Knowing When to Let Go

Knowing when to let go during our flower farming journey

We’re midway through the summer in our first year of flower farming, and we’ve reached a place where we have to face facts. It’s time for some decisions to be made, and that means getting comfortable with letting go.

When we took the leap into growing into a true, income-producing farm this year, we had some big ideas about what we wanted to achieve. We’d already spent the previous couple of years trialing and planning. We felt ready to take this next step.

But, spoiler alert, nothing ever goes quite as planned.

If you’ve been following along with this life experiment that we’re doing, you know that we are continually asking ourselves the tough questions and digging deep. Today is no exception.

What we’re doing with our life and farm is our own personal research experiment. As a postdoc psychosocial researcher, I have studied people’s experiences with meaningfulness in life for nearly a decade. Now, we want to put that research to the test and make ourselves the guinea pigs. So we decided we would work toward cutting ties with the traditional 9-to-5 life and start building a farm to support our family as part of our mission to cultivate a life well-lived.

And, already, this adventure is proving to be very interesting.

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We plant snapdragons in the fall to overwinter for the next year
Overwintered snapdragons beginning to bloom in early spring

Change is Inevitable

Some wise person once said that change is the only constant in life. That certainly holds true when it comes to farming.

For us, the season started out a bit rocky when Rob contracted covid…for a second time. He was quite ill for several weeks, and it meant a lot of the work we needed to do had to be postponed.

One of the challenges we’re dealing with as we start our farm is the fact that we’re only two people. If one of us is out of commission for even a day, it has a significant impact on what we can accomplish. Being sick for weeks at a time is a whole other–and much worse–story!

{ Related: Covid Changed Our Lives and Rewrote Our Story }

Tending to our overwintered snapdragons in early spring is a sign that a new year is just beginning
Tending to our snapdragons in early spring

Responding to Challenges on the Farm

In late spring, we decided to refocus pretty much all of our energy onto our dahlias. This made sense to us since dahlias are our primary crop. We still worked on planting a few complementary crops like snapdragons, campanula, calendula, zinnias, and sunflowers so that our dahlia bouquets would be beautiful and full later this summer.

But we also ditched about half of what we’d planned to plant! We just didn’t have time to get it all done.

And even with those sacrifices, we’ve continued to play catch up all summer.

That’s simply not sustainable, and it’s going to derail next year if we don’t draw a line in the sand. We have had to reach a place where we could say “we’ve done all we can, and now we have to let the 2023 season go”.

We certainly still have loads of harvesting and work ahead in the next couple of months, but there’s nothing else we can plant (except for our weekly successions of sunflowers!) that will have time to grow before our first frost.

If we want next year to go better, this is the point where we absolutely must turn our attention to 2024 and get our seedlings in the ground to overwinter.

But that also means letting go of some of the dreams we had for 2023. And, naturally, there are some real feelings about that.

One of our favorite dahlias on our farm this year is the KA Mocha Jake

Why Letting Go is So Hard

When pursuing any endeavor, we humans naturally create a set of expectations about how it should go and what we should achieve. Psychologically, we create these expectations as a way to both motivate ourselves, and to push ourselves to grow. Both of these things are healthy, worthwhile reasons to carry around expectations.

But there can be less helpful underpinnings to our expectations, too. We might, for example, create these hopes to fulfill an unspoken social contract. Often, these types of expectations have roots in unhealthy beliefs we’ve picked up somewhere along our lives.

Imagine a new flower farmer who has an unspoken expectation that they will be able to sell every stem they grow to local florists for top dollar. This farmer has no experience nor any business relationship established with the florists in their community, but still believe they deserve to see the numbers they projected.

When that doesn’t happen, and the farmer’s expectations are unfulfilled, they might interpret it as a sign that flower farming isn’t for them. Or that florists are mean. Or that there’s no market for flowers in their area.

None of those things are likely true. But the farmer will probably give up and quit farming because their expectations were built on the false belief that the florists should respond in a certain way.

If the farmer had been able to let go of their expectations, they might not have decided to quit so quickly. But letting go isn’t easy because it means coming to terms with and accepting things that might be in contrast to what we want to believe.

Giving up is just easier for most people. Letting go of your expectations and continuing to look for ways to get beyond obstacles is hard. Most people simply don’t want to do “hard”.

Queen Lime Red Zinnias have become a farm favorite, and we'll be growing even more of these beauties next year

Acceptance Is The Path to All Growth

Letting go is much more about acceptance of your present reality than anything else. It’s critical that we learn to accept what is rather than what should be.

Our reality with the farm this year is simply that we got behind in the spring and could never get ourselves caught back up. We could have fought against this reality. We could have insisted on trying to meet our original expectations by continuing to start seedlings and try to get the farm fully planted. But that would have ultimately hurt us. Those seedlings will never reach maturity before frost comes.

What we can do instead is to let go of our expectations for this season, and shift our attention to next year. And that’s all about acceptance.

Accepting our present reality, and letting go of our expectations, makes it possible to grow and continue on along this adventure. Clinging to old ideas will only cause us to stagnate.

Humans seem to have a tough time with this. I think we could all take a lesson from the farm on how to grow through challenges. Just imagine a seed planted in the ground. It doesn’t resist growing into it’s full potential, even though that means massive transformation. The seed has to completely change, push up through the soil, survive the elements, and continue reaching upward to become what its meant to be.

The seed doesn’t fight against this process, demand that life be easier, or give up because it faces incredible obstacles. It simply perseveres and continues on.

And, we will do the same.

Of all our dahlias, Linda's Baby is one of the most productive varieties we grow

Chin Up and Eyes Forward

We have about two months before our first frost is expected (more or less, depending on how Mother Nature wants to play it this year). During this time, we’re going to be working diligently to get our farm ready for 2024. We’re taking everything we’ve learned so far and using it to help us shape our plans for next year.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be having a lot more conversations about what that will look like, and how we’re planning to do some things differently in Year Two. If you want to keep up with how this journey unfolds, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, as well as our newsletter, so you never miss a new chapter in the story.


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