On Changing the Dream...
The date of our wedding is slowly approaching and will be here before we know it. I have been looking back on this year, so far, with a heart full of gratitude, joy, fullness, and excitement. So much has changed in such a short amount of time, and our family has been enjoying the wild ride. As I am sure you know by now, we thrive on change. We love new challenges and ideas, taking the spark and tending to it until it grows into a healthy fire.
This past year has also shown me what can happen when a dream-turned-business can become, well… work. Not play. In fact, this year has been a LOT of work and hardly any play. Some may say that’s what it’s supposed to be like. Somewhere in the past two years of farming I lost my passion for writing. First I lost time, then energy, and finally inspiration. It’s something that I have been battling with for a long time, wistfully wishing to just pull it together and bust out the work while simultaneously wondering why I am even sharing our lives on the internet at all. What was the point if I wasn’t getting paid? In case you were wondering, I do not get paid to write this blog nor am I cool enough to get paid to influence products… and I kind of hate the whole influencer thing anyway. I would much rather “influence” someone to live a healthier, happier lifestyle growing their own food. Okay, rant over!
Well, I now see the point. It’s fun. It brings me joy. It’s something I cannot even explain why I like it, which leads me to believe that there is something important about it. I kind of feel the same way about all of the things I love. They’re difficult for me to describe why.
This year, while one of the best years of my life, has also been one of the hardest.
It started off with an omen; a letter from a reader (not meant to be sent to me) that said “Now she’s teaching classes… they probably won’t even have time for markets. Eye roll.” Ouch. Negativity bites. It also makes you question EVERYTHING you are doing! But it happens, and thankfully, this person and I were able to laugh about it afterwards. I did wonder at this time if we were going in over our heads, but I decided to trudge on anyways. I made it through before, I could do it now!
I’ve come to learn that it’s pretty normal for me to have a nervous breakdown at least once a year. Well, mine came a few weeks ago in the kitchen in the middle of cooking dinner. We, meaning our family, had been questioning whether or not this business model was working. There were inner workings being discussed. Maybe the business should just go to me, maybe we should quit doing CSA, maybe we should open a restaurant or a catering business, maybe we should only sell to restaurants. The truth of it was, while farming is amazing and beautiful and scary and sweaty and fulfilling… it doesn’t make a lot of money. And really, while this business is about living more simply and nourishing our bodies and the bodies of those in our community, it is also about money. Not lots and lots of money, but enough money to live on. And that is something that farming on one acre with a small local clientele does not exactly have to offer.
We all stood around in the kitchen at that moment, as I sobbed an embarrassing amount of tears and talked in tones I was not proud of, wondering what the next move should be. I knew one thing was for sure: I did not want to do CSA or sell vegetables anymore. I love growing vegetables and I love seeing people take them home. But I had to have a come-to-jesus moment there. Was farming vegetables ever going to be the way to earn a living at the scale I was currently at? The answer was a resounding no. It was not. Were there ways that we could increase our productivity and eventually grow to the place we needed to be? Of course.
That does not mean that it fit the dream. And there were several other factors standing in my way, like having more children and teaching and writing and more, that were higher on my list of priorities. Still, I felt this gigantic weight of, “It’s no longer your dream, but you’ve invested so much in this. Don’t quit.” I am sure many of you feel the same way, and I hate to be a major disappointment.
The reality is that dreams do change, and that’s okay. It’s part of business and life to evolve. As Under A Tin Roof reaches it’s fourth anniversary and heads into its fifth year, I knew that somewhere along the way to becoming a farmer I had lost myself as a creative. The garden suddenly felt like this mountain I could hardly climb, and it was no longer beautiful to me. I missed my backyard garden. But I would also miss all of the ground we’d made way to cover.
After my breakdown and a few more in the days following, when all felt hopeless and unstable and full of mystery and regret, it was time to come down to a decision. For a long time we had it set in our minds that we would start a catering company and serve our customers with farm fresh meals and farm-to-table meals and other events. I think that idea is amazingly cool and fresh. There are places like that lacking in our area. But it just didn’t seem to fit right, in all ways. Then I had to stop and be asked, “What do you really want to do?” Write. I wanted to write about my garden, about homesteading. What we were doing no longer felt like homesteading.
I realized that I had to take the time to realign and learn how to say no to things I thought I needed to accomplish. And it’s been hard. The truth was, CSA was wearing me down to my core, especially with the kind of year we have had in terms of weather and growth. We have had a lot of crop fails this year, but we have also had many wins too. Our vegetables have never looked more beautiful, been so large, or tasted so sweet. It can really make you swell with pride. We lost out on a lot of things (namely onions and potatoes). And I feel like all I’ve done this season is apologize to our CSA members. Subscription services are stressful, and I realized it was time to say no and move forward. But forward into what?
As my life propels forward and new additions arrive, like a husband and the hope of future children, I knew that this business was also something I would be taking along with me. One day, it will be mine to own alone, and one day it will be a legacy I leave for my children. Looking that far ahead into the future is something that can make you both excited and fearful all at the same time. What if I mess up? As someone who often is in need of concrete ideas, I knew that a decision needed to be made for own my sanity.
And we decided that flowers would be our focus. It made the most sense and was sitting right in front of our faces. After three years of flower growing, they made a noticeable profit and were easier to grow and maintain as a one-woman/one-family operation. They make us happy, and we love to arrange them. They are one of our best selling classes and are some of our most sought-after blog posts. It was all coming full circle, and I knew that we could still take advantage of our production field while also having a large family garden that we could make beautiful again. I really miss our Little Homestead garden, you guys! We could feel like homesteaders again, and I could focus more energy into this space.
So that’s what our plan is now, as we near our business anniversary. The 2020 season looks exciting and bright as we forge ahead and finish out 2019. I hope that you all are just as excited as we are. For those of you curious, we will still offer a smaller selection of vegetables for sale as we scale back, and we hope to offer more floral classes at the Country Store. Our hope is to turn the flower field into a u-pick option as well, as we have really been enjoying having that as an option this year!
Here’s to changing your dream!