The beets are round and beautiful, the chard is stunning with its bright rainbow colored stems, and the carrots are magnificent — pulling one is like unearthing a gem. There are hundreds of feet of lettuce ready to be picked, the cabbage and broccoli are starting to head up, and last week, our first snap peas snapped and we joyously tossed them into our mouths. Our field is starting to look like a farm.
July 1st marked the halfway point of the 2010 program at the Greenbank Farm Training Center (GFTC), and it is amazing to think back to four months ago when the field was barren — unfortunately, not even planted with a cover crop — and our infrastructure was limited.
Since then, the crew of eight participants at the GFTC has built two greenhouses, installed a deer fence, added needed electric and irrigation systems to the field, started thousands vegetable starts from seed, and prepped and planted a over a hundred and twenty one-hundred foot-long beds with annual vegetables.
This is on top of starting a 45-member CSA, growing vegetables for three wholesale accounts, and selling at the Sunday farmer’s market. Not to mention all of the marketing energy we put into building a positive relationship with our customers and community.
It has been a busy but gratifying last four months. I am starting to understand the rewards that come to a person from working the land and growing your own food. The back of my neck has developed quite a nice tan, my arms are getting stronger, and my feet have become permanently caked with a layer of dirt. Almost anytime of the day, I can look up to see herons or harriers flying in the sky. Ladybugs hide out in the veggies and occasionally a snake slithers by reminding me that we humans share the earth with all. The sweetness of a salad turnip, the crunch of a fresh pea — these are few of the simple pleasures of life.
One of the most fun changes that has happened as a result of my time in the garden has taken place in the kitchen. As a farmers-in-training at the GFTC, I have access to all of the fresh produce a person could ask for. For the past few weeks, when my husband and I sit down to dinner we are in wonderment at the localness and freshness of our meals.
Fresh lettuce, radishes, Asian greens, arugula, salad turnips, and a few berries make a delicious fresh and healthy salad—only the ingredients for the dressing are outsourced. As a side-dish, we often eat sautéed chard and kale or roasted beets and carrots. One of my favorite sides is Alan’s specialty of candied carrots — sliced carrots simmered with honey and butter, two ingredients we can pick up at the farmer’s market. And, speaking of the farmer’s market, we can get humanely raised beef or pork, line-caught salmon, free-range eggs, and fresh wheat all from farms within 30 miles of our house. What else does one really need, besides coffee, of course.
A few years ago, the localvore movement was a hot topic. Barbara Kingsolver published Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon published Plenty, both excellent memoirs on a year of eating locally. “Farm fresh” and “local” became buzz words seeking a lot of attention in the media, and the idea of tracking a person’s “food miles” came to consumers’ attention. You couldn’t turn on the radio or go into a natural food store without hearing mention of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. This issue is no longer in the spotlight; however, I strongly believe that supporting our nation’s farmers is critical to our country’s food security and to building healthy economies. We need more farmers growing healthy food.
However, I am not here to push these ideas on anyone. Yes, eating locally supports a local economy, and yes, it often times uses less natural resources. What I have found in eating locally has gone beyond the material. Independence and freedom. This is what I have gained. To grow one’s own food, to eat the fruits of your neighbor’s labors, to become connected with one’s land and community — these are immeasurable. This is why I want to continue to grow food for my family and community.
There are four more months of the program. Four more months to learn, to work the land, to grow in spirit and stature. There is still so much work to be done. In the next weeks we will sow our winter vegetables and till in the last of the cover crops we planted in March. We have tomatoes to trellis — the tiny green fruits will grow heavier by the day. Any day the zukes will ripen and we will have to run out into the fields and pick them before they look like baseball bats. The new potatoes are almost ready for digging. And always, there is still so much more to learn about becoming a farmer.