‘Tis the season again. The seed catalogs have arrived and we are making all the plans for the season. Last year at this time, we didn’t even own this place, so we are getting quite the head start this year. The hard part is deciding what we want to get.
It’s a bit easier this year since we have the experience of last year to base our purchases off of. The hard part remains… Do you make purchases based on your values or based on what sells? For me, this is the hardest part of farming so far. I can handle the long hours and physical labor, but really I would like to make a little money. I’m not in it for the money, but it would be nice if I made enough to recoup the money I put into farming.
The thing is, the unusual organic heirloom vegetables don’t sell as well as the stuff that can be found in the supermarket. And it is impossible to compete on price with the stuff that is grown in the supermarket.
Lets take broccoli for an example. Our broccoli did OK last year, but not exceptional. We got lots of tiny heads of broccoli that we sold as broccolini. In large part, this happened because we grew an heirloom variety of broccoli. As we look through the seed catalogs, we talk about our choices for broccoli. There is the kind we did last year that didn’t yield any big, good looking heads. There are some unusual forms of broccoli that I would love to try. They have different colors and shapes, but people don’t really want to buy those. Or, we can buy a hybrid variety of broccoli that is far more likely to yield a large marketable head of broccoli.
The problem with hybrid varieties is that you can’t save the seeds. The hybrid industry is all about crossing different varieties of plants to give a better product, but then you have to rely on the seed industry without having any chance of continuing with your own seeds. We don’t save a lot of seeds, but we want to support the sustainable way of doing things.
So we have made the decision. We are going to grow what we want. Yes, we will sell our produce, but if you are looking for a different place to get the same things you would get at the supermarket, don’t come to us. If you are looking for different varieties that are all based on sustainable practices, that is what we are doing. If you are looking to try some different things, like purple cauliflower, we’re going to try and grow that. We can’t part from our principles, even if it means making less money.