(Cross posted from Facebook 05.09.2020)
Hello everyone, it is time for a couple of announcements.
First, I’m not going to host any hands-on workshops or courses this autumn. I simply do not have the time to create a high quality curriculum and the content to go with it while finishing the farming season.
The second is much more dramatic: this is my last growing season running market gardens at Lillklobb. While I will continue to garden there for at least a year, I am no longer interested in using the market gardens as my primary means of producing revenue with Lillklobb Permaculture.
It was never my intention for market gardening to be my sole line of work, but as these things tend to do, vegetable farming quickly became all that I had time for. And I am, to beat a phrase to death, tired of being tired and not having any time for myself, for family, for friends, for other opportunities. The goal of the market gardens was to have a reliable revenue stream based on actual production from the land. Annual farming with the methods I have employed offers a real possibility to generate income which can then be reinvested in other long term perennial systems.
By building out the market gardens and the commercial patterns first, I knew I would also gain valuable hands on experience. The result would be a living, working model to show people should I decide to switch gears and start designing and teaching about these concepts. The pressure of running a business through the sale of actual products from the land provided the impetus to really do the thing and learn something about what it takes to do this for a living and not just pretend I knew.
After four long years of extremely hard work, it has become clear to me that I would need to compromise on core personal goals and ethics to make the current system “work.”
And as I never set out to be a market gardener, but rather a person attempting as best I can to show other ways of interacting with the world that puts humans back into the ecological equation as a beneficial species, I am under no obligation to continue down this path.
I’ve deliberately run my sole entrepreneurship to have no long term financial or legal commitments. I am debt free and my only obligation is to Lillklobb and the City of Espoo to live up to the contract we made together. At least I have retained the freedom to change and adapt.
I started down a “permaculture” path over a decade ago with a deep and abiding love for this planet and the precious gift of life that somehow got started here. In that time I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs. I’ve emigrated from my home country and left behind my family, friends, and almost everything I knew; I’ve started a new family and a business in a foreign country that is in many ways quite different than I expected it to be (for better and for worse). My time at Lillklobb has been a period of incredible self growth and exploration.
Yet, even if my plan had worked as well financially as it has productively, I would still be missing out on some key intangible benefits that Lillklobb just can never offer me. The most obvious is that, due to living off the farm (it always surprises me how many folks assume I live there and that my wife is a farmer too), I have to treat the farm like a day job.
I lose sunrises and sunsets; I lose the song of the birds and the movement of wildlife throughout the seasons. I don’t have the ability to simply enjoy an evening stroll through the gardens, communing with the work I’ve put in for a while before turning in. I cannot make quick early morning or late night tweaks to systems on the farm because of the high embedded cost of commuting. I work with the land, I don’t live with it. Those are two different things. And after four years, I don’t believe at all that farming this way can be a day job.
At my age I have a family. I have a wife, a daughter, and two dogs who need me. I have friends and relationships that need tending to which I don’t have time and energy for. I used to have hobbies (outside of gardening, thank you) that have languished for years. I don’t remember the last time I rode my bike for fun or picked up a pencil to draw. For too long I’ve had to sacrifice weekends and family occasions on the altar of farming vegetables for profit.
The low pay while getting things established would almost be worth it (almost) if I had those intangibles that come with living on a farm. But after my brush with cancer this winter, medical issues in the family, and twelve years of going down this track, I’m quite sure I am nearing the end of this part of my life.
I do not have a set plan for next year other than to stop with the attempt to earn a living through growing produce. There are too many factors to take into consideration at this juncture to say much else. This moment’s prevailing idea is to focus on growing food with my family and some friends while offering some basic courses on no dig gardening. I want to enjoy the work I have put in over the years without the constant anxiety that comes with being a farmer.
Most of all, I want time to be me.
That means there will not be a CSA next year. More than likely there will not be many sales days either, with perhaps the notable exception of garlic. I have some ideas for 2022 that may see the CSA come back in a new form, but it is still too early to discuss that publicly.
To be perfectly honest, a lot of what I’ve done has actually worked- worked beyond expectation even. I’ve actually had to scale back how much I plant for two years now because the farm will quite simply overproduce. But the whole system hasn’t worked for long enough for me to see the situation for what it is.
So now is the time to bring this season to a respectable close and look forward to a new year with a new approach. There will be more time in the coming months to consider possibilities.
I already have a strong idea as to where Lillklobb could go and build on the successes and learn from the failures without me at the helm in the long run. And I’m ok with that. My job was always to get the place up and running and it took someone willing to make sacrifices to do that. Farming is never easy, don’t let anyone fool you.
Ultimately, I’m posting this now because there has been a recent surge in interest in the farm and my work and I’ve never been good at hiding the truth. In fact, I’ve always been open and sincere- too open and sincere much of the time- about how things are going. I’m extremely self critical. As I look towards a new future outside of agriculture and permaculture, I want to thank everyone who has stuck through the thick and the thin. Lillklobb’s return to active use is not over, it is just now time for a long period of reflection.