By Lisa Kivirist
As we head straight on into harvest season, does your “bushel of life” feel full? Whether literally overloaded with tomatoes to sell/preserve or figuratively, with other duties that must get done, the to-do list always seems to multiply as the days grow shorter. As women farmers and landowners, we wear many boots—from family caretaker to local leadership or running our own businesses, to name a few.
While 2020 probably isn’t your first round of managing harvest abundance, juggling all that under a pandemic is new. Canceled events mean certain time blocks have opened up, but some realities of managing farm life right now take much longer—from contacting a state agency with a question to setting up for market with new safety protocols.
The key? Embrace and savor the season’s abundance, full throttle. Approach the overload with gratitude, creativity and a dash of fun...and end up with stronger resilience when the snow flies!
Here are four strategies to try:
1. Creatively consume
Step out of your farmer/grower role and cultivate your inner artist: Make it a game to figure out how to creatively put to good use that bounty of season produce. Build that inventory of easy, harvest-friendly recipes that use copious amounts of annual abundance like zucchini. Read on for my Summer Abundance Garden Greek Salad recipe that uses a hearty eight cups of fresh zucchini and makes a healthy salad that sits well for a couple of days in the fridge for a quick meal.
Take some preservation inspiration from Betty Anderson of The Old Smith Place in Brodhead, Wisconsin. She gets excited by whatever garden bounty she has by innovatively pairing flavors to create unique jam, jellies and pickled products, which she produces in her home kitchen under her state’s cottage food law and then sells at area markets.
“I live by the ‘waste not, want not’ adage and see it as a fun challenge to assess what ingredients I have and how I can do something different with them,” shares Anderson, who has made canned items like corn-cob and chili glaze, which came about through using the leftovers after making corn relish. “Putting produce to use creatively makes sure nothing gets wasted and it also gives me a marketing advantage at market as I’m typically selling things no one else has.”
A corollary to using things up is being sensitive to what areas might be depleted and what you can do to restore and regenerate, especially when it comes to your land.
“Make sure to not be wasteful and that you're not over abusing a particular resource,” offers Kelsey Ducheneaux, a holistic approach to the land that she was raised under as a member of the Lakota Sioux Nation and now the fourth generation at the DX Ranch. “Or if you are, be fully aware and cognizant of that and do what you need to mitigate the potentially disastrous impact that you could have on that exploited resource. Give back to that resource base to enhance it and help it express its own resiliency and recover from the overuse.”
Kelsey Ducheneaux on the ranch. Photo: Jenn Zeller
One way that Ducheneaux does this on both her ranch and in her work as the Natural Resources Director for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, is to carry around a basic hand-clicker when walking the land, or in her case attached to her saddle when she’s on her horse. “When I go out and I ride through the cows or I push cattle from one pasture to the next, I am trying to train my eye to count how many different species I see in that pasture and I’m thereby constantly looking at the plants and it puts me in a mindful state. Sure, my travels would be a lot quicker if I wasn't stopping to pick some sage here or to dig some roots there, but this practice has really helped me understand diversity and soil resilience,” she adds.
Remember you don’t need to do it all yourself, particularly on the homestead gardening front. Most likely, there’s a woman farmer in your area who is growing or raising what you need. Such is the case for LindaDee Derrickson of Bluffwood Landing in Monticello, Wisconsin.
“I love the natural sweetness of sweet corn and to have it frozen to add into dishes all winter long, but it’s a hassle to grow for one person,” explains Derrickson. She then picks up exactly what she needs from Bethanee Wright of Winterfell Acres and comes home to use her outdoor kitchen to process it up. “As I keep farming now into my 70’s, I celebrate the fact that I both don’t need to do it all and I can instead support new, beginning women farmers in my area like Bethanee.”
Sprinkle in some rituals that make sure you literally stop and smell the farm flowers or, as in my case, savor the sunsets. Being home on-farm just about every evening this COVID season, my husband, John Ivanko, and I started to catch the sunset every night. He cleared out a trail to the west side of our property overlooking an open field for easy viewing, dragged out a couple of chairs and a table and it’s been our viewing spot to sit and relax every night for about a half hour while the sun sets and talk about our days.
I’m amazed and inspired by how different they are every night and how you can really see the change of seasons in the sunsets. Thanks to this simple addition, I’ve caught more sunsets these last two months than collectively in the over twenty years I’ve been on the farm.
Summer Abundance Garden Greek Salad