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].
The last week has been a struggle with overwhelm as the tasks remain piled high though the season grows late. The rains meant that fall and winter crops could be planted, but that it would happen much later than normal. Instead of planting through August and September, it’s been more like late October and November this year.
The thing with farming is that the work is never done, and it’s not always predictable. I know the broad timelines of when things will happen, but the plan for a given day or week can change at the drop of a hat when something unexpected crops up. This inconsistency can be hard to deal with and doesn’t work for everyone.
Managing the workload and job lists takes practice, learning not to bite off too much so that I don’t drop the ball on projects and can get everything done. Being a diversified operation provides a bit more stability in revenue streams but means that there are often competing needs from different aspects of the business.
The farmstand is the easiest part of the business because there is no travel time to market, but also requires the most consistent upkeep, checking and restocking each day. When I’m doing farmers markets and CSA, it takes 2 days each week for harvest, packing, transport and marketing. Each of these has a revenue stream that is constant, a low-level liquidity in the business that helps even out the longer timelines for cannabis.
Right now we’re juggling getting crops in the ground with trimming herb to get it ready for market. Mornings are for animal chores and garden work, and then after lunch we sit down to trim. Podcasts and standup comedy make a nice backdrop as the scissors snip away.
We’re doing more trimming on farm this year with the drop in cannabis prices and the uncertainty in the market. With the hecticness of harvest, the physical effort of a very long year, and the market uncertainty, I find comfort in renewing the old trimming routines, working to finish out the process of our longest-season crop.
Growing plants is a labor of love, done with care with the knowledge that the results will go out to other humans. Sharing food and herb with community is a main driver of my life, a compass point that guides my steps. I want to raise the highest quality that I can in recognition of the sacredness of the relationships that underlie the transactions that drive the farm.
On the one hand, it all comes down to economics; no money, no farm. But it’s so much deeper than that, an exchange of nourishment that supports bodies and minds, refracting out into the world. I eat the food and it gives me strength to do the work; I smoke the herb and it helps me to chart my course.
So often I feel unsure, like I don’t know what the right decision is. In a world full of competing viewpoints, uncomfortable compromises and outright injustices, it can be difficult to know what to do. I am glad for family and friends, for conversation and mutual support, for counsel and advice.
As we move into late fall, I take stock of the farm as it is, as it was, and as I would still like it to be. I reflect on the season that has gone by, and I begin to open the thoughts of planning for next season.
Garden breakdown is almost done, with one more day to go of breaking down cannabis beds and sowing cover crop seed. Winter beets have been transplanted into the hoophouse, scallions still to go along with another round of brassica that have been up-planted into 3” and 4” pots and will be ready to go out in a couple of weeks.
Other than cover crops we aren’t planting crops outside at this point in the season, but hoophouse work continues as the remaining hot crops begin to wind down. This year we’re planting all the hoop space, way more than we ever have before, and I’m excited to be back at market when crops start to come in around the beginning of the new year.
Last year at this time there were 4 hoophouse beds of winter veggies and a few plantings in the propagation house. This year 15 beds are already planted with another 8.5 beds still to go in the next two weeks. Lots of work, but lots of good stuff to come from them! 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.