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].
Hot and bothered in the dog days of summer. With warm nights and sun-drenched days it can be hard to keep it all together. I sleep outside on top of the grape arbor, stepping out the bedroom window onto a mattress pad to escape the unbearable heat upstairs in the house.
This is a time of year when I have to be aware of my mental chatter. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the work, like I’m treading water in a fast current. August is when the choices of spring come home to roost, all the things set in motion during the cool months reaching a frenetic pace that leaves me struggling to keep up.
Anything is possible when I’m drinking coffee and making plans on a rainy day in spring. Plants are so small when we plant them that more always seems like a good idea. Animals start out so cute and cuddly and don’t require much feeding. All grumbling aside though, the farm looks incredible and the burgeoning abundance brings joy to my soul.
Tomatoes are finally beginning to produce in the hoophouses, and though the outdoor plantings are still a ways out from fruiting the bushes look great and I expect the best crop we’ve ever grown. We got the biggest of the pepper rows caged and supported this past week, with the smaller, sprawling varieties still to go along with the row of eggplants.
Cucumbers are in full swing now, providing much needed coolness and hydration as afternoon snacks and sliced into water bottles with lemon and electrolytes. I guzzle by the gallon, working to keep cool and avoid the mental fuzziness of a thirsty afternoon. Cucumber slices with hummus or nut butter replace crackers, moistening the body for the evening efforts.
The days are long and I start sweating during animal chores at sunrise. Sometimes it feels like I never stop sweating, and the heat of the day lies heavy as the pace continues at full speed. It’s too early in the season to start dreaming of cool, short days, but I find my thoughts turning in that direction.
Farming is the exercise of holding oneself in the present while guiding the operation into the future. We are sowing fall crops even as we tend the bountiful summer produce, starting to move into the next rounds of brassica, salad mix and root crops. Summer carrots are tough to germinate but excellent for winter sustenance, so we sow them into wet ground and cover with panda plastic with the white side up to keep them cool. We’ll check the moisture and water regularly, uncovering the beds when the beet seeds we sow as indicators start to germinate.
Cannabis flowers are glistening in the dep hoops and giving off a potent bouquet of terpenes that enlivens my steps. I stop and sniff, enjoying the sights and scents of the different strains. We are pruning the outdoor plantings and adding secondary cages and netting as needed, readying the plants for the weight of the flowers that will form in the weeks to come.
Yesterday we held the finale in the series of Mendocino Producers Guild cannabis farmers markets at Mendocino Distribution in Laytonville. I love standing behind the table with brother Lito and Pops, talking to people about our farm and the things we produce. Amber made garlic braids and bouquets and we had veggies and Pops’ canned goods and cookies along with three of our favorite cannabis strains.
There is still a strange feeling of juxtaposition from the days of the 215 farmers markets, when we had big jars of herb on the table for sampling and folks could join our Medical Collective. Times were so much more simple without the various hoops of the regulatory rigamarole, but I am still glad to be at market with all aspects of our farm on display.
I feel a deep note of appreciation for everyone who works so hard to make the markets happen, for the farmers and vendors, and for the folks who come out to purchase and support the many small businesses in attendance. I love the opportunities for gathering and sharing in community that shape my life. Farmers markets are the metronome that mark the beat and cadence to my journey, with encounters and conversations as harmony through the seasons. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!