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Waltham Fields Community Farm (incorporated as Community Farms Outreach, Inc.) is a nonprofit farming organization focusing on sustainable food production, fresh food assistance, and on-farm education. For more information about Waltham Fields check out our website!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Notes from the Field - Endurance

Every year around this time I start to think about the Marge Piercy poem "To be of use."  "The people I love the best," she says, "jump into work head first/ without dallying in the shallows..../I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart/ who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,/ who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,/ who do what has to be done, again and again."  There is a time in every farming season when the harvest becomes the thing that has to be done, again and again.  You can take a day off from many other farm tasks, but a day off from harvest, once the season is underway, is an impossibility.  Zucchinis and cucumbers grow huge in the heat, and plants shut down as the fruits mature.  Tomatoes become overripe.  Carrots crowd each other, jostling for more space in the row.  As Piercy says, "the food must come in." 

This week, it was hard to do any work.  It was too dry in our fields to plant seeds unless we watered the empty beds first.  Fall carrot seeds germinated and then died in the intense heat at the soil surface.  We transplanted until Wednesday and then stopped, because everything we planted needed to be watered immediately and we just couldn't keep up.  We moved irrigation pipe.  We harvested garlic.  We seeded lettuce and spinach in the greenhouse for September harvest.  We moved irrigation pipe again.  We watched more things wilt in the increasing heat as the week went on.  And every day, we harvested. 

Every morning, the weed crew showed up on the farm to work.  This amazing crew has hoed and hand-weeded their way around the fields, keeping the pick-your-own crops pristine and the gnarly onion field under control.  They stood in the shade drinking water more than usual this week, but they were back out in the field again in a moment, kneeling in the row over and over again to make sure that the crops were clean. They are the unsung heroes of the farm, young men and women who spend five mornings a week making sure that our crops have enough space to grow, which on our particular farm is a monumental task.  We appreciate their work every day when we go into the fields to harvest and can find the crops.  Every day during this heat wave, they came to work to weed. 

Every morning, the field crew showed up to harvest.  Even though several of them jokingly threatened to go on strike, and one of them called our field in Weston "the Gateway to hell" because of how hot it is over there with no indoor relief, they came to work every day, to do what had to be done again and again.  They harvested new potatoes in a field where the south side of the potato hills burned our knees through our work pants.  They harvested beets that wilted even before they were picked.  They harvested, moved crops into the shade, harvested again, at all three of our fields, through the hottest part of the day.  

Every morning, Zannah arrived at Gateways to feed and water the pigs, to make them a cool mud wallow in the field, to get the harvest crates and knives ready.  Every day, Sutton biked to the farm early and stayed late to irrigate and fertilize the tomatoes at the Lyman field.  Volunteer groups from Genesis, Whole Foods and Thermo Fisher, led by Kim and Marla, weeded lettuce, chard, raspberries and tomatoes.  Dan cultivated until he had to stop because he was afraid it was doing too much damage to the crops.  Erinn continued to seed in the greenhouse and in the field.  The heat wave, although it set back plants and wiped us out, did not stop the harvest.  Or the crews.  They endured.     

On Friday afternoon, there was a point in the day when we all found ourselves sitting on the ground in the shade behind the barn. We were, beyond all effort of will, finished working for the day.  Dan and Erinn went back to work the next morning, moving irrigation pipe, hoping for the rain at the front of the cold front that never came.  Monday will be cooler, and Tuesday might bring rain.  For the moment, the heat is over, and the work of the season continues. 

Enjoy the harvest,
Amanda, for the farm crew

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