Major setback. Now what?

The majority of land currently occupied by my farm is being sold. It goes on the market tomorrow morning. I got the final word on this yesterday. What a bummer. It’s nothing personal on the part of the landowner, an institution. There were some realities they had to contend with. A difficult decision was made. Life goes on. I remain grateful that they gave me a shot in the first place.

This is land that I have painstakingly extracted boulders and small rocks, amended with compost, cover-cropped, and more. Two weeks ago I carefully prepped eight beds with the tiller, broadfork, and more amendments:

prep

Then I installed my first low tunnels:

18010839_499131936877935_443161888468788977_n

Every day, and sometimes every hour, I remind myself to keep moving forward. The temptation to wallow in self-pity, curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep, is the absolute height of beguilement.

I have so much going for me: a loan that is allowing me to take the farm to the next level, a place at the Duluth Farmer’s Market (the best one in town), and more. This is a major setback, but it’s useless to dwell on what is out of my control.

sowing peas
I sowed nearly 7 pounds of organic pea seed a couple hours after receiving the devastating news. 33 degrees outside. I will have better infrastructure in the coming weeks, but right now we’re working with what we’ve got.

What I can do is find multiple plots to grow on, becoming more antifragile in the process, and focus on producing the very best microgreens in town (indoors). Period. Tiny Farm Duluth is moving forward, setback and all….

farmer's market
At my first farmer’s market, last Saturday.

As much as I long for a simpler lifestyle, perhaps even Amish-like, I am incredibly thankful to be building a farm business today. We are able to do things now that were impossible only a few years ago.

Last Saturday, the Duluth Farmer’s Market held a special Earth Day event, for which I signed up only 10 days in advance. I had absolutely nothing to pull this off prior to sending in the check, not even a crop! Here’s how it went down:

  1. I ordered a market banner, labels, and business cards, which were designed by my wife in a matter of hours. These all arrived a few days before the event. Pretty awesome huh?

TinyFarmLetterhead

2. I immediately sowed pea, radish, and sunflower seed for a microgreen crop. These came up just in the nick of time. I had to leave the lights on all night a couple times.

pea and radish
These particular trays were sold to Chester Creek Cafe

3. I ordered a case of compostable clamshells from Amazon Prime.

4. This is the only market that I’ll be allowed to sell books and art prints at this year, so I ordered a case of books. These arrived just in the nick of time as well! I only sold two of them, but they did provide ample opportunities for conversation.

5. My wife ordered various supplies for the art prints, and these came. We only sold one print for $35, but these did attract significant attention. Perhaps in the future I’ll figure out a way to rig up art for purely propaganda purposes.

You get the idea. I went from nothing to a bonafide business in really short order. This would have been impossible for earlier generations.

I sold $125 in microgreens. Not incredible, but not bad for a first showing. I also met some incredible farmers, potential mentors, and some groovy customers. Now, wherever you live, I want the following to sink in. Deep….

Paul McIntyre, a 70+-year-old on a fixed income, showed up at this freaking market for the sole purpose of sending some encouragement my way, after riding the bus to get there. This son of a gun, the Duluth Art Institute’s volunteer of the year no less, spent $8 at my booth. He picked up two clamshells containing the only produce I had available: straight up pea shoots, and a “Spring in your step mix.” Eight bucks, and I’ll never forget it. This might even have been my first sale. You guys, support your local farmers. It means something. It really does.

I hope you’ll check out my instagram account: Tiny Farm Duluth. I’m really loving it.

And with that, I’ll leave you with Annie and some awesome pea shoots. Crank up the volume and listen to her crunch on these…

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5 thoughts on “Major setback. Now what?

  1. Remembering your name from the past thru my son, Melvin Welch! Keep going as it’s great to see your efforts.

  2. So sorry to hear your land is being sold. Do you know how it will be used by the new owners? I’m impressed by your creativity in the face of a setback, though. Great job. All the best from Kentucky.

    1. Well, it hasn’t sold yet, so it’s kind of weird period of limbo at a time of year when we should be working in earnest to set things up. For now, I’m just leaving tarps down and tending the four beds I’ve got planted under the low tunnels. It’s hard to want to invest in anything further over there, like fencing, landscape fabric around the perimeter, etc, when I have no idea what the future holds. Yeah, it’s just crazy difficult right now. I pretty much need to find some long-term agreements. Several folks have offered space outside the city, but I’m not sure that can really work due to drive time, etc. Basically, I’m confused, but need to consciously tell myself to move forward in the most basic tasks, practically as simple as remembering to take a breath, eat, sleep, plant micros, love your wife and kids, keep on keepin’ on, network, etc…. Anyhow, thanks for thinking of me.

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