Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Notes from the Field: the Gratitude of Nothing Lacking
We sweated all day, every day, in the rain boots we were wearing so that we wouldn't get our feet soaked by the irrigation. The disease we found in the pick-your-own tomato plants was confirmed to be late blight, so overhead watering the tomato and tomatillo patches was out of the question, as water spreads the disease. We watched tomatilloes and beans, planted between rows of tomatoes, shrivel up as the week went on. The field crew moved pipe, flushed pipe, irrigated, moved pipe again, up and down the fields, all day long. We had to irrigate empty fields in order to help the previous crop residue decompose so that we could plant a second crop there. We drip irrigated sweet potatoes and field tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers and peppers, for literally days at a time. I spent most of one day on the tractor, spraying copper on the tomatoes to try to protect them from late blight, racing the thunderstorms that finally delivered an inch of rain to us on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, we picked thousands of pounds of squash and cucumbers from our new field at Gateways Farm in Weston. Our outreach market, which provides organic produce to low-income community members for free with a voucher or for $5 a bag, opened on Tuesday evening. It was very well attended despite its move to a shady new location; Dan, Sutton, Katie and Martha distributed over 70 bags of produce in one two-hour session. Our garlic dried down beautifully in the greenhouse, with no sign of mold or disease. The tomatoes kept growing, kept flowering, and began, slowly, to set fruit and ripen. We fertilized, irrigated, and hoed the kale and Swiss chard, and they began to slowly rebound. By Friday morning, after a week of work and an inch of rain, the color and texture of the plants was completely different. The field crew planted thousands of scallions, broccoli, cabbage, beets, lettuce, fennel and kohlrabi for fall harvest. We seeded more cilantro, dill, and a round of edamame for harvest around Labor Day. There was no sign of the Spotted Wing Drosophila (yet) as our raspberries began the run up to their autumn harvest.
Using our brains and our bodies as hard as we know how, doing our best to work with nature instead of opposing it, even as the rules that we once counted on seem to be changing, can feel a little crazy when the rewards are so uncertain. After all this -- planting and fertilizing and staking and tying and tying again and watering and fertilizing and spraying and spraying and spraying -- we still might not get any tomatoes. We might lose a crop -- or more than one -- in the field that desperately needs some irrigation next season. We might not quite be able to keep up with the weeds despite all of our efforts. These losses, like our successes, can be counted in pounds, row feet, sleepless nights, empty hands. They can gnaw at you if you let them. They can whittle away at your endurance until you are numb, unmotivated, uninspired, thinking about that real job. That job job.
Enjoy the harvest,
Amanda, for the farm crew
Images by Rebekah Carter (2012).