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April 30, 2015
A CSA Farmer's Day
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
You might think the Farmer is a recluse. A man who rides his tractor in glorious weather, keeping this thoughts to himself. You might think farming provides and escape from the "real world," with its fast pace and people politics. Imagine a man walking out of his corporate high-rise, donning a pair of worn Carhartts, shedding his tie and arriving on 90 acres. Outside. What is this man's day like?
What few people realize is that farming has as much to do with people as it has to do with crops. In the height of the season as many as 20 employees populate our fields, greenhouses and pack house. Arriving at the something-crack of dawn, they scurry, or saunter to their respective positions. Field crew gather tools, for planting, weeding, harvesting, staking, stringing, did I mention weeding? No Roundup (herbicide) on this farm! One guy tends to tractor maintenance and repair, and then motors across the lengthy fields, spreading compost, tilling, laying beds and cultivating. A full time job at the height of the season. One person heads to the nursery, seeding, pricking out babies and carefully monitoring the health of your future supper.
The Pack House crew heads for the pack house, go figure! They prepare for the onslaught of the day's harvest. They wash, glean and pack each crop. When the CSA begins they assemble online orders and custom pack each box. The driver loads the truck on delivery days and wends his way through the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia, dropping boxes at over 20 locations. And don't forget the Farmer's wife, communicating with the vegetable eaters while keeping her finger in the cut-flower operation.
Where does that leave the Farmer? With a long list of people to talk to! Field manager, pack house manager first. Nursery manager, driver and employees with needs, questions, or problems that need to be addressed. Farmer's Wife sprinkled throughout the day, but mostly after dark. Of course supplies need to be ordered, tacked on to a long list of vendors to communicate with. Let's not forget the customers at markets and the duties as market manager.
Now if you really knew the Farmer, you might think he would be perfectly happy to have a small plot of land, head out alone in the morning and work the fields in solitude. Perhaps he'd happily accept a little visit by his Wife, bringing an iced tea and sandwich. How romantic!
But this ever-growing CSA community invites him to broaden his world. He must call on his higher faculties of political and diplomatic verse day in and day out. Every day is a reminder of how diverse, and yet how common humanity is. The Farm has created a community of people connected by vegetables. The hard work and effort to grow these relationships brings richness and life to our work. In the end it is these human interactions that feed us, as much as the vegetables we grow.
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April 18, 2015
CSA Groundhog Patrol
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
(Photo credited to Shenandoah National Park)
Anyone reading this who has tended a garden understands the longstanding feud between Farmer and Groundhog. In my early twenties, I planted my first vegetable garden. Meticulously I followed the instructions in my favorite gardening book, The Victory Garden. My first glimpse of the curled green elbows of baby plants thrilled me to no end. Within hours a miraculous row of young bean plants decorated my carefully cultivated soil. Proud of my accomplishments I resolved to get up early the next day and plant an additional row. Now I am sure my faithful readers anticipate what sorrowful surprise awaited me the next morning. Of my beautiful row of verdant plants only stubby little bean trunks remained. Not one tiny leaf unfurling its hope of future beany goodness.
A fury of sheer determination welled in my heart. I replanted the beans. Then after scrounging in my parent’s garage I emerged with metal stakes and chicken wire. I pounded stakes and stretched the fence around my little plot. Satisfied, I climbed over the new fence and tended the emerging radishes and lettuces that still remained.
That afternoon, I peaked out the window. There I saw Mr. Groundhog precipitously scaling the wobbly wire fence. Plop! Inside he made quick and dirty work of half a row of lettuce. I ran out hollering all sorts of explicatives in Mr. McGregor style. But he simply slipped under the fence leaving no trace except the razed tender greens.
Now I must tell you this was one fat and happy whistle pig. We would watch him sit on his haunches and peer at the house. We couldn't help but to laugh at him. He looked as if he was ready to pontificate on some heady subject. In fact he resembled my college biology professor so well, that we dubbed him “Dr. D.” Don’t think this meant we were on friendly terms! Indeed no! This was all out war.
I set to work Dr. D.-proofing my fence even further. I laid bricks around the bottom of the fence carefully tucking the bottom of the chicken wire under the bricks. Then I took scraps of fencing and carefully wired a lid over the whole garden. By now I could barely get in, or out, of the garden, depending on which side I was currently on. In spite of the fact the contents of my garden were barely accessible to me, I felt smug that surely I had defeated that oversized rodent enemy.
A day later I stood in shock as I approached the garden. There before me appeared not one, but five groundhogs. Apparently fat Dr. D. was a she and had brought her charming little ones to share Eden. The lot of them scrambled up the fence and proceeded to jump up and down on the rickety fence roof. Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! One at a time they fell through the roof into paradise. From deep in my belly a deep feeling of mirth emerged. I laughed till I thought my sides would split. Then I tore down the fence, weeded my garden, and harvested what remained.
At Red Earth Farm, 90 acres is ample room for all kinds of critters eager to share our bounty. Max, our oversized chocolate lab is the Groundhog Patrol, but mostly he hangs out by the pack house oblivious to marauders. Fortunately we have lots of produce to share, mostly with people, but with a few critters too. Do you have any groundhog encounters to share? Hop over to Facebook and let’s hear your story!
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April 12, 2015
CSA Romance
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer wooed me with sun gold tomatoes and fennel hearts. For our first date he took me on a picnic. In clean overalls, I kid you not, he picked me up and took me to a field of gold. There he unwrapped his carefully prepared vegetables, melons and aged cheeses. Did we have wine too? I don't remember. But I do remember that the early morning’s frost had vanished in the warm autumn sun. We were friends already, sparked that day at my Open House (see previous blog post). But this marked a new beginning for us. The sweetness of nature, the simple meal and the ease of being together made this moment memorable.
In my next CSA box I found two small cucumbers and another box of sun golds, treasures back in those early farming days. Each week a new surprise in my box, melon, fennel, eggplant, and love notes. By the time the growing season ended we were in love. A year later we gathered with friends and family on a beautiful hillside on a sunny afternoon. I remember walking up the field towards the gathering. I looked back over my shoulder to see the full moon rising. The big smiling “child’s moon” was giving me away.
We celebrate our tenth anniversary this September. While we have thoughts of romantic trips to exotic distant lands, most likely we will wander up the hillside of our beautiful farm, spread a blanket on the warm grass, and share a simple meal grown by our own hands. Sun gold tomatoes for sweetness. Fennel hearts for love. Kale salad for groundedness. Somehow, it doesn't get better than that.
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