This question comes up a lot!
People associate farming with working outside (rightfully so), and have romantic ideas about growers kicking back by the fire, or jetting off to a foreign land each winter. While a bit of both are definitely goals I hope to reach one day, there is still a lot of work on a farm in winter.
Best laid plans
Each fall and winter I begin to map out the field and hoop house with crops for the coming season. I consult the lists I've scribbled all season, and screen captures on my phone of things that I want to grow. A lot of culling takes place after I consider production costs and market demand.
A hundred here, a hundred there...
This is how my husband, Mike, describes farm spending in winter. The amount of money invested during a time when cash flow is almost zero, is... Well, sometimes you just want to run and hide and ignore that sinking feeling in your gut.
Seeds, plants, and bulbs are ordered and require payment, even if they won't ship for months. Tools and equipment plus repair parts are purchased. Supplies are replenished. Compost is ordered by the truckload, along with our organic fertilizers and soil amendments. Basically we try to anticipate everything we'll need so we're not suddenly without it during the long hectic days ahead.
My favorite part of winter work is developing new products and services. Sometimes they're ideas that have been quietly incubating for seasons, just waiting for the right conditions to hatch. Often they are in direct response to feedback we've received from our customers (thank you!). There's a lot of culling here, too. Sometimes we have to drop a product or account if it isn't meeting expectations.
I'm excited to tell you more about what's in the works for 2017 in a future post!
Since farming is so demanding during the growing season (12 to 14+ hour days are not uncommon), there are many things that simply get ignored. Bookkeeping is one of them. I start each spring with the best intentions, but by June, the receipts and other paperwork just become a big mountain on my desk, not to be unearthed until January.
And yes, of course we do rest more when the mercury drops. We eat a proper dinner, at a normal time. Suddenly we're news junkies, making up for summer's disconnection and skimmed headlines.
And sometimes I go to bed at 9:00. Just because I can.
Running a farm is just like running any other business, especially when you're in the throes of start-up. While the days are less demanding when the cold winds blow, it's really just an evening-out of intense commitments from the growing season.
A quieter season, where a love of farming is rekindled.