Farming in Challenging Times
The Family Farm in the Neighborhood
“I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging…”
This is a portion of the FFA creed written by E.M. Tiffany. I can’t think of a time when it could be more appropriate than in our current era of overlapping crises. I teach this creed to all of my agricultural education students at Alameda International High School, and I carry it with me as I work alongside my wife Chelsie and we push through these heavy and hot summer months farming here in Lakewood.
Our farm, The Fleischer Family Farm, is a two-acre organic vegetable production farm in the Southern Gables neighborhood. We grow lots of great vegetables, cut flowers, and fruits and we have chickens for eggs and bees for honey. All of this production is “challenging” enough in its normal state, but amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been especially difficult. We have had to put new safety precautions in place, set up social distancing platforms at our Saturday farmstand and we’ve even worked through a period of time where we only took online orders for contactless pickups. All of these things have cost us more money and time and complicated the whole process quite a bit. Our business slogan is “Building Community Through Food” and despite the fact that we are now one of the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the entire Denver Metro area, we have been disappointed that the masks and distancing have somewhat interfered with getting to know our CSA shareholders and weekly farmstand customers on a more personal level this year.
As with most things though, there is usually a silver lining in any problem. This season our stand has been constantly busy every weekend with more people interested in eating healthy and staying close to home. Our sales are up, but that only just compensates for the extra labor hours and equipment needed to keep people safe who do show up. We have also had to put all of our Urban Homesteading classes and our Farm To Table Dinner events on hold because of this mess. Those are major profit marks for our small family business and not having them this season will surely hurt our bottom line. However, Chelsie and I remain steadfast in our belief that we will get through this if we continue to support our neighbors and our community.
Perhaps this pandemic will even leave us as a better society overall that prioritizes self-sufficiency, natural foods, supporting small and local businesses, and strengthening a sense of community. Whatever the outcome, we are pushing through it with vigor and tenacity and could not be more pleased to be supported by such an amazing community of neighbors and friends.
Paul Fleischer is the co-owner and farmer of Fleischer Family Farms. He is also a high school agricultural education teacher. He cultivates the land on his Southern Gables property alongside his wife and co-owner, Chelsie.