If you follow the farm on Instagram (@1450farm), you’ll sometimes see Shannon post that farming is hard. It is. As I mention last week, we lost some turkeys in the brooder, and while they were just a few day old turkeys, it’s still not fun to dispose of dead things. While I was sick, Shannon had to remove our neighbor’s dead cat from the garage and last weekend she took on turkey-disposal duty. I’m typically the one that deals with death on the farm, but she had to take over that role recently and it was hard on her. I’ve dispatched several chickens over the years and it’s something that, while I’ve grown used to, still leaves me sad. One of the benefits of death on the farm, however, is that it provides an opportunity to see what parts of our management can be improved to hopefully remediate losses in the future. While not the most enjoyable way to learn, at least something good can come from loss.
Well, since we last blogged, we suffered more loss on the farm. No, we didn’t lose any more animals, but we lost a significant portion of our garden. We had a tremendous hail storm move through the farm in the night last week and when we went out the next morning we saw our once-thriving garden ravaged. Our 120+ tomato plants were stripped of foliage and had broken limbs and dented fruits. The okra plants faired a little better, but still had quite a few broken bits. Our cucumber plants were absolutely demolished and the green beans are pretty beaten down. I tore off all the broken foliage on our squash plants and hope that with a little time and some extra fertilizer we can rejuvenate what’s left. We’re going to reseed some crops and hope to salvage some production. Fortunately we have a pretty long growing season here in Kansas, but it’s disheartening to watch all of the hours of (Shannon’s) hard work be destroyed in 10 or 15 minutes of 60 mph winds and marble/quarter sized hail.
Ultimately we would like to have some hoop houses or caterpillar tunnels to have some protected growing areas on the farm, but I’m not sure how they would have held up in the storm that hit us. I think one of the biggest take-aways we got from this experience is that we are doing the right thing in our personal farm context. We’re diversifying our enterprises. If our livelihood depended on just the market garden, we would be in real trouble right now. Pulling dozens and dozens of damaged fruits off of plants put a dent in the amount of food we’re going to be able to put up this year, but it isn’t going to be a financial burden for us. As the farm grows and we derive more of our personal income from it, that story changes. This has definitely reaffirmed our need to spread our risk across many ventures, so that if we have catastrophic losses in one, we can hopefully offset those losses in other areas.
Farming is hard, but with the trials come myriad opportunities for personal growth and education. There’s no room for complacency, but isn’t that just how life should be? We will replant what we can and hope Mother Nature decides we’ve learned enough lessons this season. In the mean time we’re going to do some brainstorming to figure out if we can diversify even more in the future.