Transformation Rest: The Work of Winter

by Jason Halm, Farm Manager

The year we’ve all been waiting for is here. No, really, 2020 has passed us by, for better and for worse. While I don’t doubt that for many of us it was the most frenetic and change-oriented year of our life, in getting ready for 2021 we’re forced to take a long and hard look at 2020.

Nowhere is that truer than on the farm, where Dan and I have launched into full-scale planning mode, looking to inventory the past year’s seed and order seeds for 2021 very shortly. Every crop planned out is full of reflection (“what went wrong”), appreciation (“what went right”), and a call to action (“how can we make it better”).

Similarly, as we began to clean up in the past couple of months, we lined up the things that didn’t go well this past year or that could have gone better and started to put it all into place. Our Kawasaki Mule, the workhorse of the farm, just got back from getting a new starter, clutch, choke, brake cables, and two new front tires–the first work done on it off the farm in five years. Our South Greenhouse, riddled with holes from 2019’s hail storm, got a new plastic roof put on by Dan, Jackson, and Agustin in November. We’re currently having a commercial walk-in cooler put into the barn to replace the inventive but limited cold rooms originally put in by Steve and Nate Tiwald around 2008.

We’re looking into how to make our jobs and our lives easier, so as to leverage our labor’s effectiveness, and everything we do is on the table: we’re combing through details from seeding dates to which trays to which varieties to use, and also thinking about how to best communicate what’s abundant, in season and why to you, our biggest fans (we’re also your biggest fans).

To paraphrase garlic farmer and esteemed writer Stanley Crawford, winter is a time when you can permit yourself the luxury of occasionally thinking there is not much to do.

But: there it is. Even on a relaxing, snowy day, there is maintaining the farm driveway, researching, seeking pesticide and food safety and organic licensure, planning, purchasing, checking in with members of the farm crew, and checking in with ourselves.

Winter, for us, is a time of deep rest. That doesn’t always mean sleeping in until 10, although it certainly means a healthier amount of less-stressed sleep than the summer. Rather, the rest that winter calls forward for us is deep and transformative and different than the work of summer.

And, it is active. Just as I think of our compost piles sitting under a light dusting of snow, frozen over, but heating and cooking and curing underneath, I think of a winter rest for us as a veneer of stillness cast over a transformation on the farm.

This past year, my first managing the farm, pushed me hard, personally. This winter, the work of learning to rest and not force myself to overwork is, perhaps, the hardest task I’ve faced this year. I’ve focused on reading more, getting outside for long walks, writing, exercising, and catching up with friends I passed on spending time with in the summer. And, of course, on leisure-filled weekends and afternoons, drinking a cup of coffee, I may be peeking at seed catalogs, dreaming, again of the long rows of beautiful produce and the line of wonderful shareholders at pickup. You may know the feeling when you start to dream of your outdoor projects and your own gardens this coming summer (if you need inspiration, TCF’s own Connie Kollmeyer provides it in spades in this organic gardening webinar)​.

This rest not only makes me a happier person, it makes me a more complete person–and a better farm manager. Just as surely as trees drop leaves in the fall to shoot their energetic inflorescence forward in the lengthening days, we, too, have turned inward, reveling in the rooted rest of the season, in order to burst forth in the spring, to sow seeds and tend seedlings and see the circle be unbroken again.


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