Midnight of the 31st of December ushered in the new year of 2022. Like millions of people around the world, I watched the glittering geodesic ball suspended above Times Square in New York City drop at the stroke of midnight, with a cup of wine in my hand, counting down the seconds. The past year raced through my mind and brought thoughts of how I was going to approach the new year through my annual resolutions.
I haven’t been around as long as the tradition itself. It is said that the ancient Babylonians of about 4,000 years ago were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions. Of course, we have to remember that back in those days the new year started in mid-March with the celebration of the 12-day religious festival known as Akitu. The celebration coincided with the planting of the crops for the coming year. Their resolutions were in the form of crowning a new king, reaffirming loyalty to an old king, or promising the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. If the people kept these forerunner resolutions, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. The opposite of course would cause the people to fall out of the gods’ favor — a place no one wanted to be.
The Romans also made resolutions of sorts after Julius Caesar formulated the Julian calendar and establishing Jan. 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. January, named for the god Janus, a two-faced god, who could look backward into the past year and also into the future. Thusly, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
For Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. A diary entry by a Scottish writer by the name of Anne Halkett in 1671, contained several pledges such as “I will not offend anymore.” These pledges were written on Jan. 2 on a page titled “Resolutions.” By 1802, the tradition of making and then failing to keep them was common enough that people satirized the practice.
A Boston newspaper featured an article using the first recorded phrase of “New Year resolution” in 1813. The article stated, “And yet, I believe there are multitudes of people, accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behaviour (sic), and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.”
The tradition began as a religious one when the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The services on New Year’s Eve were often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.
Despite this tradition starting in the church, it has morphed into a more secular tradition. Instead of promising God, we try to promise ourselves to focus, purely on self-improvement. The futility of trying to make improvements to our human behavior is shown in that the history of making and breaking New Year’s resolutions continues to this day.
Richard Wiseman, a psychologist and author, discovered that while 52% of people were confident, they could stick to their resolution, only a scant 12% really did. Keep in mind that we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice to get it right. You might ask, if they are so hard to keep, why do we make them? Maybe as a way to triumph hope over experience by erasing errors of the past. Afterall, New Year’s resolutions are all about hopefulness and it’s always been that way. Maybe the reason we have such a hard time keeping our resolutions is because we make them in secret so that nobody can hold us accountable for failure. Another problem, that research shows, is that resolutions appear to be only for the young nowadays. While the majority of Americans age 45 and younger plan to make a New Year’s resolution, only 28% of those 45 and older will vow to make any changes. This disproportionate difference clearly shows experience trumps hope here.
Whatever you decide to promise in your resolution, give yourself time to turn it into reality. While many believe they can change things around in a few weeks, research shows that it may take considerably longer. One study even suggested 66 days as an average. Research shows that 80% of people break their resolutions by the first week of February.
Some of the most common resolutions deal with personal appearance, finances, lifestyle and family. We worry about weight, exercise, paying off debt, more travel, more free time or more family time. These are all good things to consider, but then I thought about what kind of resolutions farmers make. Well first of all, farmers probably have the same aspirations as anyone else, but I can think of more than what the general public might not have.
I’ll suggest just a few that might be on a farmer’s mind at this time of the year.
Farmers might want to have more conversations with their consumers about what food choices they make and listen to the reasons they make them. Maybe the farmer can help with adding more food choices that their consumers would rather have. This is sometimes problematic in that some farmers tend to grow what they themselves desire in crops for their own consumption, which may not jibe with what their consumers are looking for. Maybe a compromise can be made to change a crop to something that consumers want most or maybe even add it to the crop selection.
Farmers might want to look into a part of agriculture that they are not directly involved in. Find a farmer who grows that particular crop, and find out more about that crop. You might find that you want to get involved after all.
It’s no secret that farmers makes up a very small part of the population, less than 2%. The problem is that number is getting smaller every day as it creeps closer to 1%. We can help keep that number from getting lower by monitoring what is happening in agricultural legislation. If a bill affecting agriculture crosses your representative’s desk, you need to be their first call. If farmers aren’t connected with the decision makers, they can’t hear how potential legislation could affect them and vote accordingly.
Get super-serious about marketing your farm. In these challenging times, you need to adopt a mentality of survive and advance. Take the necessary steps in your marketing plans to ensure that you survive — one year at a time.
I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when I say: Try to cut costs. Many small farmers operate on a shoestring already, so cutting costs is especially difficult.
Keep following the basics. Bruce Sherrick, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois had six tips a few years ago for the basics, so I’ll list them here:
Manage input costs — keeping good records is key.
Crop insurance decisions are critical. Invest in evaluation of alternatives, not just use of last year’s product.
Marketing matters, so resolve to be intentional about managing inventories and pricing opportunities.
Evaluate new technologies and practices carefully. Many do hold the promise to improve productivity.
Evaluate your financial structure and make appropriate financial decisions.
Enjoy being part of the greatest industry on the planet. Take pride in the fact that we do more with less to provide the most plentiful, safest, and most affordable food in the world, and in the history of the world.
Last, but not least: Make time to spend with your family away from the farm. Do something even if it is only for a day. Farming is a wonderful life for the family, but it’s good to get away sometimes.
Another thing to think about, almost as a resolution of sorts, is that just because the days are getting shorter and temperatures are getting lower doesn’t mean you have to close down your garden or farm.
Cool weather crops, as a rule, are leafy greens and roots. Leafy greens such as spinach, arugula, chard, parsley and Asian greens love cooler temperatures and can often handle a little light frost. Lettuce is a little less cold hardy, but it tastes the best when grown in cool weather.
Kale handles the cold extremely well and can survive temperatures far below freezing. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli are also good cool weather crops.
Roots such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets can survive freezing temperatures and even tastes better when the plant spends more energy on root growth and builds up sugars for frost protection.
Although many winter season vegetables can survive cold temperatures, a little care needs to be taken to keep the plants warm. Simply putting down mulch or a floating row cover can raise the soil temperature by a few degrees. Building a “cold frame” over your cool weather crops is even more effective.
Remember to make your resolutions achievable and realistic, give them time to nurture and grow, just like your crops. Share your thoughts with your neighbors and the farmers at our market when you next see them.
I’ll get more into “cold frames” when I talk to you again soon.
As always, SNAP vouchers can be used at some of the vendors booths, as well as Double Up tokens for exchange for fruits (Estrada Citrus from Mesa is back) and vegetables. You can use your EBT card at the info booth for SNAP vouchers and Double UP tokens (unlimited amount right now).
We are looking forward to seeing you all at this coming week’s Market, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. For more information on all our vendors and the products they will be bringing, please see this week’s Farmers’ Market newsletter at www.sierravistafarmersmarkets.com. Also, check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sierravistafarmersmarket/.
Submitted by “Uncle” Ralph Wildermuth