Homestead First

Almost everything we eat comes from this farm.  That’s a good feeling.

But as we’ve ramped up our efforts to market and sell what we produce, lately I’ve had to remind myself that we are first of all homesteaders.  Anything we do commercially should remain secondary to that.

We started out farming this way because we wanted to homestead, be more self-reliant, and have some control over our food sources.  As we produced more than we could eat or preserve, we began giving a  lot of food away.  Eventually we started selling some of our surplus at the farmer’s market, then, a couple of years ago, we started our CSA.  This year we opened the farm store and committed to a much more significant presence at the farmer’s market.

Now when we harvest vegetables, we must decide who gets them.  What goes to the CSA members and farmers market?  What do we keep for ourselves?

Anything that’s perfectly good but not so visually appealing we usually keep for ourselves. For example, the big shiny eggplants go to customers, while the ugly ones (which taste just as good) stay with us.  Right now I’m looking at some delicious vine-ripe tomatoes on our counter.  We’re going to eat those.  They have bad spots on them that we can easily cut off. They’re perfectly fine, but wouldn’t give them to our customers.

So far that makes sense and is no problem.

But what happens when they’re isn’t enough for everybody?  We had a lot of crop losses this summer, making it difficult some weeks to keep the CSA going.  Instead of having huge surpluses (as we did last year), some weeks it seems we barely have enough.  So we’ve had to juggle a bit.  For example, our squash did well this year, but with all the other problems we’ve had, so far we’ve used almost all of it in the CSA.  We’ve eaten plenty, but it’s September and so far we haven’t put away any squash for the winter.

We garden year round, so it’s not as if we won’t have any vegetables this winter.  Still, I worry a little that we’ve subordinated our homesteading to our market gardening.  We haven’t done that with the farmer’s market or direct sales, but with the CSA I felt that our commitment means that if a crop comes up short the members get it before we do.  That’s OK once in a while, but it’s something of which to stay mindful and vigilant.  Too many farmers these days buy their food from grocery stores.  We need to make sure that never happens here.

I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have to do this balancing act.  I’ve read posts recently from Farmgirl School and A Separate Path discussing the same issue.

In the pre-CSA days we wouldn’t take anything to market until we’d put away everything we wanted to freeze or preserve for ourselves.  Now it’s not that simple.

I’ve been busy planting big fall gardens the last few days, significantly increasing what we had originally planned.  I expect this will be a moot issue in about a month.

But I also hope we don’t forget that we are first of all homesteaders.