On never being enough and The Strawberries of Life.
This summer, we grew organic strawberries for the first time. Many of you had them in your boxes. They were sweet, fragrant and delicious! Even when they were still white, they tasted better than the strawberries you can buy from the supermarket. But sometimes they were small, or funny shaped. Or they had a bug bite. Or we didn’t have enough for each of our boxes. And so instead of feeling proud of them, and of myself, I worried. I worried about what our customers would say. I felt like the strawberries weren’t good enough. And picking my strawberries became a chore, instead of a joy.
For me, this was the sign that made me notice I wasn’t just tired and stressed. It made me realise that something wasn’t right. That even though Matt and I love Heritage Farm, and even though Kingsley brings us more joy than we ever thought possible, and even though we have a whole team of people supporting us, and working with us for our vision of a fairer food system. Something was going wrong.
If you’ve seen Matt or I in the last month (or really in the last 5 years), you might have noticed we look tired. Or maybe we told you that we are tired. And that’s true. But it’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is that now we’re exhausted.
The kind of exhausted that means I stay up too late at night because I don’t want to deal with tomorrow. The kind of exhausted that means on my day off, I scroll on my phone, instead of playing with my son. And the kind of exhausted that means I spend 4 hours avoiding an unpleasant task that takes 5 minutes.
These are my examples, but Matt has his own versions of the same burn out.
Failure is a hard thing to share. Not being enough, to realise a dream, even when you’ve given it everything you have. And giving up. Making an active choice to say that it’s enough. That for the next little while, we need to prioritise our family.
There’s no bank foreclosing our mortgage. Or a legal suit. None of our family members are sick.
There’s no excuse that I can offer you. Only the fact that we are not enough, to reach the standards that people want, while meeting the ethics we believe in. And that in trying to achieve, we have exhausted ourselves, and sucked a lot of the joy out of our lives.
The farm is a passion project for us. It’s something we do for love, more than money.
Have you ever played a game of would you rather? You know; would you rather eat a live spider every day, or eat nothing but carrots every day? Would you rather be and look like a normal human, or be able to fly, but be covered in feathers? They’re random questions- two things that are hard to choose between.
If someone sat down with a hypothetical question for me; would you give up the farm and keep your family, or lose your family and keep the farm? I would laugh. These questions are meant to make you think. And this one is a no brainer. Matt and I would always choose our family.
But what we’ve come to realise is that no one ever sits you down and asks you that question. Talking about work just slowly infiltrates date nights, and you put your kids in front of more TV, so you can do more work. And you become too tired to put in any energy, so you stop getting joy back out. You stop picking your strawberries.
And that’s not the life I want.
So we have big news: We’re selling our farm.
We’re not going to be growers and producers any more. We are going to be continuing our veggie and fruit boxes, just packing at a local community space rather than our farm. As you all know, we grow our own veggies for our boxes, but we also work with other local and organic farmers to supply produce. We work directly with them- no markets or agents.
And they are a big reason why we will continue the boxes. We don’t want our life changes to effect their livelihoods. And for all that we need to take a step back, we don’t want to set our food system back. We believe in and have worked for a fairer and more resilient food system, and we will continue to do so. So your veggie boxes will continue to arrive, with Fran, Amy and Cameron all stepping up to continue to connect eaters with growers.
Selling our farm has not been an easy decision, and we don’t have it all worked out yet. I tend to tear up every time we talk or write about it. This is not something that is easy for me to write, or to share. But I want to finish this chapter of our lives the same way we started it; with kindness, and transparency.
This is an ending, for us. And it’s tragic. Eventually I hope I’ll be able to look at it as a beginning too.
It’s strange, but in starting the process of moving on and selling, I’ve been able to see again how much we’ve achieved, not just how much further there is to go. The insect life on our farm is stronger and more vibrant than it was 5 years ago. We used to have blow flies. And we still do, but we also have dragonflies, and butterflies and in the last two weeks I’ve seen 3 different native bees. Our soil holds water better, has more microbial life and we find a worm in every spadeful. Some of the native trees we planted are above head height now. Others will continue to grow with out us. Our pastures are more diverse, and better balanced. A kookaburra lives in one of our old trees, and comes to say hello on the washing line each morning.
Even though I never dreamed we would be leaving this land so soon, I can say with confidence that we’ve left it in better condition than when we found it. And that we’ve fed our community while walking lightly on this earth.
We hope you will stay with us as we take a step back, and support our local farmers, while supporting our family.
Rach and Matt (and Kingsley)