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New gardener


Hannah dropped by today to check things out. She’d gotten in touch through the farm web site, wanted to volunteer for a day or two every week through the season, to learn about small-scale farming and how to grow stuff. No garden experience. We spoke briefly on the phone, but the only way to see is to meet in the field and get hands dirty! It’s amazing how easily people can take to tiny farming when given the chance to dive in. So, a quick tour, and then, to work. She weeded, forked and raked a bed in the greenhouse, transplanted a couple of dozen lettuce, seeded a bed of all-lettuce mesclun using the Earthway seeder (tightly spaced rows), tried out the mini-cultivator (a rototiller attachment on a heavy duty weed eater), drove the Kubota compact tractor and worked the bucket on a big snow bank, trimmed a couple of trays of onion seedlings, checked out the production standards and paperwork for organic certification, and seemed fine with my mildly intense stream of background info and general microfarming explanation. All in three hours. Everything for the first time. She did great, no problem! Just as important, at least for this tiny farm, she seemed to have FUN, had a cool energy, and didn’t make me WONDER when handling machinery, tools and plants! After last year’s great crew, standards are pretty high. Will this season of people in the field go as well or even better? There’s no real advertising or recruiting plan, I’m trusting that, through general word of mouth (and maybe, good karmic energy!), things will…pleasantly unfold. We shall see!



  1. All it takes is exposure and people either get hooked on working the soil or at the very least a seed has been planted in their minds. Whenever anyone, be it a small child to a grown adult asks gardening questions I take the time to answer them. Gardening is good for mother earth and for her inhabitants. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I really love reading your blog. It is so inspiring, it almost makes me want to run off and join you. Almost. I rather wish you sold your wares in Toronto, but the pictures will have to do for now.

    btw/I tagged you on a little meme. It’s running in the food blog spheres, but I figured growing the stuff is as good as cooking it.

  3. Interns and volunteers are great!! Good years you can’t believe how lucky you are, bad years…

    Hope you only have GOOD years, but be prepared.


  4. Robyn Vickers: Thanks for thinking of TFB in your meme! I’ve been tagged with a couple of things now that I still have to follow up on. I plan to…! I remember you dropped by the blog a while ago, I think you were into the romance of WEEDING? :) Well, whenever you’re in the area, feel free to drop by!

    Alan Roberts: Yes, I think about the ups and downs. I’m very much into the “keep it tiny” thing, and a (slightly unrealistic, perhaps) part of that is being able to keep things going myself if I had to, with just spot help. You know: one farmer, one field… From all of my reading and talking to people, it seems to take about 2 full-time people per acre for really highly efficient, intensive, organic market gardening (that’s including fieldwork, sales, everything). That may sound like a lot, but I can already see from what I’ve done (and not done) how much you can get from a small plot, if you’re good with the timing and have a solid feel for your crops and soil. Last year, with Conall full-time (and mostly living on the farm, IOW, REALLY here, 5-6 days a week), we got a lot done, and there was still lots more that could’ve been done. So there’s a pull both ways for me, to stay small and really self-reliant, and to expand by counting on others to help fully work the 2.5 acres…

  5. Mike,
    I have the same debate about growth quite often. There are so many things one could do. In my area the opportunities seem endless, especially if you are willing to drive a bit. Finding reliable help is a big limitation. Quality of life is another, at least for us. I’ve gone the hard route in other places, growing because the demand was there. I’m with you 100% on keeping it local and keeping it small enough that you can do it yourself. It’s not easy though! For me it’s the dairy. The local demand is there, the pasture is easy to come by, and most of the equipment available is sized for larger scale production. However, I know I can run a seasonal goat dairy with up to 12 does and do it all my self. I can do it and still have a life. But the temptation is there. With goat milk bringing $16 per gallon retail, and natural food stores within 70 miles of me screaming for suppliers, it is really tempting to float a loan and get bigger. I fight it every day.
    The same opportunities exist in the gardens. In fact, my latest inner battle has been about a tractor. My friend and fellow farmer up the road from us has a collection of Farmall Cubs with a wide variety of attachments. He keeps telling me that I should buy one and put more of my 5 acres into gardens. Having the horsepower and the tillage equipment would make it simple. Getting things watered, weeded, harvested, packaged, and sold would definitely require more help. I’m tempted anyway, it would be nice to be able to mow some hay when the pastures get ahead of the goats, but …

    I’ll be watching your summer with great interest.

  6. Alan: This staying small stuff is interesting. For me, I don’t seem to consciously think much about…things, until they come up in conversation like this… It begs the question, why stay small? (Also, I suppose, “how small is small/what is small?”) I copied tthat part of thos comment thread to the forum as Tiny farming: why stay small? I’ll post new thoughts as they surface! :)

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