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 rotations fly fast and thick as we add jobs to the list and scratch them off. One step at a time keeps the journey moving forward, stay focused and be present. Planning is important, but spend too much time in the big picture and end up feeling overwhelmed. Stay calm and carry on, getting worked up won’t help.
This has been our best crop of spring flowers yet, bouquets of tulips, narcissus, periwinkle and other pretty spring plants brighten our senses and our lives. The scents and appealing colors bring joy, making me pause in the headlong rush that is the spring farm.
Animal chores take up a bigger amount of time now than at any other part of the year, especially with the cool, wet weather. Checking on the little chicks, bringing fresh bedding and food, cleaning and refilling waterers. Soon we’ll move pigs up to the ranch and get the bulk of the meat birds out on pasture, and the lambs are grazing well and becoming more friendly each day.
Turkeys will arrive soon, pigs and rabbits are an ongoing part of the farm. One of the little brown female rabbits escaped yesterday and I haven’t had much luck catching her yet. I’ll check tomorrow morning, for escapees often nestle in near the rabbit enclosure and can be easier to catch at that point. So long as she is out in the driveway I might as well not even bother, when she’s in the open she’ll be faster than me no matter what.
This is the time of year when crops that need to come out of the hoophouse outpace bed prep and I start to feel jammed up and a little frantic. The first big planting of summer squash wanted to go out this weekend, but with the cold weather I’ve opted to give them some liquid FPJ (fermented plant juice) and hold them in their 4” pots for another few days. The next round of cabbages is more than ready, as are several trays of collards.
With some help I managed to get 5 hoophouse beds cleared, prepped and sown with salad mix, turnips and radishes, which checks a big job off the list. I keep being surprised by how much work it is to keep the hoophouses operating at full production, because the rotations are so fast that there is almost always something that needs clearing and replanting.
With the warm spells this winter and early spring I’ve seen crops go by faster than I expected, salad mixes and Asian greens blowing out and going to seed early, which means they have to be replaced. The extra rotations cost more in seed, compost and time, and make it harder to get the outside work done. Bed prep moves forward, but there is still a long way to go before the farm is fully planted.
With the big 4-20 holiday approaching, we’re also balancing cannabis work. Yesterday we went down to Mercy Wellness in Santa Rosa for a chance to hang out with the good folks who work to get cannabis out to the people. It feels good to connect with people who come out to the store and support us by buying our herb, and it’s important for us to tell our story and foster relationships.
This coming week we’ll be down in Richmond at Seven Stars on Wednesday, and then on Saturday in Laytonville for the Mendocino Producers Guild Farmers Market. I love standing behind the table, displaying our offerings and interacting with customers, engaging and learning about people and talking about our farm and our practices. It’s fun to share and I relish the opportunity, just like I do with our vegetables at the weekly farmers markets.
Though much has changed in the last few years, the bedrock of our farm remains relationships with the people who buy what we produce. I appreciate the sense of shared community that develops through these interactions, which is a huge part of my sense of identity. Whether vegetables, canned goods, value-added products or cannabis, what we produce defines much of my life journey. The old saying goes that you’re a gardener until you sell something, so I’m grateful for the folks that buy what we produce because that is what makes us farmers.
We spent a beautiful Easter Sunday with family, and now as dusk draws down to night I write this column and make my harvest list for the market tomorrow. Soon I’ll head out to close up the lambs and make one final check on the brooders and chicken tractor. The long days of spring are intense but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!