Growing Pains and Plants
We have come to what I would consider to be the first critical junction or hurdle in our development as a team and organization thus far, regarding relationships especially. In short, for the last few hectic weeks, a couple of people have been carrying the brunt of the workload, while others have had to dial back availability for various reasons, leaving an uncomfortable imbalance over all of us. Given the intense nature of the last few weeks, I could feel some tensions beginning to break the surface as the days dragged on, and by Friday night, fatigue and exhaustion seemed to be drawing more of these thoughts to mouths. It seemed that clear communication would have to surface at some point, formally or informally, and I assumed and hoped they would be brought to a head at our BOD meeting Saturday night.
Thankfully, Saturday brought with it a complete work crew, sunshine, and a positive and energized vibe over the farm. All 10 Sand-Risers were on-site, in addition to one extra: my good friend Jimi C from back in the day. For much of the afternoon he and I occupied our own corner of the plotted land: broadforking, composting, and pulling tarps, while catching up on life, and kicking some freestyles (That Thirst, dropping 2019). There’s nothing quite as refreshing as the understanding that exists between lifelong friends, and we both found immense soul-refreshment from the time we shared getting our hands dirty pulling tarps and planting thyme. Every time I looked up, it seemed like a transformation had taken place, as nine others worked in conjunction to prep beds, transplant, seed, till, water, and pretty much everything else. The day had a great feel of productivity overall, but it didn’t change the fact that our average day has consisted of five or less people working at a time, and the required labor-hours have been shorted for most of the preceding and critical spring. The positive and refreshing day pushed that fact to the back of our minds, but we knew it waited for us at the meeting.
At around 8:00 we ceased field work and started cleaning up. Logan sawed branches for a fire, while Kelly prepped a beautiful salad and Danny and Oren took care of some last minute tray-moving to finish up the day. The rest of us caught a moment of stationary relaxation following a major day of social and muscular stimulation. We gratefully mobbed the salad, Polly’s popcorn, Fanni’s classic cookies, and Kelly’s salsa verde as we waited for the meeting to start formally. The campfire and food lended an air of celebration to the gathering, and by the time our meeting rolled around, the space was conducive to a collectively mature and honest dialogue about our shortcomings as an organization thus far, and our path forward.
We hashed through some little odds and ends before coming to the major topic of accountability and dedication. Honestly, the necessity of this conversation should be of little surprise, given the fact that we are striving towards an equitable and livable structure for workmanship, in which we can all take ownership over our own work and contributions, and the organization as a whole. The major breakthrough to be made is the realization that our individual involvement has major ramifications, positive or negative, on the farm itself. We’ve got some tangible examples of this now, as we’re forced to make real business decisions based on the reality of our lightened workforce this spring. While it was great that we had all 10 of us + Jimi C for that Saturday to catch up a bit, it doesn’t account for a month of less-than-agreed hourly work average, and the complex nature of the farming season means that we may be in great shape come July, but in June we’ll be a bit behind our planned productivity. I take as much responsibility for this reality as anyone, and believe it is a manner of communication, expectation, and inexperience.
This is an example of growing pains. We are, after all, a new team on new land, and a majority of us have lacked the big-picture understanding of a successful farming season, the required order of operations, and often the technical knowledge to carry out necessary tasks. There were times, for example, that Fanni and I were out at the farm without knowledge of what we should do or how to do it. This equates to losses in productivity and efficiency. There are plenty such examples, including our overzealous hours commitments early on. Next year, our work and planning will be more effective as a manner of experience. The transition from employee to ownership means real accountability and inevitable difficulty, but as we work and talk through it, I feel a collective galvanization, and willingness to do what it takes to keep this thing afloat. Given the refreshing and enlivening nature of a Saturday on the farm with old and new friends, I certainly hope this is the case.