?  Do we want to do this again? If so, do we want to do it the same way? And we need to remember to ask after we take that nap.
Growing veggies like this, we tend to take our break in a lump sum instead of a couple days a week and a few weeks a year.  We recognize that a battle plan fails at that first contact with the enemy, and in battle there are few moments to stop to think; we want everything ready to go before we start again because when we do we won’t have much space for head scratching. 
Speaking of head scratching.  Please follow the link to this year’s survey. This is an unusual arrangement between community and farm. We’re trying something new and we want to hear what you’re thinking.  Please take a few minutes to tell us what you like and what you would like.  We’d like to hear from all of you, CSA lovers, haters, in-betweeners and shoppers. 
2015 Willowsford Farm CSA Survey
2016 CSA – Open
Finally, registration is open for 2016 vegetable, egg and flower shares.  Sign up HERE.  While we do have changes planned for next season, the basics will remain the same, and you’ll be able to adjust your share if you like a new option or pickup day.  Prices will go up a small amount this winter.
One change we are considering is making all shares at the Farm Stand “market style” and offering more choice at pickup.  Please take that survey or otherwise let us know what you think of this!


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Willowsford Conservancy

41025 Willowsford Lane, Aldie, VA 20105

Phone: 571-440-2400

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Willowsford Farm Stand

23595 Founders Drive, Ashburn, VA 20148

Phone: 571-297-6900

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