Focus Through the Changing Seasons: Our Guiding Principles
Wow, we are still pinching ourselves, grasping the fact that it is actually fall. Our summer here on the farm was long and intense. Although we will miss the productivity that the heat brings, we are thankful for cooler days. Over the past few weeks at Durst as the seasons have been shifting, we have been thinking a lot about the future as we plan our next year of growing. As you probably know, farming can be hard and complicated with unexpected tasks pulling you in a million different directions. After years of learning that as much as you prepare, there will always be surprises, we have also learned the importance of setting goals and priorities. We have found it easier to do so by establishing a few core principles that we are committed to stay true to no matter what the year brings. These are the things we remember and keep in the forefront of our mind as we make decisions regardless of the situation or changing variables.
1. Our choice to grow organically
2. Our commitment to recognizing the people who work at our farm as our greatest asset
3. Our responsibility as stewards of the land to advocate for the health of our environment and take steps to strengthen and protect it where we can
We recognize that there are many jobs that similarly require multi-tasking, handling unexpected interruptions and the constant flow of new tasks and challenges. What makes farming unique however, is the direct relationship we have with the land and the ability to impact people and communities through our everyday farming practices.
We decided to farm organically over 30 years ago because we believed, and still do, that it is a step in the direction of a cleaner, humane, more ecologically minded food system. We were in the minority of farms who made this decision back then, but felt it was the only way we could go forward. Back then we felt resistance for going against the grain. Farm extension and outreach services didn’t even offer much advice for organic farmers. Now however, we find ourselves amidst a sea of great California organic farms with a multitude of resources for information and support. This experience reminds us to remain critical of our practices and methods, because while organic is a step in the right direction, it is still just a step. We think it is important to remain innovative, creative, and open-minded as we face new challenges as farmers.
Another very important part of our business and operation is the human element. An oft-overlooked aspect of the farming sector, our employees and staff are the lifeblood of our farm. We strive to build a farming operation that creates a welcoming, safe and healthy environment for the people who work here. We would truly be nothing without our employees. All of our produce crops are hand harvested—every asparagus spear, pea, cherry tomato, heirloom tomato, watermelon and squash. Every hand that harvests these crops is connected to a person with a story, a family, and right to be recognized for the work that they do. We believe it is our duty to treat our employees with respect and support them in a way that encourages them to live healthy, balanced lives.
We also keep in mind that we play a pivotal role in the future of our planet. While farming with organic practices is a start, we are constantly searching for other methods and farming practices that we can employ to more fully support our land and its ecosystems. We cannot be satisfied with the status quo if we hope to remain sustainable and stay true to these core principles. The natural world is forever revealing itself to us, teaching us. It is our job to listen, and respond with action to protect, support, and nourish the land however we can.
The time during a seasonal shift, such as the one we are experiencing from summer to fall, feels like a natural time to pause and reflect about all of this. We are finally through one of the hottest summers we can remember since we started farming. We are seeing shifts in availability of labor, supplies, and a changing landscape of consumer and market demand. Although some aspects of our business may have to shift in response to these changes, we will always stay true to these principles. They keep us aligned, conscious, and consistent in our commitment to grow food in a way that does not harm people, communities, or our land. As you all embrace the fall and celebrate with seasonal produce like winter squash in pies and soups, we encourage you to think about the journey that squash took from starting as just a seed in the ground, all the way to your plate. Many hands, soil microbes, sunshine, and water brought it to you for your enjoyment. We are thankful for all of those elements and especially for you and your support that allows us to do this work.