Sustainability. What does it mean to you?

Sustainability is a buzz word, embedded in every eco-business home page out there. Clothing, food, building materials, consumer products….all of it advertised to be “good” for our earth and our families. The overall cost of marketing must be amazing, as my facebook and instagram accounts are constantly bombarded with ads for new products that will reduce plastic, save the oceans, and decrease water use in manufacturing, etc. All these potentially positive choices can be overwhelming to an individual who wants to be part of the solution to climate change, but doesn’t know how to start.

I have friends tell me that they want to make the world better for themselves and their future generations, but: “I don’t have the time” or “How can I afford to buy organic at the store? My grocery bill is already too high.” Sustainability, in the basic definition of the word, means the ability to repeat the process, to maintain the balance. Sustainability is what works for you, within your time and budget, to choose better alternatives. By making small, daily choices to be part of the solution within your means, you ARE being sustainable. For example, if you can add one or two organic vegetables to your grocery budget each week you are making smart decisions (here is a sample of produce options where organic is a healthier choice than conventionally grown:

Of course, we’d all love to buy clothes made from eco-friendly materials, buy groceries at a local, organic farm, and stop buying everything encased in plastic, but the reality of life and our budgets is usually very different. Therefore, I leave you with the thought that your choice to be part of the solution, making positive resolutions, is being sustainable. Thank you for doing your part!

Getting my learn on…

I’m back in the North Country after a short trip to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) Winter Conference this weekend in Burlington (I attended VT versus NH merely due to a schedule conflict for the previous weekend. No offense NH!). My busy day was filled with joyful informal talks with fellow attendees, lectures by inspiring presenters with stories of failure and success, and being part of a community of people, who like myself, are trying to create a sustainable solution.

I noticed something interesting as I hurried from one event to the next on Saturday. There were so many women here! I had the opportunity to hear Taylor Mendell, co-owner of Footprint Farm, speak in detail about the profits and challenges of growing winter greens in New England, and how after 7 years, she is still working to improve her systems. Jen Miller, of NOFA-VT, streamlined workbooks for budgeting and tracking costs of production. Jane Sorenson, of River Berry Farm, and Heidi Racht, of Pleasant Mount Farm, guided us through the basics of selling seedlings to expand our early season offerings. Women growers and women teachers, humbly sharing their knowledge to better the next generation of farmers.

I am grateful to them, and so many others at the conference, who took the time to be supportive to a new farmer and give hope and guidance.

Winter planning

Seed catalogs, spreadsheets, and farm resources overwhelm our kitchen table as I slowly start to piece together how this homestead to farm transition is going to happen. The winter is kindly giving me time to dream as well as think seriously about how I want our farm to grow this year, as well in years to come. There are so many questions…how big to start? Do I go certified organic this year? Should we do no-till? If I grow it, will you buy it? How much can I juggle and still keep a smile on my face? The crazy amount of farming information available can be too much at times, so I head out for a quick ski or snowshoe with Cinder, our dog, to clear my head. Then, it’s back to the kitchen table to start moving forward again, slowly plotting out each bed, indoor seed start schedule, and anticipated harvest date. As boring as that sounds to many of you, it’s super exciting to me and I’m excited to be part of something new in our food community.