Fall is such a wonderful time on a fruit farm. The frenetic pace of protecting, managing, harvesting, packing, and shipping our fruit changes to nutrient replenishment and tucking our orchards in for their winter rest with a long deep drink of water. If you pay close attention, you can see the trees stretch and yawn after their milk and cookies; their eyes get droopy yet a sense of satisfaction in a job well done accompanies falling leaves and the anticipated well deserved rest.
Fall is also a great time for reflection; what we did, how we did it, and how could it have been better? There are lots of definitions out there as to what sustainability in farming really means; lots of check lists with lots of details—mostly made-up by people who don’t make their living farming—but the item at the very top of every farmer I knows list is: did you pay the bank back?
It’s wonderful to love what you do, it’s fantastic to fix carbon, and provide wild bird habitat. Growing great tasting organic produce full of vibrant colors and pulsating with life-giving nutrition that leaves the world better than you found it is therapeutic to everyone involved. But the main thing is to earn more from that produce than it cost to produce it, or you won’t get to do it next year.
The free market is a horrible, unkind, merciless system; except for, the other systems which are worse. In reality, the free market does the most good for the most people. The free market acknowledges the innate nature of mankind to want to better themselves, and contrary to current popular teaching, lifts both our spirits and our standard of living when compared to other ways of organizing a society.
What is popularly taught is that the free market benefits business at the expense of consumers, which is so backward. In reality, no producer wants to be part of the free market. I would like it if everyone had to buy only my peaches the way I grow them at a price I set. I want protection from my competitors for my segment of the economy as does everyone. If we’re honest, we all (whether we work in private enterprise or the state) want to earn in a monopoly yet buy on the free market, which by its very definition is free; it puts the consumer in control and keeps the producer on edge and scrambling.
Dwight Eisenhower famously said: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” He could have said that just as accurately about any occupation. Most look easy from the outside but are really challenging in daily application.
But when that challenge has been met, when everyone involved (from the families who grew it through the families who ate it; as well as the birds and the frogs and the crickets) have benefited. And most importantly, that happiest day of all when you walked that check into the bank to pay back your 2016 operating line and have a few brief weeks out of debt before starting the 2017 draw… Fall is such a wonderful time on a fruit farm. Thank you all for coming along on the ride.