“The more things change the more they stay the same” and “The only constant in life is change” are both very cliche and very true.
In some sense farming and gardening means things are staying the same. We usually use the same plot of land and plant the same kinds of vegetables. We also raise the same kinds of animals.
To farm and to garden also means things are always changing. Most often on the farm change comes in the form of changing seasons and growing plants and animals. Sometimes change is in response to outside influences like market supply and demand or to a change in vision.
This past winter Allan and I have been discussing our next season. Do we keep things the same, change one thing, two or more?
A year ago we participated in a Holistic Farm Management workshop. The workshop taught the participants how to make decisions based on a holistic approach, judging all the factors needed instead of a reactionary decision that may or may not be a good decision. And it was very enlightening. It showed us where we both wanted to go with our farm and where we didn’t.
Last year we really didn’t make any changes, but kept things the same as they had been for the past few years. But this year, after having time to go through a season with the workshop in mind, we have decided to make changes on the farm. Some big and monumental, others not so big, but equally important. Because we have taken time to talk through our decisions based on our goals for the farm we feel good about the change.
For example, in the past we raised meat chickens. And there was a market for these chickens, but they would need to be butchered at about the same time the market garden was producing at it’s peak so we had a shortage of energy and time. By adding the chickens to the farm it added to the workload. By removing them from our farm we were able to focus on the gardens and produce more vegetables.
When we first added the chickens initially it was a reactionary decision: people wanted chickens. When we removed them it was a holistic decision: we looked at what it cost us to raise them in time, energy and money. Then we looked at what it gave back to us and the farm. Raising chickens gave us some meat for ourselves and manure for the gardens. But this wasn’t enough to outweigh the costs of raising them. So we stopped. And looking back it was a good decision.
And, thankfully we are still going to be gardening our market gardens. So for right now I can still enjoy perusing seed catalogues and dreaming of summer.