Finding Energy in Seasonality

From the Desk of the Sourcing Team:  This week, Sourcing Manager Neil Stauffer ruminates on how farmers find energy in seasonality. 

On the farm, where two seasons meet, task lists grow. When spring meets summer, farmers try to find time to manage greenhouses bursting with plants while also getting into their fields to transplant summer crops and begin the early season harvest. Where summer meets fall, especially early in the month of September, harvests boom with peak summer as well as early cool-season crops. Fields are packed with the best of both seasons — and farmers simply do their best to try and keep up.

In a marathon around the 20-mile mark, runners may “hit a wall,” as their body and mind lose focus and energy. If the produce year were a marathon, early September marks a “wall” for many produce farmers. At this point, they may feel exhausted from the onslaught of the season, while facing increased mental and physical pressure from expanding to-do lists. Fall harvest and cleanup merge with late greenhouse and cover crop plantings. Many farmers daydream wistfully of wintertime rest.

But this seasonality is perhaps the saving grace of produce farming in this region. Each quarter turn of the year’s unique set of conditions helps dictate how a farmer spends their time. In a generalized sense, the farm year moves through springtime seeding, summer field planting, and fall harvest, to wintertime rest and planning. But of course, each season also includes a wide diversity of work toward both short and long-term goals. 

Around this time of the year, near the equinox between summer and winter, the wall of fatigue begins to soften. Slowly but steadily the days get shorter. The temperatures drop. The harvest begins to wane. And along with this seasonal shift, the finish line of the farming marathon begins to appear on the horizon. 

The summer veggies fade, the fall crops are harvested and stored away. The to-do list, though never short, will perhaps begin to feel manageable again. And, over the winter months, with some rest, recuperation, and time spent with some fresh, glossy seed catalogs, the energy returns. Farmers forget just enough about the challenges of the past year that they catch a spark of that familiar excitement when the seeding season starts, the fields thaw, and the cycle of the growing seasons begins again.