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].
Full steam boomboomjamjamgotime! Cabbages and cauliflower are planted, broccoli go in today, as do leeks and the last of the shallots. Salad mix and root crop rotations fly fast and thick, each week I try to sow what I think I can sell in a week, so that the pipeline stays full of fresh and fabulous, crisp and crunchy. It feels good to get into the full swing of spring!
We’ve gotten the first batch of meat birds, cheeping and pecking and reminding me of the cycles of life here on the farm. They will spend the first couple of weeks in the brooder until they’re large enough to go out onto the bright green pasture, lush in its first real growth spurt of the year. The long winter is finally fading, though aspects of it remain in the cleanup projects and repairs.
We’re on the verge of moving animals out of winter quarters and back onto pasture, chickens in the south pasture, where they will be joined by lambs in a few weeks. Pigs are going to the north pasture, which is poor and needs some reworking. The pigs will root and shit, and then we’ll sow a mix of pasture grasses after we rotate them onto the next section.
Portable electric fencing is the key to all of these rotations, providing a concentrated animal disturbance and then moving them on to the next space so that the first area can recover. Last year we lost several lengths of the fencing when they melted in the fire, but thanks to a grant from the Good Farm Fund, we’re going to be able to replace them this spring.
I feel deep gratitude for the Good Farm Fund, and for the community of small farms and supporters who make up our local food system. It’s nice to feel supported, and we’re stoked to be able to replace the netting and also to upgrade our fire protection capabilities with more water storage and pumping capacity thanks to the grant. After our experience with the fire last year that burned part of the farm and could have cost us our homes, we are more aware than ever of the dangers of fire season and the importance of preparation.
With the arrival of spring comes the big 4-20 cannabis holiday, and we sojourned out from the farm to visit 7Stars and Mercy Wellness, dispensaries that have been super supportive of the small farm community here on the North Coast. With all the bullshit that has come with regulation, it’s easy to lose sight of the simple joys of sharing and enjoying the herb that we grow. Connecting with folks out in the world reinforces our reasons for carrying on, fighting through the bureaucratic morass to keep producing a medicinal plant that we love to grow and consume, and that provides income for our small farm.
In the propagation house the little cannabis seed starts have made their first true leaves and will be potted up to 1 gallon pots in the next few days. We’re starting seeds much later these days, in past years we’d already be starting to plant out large starts in 5 gallon pots. Moving away from the earlier start has freed up space in the hoophouse, and time, which is at a premium in the early spring.
The Ogre Berry and the Orange Durban are the last of our many seed strains that we’re still growing for the commercial market, they’ve each found a nice niche and we’re glad to still be able to work with them. Seeds are magical, each tiny packet containing the code for a massive plant that produces resinous flowers capable of changing human consciousness. I love the ritual of starting the seeds, the smells of earth and water, the warmth of the propagation house.
As the market matures over time, I hope to be able to sift back through the genetic repository that we’ve collected over the years. There are so many special strains that have been set aside in the effort to find our footing in the changing current of the marketplace. Sometimes we lose our balance and for a moment it seems like we’re going under, but so far we’ve managed to keep our heads above water. April 20th is a community celebration, a gathering, a reminder of why we do what we do, an affirmation of the changing world of cannabis and our little niche within it.
New life blossoms and blooms, burgeoning across the landscape with the brightness of spring. We feel the energy, riding the manic wave of spring like surfers, deep in the barrel and knowing that if we wipe out it’s gonna hurt. The days are long and much can be done, so I go forth to make the effort. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!