Farm Changes for the New Decade
2020 begins our eleventh season of growing here at Burr Oak Gardens and as the new decade begins I would like to recognize all of the changes and events that have happened here on the farm over the last decade.
In early 2010 when Tyler began farming (for accuracies sake I should note that I started helping with the farm about four months into it), he started with the hope that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) would be the farming model that would allow our farm to grow to a point where it would create a strong social network through our members, steward our land in an environmentally conscientious way, and provide a strong financial footing for our future. He and I envisioned a steady growth of the farm over three to four years to the point where the CSA by itself would be large enough and stable enough to support a growing family.
What we didn’t realize, naively, is that every year brings changes and challenges. Straight out of college we were hopeful that our plans were good and that by working hard enough, CSA could lead us to a financially stable future. But life sometimes has other plans and over ten years a lot happens. Marriage, drought, two pregnancies followed by two beautiful, but time consuming kids, hard to find labor, increasing labor/insurance costs, blights, early/late frosts, an overall decline in CSA membership across the region, buying the farm from Tyler’s parents and taking on more and more financial responsibility all shifted that direct path we had envisioned with CSA as the financial backbone of the farm to a path that no longer includes CSA.
This decision has been coming over the last several years. In 2018, Tyler left the farm to work off-farm full time with his own business, Rowe Handyman Services, LLC. The success of this business allowed us to continue CSA because it helped offset some of the farm costs. But as time went on, it just became increasingly clear that it was not in our family’s best interest to continue on a path that is not financially beneficial.
So what does this all mean for Burr Oak Gardens, LLC? It means things are shifting. We will still be farming, we will still be growing plants, we will still be raising our kids on this beautiful farm and stewarding the land as best as we can, we will just be doing it with a different focus.
We will still have produce available on the farm stand and at the Wednesday Dane County Farmers Market, we will still be growing plants for sale at our retail greenhouse. We just will not be doing CSA. By removing the rigidity of the the weekly commitment, I can take time away from the farm if necessary to help Tyler with his business or to take my kids to swimming lessons.
For 2019 CSA members who have balances remaining on their share and who were planning to sign up again to retain those funds, any funds you have available from 2019 can be used in the retail greenhouse this spring and on produce later in the year at the farm stand or at market. That money is not gone, it is just available in a different avenue.
For our wonderful workshare members, we will still have that option open. I will still be growing plants and produce and I would love to have you all come back to trade your time and energy for the things we grow together.
The only constant is change. While I am sad our initial vision of farming did not come to fruition, I am excited for all of ways our family and our business is growing. I hope to see you all along this new path, because I am pretty sure it is going to be beautiful!