2018 - Year in Review
*Click on photos to navigate through slideshows - there is much to behold!
On this last day of the year, I am compelled to look back on 2018 before saying goodbye and embracing the new year. We did so much (and I took so many hundreds of photos), I tried to break it up into categories for easy digestion :)
Spring Preparations/Setting up the Farm
In the spring we were faced with a blank slate, having moved to a new farm property late fall of 2017. After getting several late spring snowstorms (photos showing March 21 and April 2 snowstorms), we had a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time (with only a walk-behind 2-wheel tractor). Some of the biggest jobs included preparing the ground for planting, setting up “caterpillar tunnels,” setting up a deer fence and irrigation, and building a walk-in cooler and processing area. Dan took the lead on getting all of these things set up, and we couldn’t have gotten it all done without the help of Heidi’s brother Josh (working long, hard hours in the field) and our friend Patrick (for helping with the walk-in and processing area)… thanks guys! *Also had to include a photo of Heidi getting her first farm truck :) The 4-wheel drive and mud tires were completely necessary this year.
Spring Planting and Harvest (Before The Floods)
Spring is a very physically demanding time of year: time to drill more holes into our belts as we pour everything we have into our fields. (See photo of Dan collapsed on the floor after wrapping up dinner at 11pm…) We had an overabundance of amazing produce most of the year, which meant bountiful market tables and too much leftover produce. Lesson learned for 2019: Plant less until demand increases.
The Transplant Disaster
One of the biggest mistakes of 2019: Our new farm property was not equipped with a greenhouse, so we thought it might be a good idea to buy our transplants. BEGINNING FARMERS: DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE! There is no worse feeling than receiving shipments of damaged, unhealthy transplants when your entire season and livelihood depend on those plants. From the first shipment, the season felt doomed. Broken, crushed, disheveled, diseased, frost damaged… every time I received a shipment I had to cringe and then begin photo documentation to submit claims. Claims don’t help when you can’t get replacements on time, and when you can’t get the specific varieties that you asked for. What a lesson to learn. I have to mention it because it played such an enormous role in the way our season progressed.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
2018 was a year of record-breaking rainfall in Pennsylvania, and Berks County was one of the hardest-hit areas. We endured rainstorm after rainstorm from July through the end of the year. Plants drowned in puddles in the field, and we weren’t able to seed things like baby greens and carrots because our fields never dried out and remained mud pits. Weeds thrived, and we couldn’t drive the mower through the mud. Harvest days involved dashing in and out of the field between thunderstorms, and when the sun did come out, it was hot and humid as hell. I’m afraid this extreme weather could be the new norm, so our policy going forward will be “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
A Harvest to be Proud Of
Even though it was such a difficult season and we had a lot of loss, we also had some pretty amazing vegetables. We had some of the first tomatoes in our region (thanks to some nice beefy transplant replacements we purchased from Teens 4 Good), and the tomatoes were picture perfect week after week. Our first successions of squash and cucumbers (before the rains) were gorgeous, the eggplant was beautiful, and customers loved our sweet peppers.
A Year of Flowers
This was our first year growing flowers, and overall I have to say it was a huge success. Thanks to my mom for helping me with the never-ending flower harvest on Friday mornings (I definitely planted too many and did not realize just how many hours I would spend harvesting each week.) I had the unexpected pleasure of sending bouquets to a new (for me) farmers market, Christ Church Farmers Market, in Philadelphia on Wednesdays. The bouquets were very time-consuming to make, and I would often work nonstop from early Friday morning through the end of market on Saturday afternoon with no sleep between the vegetable harvest and flower harvest. Thankfully, my efforts were rewarded and bouquets sold out most weeks. I am really looking forward to using all of my experience this year to create a more manageable plan for flowers next year. (The photo with me bundled up in the dark was one of my last Friday nights making bouquets in October when yellow jackets took up residence in my bouquet-making station. It was insult to injury at the end of a long season of long nights as I tried to work while ducking their stings… I couldn’t give up and let the flowers go to waste after spending all week harvesting them!)
Other Fun Firsts:
In addition to everything else, we managed a few other “firsts” this year: market totes, farm tees, succulent planters, wreaths, and holiday cards. Our merchandise was carefully sourced featuring Heidi’s logo (100% organic cotton and/or recycled cotton, made in USA, made with fair labor by small business). And, our biggest (other) undertaking: we took over ownership of an indoor farm market in Montgomery County. Check out www.dresherfarmmarket.com to see what else we were busy with this year, as if the farm wasn’t enough! I will be posting a similar year-end blog post on that site as well.
Thanks to all supported us in our efforts this year. We are looking forward to a fruitful, simpler, hopefully more sane 2019… Do you think we can pull it off?