AgriCulture: Adding Daylight

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Hi all, Mark here.

Victoria’s bulletin last week reported that, having taken on a full-time gig at Ironwood Farm, she would not be managing the Turkana Farms vegetable garden this summer. That one sentence has prompted a lot of speculation (not always voiced), so I thought I’d shed some daylight on the questions it raised.

farm with clouds
Farm seeking farmer, Photo by Mark Scherzer

First, what does this mean for you all? Will we be producing vegetables this summer? Those of you who were so pleased with the new garden offerings accompanying Victoria’s arrival last season may be understandably concerned that what hath been given in 2019 may be taken away in 2020. There is no question that Victoria’s rather herculean efforts last season, undertaken in the hours around her full-time day job and on weekends, resulted in a major upgrade in the scope of our garden offerings, and that they were of uniformly high quality. She works to a high standard, and this is an undeniable loss.

Nonetheless, we will do our best to offer produce this summer. Seeds are being ordered, and we have every intention of supplying you with some of your favorite garden produce this summer and fall.

Second, what does it mean for Turkana Farms? What of the plan for Troy and Victoria to take over the farm operation as their own? Did something go wrong?

To these questions I have a considerably more disappointing answer. Troy and Victoria will be moving on at the end of this season. They have not lost their passion for agriculture, but they’ve
decided their future is not here.

We always viewed last year as an experiment in which Troy and Victoria would determine, after a year of unpaid internship, if they could make a go of it. If they decided they could, they would have take over the farm operation as their own this year. They ultimately determined that even if the land and housing were free, the economic reality was that they couldn’t. Their rationales are undoubtedly more complex and wide ranging than they’ve voiced to me, and I will leave it to them to share with you what they care to, but I can tell you what they’ve told me.

In part, having seen the farm’s operation, which has never been conducted on a particularly business-like model, they’ve determined that it would need a major investment in infrastructure, well beyond our new barn, to have a chance of generating sufficient income to sustain them. That investment would include such assets as a new truck, the tractor we’ve never had, and a cold room. The investment would require resources they don’t have, which I don’t feel I can diminish my modest nest egg to provide, and which they’re reluctant to borrow for when they don’t own or fully control the property they’re operating on.

Perhaps even more important, their farm dream entailed integrating our existing resources, particularly the house and its immediate environs, into the farm’s operations in ways I found unappealing. They suggested that renting out the now formal Victorian parlors as studio space, holding more public events, and potentially transforming parts of the house’s immediate surroundings into parking areas, would help make it economically viable. They are no doubt right, but such changes would reduce my ability to use it as the refined, quiet refuge from the world Peter and I envisioned. Their lack of autonomy to maximize the return on the property constrained them considerably.

Though the idealistic vision we started with will not be realized, I would not say that something “went wrong.” This experiment succeeded in several respects. Troy and Victoria clarified what kinds of agricultural endeavors they’d like to pursue and how they think they can succeed at them. I do not think they will wait thirty years to pursue them. They discovered an incredible and for them previously unexplored part of the world, the Hudson Valley, readily accessible to many of their old friends and home to many new ones. It’s an area I hope they will not venture very far from.

For my part, they gave me an invaluable transition period. Having lost my partner of 40 years, their coming to live in and operate the farm meant I did not have to also immediately lose the life Peter and I had built together as well. While I don’t want to become frozen in amber, living in a museum of my former life, this extended process of envisioning the farm’s future has enabled me to see what I treasure most about it and want to preserve.

I hope I’m also safe in saying that the process has created with Victoria and renewed and deepened with Troy a sense of family. We’ve had fun. There’s a certain appealing symmetry in their arrival being associated with Peter’s wonderful memorial party, and their departure closely following on their wedding, which will be held here before they leave — transition rituals in which the mutual support and affection of family and friends are expressed and affirmed.

So what’s next for Turkana Farms? Stay tuned. We will again raise chickens and our signature turkeys this year, along with lamb, with Troy managing the livestock. I am actively seeking farmer matches – farmers in need of just land and a barn, to be used rent-free if they maintain it in agricultural production. That farmer’s scheme will determine what the place produces. The products sold will be his, hers, or theirs. I invite any of you who know likely candidates to make introductions.

I have often in the past likened a farm to a work of art, shaped not simply by fore-ordained labor but by the vision and creativity of the farmer. Thinking Troy and Victoria could work within a particular structure created by Peter and me was a bit like asking a painter to finish a canvas someone else began. An artist needs to start with a blank canvas.

WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK:

Egg production continues to augment. Orders welcome.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Tiny hot matchbox peppers, $5.00 a string, dried and quite decorative.
Acorn squash, $2/each
Cheese Pumpkins, $2/lb, 5 to 8ish pounds

EGGS: $5/doz – while they last

MEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezer. See below.

GEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.

ROASTING CHICKENS – Nice fat Freedom Rangers, frozen, largish (4 to 7 lbs, a few smaller), $6/lb.

LAMB: Whole or Half $7/b (hanging weight), Riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb,

PORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs),
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb
baby back ribs $8/lb
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb
smoked bacon, $12/lb
Kielbasa $8/lb

FARM PICKUPS:

Email us your order at farm@turkanafarms.com, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.

AgriCulture: Adding Daylight
AgriCulture

 
 
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