The Beautiful Chaos of Managing a Small Farm and Winery: A Seasonal Journey
Welcome to the world of a small farmer and winery owner, where the vibrant tapestry of nature intertwines with the joys and challenges of family life. In this article, we will delve into the exhilarating experience of managing a small farm and winery during the busy season, while also planning and delegating ahead, all while trying to figure out the best work-life integration. Our season begins in February when seeds are planted in the grow room and picks up speed from there until we prep for winter in November after the Pumpkin Patch.
Seasonal Preparation: Laying the Foundation for Success
As the seasons transition, a small farmer and winery owner must always plan ahead. As we’ve been on the farm for nearly 5 years, it has taken some time to really learn the “Seasons” of the farm and how to plan ahead and when to start preparing for the next projects. I’ve been learning how months before the busy season, careful preparation and planning is integral to the success of the farm. It starts with evaluating the health of the soil, tending to the vineyards, and nurturing the orchards. Additionally, decisions regarding crop rotations, seed selections, and pruning techniques must be made in advance to maximize productivity.
Work-Life Integration: Blending Passion with Parenthood
One of the unique challenges of managing a small farm and winery lies in balancing the demands of work with the responsibilities of raising a young family. Achieving work-life integration is a delicate dance, where both personal and professional aspects intertwine every day. Yes, during the busy season which we are in – I will often have laundry on the couch needing to be folded, dishes in the sink and the floors may need to be mopped. But this is the life we juggle during the growing season. In this journey, we’ve been involving the boys in farm activities so they can learn the value of hard work and from each season too. They are growing lavender and selling sachets and bundles of lavender. From last year’s earnings they put their money together to purchase a Flow Hive. Our friend Craig, the local BeeKeeper helped find a swarm. Stay tuned for Steiner Brothers Honey coming later on this year. Chad and I have been working hard to instill in our children a love for nature, agriculture, and sustainable practices.
Carston and Jackson in their new bee suits.
Jackson moving bee’s into their new hive.
Busy Season: Embracing the Whirlwind
As the busy season arrives, we are fully immersed in the daily tasks that keep the farm and winery growing. We start at 5am and these mornings are greeted with the cheerful crowing of chickens and the eager bleating of sheep, while the scent of newly blooming flowers fills the air. With sunrise the fields truly come alive. Some weeks feel like a whirlwind with pushing to get plants planted all while managing the children’s activities.
Cultivating Flowers: A Symphony of Colors
The vibrant flowers that grace the farm bring beauty and joy to all who visit. Managing a flower garden requires constant monitoring of watering, fertilization, and pest control. We plan out the flower garden during the winter months but there is always a few alterations that take place as we are planting. Deciding on the varieties we want to grow is one of my favorite wintertime activities. Carefully planning for the right varieties and ensuring their proper placement allows for a beautiful tapestry of colors that you’ll be able to enjoy soon.
Jeana prepping spring flower bouquets.
Tending the Orchards: Nurturing the Fruit of Nature
The apple orchards require meticulous attention during the busy season. Pruning, thinning, and protecting the trees from pests and diseases become a daily routine. The anticipation of a bountiful harvest fills the air as the fruit matures, and as Chad says the importance of the “Farmer’s Shadow” will allow for the orchard to continue to thrive, yielding apples of exceptional quality for customers to enjoy. As labor costs continue to rise and apple prices have dropped, we struggle to find ways to have apples be a profitable portion of the farm. Please share with your friends and family that we offer u-pick apples in the fall and they are the freshest and most delicious way to gather fruit right off the trees.
Vineyard Management: Crafting the Essence of Wine
The vineyard holds a special place in our hearts. Managing wine grapes demands expertise and a deep connection to the land. From trellising and training the vines to carefully monitoring their health, every step contributes to the creation of quality wines. During the busy season, I really look forward to the hard work of hand harvesting the grapes and getting fermentations underway. The smell of fermenting grapes is so good and is a labor of love and an art form in itself.
Organic fertilizer going into the grapes.
Harvest Festivities: Sharing the Bounty
The culmination of the busy season brings the joyous celebration of the harvest. Friends, family, and loyal customers gather to partake in the abundant produce the farm has yielded. From pumpkin patches to grape harvest, these festivities create lasting memories, fostering a sense of community and appreciation for the amazing farming traditions here in the Chelan Valley.
Planning and Delegating: Cultivating Sustainable Growth
To sustain a small farm and winery, planning for the future is essential. The off-season becomes a time for reflection, strategic decision-making, and investing in the farm’s growth. Delegating tasks to a reliable team, including seasonal workers and passionate individuals, allows us to focus on long-term goals, while ensuring the farm continues to flourish.
The pumpkin planting crew. The 2023 patch is underway.
Managing a small farm and winery is a remarkable journey that embraces the cycles of nature, the joys of family, and the fulfillment of producing food and wine. It requires dedication, passion, and a commitment to finding a harmonious work-life integration. It’s not easy and it is physically draining, but at the end of the day it is a wonderful life to live. Every day is different, every season is different yet through careful planning, delegation, and an unwavering love for the land, we will continue to thrive living on a small farm and winery. We hope to maintain a thriving and fulfilling life that sustains both the farm, friends and families for generations to come.