Monday, September 2, 2013

Critique my retirement letter

For years I have written a CSA newsletter each weekend of the growing season. I poured out my reverence through the words--the unique fragrance of tomato plants, the thrill of helping a just-born calf to nurse, the reassurance of a crop thanks to the swish-swish of the rainbird sprinklers during a drought.

For the past three weeks I've labored over my farewell letter to my CSA members. I got up early this morning to tweak it again. Most members do not know the CSA is ending. Frankly, seven still owe their final installment payment for the season, and I don't want them to have an excuse to not pay it.

I'd appreciate your critique of the letter. I've tried to be honest, edit out any negative emotions. I've never made a big deal with CSA members about my romance writing--it didn't seem appropriate for a business newsletter.


Lakes and Valley CSA News September 8, 2013

We did it!  Dewane dug all the potatoes. I’ve put in your veggie boxes the onions, melons, brassicas and cucumbers; and yes, just about all the zucchini, peppers and tomatoes. This week I’ll bring you the remaining sweet corn.

This week will be the last CSA delivery of the 2013 season. And sadly, after twelve seasons, it is time to retire the Lakes and Valley CSA.

Dewane’s body needs to do less after forty years of beloved but intense labor. I will turn sixty-three in November. It’s time for a graceful and grateful acceptance of our reality.

We have not been able to recruit a trained organic or biodynamic farmer or gardener to take over the CSA. Informed sources repeatedly remind us that northcentral Minnesota is remote. If we lived in Oregon, Washington, California or New York, if we were located near a metroplex or closer to a university with a sustainable ag program, we’d be overrun with workers.

And despite our sustained efforts, we have not been able to “grow” a gardener. The work is physically demanding, and the hours are not traditional nine to five. Any farmer will tell you their work is physically and mentally demanding. If you are not engaged in growing pot, the pay is relatively low. And ag work in general is not prized as an occupation.

Working in and with Nature, especially in high north latitudes where the growing season is short and intense, requires a commitment that can be described as, ‘my will becomes Thy will.’ This is not easy to learn or accept; one intern summarized it this way: “Working on a farm is hard because you can’t call in sick when you don’t feel like getting up in the morning.”

So what’s next for us? We will return the garden to U-Pick raspberries and small scale specialty produce—pickling cucumbers and dill, basil, tomatoes. Granddaughter Hannah and her cousin Lexi feel this would be the perfect summer job. Lexi loves raspberries, and Hannah loves selling at the Park Rapids farmer’s market.

I will keep my job at The Secret Garden and embark upon writing a how-to book for home gardeners (working title: Gardening on a Living Earth) that will present the insights and tricky tips I have learned over forty years of gardening. Thank you for encouraging me to write, and for the demanding schedule of CSA newsletters. Nothing trains a wanna-be writer like a recurring deadline.

Dewane and I want to thank Mary Louise Hershberger and Deb Pullen for their years of dedicated service to the CSA keeping track of the memberships and the checkbook.

Thank you, too, to our long-serving site hosts—Brigitte von Budde, Brenda & Pat Nistler, Paul & Jean Sando. Without you, the CSA would have been impossible.

A heartfelt thank you to all members for your participation over the past twelve years. Eating seasonally is hard work, but I am certain that your commitment has changed you for the better as much as it has me.

If you ordered an egg share, I will mail you soon a bill for the season.

I’d love to stay in touch, so if you’d like to receive periodic newsletters on Midheaven Farm life (and the gardening book), let me know.

p.s., Dewane and I will be at the Fort Ransom craft show at the end of September, sampling and selling Secret Garden soups, dips and jams. Stop by, if you go, and say hi.


  1. Looks good (although I'm not sure about the reference to growing pot - LOL!)

  2. It sounds perfect Ana, although I agree with Paula about the pot. At first I thought I read it wrong...

    I wish I lived closer to you so I could stop by the Farmer's Market and pick up some choice items from Secret Garden!

  3. In the past three years, two interns came to work with the unexpressed intent of learning better how to raise pot. One started plants against the rules. We could lose our farm!

  4. Pot growers in northern CA make a LOT of money.

  5. Must admit I'd still leave out that clause about growing pot, and just say 'The pay is low and ag work... (etc)

  6. A lady who used to work with my mom had a son who grew it in her backyard garden.