As I was setting out to write this week’s article I noticed the counter in the upper part of the page showing that I’ve written five hundred blog posts for the farm since 2014. I’ve been cranking out an average of one post per week for nine years. I had not been tracking this, so there’s some pleasure in the serendipity of landing on this nice round number. I don’t believe in auspicious numbers, but I can definitely see the appeal. Now as I set out to write number 501, I’m feeling a reflective on what this work may have accomplished.
My first blog post was written as a farewell to the ash trees on our farm. At the time emerald ash borers were spreading into our area and killing off the ash population. Looking back, it is interesting to see what held up and what didn’t. The ash trees were indeed devastated, but the insects have taken more time than I expected to do their work. Throughout this most recent winter I continued cutting down dead and dying ash trees, and I have a few more winters’ worth of trees still to harvest. So the infestation is spreading, but not with the speed I anticipated.
Reading through those early writings, I can recall the feelings I was trying to express. I had such a large vision for what we might be able to accomplish on the farm, and yet we were up against obstacles that seemed insurmountable. All the years from 2011 to 2019 the farm suffered enormous losses as I worked two jobs to keep it afloat. We slowly, slowly built up enough market reach to allow the farm to stand on its own wobbly legs. Some of the articles at that time were written from a sense of desperation. I’m not sure if others can detect that or not, but I can remember the blended feelings of dread and hope as I wrote those words.
Over time, I’ve done varying amounts of work publishing content through Facebook and Instagram, along with the blog. I never loved those social media platforms, and I eventually shut each of those down. The short essay format of our weekly newsletters has always had more appeal for me. It has been fascinating that the less I published on social media, the more the farm’s customer base grew. Go figure!
I’m thankful for everyone who has read what I’ve written over the years. I’ve enjoyed the experience of farming and I’ve enjoyed being able to share my observations, questions, and aspirations through this format. The challenge of knowing that I always need to have another article on the way, describing whatever happens to be occurring at the farm or whatever might be going on in the larger food industry, has better attuned me to understand the work we do as it might appear to outside observers. And the process of continually trying to express ideas in a manner that can be meaningful to non-farming readers has encouraged me to re-evaluate my assumptions and practices. So even though the writing is ostensibly part of the marketing for our farm, it also is a kind of development tool for me as a farmer.
Looking ahead to the prospect of writing the next five hundred articles — well, that seems too daunting to consider. But I do have a handful of ideas for the upcoming weeks. So I’ll take it one week at a time and hopefully I’ll have the sense to say what I need to say, and when I’ve said enough, I’ll have the sense to shut up.