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].
I get by with a little help from my friends. Never has this old adage run more true for me than this spring. We’ve been having help on the farm from friends who drop by for a few hours at a time to help us knock out some projects, and it’s been awesome. The camaraderie, the new conversations, the chance to catch up, and the power of many hands making for light work leaves me thrilled and excited.
In a world that seems to speed up each year, it never seems like there’s enough time to catch up with friends. We’ve been finding that there is such a great opportunity for wide ranging conversation while planting onions or scallions, cabbages and kohlrabi. Chatting while up potting in the greenhouse, conversing while pulling weeds. So much opportunity for shared learning and new perspective, so much good work done.
This is the time of year where it’s easy to feel behind in the work, like I’m running late for school, and that builds a sense of struggle that tinges my reality with frustration and negativity. I’ve been striving to learn the lesson that I’m not behind, I’m right where I am, nothing more, nothing less. It has been doubly difficult this year without additional labor on the farm, but we’ve also found efficiencies and have seen the culmination of some of our practices to minimize time for some jobs.
As we get better at farming, the time that it takes to turn over beds and replant goes down. Practice makes professional, as does having the right tools for the job. Over time we’ve accrued the equipment we need to be effective, and have gained skill in the use of each of the various tools.
Pushing back cannabis start times has helped relieve some of the press of the workload, though we’ll be getting into cutting cover crop and prepping the big terraces in the week to come. It feels good to move from a position of “maximize production at all costs” to “produce what feels comfortable and what I know we can sell in a crowded marketplace”. Easing off the production curve will allow a little more breathing room, while allowing me to focus on other aspects of the farm, which makes me happy.
Over the last few years cannabis has taken up a bigger and bigger part of the time on the overall farm operation, especially with the regulatory burdens and asinine METRC track-and-trace bullshit. I’m glad to have the opportunity to step back, to refocus the lens on a more balanced farmscape, and to remind myself of the joy of working with the plant.
Yesterday we up-planted a round of clones that will go into a light dep tunnel in a few weeks. It always feels good to find myself working with cannabis on a proper spring day, the plants shining and green, the sun warm and the birds alive in the trees. It is part of the routine of my life, with a calming sense of practice writ large upon the canvas of my days. Spring begins again.
On a day of heavy work with many hands, we prepped beds and planted cabbages and scallions, up-planted cannabis, planted kohlrabi, cilantro and beets and managed to pull the weeds from the margins around four hoop houses. The weeds in the hugelkultur tunnels had gotten quite bad with the winter irrigation for growing cabbages and other heading brassica, and with help from friends we were able to make major strides.
The weeds are taller than I have ever seen them this time of year, and some have already begun going to seed, adding a certain amount of pressure at a time when my focus would normally be on bed prep and planting. Same goes for the demands of the irrigation systems, which I wouldn’t normally expect to be dealing with much. It is a learning process, seeking balance, breathing through it and accepting that I am where I am, neither behind, nor ahead.
In the old days, we did a lot of shared work days during spring, visiting and sharing in the effort of spring setup on the homesteads on the mountain. Much of that shared labor has fallen away in the past few years as we’ve been so pressed with the many commitments and efforts of a growing farm operation. It feels good to share time with friends, to keep our hands busy while our mouths marinate in conversation and our spirits soar with group effort and the beauty of a fine spring day. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!