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].
Editor’s note: The Mendocino County Herb Guild is holding a spring market event at the Little Lake Grange in Willits today, Sunday April 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — you can find more details here.
I’m all a hustle and bustle this fine Sunday morning getting ready to head out for the Mendocino Herb Guild market fundraiser down at the Willits Grange. It’s lovely to wake to find it cool and moist, which makes for minimal stress about watering while I’m off farm today. The last few days have been quite the different case, as I’ve found myself scampering around making sure that tender spring crops stay moist.
Everything likes a little warmth so long as there is plenty of water to drink, and the cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, salad mixes, root crops and the early plantings of tomatoes and summer squash are all exploding with vibrant growth. It makes me super happy to walk around and observe the farm while doing the morning chores; the burgeoning life makes my soul sing as I go about the work.
This morning has been hectic with preparation; making sure crops are watered, animals are fed, making food for the day, up-planting starts for sale at the market and now sitting down to write while I eat. After this I’ll harvest salad mix and cooking greens for the market, then I’m off!
It seems like there are a lot of events right now, which always makes me feel a little stressed trying to balance the workload of the farm with my desire to be out and about. I love getting to catch up with friends and share our tales of winter and our hopes for spring; these interactions help recharge my batteries, reminding me of why I do what I do and sending me back to the farm invigorated to continue the work.
This past week has been awesome, sunshine and warmth have accelerated pasture growth and we started transitioning the livestock back out onto warm season pastures. The laying hens are so pumped to be back out on the grass and the meat birds will follow after this coming cool weather passes. We got the three boarlets out on pasture, and will be moving the other pigs out as soon as we replace the battery in the electric fence charger. On a side note, we do have an extra pure-bred Kunekune boar who is approaching breeding age, and we’re looking to re-home him either as a sale or a trade for a full Kunekune sow.
Breeding pigs has been a new experience for us; Ms. Piggie is our big sow, and she has had two successful litters in the past year, leaving us with our current total of 11 pigs. This is 6 more than we’ve had before and is going to be a little tricky to manage the rotations and land management, especially with lambs, turkeys and more batches of meat birds still on the way. Careful planning makes the difference between chaos and choreography, we’ll see how it all ends up.
Last night I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the movie Frenchy Dreams of Hashish, which catalogs the story of master Hashishin Frenchy Cannoli during his last years among us as he traveled the Emerald Triangle seeking the perfect cultivars for hash making. Frenchy and his filmmaker partner Jake Remington spent some time with us here on the farm, and it was a trip to see myself in the movie speaking about farming and the trials and tribulations of the broken cannabis regulatory process that has unfolded in California.
Frenchy got me to speak in a more candid fashion than I usually do on camera, and it was both refreshing but a little intimidating to hear how openly I criticized various aspects of the cannabis reality through the course of the film. Overall, the movie left me feeling nostalgic but hopeful for the future, reminding me of the special conversation that occurs between plants and living soil here on our farm, the unique terroir that flavors what we produce, and the possibility of appellations being developed to protect and promote the herb. We shall see what the future holds, one step at a time.
As I make ready to head out to market, I think about balance, about community, about life. I’m glad to share the journey with so many incredible people, and grateful for the opportunity to farm and tend land that I have lived on for my whole life. I love spring, and I’m excited for the season to unfold; we’re catching up after the brutal winter and my spirits are high! As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!