Well, hello! Welcome to Such and Such Farm, version 2016. The year of… I don’t know what it will be, actually. Hopefully our successful grafting of the world’s first money tree (patent pending). Or the year of the new living room couch that is dog hair resistant. Or the year of perfect Missouri farming weather. Ok, that last one is a bit of a stretch. But for real, real (not for play, play) I’m hoping that this will be the year of growth and community. Growth can mean many things; expansion, maturing, physical change, emotional change, advancement, the list goes on. Community can mean a large group of people (nationwide/statewide/online), a specific group of people (our immediate St. Louis region/like-minded farmers/our wonderful clients) or it can mean family (by blood or by fate). Which brings me to the subject of this post. This post is all about real talk. Real things, real people, real events, real farming. No veil of white picket fence, picture perfect farm life. But to start, I need to go back. (que dreamy, harp music a la Saved By the Bell imaginative sequence).
Part One: The Crew
Over the past few years we’ve had quite a few short term/medium term farm hands. Some were/are excellent, some.. were.. great, uh, well… I’m sure they were great at chess or.. something. Bottom line: we’ve ended up with the short end of the stick a couple of times. But that happens. Pobody’s nerfect, and that goes both ways. So when we found some people that were 1) really hard workers, 2) pleasant to be around, 3) contributed a lot both with their brains and braun and 4) really gave a shit about the farm and their place in it; we held onto them like a five year old hugging a Christmas puppy. Or me hugging a puppy. It just so happens that in 2015, we lucked out times three! Triple cherries!
Dave and I met David D. in 2014 and he has been with us for almost two years. He comes from Spokane, has a wonderful dog, Golem and is really quick with a punny dad joke. For a few years, I was the only female working on the farm. I’d spend 24/7 working and living with a houseful of boys. It was stressful. I missed female camaraderie. So, when David introduced us to his fellow Spokanian, Morgan, I flipped my lid. She’s a go-getter, smart as a whip, really chill but independent… and she also has an adorable dog, Juniper. Things were really starting to come together. Then Dave and I’s friend of 7+ years, Abby, mentioned that she would like to be a part of the farm too. And thus completed the trifecta. This is important for many reasons. First of all, we don’t run this farm alone. There’s no way that it would be possible. It takes a small village. Our team consists of six passionate people (David D., Morgan, Abby, Nathan/Nemo, Dave and myself). The farm is where it is because of them. We’re able to grow not just because we have many helping hands, but because each bring their own ideas/inspiration/expertise/perspective/dreams that make the farm a better place.
Which bring me to…
Part Two: My Struggle
Here’s where we get real. For the past year or so I’ve been suffering from clinical depression and anxiety. I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I knew if I didn’t, then work wouldn’t get done, so that gave me anxiety. The anxiety made me more and more depressed and the cycle went on. I became so withdrawn and would avoid my feelings, taking care of myself, and social activity. I couldn’t be around people, I would hide in the bedroom when our house was full of happy people. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without having an anxiety attack. Then last summer it rained for five months straight, leaving our garden a total unproductive mess. Then two of our sows died. And we were really close to losing some of our goats due to barberpole worms and cocci. We couldn’t do any construction because the weather was always bad. I hated going outside, I didn’t want to work. Work sometimes made me sad because I felt like I could never keep up or catch a break. I felt like farmlife was breaking me. When I had the mental energy to focus, it would be on work and not on my hobbies, friends, or anything that really made me happy. I was getting plenty of exercise, plenty of sunshine, I take vitamins regularly and in the summer I eat especially healthy. So it wasn’t any of that. Something was really wrong. Luckily, I have an amazing and supportive husband that recognized that I had depression and anxiety before I really knew it. I just thought that I was a big ol’ loser, a failure, a Debbie Downer. I felt like a bad person. But then Dave was like… “No, that’s not reality. I think you’re actually depressed and luckily, there’s plenty of resources to get you help. You’ll be ok.” So this fall I started seeing a therapist and got proper medication to help. I was very weary of all of this at first. This was so new to me… but thank you, Lord Obi-Wan/Great Master Yoda of the Force for bringing me Dave.
Fast forward to this past December. I had been on medication for a few months and really started seeing great results from that and therapy. I made an actual, written out list of things that make me happy and are “Autumn only, no farming allowed” type of things. When my whole life became farming and working and farming and working, I felt part of myself drifting away. My light started to go out. But by December, I had found my light.
For the record, here’s my list:
So anyway, December 2015. Dave and I were able to host our very first Such and Such Farm family company party extravaganza. It was two full days of Star Wars marathons, dinner/drinks at Main and Mill Brewing Company and ended with seeing the Force Awakens together. I was able to enjoy the whole weekend as we celebrated the end of the year and our farm family. We’ve gotten into the habit of all gathering in the kitchen in the morning for breakfast/coffee/cartoons/daily game plan and then when the day is done we all join in the living room for movies until we fall asleep. In August, that would have driven me past the point of no return. But now, I miss it when they’re out of town. Don’t get me wrong, I love my alone time but I really cherish our family time together. It feels complete now. I almost feel complete, and a lot of it is due to our new little farm family.
So what have we learned? 1) Farming is exhausting, in all capacities. It is wonderful. But it can also drain you. Sometimes it really sucks. 2) Depression/anxiety are real mental illnesses that should not be taken lightly. But it’s not forever. It can be overcome, little by little and day by day. There’s many avenues one can take to recover from depression/anxiety. 3) No matter what you do or who you are, don’t lose sight of yourself or your light. 4) Family by fate is a wonderful thing. 5) The girls at our farm (along with my soul sister, Connie at Chopping Block) are fucking badasses. Seriously, we’re awesome. And I love it.
Part Three: The Future
Like I said before, 2016 will be the year of growth and community. We have some big business plans in the works. But our farm family has many individual plans that are personally and mutually beneficial. Each member of our crew will be their own project heads this year. For example, Abby is going to head up our mushroom forage/cultivation project along with forestry management. Morgan is going to head up our herb garden and her own herb spirals. She’s really into tinctures and natural medicine, so it’ll be fun to make special “potions” with her from the garden and herb spirals. (Oh, and Abby got me really into Harry Potter this year so… potions) David D. is just an all around modern viking. He’s getting really into blacksmithing and fabricating, making cool sustainable living structures and gadgets and helping us out with the pigs a lot. Nathan is good at just about everything. A jack of all trades. Great carpenter, great fabricator, getting really good at welding, and a great machine operator. For real, he’s a real work horse that can literally make something out of nothing. Dave and I are happy to watch everyone come into their own “thing.” Everyone has a passion for learning and having their own niche. Not only is it personally fulfilling for them, but it just happens to generally benefit everyone at the farm. It will also benefit our current clients and allow us to reach out to new markets.
As our little community grows, our farm grows and will therefore benefit a greater community. Here’s some things from Such and Such Farm that you can look forward to this year:
- With the expansion of our Iowa Swabian Hall herd, we’ll be able to sell to individual customers instead of just to restaurants and butcheries in St. Louis! We’ll be implementing our own pasture raised pork program very soon. We’re also able to provide our pork outside of the St. Louis area so if you’re in any surrounding states, we can get you some Swabian!
- Speaking of pigs, we’re thinking about starting a “sponsorship program.” We’ve noticed that many individuals want a connection to their food or raise their own meat but don’t have the facility to do so. We’re considering starting a program where you can “sponsor” a pig or piglet that is yours and yours only, we’ll send e-mail updates/pictures about the progress of your pig, you can come out to visit it if you want, even name it. Then when it’s ready for the processor, you’ll be able to order custom cuts of meat, maybe have a personal butchery lesson on our farm. So your “sponsorship” is basically a down payment and the opportunity for a personal, farm to table experience. Is this something you would be interested in?
- Goat’s milk soap! I’ve made some batches that are curing and will be ready to go on sale via our online store this spring.
- Morgan’s tinctures, maybe! That would be awesome!
- Blog posts from people other than me! Abby might write about her adventures in foraging or Morgan’s adventures in wearing tall socks and making up weird words.
- Scheduled “farm visit” days that are open to the general public starting in summer.
- Continue building our brand.
- And basically, reaching out to a larger audience and having a closer relationship with all of you!
We’re coming for you, 2016. The Such and Such Farm family is strong and we roll deep. We’re inspired and our spirits are renewed. We want to share our experiences and joys (and even defeats) with you! We want to hear from you, stay connected with you and snuggle all of your dogs.