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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Powisset on Paper

Before I began my training as a farmer, I spent some time living in Washington, DC. I was fresh out of college, looking to move somewhere new with my partner and was a rabid fan of The West Wing, so DC was the natural choice. I floated around for a bit before getting a job at a non-profit, through the regular channels of my twenty-something adrift peers at the time: starting as a temp, moving on to secretarial work and finally landing a job as an entry-level grants administrator. 
I loved the organization and the work it did, but not so much my own day to day. I’d find ways to fill my time – recreationally re-organizing my post-it drawer (by color! by size! free form!), or taking lingering trips to the kitchen for coffee refills – but I couldn’t avoid the heart of the work, which involved spreadsheets and spreadsheets of budgets. Before long, there came a moment of realization. I remember very clearly sitting in a meeting, failing to keep pace with my supervisor as she ran through line item after line item on a particular budget and thinking in a panic, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing here. I’m terrible at math, I hate this stuff, and I’m in way over my head.’ To my boss, the numbers had meaning. They represented tangible things, and she liked the challenge of making them fit neatly together into some larger mosaic. But to me, it was like looking at an eye chart when I take my contacts out – I could see that something was there, but couldn’t quite make it out. No amount of squinting and moving my head made any of it any more clear. I wasn’t able to grasp how the numbers meant anything beyond being just numbers. There was no connection to the work that these figures supported in the real world.
I quit my job soon after and moved up to Boston. I missed New England and needed a change of scenery, plus I had heard some interesting things from my partner’s cousin, about a farm she was working at with a funny-sounding name in a town called Dover.
These days, I’m still not a huge fan of budgets, or numbers at all, for that matter. It probably doesn’t help that I’m still terrible at math. If anyone had told me in my teen years that I would most certainly need to use math in my adult life, I probably would have stopped wasting so much time rolling my eyes at my parents and watching Dawson’s Creek and tried to keep my math textbook open longer. Alas, while it’s too late for me to become a budget whiz, some things have changed for the better. Today Meryl and I sat in the farm office, cats on laps, and began the work of drafting the budget for next season. I found myself looking down at the numbers, afraid to see the lines across the spreadsheet start to blur, but I realized it feels a little different now than it used to.
With a handful of farm seasons under my belt, I’m beginning to see these numbers as more than just formulas on a page. I am finally able to connect them to the work that we do. Each line item of the budget prompts long talks and visioning about what the particular work of next season will look and feel like. What will our crew be, what equipment do we need to sustain our work, what will our seed order look like, how much does potting soil cost, do we need to replace parts of the electric fence, do we need to renew our CPR training. . . ?
It’s a stretch of the imagination: to be sitting in the office in the early days of December, wrestling numbers that will only take on shape in the windy days of next April when we put up the deer fence; or the oppressive heat of mid-July, when we wish we had thought to invest in new tomato stakes because the old warped ones we thought we could get another year out of are bending ever more deeply under the weight of plants on the cusp of harvest. It’s a rare moment when the current season, not yet fully retired, intersects with the new season, still an unformed thing out there in the ether. And all those incidents of challenge, reward, humility and harvest that take ownership of our lives in the thick of the farm season start with this – a spreadsheet and some numbers. It gives budgets a new magic that was absent for me in those DC days. We’ve since formed a truce, these budgets and I. It’s a small victory, but I’ll take it.

Hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings!

Tessa (on behalf of the Powisset Farm Crew)
My partner and family and I enjoying a stroll on Thanksgiving

Final Winter Share Distribution and Farm Stand next Saturday!

As a reminder, our fourth and final Winter Share pick up and Farm Stand will be next Saturday, December 13th, from 10 am to 3 pm. We'll be loading you up with all that we've got left, so no need to hoard your carrots and potatoes quite yet - you'll be getting plenty more. We'll also have some special guests with us to keep the barn festive with holiday pottery and beautiful hand-knit pieces for sale.

Announcing the Powisset Egg CSA!
A dozen beauties

Don't fret! The carefree days of fried egg sandwiches and Spanish omelets don't have to end this winter because we're excited to offer an Egg CSA! From the beginning of January through the end of May, come to the farm for fresh eggs, collected with love from our hens right down the farm road. $100 buys you a dozen a week for 5 months! (that's $1 off, per dozen, each week). Email Tessa at for more details and to reserve your spot.

Get your Winter Joy On!
This Sunday, outdoor enthusiast and all-around awesome human Reuben Blanchard will be offering a free workshop at the farm. Here are the details in Reuben's words:
The winter offers so many opportunities that are not there throughout the rest of the seasons. It is a beautiful time of year, especially in New England, but it is also incredibly easy to just stay inside. At this workshop, we’ll talk about how to get outside and enjoy it!
We’ll start with what most people mess up: dressing correctly for the weather. From there we’ll move on to other activities. Anything from the joy of outdoor fires, to tracking animals in the city and woods, to exercises that make you stop paying attention to the cold, and start paying attention the world around you.
We’ll spend time both inside and outside in the woods for the workshop, so please do your best to dress accordingly!
Sunday, December 7th, 10am-1pm, Free. Meet in the Powisset classroom. Email with questions or to reserve a spot.
All ages are welcome, but anyone under 14 needs to be accompanied by an adult, please.

Join Powisset Cooks! for our Upcoming Workshops:

Sunday, December 7 | 3-5PM

Potato pancakes and lantern making -- the perfect combination of activities to brighten any holiday season!

Sunday, December 14 | 2-4PM

Join  us to learn fun new ways to incorporate farm fresh veggies into school lunches!

Sunday, January 11 | 10AM-12PM

Walk, snow shoe or cross country ski around the farm trail and then warm up with Stone Soup created by participants!

Email Rachel at with any questions! 

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