With the shift in the seasons from the frenetic energy and abundance of spring and summer to the wet and quiet days of fall and winter we at the Farm can again turn our thoughts to reflection on the year that was and dreams for the year to come. 2014 was in many ways a year of pleasant surprises: despite a widely anticipated major drought we had a very productive farming season; our educational programs were supported by an unexpectedly large and stellar group of volunteers; and our Residential Education Infrastructure Campaign was fully funded and will be finished by the end of the year.
The year began with abundant sunshine and warm winter days, great for working outside in short-sleeves, but not so helpful in accumulating snow pack to keep the creeks flowing in our dry southern Oregon summers. As predicted the year was extremely dry by historical standards, forcing us to use all of our water-conservation techniques. These included: drip irrigation, early planting and harvest dates, crop selection, mulch, and careful monitoring of weather reports. Fortunately we were blessed with warm early spring weather that allowed spring plantings to get of to a fast start while the soil still retained winter moisture. Our Williams Farmers Market started three weeks early in May and ran straight through to Halloween with good crowds and enthusiastic support for our produce. Our cooperative CSA, the Siskiyou Sustainable Coop, which includes produce from White Oak and six other farms had its largest membership ever, with 240 families receiving a weekly box of produce from June-October. Perennial crops such as raspberries, pears, grapes, and strawberries also thrived despite the drought due to deep roots, mulch, and the resiliency of being well established. As the season came to a close, we experienced an unusually wet October, rekindling hopes for the return of plentiful moisture to our valley next season.
One resource that was not lacking in 2014 was volunteers. Arielle Spayd, Lior Alon, Christine Evans, Paris Conwell and Casey Wright supported our Children’s Education Programs by helping to lead school visits, cook with pre-schoolers, teach summer campers, and even flip burgers and pour beer for our Fall Fundraiser. This crew was an immense help to Andrew and the rest of the staff in providing fresh energy and excitement for our record number of children’s programs in 2014. In addition to these volunteers, our three interns, Christina Lubarsy, Rion Glynn, and Danielle Purkey, were present throughout the year, eagerly leading children, harvesting veggies, manning the market booth with Sarah, and helping to keep the goats fed and milked. They each brought a unique and uplifting energy to the Farm that helped make the year a big success.
Another element of our Education program that experienced a big boost this year was our Education Infrastructure. Started by former Co-Coordinators Dave Majzler and Julie Pacholik in 2013, the Residential Education Infrastructure Campaign included grant and donor funding for four new wall tents, hot water hand washing stations, drinking fountains, and upgraded indoor and outdoor kitchen facilities. These projects will be fully completed by the end of the year, and have already improved the experience of school groups and campers, while also allowing us to expand our residential programs to include greater numbers of children across a wider spectrum of weather conditions. Thanks to our donors, the West Family Foundation, and the Fourway Community Foundation for making this project possible!
Every year is filled with ups and downs as the natural and human cycles of life on a farm ebb and flow. This year we were truly blessed with many high points and few low. I am continuously amazed at the bounty of the land, the brightness of the children, and the perseverance of our staff. Thanks to all who helped make 2014 a great year!