Hello Sweet Friends and Community
Many of you have heard about the shifts and changes happening at Zocalo. Many of you have been asking me, “What’s the plan for the farm?”
So I wanted to take a moment to share our story.
For the last 7 years Seb and I accomplished the immense task of starting and sustaining an ecological market garden farm. We sold to 14 local restaurants, at the Guelph Farmer’s Market, and in 2020 we grew to a 150 member sliding-scale 22 week CSA program.
We didn’t do this alone. We had incredible help from volunteers, interns, and staff over the years. Every year my parents would remark, “Where do you find such great people?” Indeed, we were blessed with help from many over the years.
I want to name some of the key helpers over these years on our farm: Leon, Jonas, Dan, David, Alex B., Erin, Katie, Fan-Ling, Heather, Julie, Haley, Paddy, Mike, Katie, Alex V., Kevin, Roni, Rachel, Kara, Elise, Sophie, Anterra, Emily, Justine, and more. Our parents and families have always played huge roles on our farm also- planting trees, raspberries, pruning pears, cutting grass, planting flowers and playing with the kids that live on the farm. We love you Barbara, Ricardo, Jack, and Hieke. This farm exists because of the hard-work and love of all these people.
In February 2020, Seb and I began a divorce process. It’s never easy to go through a divorce process. It is especially difficult when faced with a pandemic, shared land, a child, and a shared business. Relationships are sacred, and I won’t tell you all the details of ours. I will say that it was a beautiful and important relationship of 10 years, full of integrity, self-growth, and love. We met at 19 + 20 over our shared love for biking, farming, poetry, and backyard chickens. At ages 25 + 26 we were able to put a down payment on our farm by accessing intergenerational wealth, crowd-funding, and good-timing. We succeeded the organic farm business of John Sutherland, who had converted the land to organic before we arrived and planted hundreds of trees around the farm.
Many things unfolded in the world as a result of our relationship and the start of our farm. Other farmers were inspired to start farms, school groups visited the farm, healing ceremonies met on the land, community potlucks were hosted in the barn, and more.
We are so grateful for our shared and beautiful farm journey. And in 2020 it became time for Seb and I to share our gifts in the world in separate ways.
Two weeks after our separation process began … the pandemic began to unfold.
The pandemic called us into survival mode. Our child-care was cancelled, seeds and supplies did not arrive as planned, restaurants closed, our housing situations were unstable, and our community wanted to know how to access our food.
We did our best to adapt to the changes and offer our produce to the local community. The year went suprisingly well and the team managed to grow one of the most beautiful no-till ecological gardens this farm has ever seen.
In the fall, when the tools were put away and the staff had completed their contracts, it was time for Seb and I to figure out what was next for the farm.
We both wanted the farm and the farm’s momentum to carry on despite our divorce. We both felt committed to an evolution of the farm that would allow the farm to continue offering produce to our community, and more.
We didn’t know how to pull off running a business as a separated couple, but we made a vision of some of the things we wanted: to become a more profitable business, to pay a Living wage to our employees, to share land and resources with other farmers, and more.
We took our time envisioning what could happen next with the farm. We listened to our hearts. We had many honest conversations. We sought advice from mentors. We let life unfold.
This is the consdensed version of what happened next:
We each needed some re-invigoration in our lives after a very difficult year. We were also clear that we needed to mature the business after many years of doing relatively the same thing. We were in agreement that Seb could better lead the field operations because of his committment to hard labour. In October I announced to our CSA members that I would step down from running the veg business.
But after I did this, Seb began asking himself, “Is this really what I want?”
Seb explored these questions from many angles. He looked at various models, including cooperative models, that he could shift the business to. But none of it seemed to fit what he was seeking next in life. On December 23 Seb decided he wanted to move on from the farm. He was ready to try something new, to offer his gifts elsewhere in the world, to see what else he could acoomplish in the world. He was ready to simplify.
Seb let me know that he wanted to sell the farm, or have me take over the farm. I laughed. I also cried.
“Yeah” I said, “You’re probably right; it’s time to sell the farm”.
Then I slept on it.
And the next day, there was a little itch inside me saying, “Wait!”
In the days that followed, the itch grew stronger. I began to consider taking over the management of the farm.
While I never imagined myself running the farm without Seb, I realized in the days that followed that I have the skills and desire to implement a new plan and begin a new era at the farm. This is my dream farm, and has always been my dream farm.
So I decided to continue and evolve Zócalo Organics into Zócalo Community Farm.
Seeds are being packed in boxes to be shipped to our farm. 5 BIPOC farmers are planning gardens that will be grown on our farm through our land-sharing project. People are visiting the land and staying in our cabin or yurt. Seb is teaching me how to do some of the things on the farm that were previously his roles. I am supporting farmers in wellness online with retreats and courses. Seb and I are negotiating a co-ownership agreement with another family so that he can be partly bought-out of the farm property.
It will be a process, and this transition will take time. But both Seb and I feel this is the right process for this farm and for our separated family. We are glad to have shared our journey with you through these years.
Thank you, thank you to those who have held, grown, and worked with us at Zócalo.
And to end this letter, I want to share some parts of the Plan for the Zócalo moving forward…
I want to share will stop trying to make all the farm’s income from growing vegetables. It’s time to try something new.
My plan for 2021 is to create a multiple profit-centers on the farm that will support the ecological farming and land-sharing activities that happen on the land. The idea is this: with increased profits coming into the farm we will have the resources and ability to create a model of farming that abundantly addresses many of the problems existant in agriculture right now- environmental degredation of land, under-waged labour on farms, land-access issues, highly-stressed farmers, and more.
In 2021, I will be accessing funds so that the farm can invest in infrastructure to expand our agri-tourism programs. The tours, workshops, and farm-stay opportunities we offer make consistent and good income so they are a natural area of expansion that will support our ecological farming and acitivites.
I will also continue to grow my Farmer Wellness programming in collaboration with community partners.
My financial goals to transition the farm, and support building new complementary businesses on the property are detailed here: fundraising form.
If you love this farm, consider donating.
If you love me and my family, consider donating.
If you want to see what happens next at this farm, consider donating.
If you have benefited from a relationship with this farm, consider donating.
If you hope to collaborate with our farm in the future, consider donating.
Your support in whatever ways you can and want to offer is appreciated,
Tender Farmer Bethany
@tenderfarmer on instagram and @zocalocommunityfarm on instagram and Facebook