Thursday, February 28, 2019

Calling it a career

So, we've decided to end the great Three Plaid Farmers endeavor. It was a good run. Tough decision. But our lives have sort of taken us in this direction. And it gradually became clear that it was the right thing to do.

I'm not going to go into all the little details that caused us to take this course (there was a wide variety of factors that played into the decision, both personally and professionally), but I think it's probably important to briefly address the state of the small organic vegetable farm in this economy.

In short, the profit margin on vegetables is just too small in this country. People are not accustomed to paying an appropriate price for organic veggies grown on a small scale in their neighborhood. Maybe the organic part or the neighborhood part just aren't worth that much to people. Which is fine. We have been habituated to the pricing of large-scale industrial agriculture. It's going to take a lot of perceptual changes and priority adjustments to embrace a model of produce production that values other factors over end-user price. I'm just not sure that this particular concern ranks high in the American sociopolitical landscape (which, you know, I get; it's a big ship to steer).

Despite the difficulty of making money in this particular part of the industry, we turned a profit every year of our existence as a farm. Which I consider quite the accomplishment based on my knowledge of other farms doing similar things. The problem was that it just wasn't enough profit to make a good living. Ultimately, we could've scaled up and increased revenue. Or we could've ditched our commitment to diversity and focused solely on high-margin crops. Or we could've greatly increased the price of CSA shares. None of these avenues appealed to us. Which makes us either stubborn or bad business people. Or both.

We individually typically worked around 70 hours a week during peak veggie season. There was some kind of work to be done seven days a week. It was often mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing. But it was also extremely rewarding in a lot of ways, which kept us doing this thing for about a decade. The scales have finally been tipped the other way. We're definitely mourning the loss, but hoping that maybe we had some small impact on how people view food, and perhaps we played some part in making this a potentially viable career for folks who have a passion for small-scale, land-and-people-focused agriculture.

We want to thank all our family and friends who supported us in this endeavor over the years. I mean, without your support this would've been impossible. We also want to thank all our CSA members, especially those who went on this journey with us for multiple seasons. We grew these vegetables with love because we knew you were passionate about it right along with us. We felt pride in the fact that our labor was for something positive: keeping history alive, healthy land, your nourishment, the growth of your families. It's truly been an honor.

We're going to miss sharing the stories of all these great vegetables and fruits and herbs and the coincident intersection of our small lives with yours all wrapped up in this giant blob of history that propels us into one crazy improvisation. The world is weird and beautiful. We're so happy for the experience.

With love,
Your farmers

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