As June approaches with alarming rapidity, it occurs to me that amidst all the work and renewal that spring has brought to our Four Root Farm family, this blog has fallen to the wayside. Perhaps an update is needed.
First, let me say thank you thank you to everyone who showed us love and support when the weather left us battered and limping across 2018's finish line. It has been a joy returning to the farmers’ markets and seeing the commitment and optimism of our loyal customers and friends. We had a hard end to last year, but it was not the end of us. The challenges of this work are precisely the thing that make it important, and we are excited and inspired to use the lessons we’ve learned to continue building our little piece of a more resilient and sustainable network of small farms.
When we sat down this winter for the farmer’s long-awaited respite of cozy fires, infinite mugs of tea, and innumerable spreadsheets, flowers immediately jumped out as a bright spot amidst the gloom of 2018’s numbers. While some of us (Rachel, Aaron) may have been late to the realization that there can be value in growing things that aren't food, Elise, with Caitlin’s constant and enthusiastic cheerleading, has quietly become a brilliant flower farmer and designer. And she has started 2019 off with an amazing burst of productivity and gorgeous blooms. When vegetable seedlings were barely in the ground, our market stand was overflowing with perfectly timed mothers' day bouquets, astonishing tulips, and technicolor ranunculous. This winter and spring Elise was also involved in creating a Connecticut flower growers' collective, which is an inspiration to all of us who believe in a more cooperative approach to agriculture.
Meanwhile, although I know at times she misses the simpler days of being our lead flower designer (and blog writer), Caitlin's work off the farm as an architect has, incredibly, aligned itself over the last year with the work of Four Root. As the director of the Food Lab within MASS Design Group, Caitlin is leading projects that exist at the intersection of design, social and environmental justice, and the food system. On any given day this spring she might have been found on a turkey farm in Kansas working to preserve the knowledge that remains of pre-industrial poultry farming, in a South Carolina prison talking with incarcerated people about what they want to see in the design of a new communal kitchen space, or in a Poughkeepsie middle school, helping Brigaid develop new design standards for the project of reforming the nation's school kitchens.
I (Aaron) too have found myself off the farm an unusual amount this spring, having started a new business over the winter, Connecticut Greenhouse Company. I still haven't worked out exactly how to be in two (three?) places at once, but I remain optimistic. We built two new CGC high tunnels here at Four Root earlier this month, more then doubling our tunnel space, and hopefully improving our ability to withstand future seasons of less then perfect weather.
Crucially, Rachel has become the steady hand at the center of our vegetable operation. As our head veg grower (and data guru) she is charting a course for what we hope to be our best season of produce yet. Each season we gather more data about what works for us in our soil and conditions, what we like to and are good at growing, and what gets our customers excited. With a year of excess water behind us, we are planning to grow more of the things that have worked best across seasons of both drought and flood. We're expanding into the last section of our fields that had yet to be cultivated, and moving more production into high tunnels.
As for our Fifth Root, Ellis seems determined to spend every possible moment of daylight digging holes, spraying hoses, and "helping" me on building projects. He can't wait for the Sun Gold tomatoes to be ready, and neither can the rest of us.
Hi this is postscript from Rachel and Elise-
Aaron authored this lovely blog post and we want to add a few things to his very modest section about what he's been up to.
Connecticut Greenhouse Company fills a service gap in CT agriculture by being the only company in the state to provide high tunnel manufacturing and installation. Aaron and Toby are using their many years of experience as farmers to manufacture higher quality tunnels that farmers need. In doing so, CGC is helping farms all over Connecticut to become more resilient in the face of ever less predictable weather. Starting a second business while raising a three year old is no simple feat, and Aaron is knocking it out of the park.