This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
Dare I say it, we’re on the verge of being caught up! The running joke is that in farming you say “we just have one more week of hard push” every week ad infinitum, but the checklist for the week to come is manageable and my thoughts are turning to maintenance and infrastructure upgrades needed for fall.
I’ve been thinking about how many changes have happened on the farm this year (and every year), taking stock of the broader picture and checking in with my inner compass. I am pleased with the work, with the improvements, with where I find myself as we edge towards midsummer.
There is a strange downbeat to the rhythm of the farm this summer because we’re fallowing beds instead of preparing for fall plantings. I’m almost unsure what to do with myself now that the frenetic push has given way to a slightly more measured cadence. Don’t get me wrong, the work still starts in the morning before 7 and goes till 830 every evening, but we’ve stepped beyond the crescendo.
As we work through the cycles of harvest and slaughter, the shift begins towards thoughts of fall and winter. There is a psychological edge that has to be maintained when I start to think about the cooler months, it can be dangerous to marinate too much in a future of woodstoves and slow cooked meals, books and seed catalogs.
There comes a time in the season where the thought of winter helps to keep me going, an impetus to gather in the harvests and make ready for inclement weather. The danger is in entering that mindset too early and finding myself upset and befuddled when it doesn’t arrive in a timely manner.
I try not to think of winter until there is a noticeable change in the weather, when the first crisp notes of fall creep into the morning air. Even now though, the days are shorter than they were at Solstice and I feel the shifting of the season in my soul.
The days are like old friends, come back to visit for another trip around the sun. The work moves in rhythm with the season, guiding my steps and providing a deep fundament to my life. I sink into the effort with joy, the feeling of doing what I’m supposed to be doing, when I’m supposed to be doing it
When I’m behind I feel stress to catch up, pushing my body and the people I work with to unhealthy extremes. I pile too much on the plate and then throw myself into the effort, having to re-learn the lesson every year, but each year it gets a little better.
I’m feeling amazement at the lessening of the workload, even though it’s just a small step down. Though I’m still running almost flat out, I’m finding moments and short blocks of time where I don’t feel the press of the voice that knows the next project on the list.
When I’m in the flow, I follow the voice without stress or question and it guides me through my day. There is a depth to the experience, something akin to faith yet governed by logic. In doing the next thing that needs to be done, I calculate the variables of the farm to arrive at appropriate action, and my steps proceed.
Like playing music by ear vs reading the notes, there is a broad spectrum of farming that ranges from intuitive operation to scripted plan. Different farmers have different places that they land on the spectrum, and it is different for different parts of the operation. Intuition is aided by learned experience, crystalizing over time to an accurate understanding of present picture and forward action.
There is so much subjectivity to farming, the goals and expectations define the experience. If I set my expectations too high, then I am disappointed with the results. If I set goals that are unreachable or that aren’t actually where I want to go, then I find myself off course and frustrated.
The more clear I can be with myself, the better I can communicate with others and the better our shared experience of work and life will be. I strive to hold space for clear and open communication, and to follow through on commitments. The journey is sweet, and though the work is hard, the joy is real. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!
Casey O’Neill owns and runs HappyDay Farms, a small vegetable and cannabis farm north of Laytonville. He is a long time cannabis policy advocate, and was born and raised in the Bell Springs area. The preceding has been an editorial column. The Mendocino Voice has not necessarily fact-checked or copyedited this work, and it should be interpreted as the words of the author, not necessarily reflecting the opinions of The Mendocino Voice.