Week 2, 2023|Kristin Kimball|January 13, 2023

Baffling weather again this week. It rained all night, turning the hard frozen fields slick and soft. Now the temperature is dropping, and the gray sky is shedding snowflakes thick and fast. Members, don’t risk life and limb on the roads if it looks bad out there later on. We’ll be here and fully stocked all weekend.

It was a week full of catchup, cleanup, organization, and repairs here, the usual winter work, but a little heavier on the repairs than we expected. Our intra-farm internet system went down last week thanks to a power surge, which destroyed our ruckus (props to the pointy headed tech person who so poetically named that thing), and we can’t reach the human who installed our system several years ago and who might be the only one on the face of the earth who really understands it. Our good friend and neighbor Beth Schiller stepped in, spent hours on obscure ruckus forums, and tried to get us back up, without success. She patched things, though, so we have internet at the house and farm office. Whew. Thank you Beth! You are a tech angel.

Meanwhile, we bought a replacement aftermarket hydraulic pump for our John Deere tractor, and it was incorrectly machined, leaving the drive shaft just long enough to poke an unfortunate hole in a perfectly good timing belt cover. Sounds like the whole tractor has to be torn apart in order to fix it up. We should probably listen to Essex Farm alum Charlie Malonis, who is now a mechanic at the JD dealership, and says that’s what you get for buying off-brand parts.

Finally, we needed repairs on our mixer grinder, the big machine we use to make feed for the animals from our own or certified organic grain and minerals. It has always been something of a Rube Goldberg thing, requiring extra labor and fiddling and some good luck every time we use it. I think we’ve lost at least one good farmer to the frustration the mixer grinder has caused. (Freddie, if you’re reading this, we miss you!) What’s the alternative? $65,000 for a new one. Or, we could buy premixed feeds from a dealer, but that takes us a step away from our commitment to agricultural diversity, and the integrity and independence of growing a good part of what we need ourselves, and puts us at the mercy of the international marketplace, with all its vicissitudes. So, it was a trip across the lake on the ferry for another patch, more skillful than the fix we would have made ourselves, with a wave of gratitude to Tom and David Kenyon at Nitty Gritty Grains for doing it.

But! There is in fact some very shiny new equipment on the farm, and members might catch a glimpse of it at distribution this week. We got a NRCS/USDA grant for some new maple syrup equipment, including a reverse osmosis machine, which will lower the energy requirements of our small sugaring operation by ⅔, not to mention the labor. And our dear member Mike Farrell and crew got tubing installed in our sugarbush, to replace our old metal buckets, which are now illegal. The sap, when it flows, will come right down the hill to us, compliments of gravity. I loved driving the horses through the woods in the snowy early spring to collect buckets of cold sap, and I can’t yet imagine what it will be like to do it this way, but I can’t wait to find out.

Thank you, thank you, to all our members who have signed on for this winter share. We’re so happy to be feeding you, and excited and proud of how delicious the food in the share is right now. If you are in, but haven’t yet filled out your paperwork, please get in touch with me as soon as you can. Thank you, again, to everyone who has reached out with support and help as we forge our path forward. There has always been a lot of love around this farm, but I’ve never felt it as strongly as I do right now.

Delivered share members, we are still in the discussion phase for resuming the delivered share, but we made some progress this week that I hope I can share with you soon. WE WILL BE COLLECTING YOUR BINS AND JARS NEXT WEEK. I will send you an email when I know what day and time. If you were a microshare member and have packaging to send back, please let me know so I can get you on the route list.

The biggest thing we need help with right now is getting more local members on board, as soon as we can, so we can gather the resources we need to plant this spring. If you love the farm share, if the food has improved the quality of your life, would you please tell four people about it this week? Better yet, bring them here to see and taste it for themselves. Crucially, we now have a fund that will allow us to bring on several local individuals or families who might not be able to swing the full cost of the share. We’ve named it the Essex Farm Food Fund. Joining the farm with support from this fund is simple and confidential, and it’s a win/win, so please help us spread the word! Shoot me an email at essexfarm@gmail.com to get things rolling. We are so very grateful to Joan for establishing the fund, and I’m overjoyed to report there are others who got in touch this week about contributing. This could be a real gamechanger, and it is in perfect alignment with the mission of our farm, so please help us generate some positive momentum.

If you can brave the roads, Bill McKibben is speaking tonight at 7pm at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, part of the Save Winter conference organized around the FISU World University Games, which are taking place right now. I’ll be speaking there on Sunday at 3PM, on the connection between healthy soil, healthy people, and a healthy planet, and what we all can do to help foster those things. I picked out a reading from The Dirty Life, too, because I’m in the mood for that. I hope to see some familiar faces, and meet new friends.

A belated welcome to our new farmer Luka H, who has joined us full time on the animal team. We are so happy they are here. If you see them, give them a warm hello.

That’s the news from Essex Farm for this icy-muddy second week of 2023. Remember we are dropping our land line, so the best way to reach us directly is the farm email: essexfarm@gmail.com, or by text to Mark at 518-570-6399. You can also follow us on Instagram, in three distinct places: essexfarmcsa (the official farm channel), farmerkimball (Mark’s entertaining soapbox), and kristinxkimball (yours truly). Or find us on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball