Friday, February 8, 2013

Growing Veggies for Market (A Love Note to My Husband)

I love my husband.
He didn't marry a farmer.
He made the perfectly rational decision to marry his stripper/engineer girlfriend, expecting to have to tolerate fresh veggies out of a kitchen garden. And occasionally stiff towels from the clothes line.

So when I asked him what he thought about me wanting to grow veggies for this year's market there were a lot of responses I was prepared for.
No F-ing way.
You don't have time for what would amount to job #3.
Think of the children.

I was ready with a whole host of arguments for those. I was sure I could talk him into it.

He said, "Ok."  He said, let's figure out how we can avoid sinking too much money into it this first year. And that he had noticed how inspired I was after the NW Iowa Food Summit last week. Proving once again that my husband continues to know me better than I know him. He did mention that HE was NOT interested in waking up early on Saturdays to go to the market. :-D Which was a reasonable thing to point out.

This being near Valentines allow me to embed our song here for your listening pleasure.

I can promise you That by the time that we get through The world will never ever be the same And you're to blame....
So, mushy stuff about my husband aside, there are a lot of things I still need to decide and get busy on if this is actually going to happen. I probably need to find land outside of the community garden plots I've been gardening in. Those plots have restrictions about selling the produce grown in them. I have some ideas for where to find land, and I'll be pursuing those as quickly as I can.

I want to start small. That's practically a guarantee considering the size of the market, the size of the customer base and the money I have to work with. A few crops to offer each week would be ideal, but even 1 or 2 would be fine. 

I want to use some of my cloth goods to supplement the (hopefully) veggie sales.  Diapers and cloth wipes and cloth napkins and wetbags, there's no place to buy any of that locally, and I think that could be a niche I can fill. Those things don't rot or go bad, so I'm hoping they can help ensure a table full of goods each week.  Dave says I could probably sell some of his excess paracord bracelets too.

Some of my readers may be wondering, WHY?  Sounds like a heck of a way to waste a bunch of Saturday mornings.   It may turn out to be just that. But, it might not.  The answer to why is a little complicated. My local farmers market is dieing. The number of vendors has dwindled noticeably in the 3 years we've been here.  Partly due to the success of a bigger market south of us in Sioux City.  Partly due to the aging market producers, a couple of them have moved off of their land or just generally retired. That's hard for me to watch happen.  I am passionate about local food. I dislike having to get food from faceless national corporations, usually all that's on offer is various flavors of oil soaked corn and soybeans. Or bland generic veggies from California, (or Mexico.)  I want there to be a thriving counter to that bland facelessness. I want to be one of those faces providing fresh tasty local food.

I don't know why, or where the urge comes from.  It has grown gradually over the years, from that first rabbit-devoured attempt in Ames, through my many garden plots since.  Every carrot I've pulled out of the ground. Every little seed planted. Every session with the hoe. The feeling has grown. There are some days I want to leave my engineering cube and never come back. Just wander home, find some ground, and spend the rest of my days happily grubbing in the dirt.

My debts have me trudging back to the engineering job every Monday morning though.  Bidding farewell to my mud stained jeans and bare feet for another 5 days. I'm hoping that by doing at least a little bit of retail agriculture, I can claim a small part of the dream. I'm hoping that part-time market grower is enough to keep my passion for it alive, and my skills growing until I can arrange the rest of my life to fit better with the whole veggie-growing thing.

There were founding fathers who were farmers-and.  Farmer-and-inventor. Farmer-and-legislator. Surely it must be possible to be an Engineer-and-farmer. 

Even if I have no land. Even if I have no tractor or truck.  Even if I'm 29 with two babies. The world needs more farmers. This country desperately needs more farmers.  I want to be a farmer. Surely this shouldn't be an impossible match. I know that it will be an uphill fight though.  Land is expensive. Selling a product that is inherently high value and inconvenient will offer up significant challenges.

 I'm tired of waiting for the perfect time though.  Now is the time. It's imperfect and uncertain, but NOW is the time. Step 1. After that I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and let things fall as they will. I'll leave you with the full Paul Harvey quote made temporarily famous during the Super Bowl this year.

And Mom, if you're reading this. I do have fond memories of Paul Harvey.  I'm sure adult Jennie would argue with him more often than child-Jennie did, but the fond memories of car trips listening to "The Rest of The Story," are there.

Wish me luck y'all!

1 comment:

Jon Lorisen said...

Good luck! Sounds like a fantastic idea, I really like the cloth goods and bracelets as an extra.