Most people would say that they dread the winter months, especially in the northeast. I would have to say that many farmers enjoy a few months of the cold weather where life slows down for us. The harvest is complete, the fun holidays are over, and now a few months to reorganize, catch up on bookwork, read, snowshoe, and maybe watch a football game in its entirety. It’s a transition time to recap on the previous year’s production and start planning for the following season.
I didn’t fully appreciate this time of year until I became more involved at the farm. I work as a Physical Therapist and helped my parents out mostly during our fall u-pick apple season. A few years ago I had an amazing vacation to San Francisco and Napa Valley with great friends. I was so inspired by the region’s respect, support, and excitement towards agriculture. I soon realized that I wanted to cut back my healthcare job and take a more active role at the farm. My sisters, brother, and I are the sixth generation on the fruit and cattle farm that was established by our great, great, great grandfather in 1852. My decision to go back to the farm also included a question – “What was the sixth generation going to do to keep the farm financially viable?” After some research, business consulting, and basic soul-searching, we realized that we needed to focus on niche value-added products, agritourism, and expanded retail sales. Then began all of the work – a work in progress – filled with creativity, productivity, frustrations, and satisfaction.
My 94-year-old grandfather, who by the way still works on the farm, has observed so many changes in agriculture. He plowed the fields with his team of horses, Bonnie and Billie, and now is amazed that our products are sold on the internet. Now Grandpa takes a break from outdoor work and spends the winter cracking our English walnuts for my Apple Walnut Butter. Even our farm dog Patch gets special winter dispensation from Mom and enjoys the days snoozing in the mudroom.
A winter’s rest is a necessary and enjoyable time of year for me however; I’ll give it till March when I’ll be writing about cabin fever!