I've got a spring bug in my bonnet today. Winters are so bizarre here: an ice storm last weekend and five days hunkered down in a house without electricity wrapped up in blankets. Today it's 70 degrees, warm and sunny. I spent the bulk of the day seeding tomatoes, dreaming of standing in the middle of a tomato field on a hot July afternoon, taking big bites out of a just-plucked fruit. Andy asked what I was sowing, and when I said tomatoes, he exclaimed, "already!" Yep - it takes 8-10 weeks to get a good-sized start grown and hardened off, ready for planting. If I want to plant out the tomato field in early to mid April, that means starting the seeds now.
I had a blast last week at the Southern SAWG conference in Kentucky. Good people, good food, good ideas, and more new information than I'll probably manage to integrate in the upcoming year. I always come away from these conferences with a slew of practical tips and a few lofty ideas.
My new favorite low-tech tip is pictured above. Over the years I've spent hundreds of dollars feeding expensive vegetable seed to herds mice in the greenhouse, tried a thousand tricks and gone through many a mouse trap trying to keep them from destroying newly seeded trays of vegetables. Flip a mesh tray upside down over the seeded flat, weigh it down with something heavy, and we're mouse-proof. Doh. This job keeps one humble, if nothing else.
In all the conversations I heard last week, one word kept popping up over and over again. Resilience. Resilient agriculture. I'm not one to get hooked on the latest buzzwords, but this one struck a chord with me, and the idea keeps circling round and round in my head. Organic, local, biodynamic, pasture-raised, ecologically-produced, sustainable, natural, profitable, flavorful, marketable...all of these things are good values to strive for, but none are achievable if the farmer is not resilient. We have to have the systems in place to bounce back from ice storms, drought, floods, hurricanes, record temperatures. We need to have a diversity of crops in place to handle freaky weather, changing markets, or plain old hard times. We have to try and maintain a flexible, adaptable mindset or this job will drive us crazy in a heartbeat. To be resilient means being able to remain strong, healthy, and successful after misfortune. To be resilient means to be able to return to a whole shape after being pulled, stretched, pressed, and bent in every direction. We've hit more than a few hard bumps in our ten years of farming, but we've never plain run out of food. Resilient agriculture. I love that idea.