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2018 Garden Harvest Report & Reflections

Nine months ago, I harvested my first vegetables from Green Gal's Garden. That initial harvest on May 20 consisted of nine heads of bok choy. Although the harvest that day was small and too early for my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, it was a momentous occasion.

Planting the bok choy transplants 

Momentous because, with a little bit of my help, some living beings had rooted themselves in the garden soil and gathered sunlight and nutrients and grown from tiny seeds in my small greenhouse to edible vegetables. The miracle of seeds growing into plants has been happening for a really long time on this planet, but observing and supporting this process continues to be magical and profound. The process of photosynthesis is intimately tied to the lives of every human on earth.

Bok choy seedlings in the greenhouse

Nine months later, I look back on all of the vegetables and herbs that I harvested in the garden from May 20 until November 8, 2018, and I am in awe. It's remarkable to experience what happens when you decide to make a dream into reality. The results of my market garden in 2018 far surpassed what I could have imagined last February when I worked on my crop plan and marketing plan and CSA membership agreement.

Thank You

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who made the garden grow last year. Although I planted the seeds and set the irrigation timer and handled the actual gardening & selling of crops, there was a team of people who helped in so many ways to make it all come together--from the generous offering of land and soil where the garden grew, to financial contributions, to weekends in the heat digging beds, to the commitment made by some brave & incredible folks to receive veggies & flowers from a young farmer for 20 weeks, and all of the countless other contributions large and small.

I am in awe of the commitment, love, encouragement, and hard physical labor that my family and community provided in order to make it possible for me to grow my garden and provide fresh, local, and organically grown produce & flowers to people in my community. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Throughout the season, I kept detailed harvest and sales records so that I could look back at how much I actually grew and sold throughout the harvest season. This data is displayed in a series of charts below, along with some of the best photos of the garden's abundance. I provided some big picture data for all crops and then focused on some of the crops that grew the most.

To provide some context, Green Gal's Garden was about 500 square feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California and produced a biweekly box of veggies for 3 couples and one individual, as well as weekly boxes for one couple. The CSA season was 20 weeks. I also sold surplus veggies and flowers to others in the community through direct sales on a case-by-case basis when I could.

August 2

Total Harvest 2018 for crops sold through CSA & Direct Sales

Different crops are sold by the pint, the count/each, the bunch, or by weight. As a result, it's challenging to combine this data into one number, which is why the data is split up this way.

  • Pints of cherry tomatoes: 40.42
  • Peppers (does not include peppers sold by weight): 101.33
  • Flower bouquets: 9
  • Bunches of greens & herbs: 235.75
  • Pounds of vegetables: 156.5

June 17

Total Harvest 2018 for everything harvested

The data in the following graphs includes all garden products (vegetables & flowers) that were harvested, not just products that were sold through CSA or direct sales. Products that weren't sold might have been blemished in some way, or there may have been surplus vegetables that we harvested to keep the garden producing. You have to harvest existing veggies & flowers in order for the plant to produce more as the season goes on. Otherwise the plant will convert its focus from growing the part of the plant that we humans like to enjoy toward producing seeds for the next generation and the crops will no longer be yummy or last in a vase. Anything we harvested but didn't sell went home with us or was gifted to friends and family.

August 16

All sales record types combined. Peak season was in August.

August 9 Harvest for CSA

Focused on the three crops that were harvested the most and recorded as bunches

June 17. This kale bed produced the entire season and actually continued growing after we removed the irrigation lines in November. A couple of weeks ago, I heard it was still producing. Kale yeah!

Sweet peppers were sold by weight, but spicy peppers (which are typically much smaller) are sold by each pepper. The y axis on the left corresponds to the orange sweet pepper data in pounds. The y axis on the left is by count of peppers and corresponds to the red hot pepper data.

Cherry tomatoes were sold in pints, and all other tomatoes were sold by weight.

August 28

Looking Forward

I learned a lot this last year about gardening, running a business, and selling vegetables and flowers. I also learned about the importance of balance and downtime and what it feels like when I'm busier than I would like to be. In addition to the garden & CSA, I also provided marketing consulting to two clients, held a part-time university position (3-4 days/week), and planned my November wedding! Oh, and we moved to Reno in December the day after we returned from our honeymoon to New Zealand. 2018 was a big year for me.

As I embark on new adventures in Nevada, I am being cautious with my time and carving out space in my weeks to be creative in new and unexpected ways, without obligation or goals or deadlines. I'm reading and writing my way through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and it has been a delightful and refreshing experience so far (I'm on week three). 

I also attended the Nevada Farms Conference this week in Reno. During the three days, I not only learned a lot about things like the benefits of high tunnels in desert farming, but I also met some awesome people who are involved in the food system in different ways. For instance, I spoke with some of the farmers market managers in the area. After some encouraging conversations with them and others at the conference, I'm going to pursue a dream I've had for awhile: get my cottage food certificate and start selling my sourdough bread! I'm figuring out the legal logistics now and will be announcing my official launch date as soon as I can!

Inside one of the high tunnels at Lattin Farms in Fallon, NV, during the Nevada Farms Conference

Unlearning "productivity" as the ultimate goal

As I explore the Reno area and all that it has to offer, I'm inviting new opportunities while remembering the lessons I learned last year about balance and "me" time so that I can continue this work sustainably in the long-term. 

I'm working on unlearning the social conditioning that has trained me to see everything I do as either productive or unproductive toward my career advancement or other goals. By relinquishing this dichotomy and recognizing that simply existing and letting myself be creative without any particular goal is valid and actually necessary to lead a fulfilled life. 

I say this as someone who is constantly setting goals and working to accomplish them, and I recognize the value in that mindset. But I'm also learning that it is not always healthy to consider every action within the context of productivity--which in this society has its roots in capitalist notions that seek maximum profit, often regardless of the repercussions affecting the people or natural resources that create that profit.

While my goals are in pursuit of what I believe to be a greater good than simply making money, I live and work in a capitalist society. Inevitably we are all affected by the values and emphases of our economic system, which can be damaging to us psychologically in ways that we aren't even aware of. 

The daily grind that prevents many people from enjoying their life except maybe on weekends is an obvious example, but the way we relate to each other and how we treat ourselves are also affected by the emphasis on productivity that our society has adopted as the cultural norm.

It's an interesting balance to be trying to reach goals but also deconstruct the notion that everything must be tied to a goal or be measured on how productive it is. 

I am certainly not the only person exploring this, and in fact, I owe a debt of gratitude to the many people online and in my life who have taught me how to examine social assumptions more critically and recognize where social conditioning has created unjust and problematic biases about what is normal. 

I'm actually attending two workshops in the coming months hosted by Santa Cruz Permaculture looking at how we can create opportunities, economic models, and careers that re-center the emphasis on justice, equity, and planetary health. 

I re-share this whenever I see it on social media. Artist unknown.

I recognize that what I just described is not something most people in mainstream society are talking about. I'm not advocating for communism. I'm not saying everyone should quit their jobs and sing kumbaya. 

But I am saying that there is value in thinking critically about how our society and economic system are affecting us in ways we are not okay with. Once we are aware of these issues and don't simply take them as necessary to human existence, we can identify real strategies in support of equity, opportunity, justice, and environmental health.

I'm still learning how to process all of this, and I am grateful for your patience in reading my thoughts about it. I have a lot to learn and look forward to all of the learning and new adventures that I will experience in 2019. 

If you'd like more regular updates about what I'm up to, thinking about, baking, and growing, please follow me on Instagram @greenbeangal.

Thank you for reading!

Green Gal