Alas, a moment to sit at my computer with a cup of coffee to have a slow morning of writing and records. Honestly, I’ve been dreaming of feeling this slowing down for a while now, but harvest on the farm this year has extended a bit later than usual. My eyes feel heavy and my shoulders are tight; there are still 4 acres of hemp plants to hang in the barn but for some reason this Sunday feels like finally there is a shift, we are nearly done with this growing season and my mind is relaxed enough to finally sit and write. It's been a profound year in many ways, my partner and I took over full operations of the farm as my in-laws moved on to a real retirement in Idaho. We moved into a real house with an indoor bathroom and all the things most houses have these days; this is a big deal after having lived "creatively" in barn apartments, lofts, shacks etc for the last 5 years as we paid our dues. My dad is currently successfully beating cancer; he was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer last summer and it was the scariest time of my life and was very hard on our family. He is beating the odds and each day is a gift. My partner Chris and I got married last month on our farm, on the coldest weekend of the year, it was epic and a weekend I'll never forget. And this year farming side by side with Chris was fun, challenging, infuriating sometimes, beautiful, humbling, so fulfilling, so exhausting. Our potato crop looks better than ever and with increased yields, as was our squash. We sold out of hay very quickly and hope to lease more ground to supply more hay, and we were a part of history in growing the first legal crop of Hemp in the USA since it's outlawing in the 70s. Life is never dull around here, I'll tell you that.
Where to even begin? I have a collection of essays in my mind I’d like to get onto paper. Some are about the farm, farming, food systems, water, water politics, local community issues I am interested in creating conversation around, business developments, personal developments, Cancer, meat, cooking, time, horses….
This winter I plan to build hats, work my horses, cook, write, read as much as I can about water (law, conservation, remediation, privatization…) I used to feel melancholy as cold weather crept in and took summer away from me, but now I rejoice as Winter is a holy slow time when a farmer rests, reflects and rejuvenates. For me, as a farmer and a hatmaker, Winter is my time to rest, reflect and rejuvenate in my Hat Workshop. The solitude I’ve been missing returns. Cozy days in the Airstream with propane heat, endless audiobooks and cups of tea. Ownership of my time returns, no longer dictated by the crops or irrigation or farmers markets or weeds or… so it goes on. Still our animal duties remain, but after a season like we have had here, to only be responsible for care of the animals feels like an immense break.
Workshop days now feel like a treat; I get to return to the familiar kingdom I have built in a 32 foot Airstream and do the work that my hands know instinctually now. You see, farming and farm work is still so new to me, I feel like a novice learning at an accelerated pace. I still make lots of mistakes, I’m still trying to keep up with Farmer Chris and prove to myself I’m tough enough to work through the heat/ wind/ rain. To return to the familiar hum of my machinery in the Hat Workshop feels like an exhalation, a place I can sink into and relax into the kingdom of my making, my dojo.
Over the last 3 years, I’ve been attempting to create a Seasonal split in my work as a Hatmaker, and as a Farmer. Creating this Seasonality has been the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. For 5 years, I ran full speed ahead with Havstad Hat Company and over the last 3 years it became increasingly painful and inefficient to try and juggle both Havstad Hat Company and my increasing role at Casad Family Farms. I knew I needed to make a change, but that change would involve stepping away from taking new orders, traveling for trade shows, it would involve stepping away from something that for better or worse, my identity became tied to. I feared that if I stepped away, I would lose the momentum I worked so hard to create. I feared I would lose customers, I feared I would become obsolete. The fear kept me from fully committing to this Seasonal split for a couple of years, but this year 2019 was the year I finally faced the fear and stopped taking new orders and shut down my production for about 5 months and committed fully to the farming season.
Over the last 3 months, something very significant has been happening quietly and I’m still in disbelief. In late August I reopened for new orders after 8 months of not taking any new orders. Along with my Projects Manager, Claire Everson, we created a new system of ordering, customer management, and a plan for a new production flow. This new system created four Intake periods where my website was reopened with a set number of Custom Order spots, and those four Intakes will fill up my production calendar through Spring 2020. Come May, I will then switch gears, shut down the hat shop and start seeding, prepping fields and diving into the Farm work once again. This new system is only possible because I brought on my friend and collaborator Claire Everson to manage communications and help create this new system with me. I'm so grateful for her mind and time.
The Custom Order Intake periods have sold out faster than I could have imagined, and I am now 8 custom hat orders away from having my production calendar filled out. This all happened quietly through updates to newsletter subscribers, I never posted to social media once when the web store was restocked. This is significant, I would like to feel like my business is not reliant on social media for a multitude of reasons. This topic of the social media side of business is one I’m going to save for a future blog post, so more on that later. For now, I’d like to try and explain why this restructure and subsequent sell out is so profound.
I want to try and put to words how grateful I am for the customers who have waited 8 months to place an order with me. My eyes start to well up as I seek the words to express what this means for me, my Husband, our farm, the people we employ, the people we feed. I realize now that over the last 6 years, I’ve built a company and a brand that customers are invested in enough to be willing to wait to place an order with me. In a world that places high value on expediency and convenience, I realize that this little hat company, and the customers that make it what it is, are truly exceptional. I’m able to do this artistic work I love and carry on a traditional craft in a truly authentic way, and I’m able to do this farm work which I believe has a great impact on the earth, in our community, and I hope as I continue to write about it all, it may have greater impact to inspire others to find their way back to the land as stewards too.
The growth and evolution of my hat company has allowed me to continue building each custom hat with my two hands, while also employing several people part time. As our farm develops we are employing 2-3 people full time and up to 8 people part time. This is something I’m really proud of; we are building things that will provide good work for other humans, and I think we are really nice employers who take good care of our people. Through being supported in this work in hats and in farming, we are able to donate our time and food and land to causes we believe make this world around us a better place. Through being supported in this business in the 6 months I plan to be producing hats, I’m able to make enough income to support myself so that I can give my all to the farm in peak months. I’ve never taken a paycheck from the farm, in fact when it’s been needed Havstad Hat Co has supported us when things were really lean on the farm side. I like to believe one day Chris and I will “pay” ourselves in a more traditional sense from the farm’s income, but for the last few years everything has needed to go right back into operations and improvements.
When I’m supported by my customers in this seasonal way, I can spend time researching water remediation options so we may help clean up agricultural runoff coming from neighboring farms and impacting our river. I may start educational programs for kids and adults on the farm. I can invest in my education around water law and water conservation so I can be a vocal advocate in our community, protecting rural communities and our most precious resources.
I may take the time to start writing about agriculture and business from my perspective so that one day, I may have something worthwhile to share with the world that I hope may have some impact. I’m no Wendell Berry, but he is certainly one of my heroes and I often think about how grateful I am that he took the time to put his thoughts and experiences into essays. I think maybe one day, I may like to think of myself as more of a writer. Much time and much practice needed there.
Anyhow, what I mean to say is that this business, Havstad Hat Company, began because I fell in love with a traditional craft. I still very much enjoy making hats, but the scope of my interests have grown and I have found very meaningful work in this farm and I feel it has the potential to do some real good in this world. So, to be supported in building hats for 6 months of the year, while taking the other 6 months to focus on the farming/ education/ advocacy/ writing about the work and issues I’m learning so much about through agriculture… well it’s so very profound in this life of mine.
I have many goals for 2020. I would like to continue to perfect this new system of Seasonality in my work so that Havstad Hat Company may thrive through my productions months, and allow my departure during the farming months. I would like to be writing longer pieces about issues I’m fired up about, and sharing them here more consistently on this blog.
I’m dreaming of building a workshop on our farm; as sad as it is to imagine moving out of the Airstream workshop, I do know it’s time for some more space. I’m also dreaming of rebuilding our birthing barn on the farm which collapsed during this spring’s massive snow storm.
I would like to partner with an organization to get teenagers interested in Ag working on the farm.
I’d like to explore options for growing an Organic fiber hemp crop for (hopefully) domestic processing and use.
I would like to start hosting cooking/ whole animal processing workshops for adults in our commercial kitchen. It’s also a goal to expand and solidify contracts for the vegetables and grains we grow on our farm.
I’d like to be more dedicated to my education in horsemanship, and also my education around water law and conservation in Agriculture. I’d like to attend city council meetings and be a more involved participant in our community here in Jefferson County.
Finally, I’d like to pursue conversations with possible investors to get a Mobil USDA Meat Processing facility in Central Oregon and start a Regenerative Organics Meat Cooperative in Central Oregon to help more regenerative ranchers and farmers get their meats into restaurants and stores and into the homes of Oregonians.
None of this dreaming would be possible without the support of my customers who appreciate my work in hats, and who support the bigger picture of what I am building brick by brick along side my Husband, and our extended farm team/family. I’m so very grateful to get to work hard toward meaningful pursuits, and I hope to pay it forward through the work I do in and out of the workshop.
As I mentioned above, a major goal for myself is to be writing more in long form, and I intend to use this blog as a host for musings and exploration of topics I’m diving into learning about myself. The next piece I’ll be sitting down to write is in regards to water issues that affect our Central Oregon region. This is an area I need to spend a lot of time learning about, but it’s important I put thoughts on paper now to share because the USDFW (US Dept of Fish and Wildlife) is working on a Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan that will impact our region for the next 30 years, and public comment is open now through November 18. We NEED our community to be thoughtful, aware and vocal about issues surrounding water resource management and usage in Central Oregon, how it not only effects the river and animals but also the farms and rural communities. If done improperly, this 30 year conservation plan could kill already vulnerable rural communities, along with the spotted frog. Water usage is going to be the debate and fight of our generation, I intend to be as educated and thoughtful as I can as I try and disseminate for a wider audience the complexities I see from an ecologically-minded farm perspective.
So, here is my fairly unorganized, stream-of-consciousness ramble that I’m going to post before I give myself time to over think it. I’ll take more time to write more eloquently in the future, but I feel as though the writer’s block has been broken and I’m relieved to let the words fly, clumsy as they may be. I sat down to write this originally to reflect on the immense amount of thanks I have for the customers who support Havstad Hat Company, who have allowed me the greatest gift of Seasonality in my work, who allow me to pursue the farm work and who appreciate the well-made heirlooms I truly love to build. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
If you want to get a custom order in before I stop taking new orders, the last intake will be the middle of November. Be sure you’re signed up for the email newsletter, as that’s how I’ll continue to let folks know when the webstore is restocked. If you miss out on this last intake, know I’ll be resuming custom hat orders again next August 2020 for Fall/Winter production after the Farming season. If you miss the last intake next month and reeeeeallly want to get an order in before Farming season 2020 begins again, email me, I’m soft and will likely get you in.
I’ll be back in this space again soon with more ramblings and musings.
From Madras with Love,