This week’s Farm Note was written by Molly Rich. We have been so lucky to have Molly as part of our team since she started. Here is a reflection from Molly on her first year of farming full time.
The close of the month of January marked my first year of farming full-time. I remember last February, at the end of a long day of harvesting spinach in the high tunnel, Margaret came in to check on my progress. Before leaving, she left me with words of comfort, “Things will pick up again soon.” I didn’t completely understand what that meant at the time. For one thing, I was perfectly content spending the day in its entirety harvesting spinach in the warm high tunnel. I can’t say that about everything, but spinach, yes. Secondly, I hadn’t experienced the Farm in its most lively state by that point. I had just missed the summer craze, joining the team that September, and I had only been working part time then.
As the work changed with the season and the farm team grew, I started to understand what Margaret had said. Still not to its fullest meaning. In the spring, once the high tunnels were depleted of their greens, the air warmed, and the ground softened enough to welcome the new plants, we were harvesting outside again. There were more hands in the field, more tracks in the dirt, and more green in the rows. The springtime held an invigorating balance of the release of a heavy winter and the anticipation of the heat of summer. Of course, that balance was abruptly thrown as summer crashed in full-force, as it does.
Looking back at those 7 short months ago, it’s already a blur. Summer craze is an understatement. I was lost in a whirlwind of tomatoes, and squash. I felt whiplash from the drastic changes in weather. My wardrobe of dry dusty dirt, when the heat was at its strongest, was replaced by a coating of mud after a dose of summer storms. The days were long, but were never long enough for the work to be done. But that is summer. It’s extreme, and dramatic, and pushes everything to its limits. And then, one day, it’s a little bit cooler in the evening when the sun isn’t there to warm the sky. The tomatoes and squash became less threatening, and a balance was achieved again. Different than that of spring, but no less crucial.
As the leaves transformed into new creatures of burgundy and orange, and the sun became friend instead of foe again, fall emerged. Once again, the work changed. The fields were quieter, the vegetables were heavier, and the days lost patience for our work habits. The sun goes down whether we’re ready or not, naturally slowing us down. It’s appreciated on some level. Then, in the midst of bulk harvesting and winter preparation, the holidays appeared. By the forces of nature, winter arrived.
Now, here we are in February, harvesting spinach in the greenhouse again. Everything has come full circle, because that is how this works. Winter leads to spring, spring to summer, and summer to fall. Every time. This may sound arbitrary, but this piece of fundamental knowledge has never held so much meaning to me.
To understand this cycle is vital in farming, and to accept it is to accept everything that comes with it. Seasons change, people come and go, plants and animals grow and die. As farmers, we are facilitating this natural ebb and flow, and providing all we can to help it flourish at its peak, and maintain what’s left at its low. Now, with that experience, I find comfort in Margaret’s words once more knowing, “Things will pick up again soon.”