Big news tonight. After many many months of number crunching, brainstorming, research, heartache, hope, and deliberation, we have decided to leave Frog Bottom. Ali has accepted a farm manager position at Keith’s Farm, a certified organic vegetable operation about 65 miles west of New York City. He and the crew will tend to vegetables on about the same acreage as we do here at Frog Bottom and sell them at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC.
We considered all kinds of changes in hopes of keeping our farm: more pigs, more chickens, a bigger CSA, a smaller CSA and more markets, renting land for beef cattle, even starting a micro-dairy. But in the end, the smaller changes to our model didn’t seem big enough, and the bigger changes seemed too risky. Our vision for our family has always been to earn a living wage from full time farming, without supplementing with off-farm income, and we just couldn’t find a way to do that here.
This was a very, very difficult decision for us to make. When we bought our farm, we certainly intended to be here for the long haul. It probably goes without saying that we love this land – its gentle hills, the Eastern red cedars and black locusts and sycamores and wild persimmons of our windbreaks, the tiny south creek and the bigger west creek, the hawks and woodpeckers and cardinals that keep watch as we hoe carrots, plants beets, pick cucumbers, squoosh potato beetles, wash eggs, scratch a pig snout, wipe sweat from our eyes.
We also love this part of Virginia. With its warm summers and mild winters, it has a fantastic climate for growing vegetables. It is strange indeed to think of a summer without homegrown okra or a fall without homegrown sweet potatoes – things that don’t grow well up north. But we’ll adjust to that, we hope – we hear we’ll be able to grow greens all year long in New York, and at least half this farm family is excited about parsnips.
What is stranger and much sadder to think about is farming without y’all. It has been our honor and delight to get to know our market customers and colleagues and our CSA hosts and members over the last four years. You taught us how to make a mean caponata, and you joined us for a crazy pickling party when the cucumbers threatened to take us over last year, and you made us pickled eggs and hot sauce. You told your friends about us. You wrote about us on your blogs, and you invited us on your radio programs, and you shared our food with your neighbors. You welcomed us into your schools, your churches, your driveways, your front yards. You watched us grow from an earnest family of two to a young family of three. Every Wednesday and every Saturday, you made us love our work all over again.
A few more details, and then some photos from what has been one of the most pleasant, stunning falls in our recent memory.
We’re here through the winter — at least through March, and probably into April. Come find us every other Wednesday 4pm-7pm at the Farmers Market at St. Stephen’s, every other Saturday 10-noon at the South of the James winter market at the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, and at the special pre-Thanksgiving Carytown holiday market this Sunday, November 18, from 11 to 3. We anticipate having carrots, sweet potatoes, several kinds of greens, occasional other vegetables, pork, and eggs. We’ll have all the exact dates up on our farmers market page soon.
Finally, if you’re ever in New York City on a Saturday between late May and Christmas, please come on over to Union Square and say hi to Ali. It will make his day.