This is our farming column from Farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner-operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville and a longtime advocate for the cannabis community at Mendocino Co; more of his writings can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, please write to [email protected].
Rotations are quick and thick as we add jobs to the list and remove them. One step at a time advances the journey, stay focused and be present. Planning is important, but spend too much time on the big picture and end up feeling overwhelmed. Keep calm and carry on, getting angry won’t help.
This has been our best harvest of spring flowers yet, bouquets of tulips, narcissi, periwinkles and other lovely spring plants brighten up our senses and our lives. The appealing scents and colors bring joy, making me stop in the headlong rush that is the spring farm.
Animal chores take longer now than at any other time of year, especially with the cool, wet weather. Supervise baby chicks, bring fresh bedding and food, clean and fill waterers. Soon we will be moving the pigs to the ranch and grazing the bulk of the meat birds, and the lambs are grazing well and getting friendlier every day.
Turkeys will arrive soon, pigs and rabbits are an integral part of the farm. One of the little brown rabbits escaped yesterday and I haven’t had much luck catching her yet. I’ll check tomorrow morning, as escapees often nest near the rabbit enclosure and may be easier to catch then. As long as she’s in the driveway, I might as well not care, when she’s out in the open, she’ll be faster than me no matter what.
It’s that time of year when the crops that need to come out of the hoop outpace making bed and I’m starting to feel stuck and a little frantic. The first big planting of summer squash wanted to come out this weekend, but with the cold weather I opted to give them liquid FPJ (fermented plant juice) and keep them in their 4 inch pots for a few more days. The next round of cabbage is more than ready, as are several trays of cabbage.
With a little help, I managed to get 5 hoop beds cleaned, prepped and sown with mixed salad, turnips and radishes, which takes a lot of work off the list. I’m always surprised at how much work it takes to keep the hoops in full production, as the rotations are so fast there’s almost always something to clean up and replant.
With the heat waves this winter and early spring, I’ve seen crops go by faster than expected, salad mixes and Asian greens exploding and seeding early which means they need to be replaced. Extra rotations cost more in seed, compost and time, and make it more difficult to carry out outdoor work. Preparation of the bed is progressing, but there is still a long way to go before the farm is fully planted.
With the big 4-20 holiday approaching, we are also balancing work on cannabis. Yesterday we went to Mercy Wellness in Santa Rosa for the chance to hang out with the good people who work to get cannabis to people. It feels good to connect with people who come to the store and support us by buying our weed, and telling our story and fostering relationships is important to us.
Next week we will be in Richmond at Seven Stars on Wednesday, then Saturday in Laytonville for the Mendocino Producers Guild Farmers Market. I enjoy standing behind the table, presenting our offerings and interacting with customers, engaging and learning about people and talking about our farm and our practices. It’s fun to share and I relish the opportunity, just like I do with our vegetables at the weekly farmers markets.
Although much has changed in recent years, the foundation of our farm remains relationships with the people who buy what we produce. I appreciate the sense of shared community that develops through these interactions, which is a big part of my sense of identity. Whether it’s vegetables, canned goods, value-added products or cannabis, what we produce defines a large part of my life journey. The old adage says you’re a gardener until you sell something, so I’m grateful for people who buy what we produce because that’s what makes us farmers.
We spent a beautiful Easter Sunday with the family, and now that dusk is setting, I am writing this column and making my harvest list for tomorrow’s market. Soon I will close the lambs and do a final check on the brooders and the chicken tractor. The long days of spring are intense but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. As always, much love and much success to you on your journey!