So… the first market day at ALMH Market was May 12th. It was my first day doing a market in Lincoln and I had no idea what to expect. What I knew? There was a bread lady, a cheese guy, a smoothie lady and a ton of farmers who seemed to know so much more about farming than me. That morning I loaded the truck. I had the beginning stages of Addie’s Pepper Patch products, some beautiful perennial flower plants and herb plants. Mother Nature ensured I had no fresh produce… I arrived at the fairgrounds at about 5:30 and waited for the market manager to arrive so I could set up for the morning. I had no idea what to expect… I think I said a small prayer on my drive in, hoping… just hoping.
So… this Saturday will be my 21st time at ALMH Market. Thompson Family Farm has been there every Saturday since the market started this year. I’ve had the pleasure of vending beside “the bread lady” for the second half of the market. Her breads and treats are amazing. I’ve enjoyed the cheese from the cheese guy on many occasions. The smoothies have been refreshing on the hot summer days. I’ve been lucky enough to sample and enjoy some of the best produce Illinois farmers can grow… but more than that, I’ve made some amazing friendships…. With fellow vendors, customers, market volunteers and our AMAZING market manager.
Knowing this year’s market is coming to an end this Saturday is sooooooooo bitter sweet. I’ve had a better summer than I could ever have expected. I learned so much about farming, about vending at farmers’ markets and being the face of our farm. I will never have the words to express how much I appreciate everyone who has been a part of my ALMH Market journey. You all have made me realize I made the right choice in walking away from corporate work and making the decision to farm was the right choice for me… it is the hardest job I’ve ever had and I love it more than anything. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’ll see you in May of next year.
So… having a farm based business is interesting. The question I get asked more than anything is: Do you pay sales tax? And this is often followed by comments along the lines of suggesting my farm business is a hobby… which makes me wonder why. At every market or farm stand I set up – I am a single, middle-aged woman standing in front of a sign that reads “Thompson Family Farm” and I offer stuff for sale… produce and a whole host of pepper-related products that are not only made by me, the recipes are mine as well. I have always been a “fly by the seat of my pants” cook. I just finally took the time to write things down so I have consistency in my products.
This is one of the millions of reason I don't use chemicals on my farm... this, right here. We have done such a good job of destroying our eco system and I'm hellbent on doing what I can to fix it.
Some times I wonder if I should call my blog "musings of a mad woman".... haha! Thank you to everyone who has made the choice to support my family farm. I can't do this without you nor would I ever want to. I love growing things and feeding people. You allow me to do that and I'm grateful.
So… I’m nearing the six month mark of having made the decision to leave corporate life and farm. Needless to say, it’s been a very humbling experience. Just when I think “I’ve got this”, I realize… well, maybe not. Haha. So… just taking some time to share some lessons I’ve learned along the way, in the order in which I learned them. Feel free to laugh. I do… it’s what keep me sane and going.
As noted on the blog page, I’m Angella. Youngest and only daughter in the family. A long, long time ago all I could think of was getting off the farm. Within months of graduating high school, I did just that. I have worked in the corporate world and spent a more significant amount of time working for a well-known non-profit. As the years passed, I started longing for a life that revolved around that farm the younger me couldn’t wait to get as far away from as possible. Towards the tail end of 2016 I returned to Menard County, bought a house that was older than dirt and made the decision I was going to farm. Six months in, I started doubting the decision and returned to corporate life… which left me miserable. So… in January of this year I made the leap of faith. I have spent the past five months cultivating seeds into full grown plants, tilling, weeding, watering and praying… A lot! Praying the weather is kind – which it hasn’t been this year. The storm yesterday made a mess of my field and destroyed the storage shed. Praying my finances hold out until the produce is available for sale. But mostly praying that I’m not taking on this new chapter in my life too late.
1972… My Father (Pops) purchased the farm from his Mother and step-father. The only catch was, they were staying on the farm; which my Pops was fine with. Part of my Grandmother’s property included a peony that had been in her family for over 50 years at that point in time. Somehow this peony landed at my Gran’s house and she spent the rest of her life ensuring it stayed where it was planted and that NO ONE (without risk of death) ever touch, divide or otherwise mutilate this peony. Gran spent the last few years of her life in a nursing home due to declining health and during this time Pops continued to ensure this peony was taken care of and every year took blossoms over to Gran so she could enjoy them. On November 30, 2015 Gran left this world… on her terms. She was three weeks shy of her 103rd birthday. She lived a long, well-loved life.
Spring of 2016 we dug up the peony. It’s a fern leaf peony and so many family members who had their eyes on this flower were now wanting part of it. It was so compacted and had been in place for 70 (?) years without ever having been touched once it was in the ground. A couple of my Gran’s family received some… Pop’s step-brother received some… one of my brothers… and the rest was planted in my parents flower bed. We thought we found the perfect spot for the biggest piece and planted some of the smaller tubers in other parts of the garden. Seeing how we had to move it in the spring, 2016 was a very stressful year for it and it never bloomed… the first year in my life – I didn’t enjoy the blooms of this flower. 2017 it came up… and I soon realized one of Gran’s hollyhocks had planted itself right next to the biggest tuber along with a resident ground squirrel making this part of the garden an exit hole for it’s underground tunnel. The smaller parts were soon shadowed by the hibiscus. It never bloomed this year either and very quickly, the leaves had died back. Needless to say I was devastated and was certain I had guaranteed the demise of Gran’s beloved flower.
So… it’s now Spring (sort of), 2018. Those determined tubers send shoots up this year. Easter Sunday’s forecast was snow and I knew I needed to act fast to ensure we had blossoms this year. So… shortly after Easter lunch, I dug up the tubers. They are loving life in the greenhouse right now; which gives me time to find a better, permanent home of them.
See Gran! You can separate them and they will be fine! This poor little peony has been through a lot in the past 2 years. It will flourish, just like my Gran did. And icing on the cake? Seeing how happy Pops was to know his Mom's flower was alive and well...