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A Week on the Farm

Happy Monday! This is Sarah speaking. I’ve been the agricultural manager here at Feast and Flora Farm for almost five months now. My first two months on the farm came with a steep learning curve (confession - I’ve never grown cut flowers before) and a lot of adjusting to being outside all day in the Charleston heat and humidity. Thankfully, Laura is the expert here, and she has graciously taught me best-practices and encouraged me not to push myself too hard when the heat index is 113° F. The past three months I’ve been settling into a rhythm, creating and accomplishing goals, and working on plans for the spring.

After getting our snapdragon plugs in the ground last week, this week has felt a little more relaxed than usual, so I thought I would take some time to reflect on our rhythms here on the farm and let you know what a typical week looks like for us. Having grown up in agriculture, I know that a week-in-the-life looks different for every farm. Our schedule and processes are far from perfect or 100% efficient, but it’s what we’re working with!

Field walks are conducted at least once weekly to identify problems, project bloom counts, and determine a list of weekly tasks.

Monday- field walk, planning for the week, and pest control First thing in the morning, I pull my boots on and head out for a field walk. On a field walk I’ll record notes about new blooms and pests and create a list of tasks that need to be done for the week. I send my field walk list to Laura and we decide which tasks are the highest priority. With a general idea of what needs to be done, I sit down and make a schedule of tasks for each day. This helps me to stay on track and to make realistic goals for the week. On Mondays I try to pay close attention to new and remaining pests in the fields. Pests can include anything from leaf-footed bug nymphs on our zinnias to the herd of deer that takes great joy in eating all of our sunflower sprouts. I also look for signs of disease and research the best methods for treating the plants to keep them healthy and blooming all season long. Tuesday- tackling top priorities I like to schedule the most important tasks for the beginning of the week when I feel like I have the most energy to tackle them. I’ll start on big projects on Monday or Tuesday so I know they will be completed by the end of the week. It feels good to get stuff done! Some of the bigger tasks that I schedule for the beginning of the week are direct seeding, transplanting starts, supporting new growth on our younger plants, installing and removing shade cloth or row cover, repairing old irrigation lines and laying down new ones, and turning over beds to prepare for new plantings. Turning over beds is my favorite thing to do on the farm - I love how strong I feel when I’m pulling out old plants and digging up hard-packed soil with the hoe. Wednesday- harvesting and deliveries Usually by Wednesday, Laura will have orders in for the week and I’ll do a lot of harvesting to fulfill those orders. This part of farm life feels the most idyllic - walking through the fields with buckets in tow and picking out only the most beautiful blooms to send to our florists or to include in subscription bouquets. A lot of work goes into those blooms, and it is good for me to remember that for all the times I feel overwhelmed with the long to-do list that needs to be checked off, there are just as many times when I get to directly see the fruit of my labors and can be proud of all that we’re accomplishing on our three little acres of land. One thing I enjoy even more than harvesting our flowers is getting to deliver them to our lovely customers! I get such a thrill from seeing a bride’s face light up at her bridal bouquet, or from dropping off a surprise arrangement with a card addressed, “Grandma.” Everyone loves to receive flowers, and I’m always so happy to be able to play a part in making someone’s day a little brighter. Thursday- smaller tasks, TLC, and taking a breather As the week winds down and I finish up the most pressing projects, I fill my time with the seemingly-endless smaller tasks that always need to be taken care of. This means weeding any beds that may have been neglected, mowing down the aisles, pruning, deadheading, maintaining the deer fence, cleaning up our workspace, and organizing the cooler. On Thursdays I try to take a closer look at our plants, and see where they need a little more TLC. Are the sunflowers looking a little dry? Do the dahlias need to be shaded? How does the powdery mildew look on the zinnias? Did the deer eat all of the sunflowers AGAIN? I also like to take a few minutes to stop and appreciate the little things that make this job so wonderful: a flock of geese flying in perfect formation overhead, Spanish moss swaying in the breeze as it hangs from twisting oak branches, the constant hum of crickets, frogs, and grasshoppers calling to one another across the field, the smell of compost and cut grass after a light drizzle. These moments of admiration for the land around me remind me that the rhythms of nature largely continue on despite my best (or worst) efforts. They help me to feel a little bit more care-free and a lot more humble.

Tree frog hanging out in the purple basil.

Friday- processing flowers and design work

Many weekends out of the year, we have the honor of providing the florals for a wedding or special event in Charleston. Fridays are usually spent processing the stems we will use in arrangements, and doing as much preparation as we can before the big day. Depending on the size and budget, a wedding will include several different floral elements, including the bridal bouquet, bridesmaids bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, flower crowns, centerpieces, arbor installations, and more. Design work requires a different sort of energy than field work - less physical exertion and more detail-oriented decision making. I enjoy the challenge and am incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to flex my design muscles as a design assistant to Laura for bigger weddings and events. When the finishing touches have been put on the bouquets, and every last petal is in its place, we call it a day. I like to do one last check to make sure I didn’t leave any tools out, any water running, any buckets of flowers in the field (I’ve done that before) and then I pack up my things and say goodbye to the farm for two days - already considering which new projects we’ll take on the next week, and anticipating the unpredictable joys of working in and with Mother Nature.

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