Nothing’s Ever Certain Until the Check Clears the Bank

Catskills Comfrey_Plant Leaves.png

In my last position before I ‘retired’, I was the database administrator for the Watershed Agricultural Council. In this capacity, I became familiar with the myriad of problems a farmer can face throughout a growing season. The streams are rising; will the farmers near the river get flooded? It hasn’t rained in three weeks; will the corn suffer? You can sense the anxiety among folks who depend on the earth’s cooperation when they sense the earth isn’t ‘right’. It’s essentially a case of “nothing’s ever certain until the check clears the bank”.

That’s the situation I now find myself. Now, I’m the farmer. So what’s my anxiety? Every day, first thing in the morning on going outside, I go over to see if the seventy new comfrey rootings have broken the surface. Are they budding through? This is an important issue to me - and my Catskills Comfrey future.

Yes, I already have a few growing and very healthy comfrey plants established. These plants are the basis of the production I have achieved to date - but you can’t be the next “Burt’s Bee” of comfrey with a dozen plants. So, I purchased new comfrey roots last Fall, knowing that they’d be dormant while ‘wintering’ over in the bed I prepared for them AND that I would not be able to harvest any leaves from these new plants in the first year.

My thinking was that as I grew this business, my initial dozen plants would suffice this first year; after all, I wasn’t going to harvest anything from the new plants that are growing under the best of prepared-soil conditions. And, too, my current few sales and projected growth for 2017 could be filled from the dozen good plants I already have.

But are they growing? My established plants are doing fine, peeking through the ground with their slender, pointed slivers pushing straight up. It was actually exciting to me to be able to recognize the barest mention of the comfrey plant breaking through the ground, knowing it should be there. “There it is!”, I say, congratulating myself on the learned knowledge one can only get when you have something on the line or, in this case, in the ground.

I’m optimistic enough to realize that the first breakthrough of the seventy plants will happen; after all, they’re starting from basic roots planted 2” deep. The established plants are just now beginning to say “hello”; therefore, the plants starting fresh from roots can’t be faster than the already-planted comfrey.

I have faith and the optimism to know that at some point, the tide will turn, comfrey will become recognized - and I’m going to need the capacity the seventy new plants will offer. It’s not this year, but it will happen. I’m a farmer now; not a DBA. I can no longer count on the database to keep it straight; it’s up to just me - and the seventy comfrey plants starting a new, long life on my land.

Danielle Gaebel