Casey O’Neill cultivates cannabis, vegetables, and fruit in Mendocino County. We will be publishing his weekly newsletter regarding growing cannabis and produce sustainably.
You never know when these high-pressure systems are going to set up and we’ll see a week or ten days of winter sunshine, but you know that it’s going to happen. We’re going full-steam, gearing up for the season to come. This is the time of infrastructure upgrades, refining our operations to be more consistent and professional as we gain knowledge and capability.
We learn as we go, each season an opportunity to apply new lessons and grow in skill and capacity. As we refine our knowledge, so too do our practices and infrastructure needs change. There is a paradox in that it is important to plan for changes but that you can’t know what those are going to be until you’ve achieved the skillset to be aware of them.
There are different levels of construction, from something built to last a season to building to last a lifetime. The longer you want it to last, the longer it takes to build and the more resources it requires. The governance of this relationship is a cornerstone of our farm ethos and strategy.
No hard and fast rules apply to decisions around infrastructure. We evaluate each situation based on a rough set of criteria, a weighing and calculation of importance of the project, the time and costs it will take to build, and the length of time we expect it to be in use.
In the early days of our farm, everything was built in the cheapest possible way, which meant it wasn’t going to last more than a couple seasons. This worked in our favor because we always found that our needs had changed as we had expanded the number of garden beds, the amount of hoop space and the areas for grazing.
We used to build lots of 10×20 pvc hoophouses for small-volume winter crops, popping the structures up and taking them down as needed with just a few hours of effort. They hopscotched all over the garden as we tried different methods and practices for summer and winter growing. As our practices deepened we began to allocate resources to better hoops that would be more permanent in location.
When I worked in carpentry I would acquire new tools as I encountered a need for them on the jobsite. Because I used them in a professional capacity, I bought quality tools that were made to be used at a commercial level. Over the years we’ve applied this same process to the farm, buying when we had saved enough money to get high quality equipment.
This lesson applies to how we build and install infrastructure upgrades. We take note and complement ourselves on the increasing quality of our work, an impetus to continue the journey of betterment. Just like learning the building trades, it takes years of effort and practice, and there is a clear pathway but no end goal. Joy is renewed through the cycle of change as we experience and grow.
Settling into the rhythm of seasonal change and the tempo of microclimate allows us to refine the music that we play with the farm. Complexity increases as different instruments are added to the mix, over time becoming an orchestrated symphony of operations, though there are always rough parts where the melody isn’t quite right yet. Making noise with an instrument can create harmony and beauty or chaos and discord depending on how it is done, and farming is no different.
You can use tools and effort to make a big mess or create something beautiful. Farming is often both, a blending of chaos and creation that springs forth abundance and bounty. Life is messy, joyous, difficult and amazing. We lean into the shared effort and rejoice at the results of our labors, taking the time to recognize the changes over the years.
The clean rows of salad mixes and root crops in the hoophouses right now are evidence of our changing practices and increasing skill. Though it is early in the year, we are on the verge of a burgeoning abundance that is orchestrated through careful management. Preparing the space, sowing the seeds, hoeing the weeds and harvesting food and herb to share with community. These are the steps that add up to the journey of our life’s work, each an increment of the universe.
We are each blessed with different gifts, opportunities and levels of privilege. The shared goal of human societies should be to increase access to resources and opportunity for all so that each may activate and express the unique gifts of individual humanity and consciousness. May we each find steps of joy and love in this world, much love and great success to you on your journey!