Every year, one of us at the farm notes the coming and going of the Cornish Fair as the end of summer. According to the calendar, there is still some summery time left, and according to the growing season here at the farm, summer is still in full swing, but the end of August means loss of young employees who head back to school and a definite change in atmosphere. We are very careful not to put too many time expectations on the youthful employees, knowing and respecting the importance of summertime fun and family excursions. In the long run of life, the trip to the beach or vacations to summer destinations with the family are much more important than the few dollars earned for picking a row of cucumbers or picking a pail full of berries.
Over the last couple of weeks, chatter among the young folks who work for us has shifted from pools and waterparks and vacations to school and supplies and football, soccer and other schoolyear related topics. The fun and games and hot-weather activities, including picking berries and vegetables, will soon be completely forgotten as teachers and studies will soon replace bosses and veggies. For us at the farm, the shift is usually tougher. Losing a big chunk of the labor force when the vegetables continue to crank along mean longer, harder hours for the two of us as we pick up the additional work of picking.
With the weather giving us a little harbinger of fall last week with mornings requiring long sleeves and sweatshirts, we know it is a temporary tough spot as daylight will shorten and plants will give up. Season transitions are interesting. With several of our crops under hoop houses that provide protection from weather ups and downs, we continue growing and picking much later into autumn than we did in the past. Outdoor crops like corn and beans, squash and cucumbers are much more vulnerable to cold snaps and water issues, but the “under cover” crops keep us hopping for several weeks to come. A couple of our young student workers have committed to coming and working after school to help us pick, which will require a flipping of our normal farm routines as we shift picking from morning to afternoon. Schedules at the store are also in flux as we make the same shifts to cover store and kitchen hours. These shifts may sound simple, but routines are hard to change, and daylight will rapidly begin to shorten. My fear is that we will forget to take time for ourselves, as is often the end of summer case, and summer will melt into fall which will melt into winter and we will have another year pass with no vacation taken by the farmers.
We haven’t taken a vacation for about 10 years. We weren’t successful in scheduling time off for ourselves this summer, and the schedule shifts coming up are a bit discouraging as “free” time becomes almost non-existent, both summer and fall chores loom large and dollars from shrinking sales as summer products disappear will become harder to come by. As we do almost every year, we will have to shrug and promise ourselves to schedule better next year and take time off when more folks are around to cover for us. As most small business owners around the region and beyond know, commitment to the business is an all-consuming commitment and time off is a rarity. We need to get better at taking time to recharge and relax, however.
I am jealous of the summertimes of the wonderful kids we employ as they head off to school. I am not very good at scheduling, and my spouse is even worse at planning or wanting to take time away from the farm. We need to remember what we hope for the kids who work for us, though…that time off with family is equally or more important than time at the desk or the hoe or the berry patch. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” as the old adage says. I’m going to check some websites to find some vacation spots that stay open into autumn and try to convince my partner that the farm won’t fall apart if we close down shop and head for the hills for a breather. Wish me luck! And I wish for all of you fellow workaholics out there that you will do the same. Take some time. Take a trip. Take a fishing pole off the shelf and take a time out. Life is too short. Don’t waste it always working.