- Apr 29, 2021
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The Crop Report: Week 17 | Here Comes the Sun...and Farmer Anxiety
All it took was a couple of sunny 70-degree days and it showed up. My farmer anxiety. It’s a real thing, and it hits a couple of times a year. Mother’s Day is like the Superbowl of the flower world, and the lead-up to this big holiday is pretty intense on the farm.
Mother’s Day is May 9th this year, and we are strategically planning every stem to be sold and every plant to be planted. There are never enough hands to tackle the endless to-do list that always spills into the next day and sometimes the next week.
On Mondays, I meet with our growers to go over each field, zone, and house. We talk about current projects and the ones that are looming, creating a list along the way. It’s always more than anyone can accomplish, but the lengthy marching list is balanced with realistic expectations in hopes I can avoid overwhelming the crew. No matter how much I try, it never works because every emotion I have is on my shirt sleeve and it’s usually the crew telling ME to relax.
There are a couple recurring themes during these weekly farm meetings. First, we have to eat the elephant one bite at a time. We remind ourselves frequently to focus on the first step first. Sometimes the aerial view can be a little too intense! We breakdown the projects. Make sublists, who is responsible for what part of each project, and set deadlines (well, suggested ones at least.) And second, May 1st. This date keeps popping up in our grower meeting and is starting to become synonymous with my anxiety.
In our area, the frost danger usually passes by May 12th, so the local rule of thumb is “don’t plant your garden until after Mother’s Day.” As a farmer, I gamble with that date by a couple of weeks. This could pay off if we squeak by without frost before May 12th, but it can also go horribly wrong if it’s on-time, or heck, delayed. Certain plants love warm soil, and before this date, ground temp and growing conditions aren’t favorable for these crops to thrive. Others love it cool and after May 12th, the temperatures are just too warm for certain plants to successfully grow to bloom. Knowing when to stop working on cool-season crops and flip to warm is a balance with a little gray area. Right now, we are IN that gray area. Meaning, I’m doing a little of both and hedging my bets on mother Nature’s plans for the season.
Summer fields have to be prepped to receive seedling crops by May first. Any lingering cool-season crops have to be transplanted and those fields need to have final weedings done. Sounds short and sweet but there are many layers to each of these projects. Now that we are balancing the relocation of cool-season plants with planting warm-season crops in addition to pretty big harvests. Walking from field zone to field zone and hearing the repeat of a May 1st deadline can give even the most experienced of farmers high blood pressure, but it’s the kind of stress we learn to deal with. I have also padded myself with a couple weeks (remember our *Actual* frost-free date is May 12). I try not to remind myself of this UNTIL May 1st arrives and I’m still facing unfinished projects.
Every day we reevaluate the to-do list and reprioritize based on our dwindling time. Oh, and let’s not forget the weddings and MOTHERS DAY are all thrown in the mix. This time of year is riddled with last-minute requests (custom harvests, special deliveries, 143 million pallets of boxes to unload in the barn), meaning we have to work a little harder to prioritize the demands of the farm. A lot of our team is pulling extra hours to get it all done. Our growers come in a little earlier, and leave a little later. The shop lights don’t click off until after 8 pm these days with lingering office work. With such a long to-do list piling up this time of year, you might find us writing crop reports at 2:30 am and answering IG messages in the middle of the night. If you get an email response from us before 6 am, we’re sorry.
It’s overwhelming, it’s riddled with anxiety, but it’s flower farming in spring and it doesn’t last long. This is where we find our seasonal rhythm. It is always at our busiest and leanest that we set the pace for the rest of the season. When we focus and power through we become a well-oiled machine...kinda like that BCS tiller I’m still waiting on.
It feels like an uphill battle (tripping over flower netting) right now, but we are doing powerful things. More flowers are leaving here than ever before. Our crop processes are paying off with fantastic looking flowers. We are streamlining the production of the farm. We are putting better tools in our hands to empower our team to do better. While springtime is intense, it’s a sign of growth, and as a farmer, that’s the name of my game.