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].
Sometimes it all comes together! The last four days have been one of the biggest farm pushes I can remember, a series of projects spanning long hours with a level of teamwork that we have rarely, if ever, achieved. Farmers market, harvesting cannabis and winter squash, prepping beds, replanting, up-planting brassica, the list goes on.
This year we’ve had so much help from family, friends, neighbors, and we couldn’t have done it otherwise. Every time I felt overwhelmed by the work ahead someone came to the rescue, and the journey has been more smooth than I could have expected. Even as changes in the cannabis market have made money stress more real for us, the actuality of the farm work has taken shape in new and unexpected ways.
I see our operations gelling, the many different facets of our farm business taking on new life as love is breathed into them. We are each focusing on different aspects; Pops does the cooking and canning, Lito manages the cannabis, Amber leads in animals and cut flowers and I focus on veggies. We all help each other, and we rely on many other people with whom we are in community.
This has been a year of changes in our animal operations as we have stepped into managing the old ranch up the road, shifting poultry, pigs and sheep there. This past week we slaughtered our first sheep, which was an experience that I value and has opened up new doors of capability and understanding of animal husbandry. It was no easy task, yet it was one for which we found ourselves prepared and it went well.
As the piglets are growing I’m finding that managing 9 porcine mouths to feed is different than just the boar and sow we had for most of the year. I’m having to adjust my feed rationing, seeking out more sources of apple drops, blown out zucchinis and gathering acorns. We try to get as much of the feed from the land or local farm waste as possible to save money and to keep the feed miles down.
We’ve just finished up our third day in a row of early morning cannabis harvest, so I sit down to write in the middle of the day instead of in the magic window before first light. Looking back on the mammoth effort of the last three days, it feels good to see so much done, to feel like we’re on the ball during a time of year that is intense at best, and chaotic and frustrating at worst.
The first round of pumpkins and butternuts are harvested and stored in the barn to cure, and the same day we cleared the beds, prepped for replant and planted 3 rows of garlic. We got the trays of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower upplanted into 3” pots, where they will grow until the last light dep tunnels are harvested. Then we’ll clear the stalks and plant them as a stellar round of midwinter food for farm and market.
The rotations fly fast and thick, and keeping it all together is a challenge that drives me but can also wear me down. It feels good to take a moment, drink a cup of coffee and put some thoughts down on the screen, reflecting on this point in the harvest. We’re enjoying a glorious, cool, moist day after a spell of heat that I thought might break me.
We’ve also seen some tribulations; wild pigs have been ravaging the neighborhood all summer and they caught up with me Friday night, rototilling two of our vegetable production hoophouses. The hoops are surrounded by electric fencing and hard panels, but I reconfigured the fencing earlier in the week to take some panels up to the ranch for sheep slaughter, and in my haste I forgot to turn the electric back on. In one sense, the pig damage hurts more because I made a mistake, but in another sense it is comforting because now that I have the electric running again I am hopeful that they will not be able to repeat the performance.
When things calm down with cannabis harvest I’m going to set the pig trap that we installed after pulling a permit from CDFW, but I have been so busy with farm and ranch that I haven’t made it happen yet. Such is life this time of year, many things on the list, but they are being checked off with a steady regularity that makes me feel good. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!