Week 49, 2021|Kristin Kimball|December 10, 2021

The end of the year is approaching, the dark and introspective time of the year when the deep questions arise and ask for answers. Mark and I huddle during these final weeks and ask, as honestly as we can, if we can commit with our whole hearts to another season. The track record so far has been eighteen yeas, zero nays, and I’m happy to report the streak continues. 2021 has been tough, especially the second half. Like all businesses at this point in the pandemic, the farm is dealing with shortages of materials, rising costs and scarce labor. But what buoys us is stronger: the sustaining miracle of nurturing soil, plants, animals and humans in a vibrant network of vast complexity, and the lifelong challenge of creating a farm that runs in direct opposition to the prevailing food system, which, in its pursuit of ruthless efficiency, has become sick and broken. 

Our members buoy us too, emotionally and financially. We couldn’t farm like this without your loyal support. Thank you for keeping this sun-driven machine running for nearly two decades! We’re sending out the 2022 contracts this upcoming week, and nothing much has changed, except for a small increase to keep up with inflation plus the rising costs of organic grain, fuel and our reusable packaging. We’ve also decided to give the farmers who have been with us for six months or more free access to the food we produce, which adds to cost but seems obviously right. Members, we are whole-heartedly looking forward to feeding you this year. If you have any questions about the contract please feel free to give Mark a call or text at 518-570-6399. 

We’ve run into a snag with our experiment in raising dairy calves on their mothers. The last wave of calving gave us six heifers in two weeks, most born to first time mothers. A month in, they look stunningly strong and beautiful, but are nursing on everyone in the herd, not just their moms. This is bad because it can spread mastitis pathogens from one cow to another via those cute little mouths. And it makes me wonder how on earth we will ever be able to wean them, if they see every udder as a potential hot meal. That’s farming. Nobody said it would be easy. Jackie, Anne and I are working on solutions, and I’ll let you know what we decide. 

We said goodbye to a good dog this week. Captain was the sweet Pyrenees/Anatolian livestock guardian that local members know from his most recent posting with the dairy goats. He had a purely kind nature, and was the best at lambing. He posted himself a respectful distance from a ewe in labor, not so close as to make her nervous, but close enough to make her feel protected during the most vulnerable time of her life. Then he would just quietly watch. He kept the half-trained pups in line last spring, and If something was going sideways, or if a newborn lamb had wandered too far from its mother, we’d know it immediately when we walked into the lambing barn, because Captain telegraphed everything. He started looking off a few weeks ago, and on Monday we discovered he had an autoimmune disorder that is not curable. Thanks to Dr. Goldwasser for talking me through all of it, and for so many years of his wisdom and good care with all of our animals. 

That’s the news from Essex Farm for this yuletide 49th week of 2021. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, or call Mark at 518-570-6399. Our instagram has been quiet lately but it’s fun to look back at the year in photos at essexfarmcsa. We’re on the farm, any day but Sunday. 

-Kristin & Mark Kimball