Do you remember playing the game Twister, where you’d put your hands and feet in absurdly awkward positions and try to keep your balance? If so, then welcome to winter farming in 1982.
Bob Jones, Sr. – who was, by the way, the man doing the tunnel slink – now recalls that circus-like feat as his “fondest memory” of farming in the winter. “I also remember,” he says, with a laugh, “how the neighbors would drive by and wonder what in the heck the crazy Jones family was up to now.”
When asked how he and his family decided to farm, year round, he says the following. “Well, I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to plant in the winter, that’s for sure. It’s taken us thirty years to figure out what we have, making mistakes and learning from them along the way. When we did start farming year round, it was unheard of. Nobody would have considered farming in such cold winter weather and some people probably thought, when we did, it was lunacy.”
Bob, Sr. started farming as a young teenager in 1954. “I can’t profess I had any skill at that time,” he says. “In fact, I started with no knowledge at all, and I made more mistakes than anyone has a right to. My father came from a farming background, but hadn’t farmed in quite some time.”
Back then, as had been true as long as commercial farming had existed, the goal was to get the earliest crops to market. “The earliest crops,” Bob, Sr. explains, “got the most money. There used be a saying. ‘Frost was wonderful – as long as it happened to the other guy.’ If you had a crop that nobody else did, then you made the money that year.” The same was true if you had crops available for sale later in the year, when everyone else’s supply was exhausted for the season.
“Today, there isn’t an advantage when you have early crops,” he adds, “because transportation systems are so good and produce is available in stores during all months of the calendar. But I can remember shipping by railway and it sure mattered then.”
Then, in 1982, nearly thirty years after he’d started farming, Bob, Sr. decided to try to grow beets and carrots in the winter. When asked how all turned out that first year, he simply said, “Better than deserved.”
And, he acknowledged that, although some of what he tried didn’t work, some things were ultimately proven to be right. “We haven’t always taken the straight path,” he admits, “and we’ve traveled down a lot of crooks in the road. But, because we’ve been willing to get back up, we’ve made plenty of progress.”
When asked what else he had to say about growing vegetables that nobody else has grown for hundreds of years and otherwise being innovative, Bob, Sr. said, “Well, I’m a dreamer. I guess I always have been.”