On Raising Frinklepod Kids

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As we celebrated Sascha’s 9th birthday last week, my mind wandered back through all the years of her sweet little life.  Not surprisingly, nearly every memory correlated to some moment in the life of our farm - after all, we started Frinklepod when she was a year and a half.  A very curious and spirited toddler, Sascha was literally in the middle of every project we undertook in that first season, from building the farm stand, to assembling the greenhouse, to starting our first seedlings.  When our first customers started coming in, Sascha alternated between being an adorable, engaging little human and a watchdog who tried to chase them out with an assortment of sharp garden tools. Luckily for us, most people who encountered the watchdog-toddler enjoyed our vegetables enough to come back for more!

By our second season at Frinklepod, baby Etta had arrived and spent her early days being snuggled by our lovely interns and strapped on my back in a baby carrier.  Silly me, I went into this season believing that with a baby secured fastened to my (very sweaty) back, I could do anything I could have done before. Not so. Despite her peaceful personality, Etta was not content to tag along on hours of weeding, harvesting cherry tomatoes, or moving crates of vegetables around.  As she learned to crawl, though, she enjoyed her newfound freedom, exploring mini forests of kale, taste-testing our soil types, and dodging her big sister.

Throughout the years, our daughters have adapted to spending the majority of their waking hours at - or maybe we should say with - Frinklepod, which, we half-joke, is like our third child.  Because we decided from the beginning to have a farm operation that was open to the public, welcoming to our community, and transparent with our growing methods and crops, our kids have learned what it is to be “the face” of a business, for better or worse.  Whatever they may be doing, at any time of year, whether we are officially open or not - Sascha and Etta know that at any moment they may encounter a person who has a question, needs help, or is merely hoping to watch what is going on. (Several years ago we were admonished by a passerby for letting our little kids run naked down the length of the farm.  It was a non-issue for us.) People often catch a glimpse of our kids in action (e.g. ringing up a purchase or making mud pies) and remark, “Wow, what a great life your kids must have!”  With their cute faces front and center on our website and social media, and their one-on-one interactions with customers, our kids are aware that they are in some sort of sun-dappled spotlight.  While they sometimes enjoy this attention, as they get older they have learned how to retreat from it as needed and to carve out their own time and space away from the main activity of the farm. In doing so (we tell ourselves), they are developing some great life skills in self-advocacy and setting boundaries!

Our kids really DO have a great life!   And when I take a moment to pause and reflect, my heart feels full knowing that our children are deeply connected to nature and have a rich understanding of the many factors that affect our food supply and thus the quality of our life.  When it snows in October, they are concerned that we may not have garlic the next summer (because we didn’t have a chance to plant it). When our well goes dry, they know what this could mean and relish in being part of the team that tries to fix it.  When a ladybug lands on them in the greenhouse, they smile with the knowledge that she is helping keep the aphids at bay. When Etta is stung by a bee, Sascha will run to find a plantain leaf to chew up as a poultice, and later that day, Etta might gather greens and edible weeds for a spontaneous salad for them to share before they go back to work in their mud bakery.  Add to that their interests in flower arranging, cooking, and running the cash register and, well, you can see that our succession plan for the farm when we “retire” (insert laughing-crying face here) is looking pretty good!