Welcome to April! We look forward to celebrating the Easter Season. The sun is warmer, and we prepare ourselves for more barbequing and outdoor activities, getting our backyard oasis ready for time well spent.
So, you may ask what changes for farmers in the spring? Well, farmers who farm in fields preparing their crops and land for planting, make sure all their equipment is ready for the season. But, what about mushroom farmers? Nothing really changes because we farm 365 days indoors. But do not worry — we always find projects to accomplish around the farm and we are never bored.
As I mentioned before farmers are a different breed. We work with living organisms. We work crazy hours, we pour our blood, sweat and tears into what we do daily to produce a product for consumers to enjoy. When we receive a compliment about our product our daily stress flies away even for a quick second because if the customer enjoyed our product while sitting at the table with their families that is all that matters to us.
The farming industry is difficult and not everyone is cut out for it. You need to be passionate about your industry, intelligent and a little bit crazy to do this for a living. Farmers band together in difficult times and we support each other. We vent about how cold it was when the hydraulics froze, or the chain broke on a machine, or the conveyor belt broke, or the truck that is bringing supplies was late. Or we vent about how we cannot find the motivation to just finish the day’s tasks and need that extra push from someone, just to get through the day. But at the end of the day the job is done maybe not always with a smile, but with some pride that a challenge was met. That is all that matters.
We count our blessings every day because we know that if someone’s day is bad there is someone out there who is having a worse day than you. For example, I could be mad and stressed that some equipment broke, and I had to spend $5000 that I did not want to spend on it, but I know someone else spent probably close to $150,000 for something that they were not planning on. So, we spin a positive version to make us feel good inside. For instance, well it is not like we must buy that every day… it’s an investment for at least the next 3-5 years… Fingers crossed that is.
We do try to plan for the tomorrow and for the disasters that could take place but there is only so much you can plan. We really do need to “wing-it” much of the time. Farmers need to be able to adapt on the spot with the problems that arise.
Many, many years ago, I was faced with that kind of “curveball.” My dad was the only one on the farm who knew how to drive the forklift. Unfortunately, he was ill and not at home. We needed to have bins emptied and there was no one to do it. I had to quickly jump on and teach myself how to drive the forklift, so time was not being wasted. I remember another incident with our big machine which we call the “headfiller,” used for filling our mushroom houses with compost weekly. It is our most prized possession. Without it we cannot grow a single mushroom. One morning as the truck was on site and we were in the middle of the fill, my dad and I heard a noise coming from the chain. The chain was skipping which is never a good thing. We finished the bed that we were filling and looked at the chain. My dad and I evaluated the problem and concluded that we needed to tighten the chain up and then we could continue the fill. Looking back, it was a simple solution, but when you are in the thick of things your mind is racing, making sure that every possible solution has been considered.
Fast forward about a year and my dad is wheelchair-bound for a while and cannot help me. What then? Do not get me wrong — I know how to fix things; I may not be extremely mechanically inclined, but I know my way around my farm. When things start to pressurize, and I need to fix something with a million eyes on me I get the job done and I get the job done well. I work better under stress; it is what drives me. It does make me a better farmer, I learn to adapt, evolve, and understand. So, my crew and I are filling the room and I hear the same noise I heard with my dad about a year before. My dad is not there to assess the situation, so I jump off my ladder bring the headfiller down and I “MacGyver” the problem and make sure we do not skip a beat. Any farmer will tell you that when you fix something you have this great sense of accomplishment like you can take on the world, and it is completely true!
So, when I tell you that I love getting my hands dirty and I love #playinginshit believe me.