Sourcing Supplies in a Supportive Community
“Farming is all about moving people and things around.” A veteran farmer in the Skagit told me this once and it struck me as exceedingly true. Get the carrot seeds, the tractor and the driver to the field to plant carrots. Get the irrigation pipe and people to the field to water the carrots. Get the people and the hoes to the field to weed the carrots. Get the truck full of crates and the people to the field to harvest the carrots. Get the harvested carrots to the packshed with people to wash them. Get the carrots on a truck to deliver to you! It all really comes down to having the people and the right stuff in the right place at the right time.
Usually our work of moving things around begins on the farm. But this year, the step before that- getting the right supplies at the right time onto the farm- has been more challenging than ever before. It all seems to somehow stem from the pandemic- whether backups in the supply chain (lumber, metal, plastic), packing warehouses and freight (labor shortages), or increased demand (seeds, potting soil). The amount of work I have had to invest in sourcing supplies I have bought for the past 15 or so years is incredible. Longtime suppliers are out, causing me to undertake purchasing research mid-season. Sometimes shipping times are so long, I would order the same supply from two or three different companies to see if one of them maybe, hopefully, would arrive in the time I need it. Now that I’ve keyed into the issues, I find myself purchasing months to a year in advance, just to make sure I can have all the supplies and inputs the farm needs.
Although this has been a huge time suck and a major source of frustration, there have actually been some really cool things that came from it as well; the biggest of which is recognizing what an amazingly cooperative community we have. There is a long history of East Jefferson County farmers helping each other out, but I feel like it’s become even more critical this year. Dharma Ridge Farm went in with us on a 275 gallon tote of fish fertilizer to save on freight cost. Midori Farm loaned us some critical greenhouse containers in the spring, then a couple weeks ago, we had excess of something they needed and we were able to return the favor. The Chimacum Corner Farmstand completely bailed us out by selling us a couple pallets of certified organic potting soil at cost until our shipment arrived. Due to increasing fuel prices, we are sharing our pig grain runs to Sequim with Creaky Knees Farm.
In this new reality where we can no longer take for granted that everything we want or need is readily available with 2-day shipping, it feels most reliable to have good farmer neighbors and friends who can work together to make all of us more successful. That is the new certainty and resiliency that feels like solid ground. So, my new working definition is that farming is all about moving people and things around within a supportive community.