Just over a year and a half has passed since Jodi and I purchased our little slice of heaven/hell and some time since I last posted to this blog. A big reason for not writing sooner has been the work, work, work of our first growing season. A somewhat smaller reason is the confessional nature of a farm blogger who doesn’t quite know what he’s writing about yet and so* defaults to personal introspection and self- aggrandizing. Moi.
Writing is an absolutely FANTASTIC exercise of meditation and self-discovery, and I’ve been aching to continue for a long, long time, but fluff and glitz is not only irrelevant to someone looking to buy delicious, farm-fresh carrots (available at our various market stands), it’s also pretty unprofessional. See there? Already an entire opening of attentive reflection on the most important subject in the universe: me. Blast! Moving on.
Not quite. Now that we’ve got a season behind us, I’ll offer up the last observations of a city boy, crash-landing into rural life, before transitioning into a seamless belly-flop of farm stuff. On second thought, here’s an unfiltered mash up:
I fall a lot. Sometimes on ice. Sometimes in mud. The wind has knocked me over. Sometimes I get tangled in tall grass or slide on gravel. Sometimes a dog runs through my legs and I lose balance. I’ve tripped on my own feet; I’ve tripped over chickens, stumbled over hoop wires, and have been clotheslined by tree branches.
Country folk are stunningly self-sufficient. Many rural Canadians grow their own food, fix their own cars, and build their own houses. Coming out here has made me realize how helpless urban living truly makes the human animal, which lends itself to dependency on an expert someone else.
Plants smell like their fruit. What a joy it’s been to smell the rich fragrance of a watermelon or cucumber or tomato, not from the fruit but from the green plant itself. Love it.
Corn is a grass. And looks exactly like what you have growing in your front yard, except about 50 times the size.
Seed families look the same. Brassicas like broccoli, cabbage, and kale have seeds that look identical, as do seeds in the onion, nightshade (tomatoes/peppers), etc. families. Lettuce seed looks exactly like its wild cousin, the dandelion, and flowers are a whole other world of likenesses.
Strength. My hands are nearing Kryptonian levels of grip and I can pop up from a squat that had my precious butt sweeping the ground like J-Lo at the Superbowl.
No more hobbies. No time. *sob* The chaos of farming is a world of discovery on its own so at least there’s that.
Weeds and pests suck. I finally get the expression to be “in the weeds.” EVERYTHING wants to grow and eat and if you don’t pluck or squish, get ready to be disappointed. While I disagree with spraying pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers over things that you’re going to eat and on land with a fragile ecosystem, I finally get the appeal, too.
Kale lasts forever. It also doesn’t need water, mind weeds, pests, heat, or constant cuttings. You can also disparage it or tell it that you don’t love it, and it will always be there for you.
I love growing peppers. Their multitudes in size, shape, and color are a pleasure that I can’t quite articulate, but if you can, give ‘em a try.
I’ll never be without a garden again. ‘nuff said.
A ton of food can be produced for yourself. Really, if you have a backyard plant something in it. I think the food writer Michael Pollan wrote something to the effect of “lawns are nothing more than tyrannical agriculture.” It’s true. People waste tons of water and spend embarrassing amounts of money to keep their lawns green and trimmed, a holdout of the everyman’s desire for inclusion in palatial nobility. Unless you’re strolling about with a parasol and powdered wig, grow something. You will drown in what you produce and if you have friends doing the same, you can grow different things and trade. Do you know how easy it is to not just grow basil but to propagate it with cuttings? A moron could do it, and it’s so expensive at supermarkets. Save a looooot of money and do it yourself.
Abundance is overwhelming. We grew more than we could sell last year, which was a planning issue. I hope this season, to preserve more and process our excess into more sellable items that if we can’t unload, we’ll enjoy ourselves, give as gifts, or donate to food banks.
Splinters. Often. It seems I can’t wave hello, shake someone’s hand, or wash dishes without getting wood splinters all over my hands. It’s like constantly being smote by God. All I can do is throw my prickly hands up and accept that I’m a sinner.
We’re nothing without lettuce or carrots. As beginning farmers go, we really sucked. Luckily the easy stuff, and creative presentation, always made our little market stand appear like a smaller pile of shit than it actually was.
Wellness. I haven’t been sick in almost two years. True story.
That’s all I’ve got. I pledge to write more often and with content that enriches more than tickles . . . but I make no promises.
Fair Share Market Garden
Glenvale, New Brunswick
*It takes a heroic writer to line three conjunctions, yet/and/so, in a row and make it work (in case you weren’t appreciating my literary acrobatics).
Summer and fall have come and gone, and we’ve been continuously shoveling snow and balancing precariously stacked firewood in our mudroom for what seems like the past 200 years. Not complaining. Just issuing some cold-hardy facts as a blocky and fumbling reemergence into the glitz-ambiance that is the blogosphere. Voilà.
It’s taken me the bulk of 2018 to realize that Jodi and I are, in fact, the stuff that cupcakes are made of. Worse yet, instant cupcakes of the boxed variety. With such reflection came the tosses and turns of what is, as a heterosexual American man of sufficient intellect and whiteness, generally foreign to me: self-doubt. I don’t know where to start we don’t have a nursery or greenhouse we can’t afford and still haven’t bought necessary infrastructure the chicken coop’s not done any chicks I buy probably won’t start laying this year oh lawd what’s the meaning of all this that’s it, I’m just going to fake my own death and start life anew as medical doctor/astronaut. And so on.
Jodi and I are, in fact, the stuff that cupcakes are made of.
I’m better now. The key was to recognize two extraordinarily important things, one for our time and place and the other for life. First, Jodi and I are not in a densely populated, fast-paced place anymore. The marketing maneuvers that, in previous undertakings, I’ve for so long employed (and heroically been unsuccessful at) now feel arrogant, somewhat manipulative, and plainly out of place. As such, I’ve abandoned the role of barker at my own circus and have confronted the reality of my own two hands and increasingly glitchy neural synapses. This very website will reflect such reservation when I get around to it. Second, and lovingly spooning the first, I do only have two hands and several misfiring brain cells left. There are going to be issues. Sowing and transplanting dates are going to scurry past as I stand, arms akimbo, surveying our land with blissful ignorance. Whole crops are going to fail by drought or flood or heat or frost. Insects and pestilence, like the wrath of God, are going to wreak havoc and lay waste to hours, days, and weeks of labor, and there’s not a tremendous amount of influence I can have over these outcomes, lest I raid the heavens to wrestle for control the many arms of Vishnu. Time will amend the mistakes of our early trials and I can do nothing but accept that. Boom.
Our very first seed order was placed today from a local company called Rainbow Seeds. All heirloom or open-pollinated varieties. While hybrid seeds are bred to better withstand the variety of problems mentioned above, I want to try my hand at seed saving (for when the SHTF*), and the recessive/dominant gene-tinkering of hybrid seeds won’t reliably produce what we originally paid for in successive generations. Plus, they’re fucking expensive. Going all heirloom, we were able to buy enough seed for more than ten, 100-foot plots, with 16 beds at 30 inches wide per plot (If only a quarter of them produce something resembling edible, I’ll be dancing in the streets). Ideally, samples of the most robustly fruiting crop will be saved, making each generation more and more suited for our specific soil type/climate/rookie buffoonery.
In all this disorder and quiet hysteria, I’m trying to make the chicken coop safe for the ordering of 50 Rhode Island Red chicks as soon as possible. Again, the wish to have everything controlled to perfection before being put to use has been a ridiculous hindrance that I’ve allowed to proliferate to impotency. All you OCD, ADHD, and anxiety-stricken sociopaths know what I’m talking ‘bout. Hey, maybe all you need is to move to the countryside and snow yourself in for winter to realize you’re a lunatic. Anyway, aesthetics have now been thrown out, retrieved, and then set alight in favor of practical functionality. Still, procrastination, a lack of materials, genital-shriveling cold, and said arresting neurosis have slowed me down. I’ll get there, hopefully before the end of the month. Next.
My captive, Jodi, has full-on launched her crochet business, Jodi Lynn Crochets, and she’s killing it (in the best way). It’s more than impressive to have witnessed her evolve from an absolute beginner, fumbling before the endless glow of YouTube tutorials, to the proficiency and perfection of a machine. If you’re feeling supportive, follow her Instagram and Facebook pages. If you’re feeling generous, share ‘em.
Glenvale, New Brunswick
*shit hits the fan
Jodi and I aren’t freegans. We’re just poor. While we don’t sniff food out of dumpsters behind grocery stores (nothing wrong with doing so if that’s your jam), we’ve carried a bartering mentality with us since Prague, where we’d make contact with someone selling, trading, or giving something away then hop on the subway to waddle home with some over-sized jewel that added comfort and/or convenience to our home (I once inconsiderately shouldered a mini fridge onto a crowded tram and raised my cheerful „Nemluvím český“ defense when griped at). In San Francisco, I furnished my entire bedroom with curbside giveaways: bed, desk, chair, and lamp; and the place didn’t look like a grimy meth den either. It was classy as balls. Sure, I was thirty and sleeping like broken dreams on a hardwood floor before it all came together, but I wasn’t grossly consuming and it felt good.
One of the biggest hurdles is the social stigma of appearing poor
In Glenvale (which is a hamlet of Salisbury (which is a village in New Brunswick (which is a province of Canada (which is America’s hat)))), we’ve done the same only now we’re driving an hour or two in any direction for pickups. All inconvenience aside, and it is inconvenient, I’m pleased to have consistently reduced our amassment of new things for so long. One of the biggest hurdles to doing so is arguably the social stigma of appearing as if you’re not piling your shit together in an attractive enough mound. Looking poor in other words, which, if money is the core of achievement, directly reflects the competency of a successful human animal in his or her environment. Bootstraps, individualism, American Dream, etc. BUT, once the absurd fear of socioeconomic compartmentalization is vanquished . . . freedom.*
To that end, we’re freeganning together a large chicken coop for next year’s egg production. It consists of 26 precariously stacked pallets, a door, a screen door, and several large windows from a renovation ad I responded to online. All free. That’s not true. I paid $20 for the screen door, but wouldn’t the story have sounded wonderfully preachier had everything been scavenged? Anyway, the bones are all still reclaimed. We have, however, spent a king’s ransom on deck screws, a new reciprocating saw, and some decent 2×4’s which are hard to come by second-hand, let alone to specification. The late country star, Kenny Rogers, once wisely graveled, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,” meaning, recognize your capacities and work judiciously within their perimeters.** Waiting for the right materials to present themselves could have taken months, and though conscientious, I’m no chump . . . or full-blooded freegan as previously disclaimed. Still, a fancy new (and structurally sound) coop and run for 6 chickens would be around 1,000 dollars, unassembled. Ours will hold 40 with leg room, and I get to humble brag about its construction on Instagram. Win/Win. #chickendeathtrap.
We’ll be following the same low-impact model for an oxymoronic, naturally artificial rabbit warren to house a buck and two does . . . eventually. On principle alone, I should be able to cull both meat bird and bunny while maintaining dignity and minimal post-traumatic stress, but Jodi and I are city cupcakes so we’ll see how it goes.
Glenvale, New Brunswick
*To any grammarians reading this, I’m fully aware of the near equal shame of beginning an independent clause with a coordinating conjunction. Get over it.
**Kenny Rogers isn’t dead . . . but it’s only August. #fakenews #longlivethegambler
It’s been quite a while since our last post and much has changed. I’ll, therefore, provide a thesis for this here essay. It goes as follows: Jodi and I for the first time are not just home but land owners; we’re up to our eyeballs in necessary tasks and projects; there are now dedicated Instagram and Facebook pages to non-committedly keep up with us; and last but not least, the Province of New Brunswick has officiated a straightforward and unassuming matrimonial service on our behalf, formally making us Mr. and Mrs. Wannabe Farmer.
Topic one: I had previously mentioned that I’d full-throatedly lament the pains of buying real estate, but I’ve changed my mind. The energy it would take to do so is not where I’d like to place any attention. My only advice is to go through a realtor qualified for your specifications (agricultural, commercial, residential, etc.) and make sure s/he’s not a moron. We cut our guy loose and did everything the hard way. But it’s done. Oh, and just remember that any personal opinion you ask for, will likely be unqualified and apocalyptic, so remember to think for yourself and don’t let any negativity weigh down your decision.
Jodi and I bought a 15-acre property in a hamlet called Glenvale which is near a village called Petitcodiac. The house on it is a very old “mini” home, which is a classy way of saying mobile home. No complaints here. It’s bigger than our apartment in Prague and the after-market bay window opens up beautifully to the whole property. The sky is big and starry at night, and there aren’t any people around to disturb my arresting introversion or hostage situation over Jodi. The previous owners had worked the land as a strawberry and raspberry U-Pick that had been prosperous enough in its heyday that every local we’ve met knows exactly the place we’re describing. Pretty cool. We’ve watched foxes, hummingbirds, and several pheasants (the latter-most of which will shortly become dinner (they’re wrecking the strawberries we inherited)) from our favorite window, and bone-chilling temperature aside, we can’t wait to see rolling white snow-fields come wintertime.
Topic two: tasks, tasks, tasks! And where to begin?? Our financial situation isn’t really a situation at all as we are alarmingly fund-deficient, so first thing should be to register as a farm in order to access agricultural programs designed to help out existing farmers and new entrants to the province. There’s still, however, piles of money invested in the devastatingly neglected raspberry and strawberry infrastructure that needs to be tended to and with no sales outlet or even immediate time for one, we’re frankly sick of eating strawberries and have taken to freezing them until we get our act together. There are worse problems (like in a few weeks when the raspberries start to ripen or, you know, Donald Trump), so I’ll pull up my big boy pants and shut the fudge up . . . about that. We’ve also got the steel frame of a decent sized greenhouse to assemble and find plastic for. I’ve also gotta build a chicken coop, a rabbit pen, find affordable mass quantities of compost and natural fertilizer, and figure out what to plant in the fall for next spring’s harvest. *swoon* I have to remind myself every day that our plan was not to start a farm in the middle of 2018, so chill. . . . Because I can’t chill, however, here is a satellite image of our place alongside a wildly ambitious plan for the farm.
Topic three: Now that we’ve got a physical address to bring our fantasy startlingly closer, we’ve set up corresponding Instagram and Facebook accounts. They’re both fledgling, of course, and we’re still finding our rhythm but if you follow them now you could boast your support of Fair Share Market Garden before it was the coolest thing to do. It would also be super encouraging for us.
Topic four: Jodi and I are, as of June 29th, officially wedded. We’ve known each other six years and have been in a legitimately exciting relationship for four. June will forever be a month in which we started dating, bought a home, and got hitched. I’m so happy to have met her while there’s still so much life in both of us and no matter what direction our successes and not-so-successes take us I know that we’ll always have the luster of certainty to attend us through both. It’s a pretty good feeling.
Glenvale, New Brunswick
“What’s your day-to-day look like?” is a question I’ve been asked by a handful of people in the past couple of months so here’s an itemized analysis to blanket the response.
to sow – to plant a seed; meal – organic material ground to powder; to till – to mechanically loosen and mix soil; a bed – a strip of prepared ground; kale – a delicious hipster plant
The first thing to remember is that we’re apprenticing. If we were working our own land, we’d tack on at least an extra 4+ hours to our day of tidying and organization. (Still, Jodi made a spot-on observation as we were admiring our respectively bronzed farmer’s tans: “I haven’t spent this much time outside since I was a kid”) Anyway, the time we arrive at Ferme Alva Farm every morning, Eva and Alain have already cased the place, opening up overly hot or humid greenhouses, watering seedlings and transplants (the first of 2-4 times a day), and righting anything that may have gone awry in the night. Once the farm is stabilized, for lack of a better term, Jodi and I meet up with the master farmers for the day’s instructions.
Sowing seeds in a climatized environment is an ongoing chore on the farm. Sometimes it involves, filtering large material from potting soil, adding compost, or a meal fertilizer. Sometimes it’s all of the above. We’ll plant several hundred seeds, water them and wait for Lady Nature to bring forth life. It seems on a daily basis, previously sown seeds have sprouted enough to be either transplanted into larger pots, moved into another greenhouse to make room for new seed trays, “hardened” in a buffer zone between greenhouses and the outside, or directly planted into previously prepared beds in the fields.
The 30”x100’ (76cm x 30.5m) beds outside are prepared in several ways. Either a huge tarp covers several at once, allowing weeds to germinate in the nice microclimate (then die from lack of sunlight), or we use our sexy BCS 732 walk-behind tractor to uniformly tear everything up (and maybe tarp it afterwards). Once the newly tilled bed has spent a day or two drying in the sun, we will, depending on the plant variety, add organic compost and/or fertilizer to be tilled in again. A day or so later, we’ll transplant the aforementioned sprouts or directly seed something that doesn’t transplant well.
Some beds are laid with drip irrigation and then mulched with plastic to keep weeding to a minimum. Holes are cut into the plastic at appropriate spacings and little soil-clumped sprouts fill ‘em back up. Other beds will be straddled by wire hoops every few feet and covered with a gauzy “row cover” to protect the plants from insects, heat, wind, etc.
Watering is done by hand in the nursery, by drip irrigation on certain beds, or by a mobile sprinkler system that is disassembled and relocated every season as crops are rotated.
That’s that. I’ll get to harvest, storage, and sales as we experience it.
It may seem easy-peasy, but imagine holding to your chest a wet and muddy tree stump full of worms, beetles, and spiders. Widen your stance by about three feet to straddle a bed, then lean forward a bit; now, lift the stump over your head; bring it back down without setting it down; pass it between your legs like a basketball; take a few mud-sucking steps forward then backward, then pivot on one foot without stepping onto the bed you’re straddling; raise the stump back over your head; shake out a few insects into your hair while simultaneously allowing dirt and mud to fall into your eyes, ears, mouth and whatever folds and openings you have in your clothing; now, throw it as far as your trembling body is able to.
That’s why your goddamned kale’s so expensive.
Sussex, New Brunswick (cat-sitting Saturday at Jodi’s sister’s)
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It’s been a few weeks since our last post. Busy, busy. The last riveting entry left our heroes (me ‘n’ Jodi) watching Netflix and tossing flower petals at each other in Elora, Ontario. Jodi’s since driven us 19 hours across Canada to Saint-Maurice, New Brunswick. I couldn’t renew my Texas driver’s license due to being a complex and layered international man of mystery (legally homeless), but shed not a single tear for Jodi’s travel burden, for my road contribution was an endless well of rational, though white-knuckled and sometimes explosive backseat driving.
Shopping on Kijiji saved us more than 2k.
While we weren’t so successful loading up on essential tools in the Toronto area, a fortuitous bargain awaited us in Kingston, ON in the form of a new, used BCS 732 walk-behind tractor and other attachments. Shopping secondhand on Kijiji saved us more than 2k over a new one. The previous owner was kind enough to give us a crash course on how it operates, helped load it, and let us pollute her driveway with an hour and a half of our presence as we repacked the truck to accommodate our new addition. She’d even read the same bio-intensive farm “Bible” that our Ferme Alva Farm mentors had recommended while we were still living in Prague: The Market Gardener by Canada’s own Jean-Martin Fortier. Man, that guy’s figured it out. Anyway, we smuggled our travel-traumatized cats into a motel and stayed the night outside Quebec City.
The next few days were spent with Jodi’s sister’s generous family over the Easter holiday in Sussex, New Brunswick. We dandled Jodi’s niece and nephew, stored a few things in their garage, repacked the truck, and then puttered an hour northeast to Ferme Alva Farm just outside of Bouctouche . . . which is near Moncton, NB . . . which, if you’re not familiar with the Canadian Maritimes, is a place.
The past three-ish weeks has found us holding our coats against winter flurries in snow-covered fields and playing Agricola, a farm-themed board game that Eva and Alain patiently taught us to play in a wax-on, wax-off, Mr. Miyagi-style pedagogical method. The cats aren’t horrified with two big dogs (both named Dexter) snorting hot air on them nor are they terribly aggressive with the resident cat already here. At a Homo sapiens level, Jodi and I are getting along with Eva’s mother and partner, whom we’ve barnacled to for accommodations, and Eva and Alain themselves have been welcoming, easygoing, and a relievingly comfortable mesh.
There won’t be a heck of a lot for us to do until the snow thaws, but with the help of Eva and Alain, we’ve been driving by properties and trying to get a general feel for the area. Lots of French, snow, plaid, camo, and beauty. There will be plenty to say on the work we’ve been doing since we’ve arrived, the headaches of property-hunting, and other Maritime observations, but for now, this is it.
Saint-Maurice, New Brunswick
Our first season of actual farming on our own land will begin, cross your fingers, in the spring of 2019. As mentioned in our first post, we’ll be apprenticing at Ferme Alva Farm. (Serendipitously, the lady half of Ferme Alva Farm is Jodi’s Czech-Canadian childhood friend Eva. She and her partner Alain moved to New Brunswick many years ago and started their farm and family, doing precisely what we’re wanting to do. (Only, they’re formally qualified to do so) Like their parents, Eva and Alain’s children are on their way to becoming trilingual: French, Czech, and English, which means that even after leaving the Czech Republic, my inexcusable and disrespectful ignorance of the country’s impossible language will continue to gracelessly display itself for at least another six months. U-S-A! U-S-A!) I won’t speculate on what exactly we will learn at Ferme Alva Farm, but we both look forward to all the bubbles that will swell and all that will burst in the attendance of reality.
“An apprentice is given room and board . . . and a hands-on education in agriculture. The exchange is labor.”
Jodi and I didn’t even know that apprenticing was a thing until we started researching all the what’s and who’s of farming. In short, an apprentice is generally given room and board, sometimes a small stipend, and most importantly, a hands-on education in agriculture. The exchange is labor. There’s no uniformity in expectations from either side, but ideally, the dependency of one party checks the dependency of the other into ready civility. While the apprentice needs the master for food, shelter, and knowledge, the latter has calculated a season to include an extra set of hands. Both participants would suffer some level of hardship should one or the other douche out.
We’ll be leaving the Toronto area for New Brunswick next week. We expect to work up a sweat at Ferme Alva Farm, while simultaneously viewing land in the surrounding countryside. If all goes as scheduled, we’ll be Lord and Lady of property by October. (More on purchasing land as the pressure mounts) It’s a snug timetable, made even more close-fitting by the winter that will be approaching. We’ll need to scratch up the land after sampling the soil; amend it with compost-y elements such as N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S* and/or whatever other inputs a soil test reveals to be lacking; insulate our prepared growing beds with straw so that all the beneficial microorganisms present don’t die over winter; and finally, endure the bone-chilling New Brunswick winter without choking each other out (or the cats). Sigh.
*nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur. I only knew, like, two of these periodic symbols, but writing them out makes me feel like a boss.
One of the lasting takeaways Jodi and I have carried from our time in Europe is that you can’t hurry entrepreneurial success. So many of our business endeavors were born out of necessity but then organized and held idling in the RAM of our own fat heads, which only led to a permanent lack of structure and an oversimplified “plan” for realistic growth. Coupling a concrete financial stake with a burning desire to construct a tangible “immortality project,” as terror management psychologists would call it, we’ve spent the last half year slaving over a comprehensive business plan for our future farm.
“[A business plan] needs to primarily make sense to its author.”
Neither Jodi nor I are accomplished capitalists nor qualified advisers for business planning, but all of my research has led me to believe that an effective business plan is completely subjective and needs to primarily make sense to its author. Chris Bash, co-founder of Exercise & Excess (and a friend), was kind enough to let me dissect the business plan for his thriving Austin company, Yomosas, an enterprise that blends the popularity of Yoga with the popularity of the alcohol in mimosas. I was floored by its simple yet sophisticated brevity and because I am an expert in overthinking and can entirely convolute even a goddamned pizza order, we attempted monkeying his minimalism in our own plan.
And therein lies the subjectivity. Chris planned his entire wedding, assigning designated responsibilities to all participants, printed and sleeved in plastic. I still have the glass cyanide capsule he required we place under our tongues should any of us have fudged his procedures. The man is organized, and a ten-page plan for Yomosas was clearly all he and his partner needed to complement the Teutonic-like methodology marching about the Champs-Élysées of their minds. Whatever else a lending institution might need satisfied from a written out company structure would presumably be fulfilled by Chris’ winning personality. Since Jodi and I lack that sort of professional charisma, we hope to let a wordy 50-paged, compulsively detailed plan articulate where our fatted tongues leave off.
Initially, we had taken the aforementioned fathead approach to our farm and from the get-go misinterpreted the very purpose of a business plan as something designed for bank loans or governmental and organizational grants. The thought of mapping out assets, income, and forecasting both seemed needlessly institutional and activated the reflexive (and irrational) rebel gland responsible for the suspension and recoil of every man’s swinging testicles. In other words, I didn’t want to “yessir or no sir” anyone. I’d have just as soon adorned myself in plumed Carnival regalia, glittered up my bosom, and click-clacked into a loan office for a private performance. It was only after we started asking ourselves how we were planning to operate a profitable farm that a business plan fell into its natural, self-serving function. Duh.
I’ll avoid the bore of mapping out the rights and wrongs of business planning, for it truly is subjective. Instead I’ll only comment on what worked for us.
Timeframe. The granddaddy of ‘em all. We followed a standard five-year model. It forced us to turn our hypothetical fancies to realistic (and intentionally conservative) projected income and expenses. Doing so is the sole reason we can shush well-intended but ignorant nay-sayers from raining on our dope-ass parade. “Are you sure you can-” Yes. “Have you thought abou-” Yes. “You do realize that-” Yes, now shhhhhh, butthead.
A five-year model also forced creativity. Do we really want to remain financially stagnant every year? No, so let’s cook up something different every year until we reach a plateau that we’re comfortable with.
Lastly, blocking our goals into yearly benchmarks made the transition into a new industry more manageable and considerably less overwhelming.
Acreage. In our case, deciding how we were going to use our land really informed us as to how much we would need, how much is ideal, and how much our dirty little fantasies were privately moaning over. While land usage might not apply to every business plan, commercial space might. . .
Marketing. Another creative outlet and delight to ponder over. This research identified our demography and afforded us the opportunity to shape how we may best reach them. This one felt almost intuitive for me, but there were a few surprises that we would have taken longer to discover had we not been banging away at our keyboards.
Iconography. Love it. While companies can package logos and icons in a plethora of sizes and formats, it was a pleasure to save some cash and create our own. Not really any research to speak of here (apologies to the graphic designers whose heads have just exploded), but the category got us thinking about our farm identity and how to represent it. Should we get certified organic as we have planned in year three, we’ve got a new bag of logos lying in wait.
In summary, the only reason Jodi and I feel relatively confident about starting something from scratch is because we applied months and months and months of our time researching; and furthermore, the only reason we dropped our lazy approach to startups is because a business plan required our dedicated study. Regardless of whether our actual farm is fulfilling or successful, the process alone has brought us guidance and a powerful sureness that we’ll now be able to apply all future undertakings.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Contact us if you’ve got some life-altering information to share or if you’re interested in anything more business plan specific.
The era of Prague has officially come to an end and Jodi and I have embarked onto a surreal odyssey that will not see its conclusion until at least October of this year. Every day it seems our environment shifts in some unfamiliar way and we are pressed to relearn the normality of things as simple as ordering coffee (yes, there is culture-specific language for that) or not hyperventilating when facing the abundance of North American supermarkets. It’s an adjustment, to say the least, and while some manage their shock by verbally reasoning through it, I’m taking a page out of Jodi’s book and shutting my mouthhole. Next.
Don’t ever be discouraged by the ease in which people present their successes online
Late last year, we were unexpectedly met with good fortune when Jodi’s parents stumbled upon and purchased a busted down truck for $500. The 2008, Ford F-150 would have remained a very large and useless ornament had we independently found it, as Jodi and I are a couple of boobs in terms of auto mechanics, but Jodi’s father and crew of resourceful friends were able and willing to apply their benevolent sorcery to make roar a necessary beast of burden. We’re gushingly thankful for the help.
Don’t ever be discouraged by the ease in which people present their successes online. They had help. In some form or another, hands were extended and hands were eagerly accepted. Anyone who says otherwise is unequivocally full of shit. And that’s magnificent (help, not calculated distortion)! I don’t know how or when “help” became so unattractive that it needed to be routinely scooted behind the curtains of public representation. We’re grateful and indebted to those who have had the capacity and have cared enough to offer support towards a goal which, on the surface, appears wildly unrealistic. I only hope that such charity has been accepted with all due appreciation and humility.
Next steps. Jodi’s still in the Toronto area and I’ve been in Austin, Texas, further detaching myself from reality, for the past few days. When I return to Canada, we plan on trolling Kijiji (Canada’s Craigslist) for tools and equipment that we’ll need by the end of the year. There are nearly six million more people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) than there are in the entire province of New Brunswick, so with luck, we will have covered the basics before making prisoners of the cats again and puttering east in our new, used pickup (Czech friends, bathe yourselves in the confounding wash of that which has not yet come to pass, the future perfect tense . . . for “My name is [Carlos], king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”).
As you may have figured out, our (hypothetical) farm is called Fair Share Market Garden. We chose the name carefully, considering its relationship to our guiding principles, its marketability, and the ease in which it translates into the French(ish) Fair Share Jardin de Marché . . . which we’ll still have to verify is correct.
“Convenience can be destructive.”
Our leading, hard-to-sell principle is the idea that convenience can be destructive. An appalling number of the frills that we employ to make life more comfortable often have an unsustainable byproduct that’s plated over by gild (think, “banana republic” (not the clothing store Banana Republic (although, why on Earth a company would name their business that is stupefyingly inexplicable to me. It’d be like naming our farm “E. coli Acres” or “Radioactive Earth Food”))). Striving to reduce our wants is a central goal in what we are trying to construct, and the phrase “Fair Share” is a nice way of starting a conversation about necessity versus excess. “Market Garden” further suggests a small farmers market operation to illustrate our theme.
As a marketing strategy, the obvious benefit is the familiarity and musical quality of “Fair Share.” A major source of income we’ve planned is through a now popular food delivery system called community supported agriculture or CSA. You’ve probably got a dozen of them in your area. Look ‘em up. In this system, customers invest a lump sum before the growing season begins and then receive a “share” of the farm’s harvest every week. Get it? “Share”? “Fair Share”? I’m a wizard. More on CSAs as this here sally rages on.
Everything we’re publishing, except these gorgeous essays will hopefully be translated to French. By avoiding unnecessary idioms, slang, and complex sentence structure, Google Translate has afforded us an imperfect but free solution to my paralyzing fear of using French incorrectly. As an unassimilated, English-speaking hack in the Czech Republic, I’ve used Google Translate on a daily basis, and I’m wonderfully relieved to see that the oftentimes bizarre translations from English to Czech and vice versa, are simply not present in the enormously widespread French language. “Fair Share Jardin de Marché” is obviously not the best answer to this bilingual pickle, as Fair Share isn’t translated, but the characters fit neatly into our logo, and French Canadians can still pronounce it, even if some won’t fully understand the first part (The Czech equivalent would be “Férový Podíl Zahrada,” which Jodi tells me makes no goddamned sense at all). Anyway, if anyone has a better suggestion in French, we’re all ears.
So that’s our business identity . . . for now.
We’re flying out to Toronto. Today. It’s been a hectic month of saying goodbyes, closing accounts, and selling/giving away piles of junk, but we’ve prevailed! Next stop, Canada.