This has been a roller coaster of a 3 years since we started growing our own food seriously. We have gone from pots to raised beds to 2 large planting spaces and many smaller planting beds! Seriously there is potential for food EVERYWHERE on our 3/4 acre homestead. Each planting area has its own, niche or ecosystem if you will, based on what is growing there. As a result, each plot is treated differently when it comes to watering, fertilizing, and even pest control. With each new plot we developed we have had bountiful harvest but with each comes the potential for disappointments and failures. We have had our fair share of those as well. Having multiple growing areas also means that our time has to be scheduled out to make sure all areas are getting the proper attention. This brings me to the topic of this week’s blog – is bigger better?
Granted, we are not a “big” farm/garden. We wanted to be. Notice the past tense there? As we have grown, we’ve seen the need to keep the family business manageable to the four of us and to never lose the directive – feed ourselves organic and chemical free produce. Of the four of us, I am of limited physical ability so my contributions lean more towards the direction and the management side of things. My husband works full-time, one child is in full time primary school, and the other in college full time. So there is such a need to use our available energies wisely. Initially I had hoped for further expansion and development of our land but for this family bigger is NOT better. Here is why:
Labor & Time
We grow from organic, non-GMO seed. Although not certified by the USDA, we practice organic growing techniques and if you know anything about it, you know it is quite laborious! Finding natural and organic products in a state and city where nontraditional growing is unheard of has proved to be laborious and time-consuming in itself! Sticking closely to other growers and picking their brains is of great value here. However, in the majority of cases we default to online sources. Plants have to be inspected daily for disease & larvae of harmful pests, those are manually removed and depending on the time of the year the plants may be individually sprayed top to bottom with natural pesticides or repellents such as neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Weeding is a very important chore that is manually resolved by hand and/or by applying organic mulching to the ground since herbicides are not an option. Can you imagine the time involved in handling these things? Many days I question my sanity for even trying. Then I see the latest recall on lettuce or hear of horrific side effects of chemicals often used on our food and I’m reminded of why we are doing this. The reality of it all is keeping things small means we can continue growing our own chemical free organic produce.
We have truly enjoyed the diversity of the garden this year. We have grown 5 varieties of basil, 5 varieties of kale, 4 varieties of choi, 2 varieties of corn, 3 varieties of okra, 3 varieties of peas & squash, 8 varieties of beans, 3 varieties of carrots, and 4 varieties of cucumbers just to name a few! (I had to get my log book out for that!) We have found that the diversity makes the harvest all the more exciting. It has also made for some very intriguing, tasty meals! We are finding so many new and interesting vegetables seeds every day! We will likely never visit the parts of the world where these are native but there is no reason we can’t grow a little of the Orient, India, and Australia in our own yard!
As we grow these heirlooms and make them available to our customers we are finding that these are things they have been looking for! Who knew?! However, this is not something we would be able to maintain in a larger scaled operation. The unique customized care required for each new variety would require far more time and energy than we have available. It is acceptable to us to keep things this way. We prefer diversity over quantity.
On the business side of things we really like to talk to and interact with our customers. They have some truly outstanding experiences in what led them to buying, some exclusively, from organic markets. They too have added to our knowledge of how to grow organically & deal with pests & disease organically. The wealth of knowledge here within our customers is a gold mine waiting to be tapped into. Not only that, we really like our customers! I personally like that they know me and I know them. There is a great level of respect that comes with our relationship. Our customers understand what it is to grow organically and that at times we may have lower yields as a result of holding ourselves to a high standard of growing. As one dear customer said, “I’d hate to have you sacrifice quality for quantity.”
So why even address this? Sigh. Bain Home Gardens is different! At times that means we stand out like a sore thumb even among our garden community. That is all right. Our differences add to the diversity of the farming/gardening community – that is our niche. I decided to write this because I thought someone else may look at others blogs or photos and think “I will never get to that scale of gardening!” Even if that is the case, do not give up! We, like many of you, do not have acres upon acres to develop but what we do have is heart, knowledge, and a reason to be successful – family. It may be your health, where you live, your time, your energy, your finances – whatever it is embrace it! Find your niche! If you live in an apartment and grow balcony tomatoes, then make those the sweetest tomatoes ever! Work with what you have and do not feel pressured by any stereotype of what has come to be accepted as traditional or organic farming or gardening. Instead be the prototype! Do you and what is best for your family and that my friends will make you successful in your own right.