Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When Farming is Fun

We were asked an excellent question by a younger CSA member (I think she is about 7 years old?) and thought we'd answer it here.  Well, ok, we answered her when she asked us.  But, it was a good enough question that we thought others would enjoy hearing an expanded answer that grew with reflection.

The question:  What part of farming is the most fun for you?  

First of all, this is an excellent question because it reminded me to consider the things I like most about what we do.  After all, it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day struggle to get everything done.  And, like many other people, we have a tendency to let the negative events rule our emotions.  So, here is a worthy exercise to remind us to give the positives their due!

I (Rob) tend to type most of the blog posts, but I'll try to get Tammy to dictate a bit about what she finds to be the 'fun' things on the farm as well.  But, since I'm doing the typing....  I get to start!   Yay!

1. Harvesting when the crop looks good and there is plenty to go around.

The corollary to that is that it can be stressful to harvest when the crop is not very good and there is a shortage.  But, we're not supposed to be looking at it that way!

Today, I had the pleasure of picking broccoli, chinese cabbage and pok choi today for the Waverly CSA.  The chinese cabbage were superb and the pok choi were huge, but still tender.  And the broccoli?  Wow!  What a nice stand of plants we have right now.  And more are coming along.  The heads cut easily, very few were culls and I had enough broccoli for 45 CSA members in 15 minutes.

It didn't hurt that the sun was shining, the temps were moderate and there was a light breeze.  Every year, we've had days where this happens.  Weather is beautiful and picking is rewarding.   It certainly goes a long ways towards improving the farmer's attitude.

Wait.  What was that?  You want to know what a "cull" is?
A cull is a name we use for any produce we won't sell or give out in a CSA.  For example, a head of broccoli might start to open flowers before we can pick the head.  Or maybe there is a rotten patch on it.  In some cases, Tammy and I will cut off the bad spots and eat the rest ourselves.  Usually, the birds will get culls to eat.  But, if it is a vegetable they don't eat, we'll put it in the compost pile.

Hey - teaching makes farming fun too!

2. Having a day when we complete a large number of tasks on a long 'to do' list.

Periodically, we might make a post on the blog that lists everything we accomplished on a given day.  We don't intend for posts like that to do anything more than
     a. give people who don't work on a farm a peek into what one does on a farm like ours
     b. share the pleasure of having had a good day on the farm

We worry sometimes that people might take offense that we believe we are doing so much more than anyone else.  We know everyone has important things to do, so we don't intend these lists to spark comparisons.  And, we certainly don't want anyone to feel bad for us because we have so much to do.  It's a blessing to have meaningful work and to be able to accomplish much on a beautiful day.

Are we tired at the end of days like that. Of course!  But, we're tired on days when things don't go so well.  And, I'll take the first kind of tired most of the time.

Is it difficult to follow up one big day with another?

Of course it is.  We wear down just like anyone else.  That's what we try to find ways to balance out our lives with other tasks or events.  That doesn't always work, but at least we make an effort to stay healthy and as happy as we are able to be.

3.  Planting when the soil is "mellow."

Sometimes soil can be hard and pebbly.  This is hard on hands and shins (if you crawl to plant).  It can be easy to turn your ankle when the soil is like this.

But, when soil is 'mellow' it is a pleasure to kneel in and easy to put seedlings into the ground.  In fact, when soil is mellow, transplanting can go amazingly fast.  And, it is always good to see progress when you are working on the farm.  We've often found that worker attitude is best when we encourage looking back down the row to see how far you've gone instead of staring ahead to see how far there still is to go. 

The other nice thing about planting is that you can put on headphones and listen to music or a good book.  Or, if more than one person is planting, you can have a nice conversation - as long as everyone keeps planting as they talk.

Tammy pointed out that she likes working with the seedlings - in part because

4. Farming is often about the "possibilities."

This is one of the things that makes farming fun for Tammy.  And, a seedling is one of the best examples of something showing potential for the future.  The possibilities of what that seedling can do and the chance that it will help lead to a beautiful day of picking helps keep us going.

And, every year we try new things and invest our time, money and energy into tasks that we hope will lead us to become better at what we do.  And one of the things we strive to do is to grow excellent food for others.

That leads us to another one that Tammy pointed out to me...

5. Successfully providing good food for people who are pleased to receive that food.

If there weren't people interested in the food we grow/raise, then a good deal of the enjoyment of farming would go away for us.  This is why we prefer to sell what we produce at the local level.  And, not only do we sell locally, we prefer to sell direct to the consumer.  As a result, we have a direct connection to those who will eat the food we provide.

We get a great deal of satisfaction out of successfully providing quality food for those who appreciate it.  And so, that makes farming more fun for us.

In fact, we'd like to turn something around on all of you who have been supportive of our efforts.  Many of you have taken to telling us (sometimes in these words, sometimes in words with similar meaning) -
Thank you for all you do.

We would like to thank all of you who have supported us - past, present and future - for all you have done.

Because you have shown us that you care about what you eat.
Because you have been kind enough to support us through the good and the bad.
Because you are responsive to us and you let us know that we are appreciated.
And, because you are part of what makes farming fun for us.

We thank you for all you do for us.

Rob & Tammy

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