For the past two years, we’ve used the help of various part-time workers to keep the farm running and manageable. These folks all have other jobs or occupations, but dedicate a weekly portion of their busy lives to working on the farm and making our life easier. We’ve had between 10 to 20 hours a week of help since spring, doing a wide variety of farm chores including weeding, manure incorporation, harvest, trellising, animal management, and much more. Over the past weekend, a busy one that included market and our fourth CSA tour, we marked the official end of our worker season with a final work session and subsequent party.
We’ve experimented with various ways of handling farm workers that both stay above the law (volunteers are technically illegal on a for-profit farm) and are practical for our management methods and budget (our low-cost farm doesn’t generate the gross cashflow needed to pay cash wages). Last year we classified our workers as official employees, and paid wages in produce using a law allowing farms to do this without tax withholding; we just had to report the total wages paid in an end-of-year statement. That was still a pain, so this year we converted our workers into customers, who in effect joined a working CSA in which they paid for a weekly share of farm products with weekly work shifts. We recorded the distributions and work hours, and reported the cash equivalent as sales on sales tax remittances to the state. In effect it’s the same thing, as we would have had to make the same cash sales to earn the money to pay cash wages to workers, and the government still gets its cut. It also makes the farm more efficient, as we often use seconds or market leftovers as “pay”, which they’re perfectly happy to take and which uses product that otherwise would be wasted (some have been able to really load up following bad market weeks). Everyone seemed happy with this year’s arrangement, which let their households save a lot of money spent on groceries while using only a few hours a week they felt they could spare (a much better deal than going to the gym, for example).
Sunday was a hectic but wonderful day, as we had an extra-large work crew of most regular workers plus a few spouses/partners who don’t normally work here, but got a chance to experience the farm and the work that produces their food. It was about the largest single crew we’ve managed here, and we got a lot done from 9 to noon, including raking a large swatch of leaves for future mulch; distributing 100+ bales of freshly delivered straw around the farm pre-rain; weeding & mulching multiple beds of winter greens; field cleanup of row cover, hoops, t-posts, and more; and so on. By noon we were all starving, and others who couldn’t work that morning were arriving, so we adjourned to the house for lunch.
We all relaxed on the porch, enjoying a cloudy but warm afternoon, talking and relaxing while enjoying a good meal largely provided by us in thanks for a good year (ingredients in italics sourced on-farm):
Squash and leek lasagna (winter squash, leeks, fresh goat ricotta, goat milk, herbs, noodles)
Asian cabbage slaw (cabbage, peppers, garlic, cilantro, oil, soy sauce, vinegar, citrus)
Groundnut stew (sweet potatoes, cabbage, okra, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cayenne pepper, organic peanut butter)
Pitas & dip (homemade pitas, hummus of cowpeas, garlic, parsley)
Others brought nice desserts including:
In theory we were going to take people on a long walk through the eastern woods, but everyone was too relaxed following a morning of work and lots of food, so we all just stayed put on the porch and enjoyed the company.
Our heartfelt thanks to these great folks for improving our farm and our lives through all sorts of weather and work this year.