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People in the field update

Lynn and Mike chat

This has been an interesting summer for learning about tiny farming, people, and the ups and downs of growing largely without machines. I’ve had an ongoing debate with Bob over the years about the garden layout, using relatively short, 50′ beds, and hand cultivation, rather than planting long rows and doing most of the between-row weeding by tractor. The tractor approach lets one person, one machine, and some cans of diesel do most of the routine work alone. The hand-grown approach requires lots of labor, and you either settle in and do it yourself with many 10-12 hour days right through the weekfor a good part of the season (as I used to do), or…have help. I’ve found it’s definitely more fun to work with others, BUT, once there’s a bit of a regular crew, there’s the new matter of keeping the group dynamics smooth and making sure everyone’s HAPPY. Long days of often repetitious work, finishing one job only to launch directly into another, and working around the vagaries of the weather—this year is an exceptional case in point—aren’t what most people are used to. And when some of the people live on the farm, for a few days a week like Lynn (chatting with me in the pic), or 24/7 in the case of WWOOFers, things can get even more complicated, like, when is quitting time! At least in the start-up years, tiny farming can be pretty much an all-consuming focus during the growing season, and that’s not something most people really want or can handle, either—you’ve gotta love it! So finding the balance between going all out, and, well, providing a fun taste-of-tiny-farming experience for others, can be a bit of a puzzle. At least, that’s what I’ve found so far. All just another part of the ever-changing TFE…! (Guest photo by Maria)



  1. Mike, my beau is mid-way through his second farm apprenticeship and he blames August for the sudden increase in tension amongst his coworkers (and the jump in the farmers’ stress level!). Can’t let those weeds go to seed, after all, and the tomatoes have to be harvested.

    You’re doing something really important by inviting people onto your farm to help and learn from you, so thank you!

  2. Amanda: Yeah, it’s a bit a puzzle trying to describe the people factor on a farm blog, it’s much easier to concentrate on the straightforward, visible field action. But really, on the tiny farm, there’s first your own head to consider, and then the circumstances around you, just beyond the field, like overall farm finances, local politics, neighbors and the like, and then, if you have field help, there’s all that goes on with those you work so closely with. I’m trying to figure out how to get across some of that, without it becoming all…distracting. It takes some work, a generally upbeat disposition, and good karma to keep the whole thing on track! I’ve read a couple of people-related posts on other farming blogs, about handling stress and the like, but it’s not mentioned much!

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