Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do It Again

"Standing in the middle of nowhere, wondering how to begin. Lost between tomorrow and yesterday, between now and then. And now we're back where we started, here we go round again. Day after day I get up and I say I better do it again."

Farming is an incredibly long distance race; marathoners have it easy. During the 'off' season farmers spend their time cleaning, organizing, planning, and ordering. Once the actual season starts, sometime around late March/early April, the labor doesn't cease until the end of October/early November. While there are variations from farm to farm, depending on the size of the farm operation and the number of helpers (paid/volunteer/intern), those farmers who are involved in local, sustainable agriculture, and especially those who are farming organically (as Gravity Hill Farm is doing) are engaged in an extremely challenging endeavor. Farming is a seven-day-a-week job; as often as not, working from just after sun up to sun down. It is uncertain if John Lennon had farmers in mind when he sang about working class heroes, but farmers, past and present, are truly heroes for their persistence and tenacity. There is much that a farmer has no control over (rain, heat, bugs [those nasty bastards]), but through it all the farmer must get up and persevere, day in and day out. That is what the farmer has control over, and regardless of how they are feeling - physically, emotionally, or mentally - the farmer, whether it be Farmer David or any other, needs to get up each day and do it again and again. Those reading this who are aware of the challenges facing small, local farmers appreciate what the farmer is doing in order to bring fresh, nutritious and gorgeous seasonal produce to market or to community-supported agriculture (CSA) members. For those who aren't aware, it is hoped that this message provides some small insight of what goes into providing you food that is fresher and tastier than you can find in most supermarkets.

The farm season is a continuous cycle of seeding, germination, growing in the green house, seasoning on a table outside of the green house, and planting. While waiting to be planted, the newly seeded plants and those that have started growing need to be watered - daily. If the greenhouse is full, and the outside tables are full, watering can take upwards of two hours per day, depending on the size of the farm operation. Once planted, the plants need to be watered through irrigation, weeded, and, in certain cases, trellised (tomatoes, peas, cucumbers). And while most 'stuff' starts in planting trays in the greenhouse, some plants are directly seeded into the ground. And this doesn't happen just once at the beginning of the season. While some crops do well in the spring, others prefer the heat of the summer, and some do best once fall weather rolls around. There is no break from the entire process; the cycle is repeated many times throughout the entire season.

So, the next time you go to a farmer's market, say hi to your local farmer. Tell them how much you appreciate the great produce they are making available to you and thank them for all they do. Farmers truly are working class heroes.

Here are some seeds that have germinated. At this size they are still in the greenhouse.

This is a view inside the greenhouse. Plants are in various stages of growth. The plastic sides of the greenhouse can be rolled up and down. This allows the plants to be kept at the right temperature and to be protected from rain. In the back center of the greenhouse is the housing for a fan which is used to cool off the greenhouse if it gets too hot. On the right side is a heater which will provide heat when it gets too chilly.

This shows the increase in the amount of seeding that has been done.

This shows Farmer David watering seedlings that have been moved outside to prepare them for their lives in the field. This needs to be done outside and inside the greenhouse on a daily basis. Watering requires a great deal of patience as it is not something that can be rushed. To state the obvious, a poor job of watering can be life threatening to the plants.

These are tomato plants. The wooden stakes will be used to trellis the tomatoes to provide them with stability to prevent them from toppling over. Trellising is very time consuming.

These are tomato plants that have grown up and are being held up by trellising. To trellis special string is tied to a stake and is wound in and out between the plants and is tied off at the next stake. As mentioned, very time consuming and damaging to the hands and fingers.

As long as you gaze on Gravity Hill sunset, you will be in paradise.

More pictures showing the process of planting and growing next time.

In the last posting an important friend of Farmer David's was overlooked - so, a big shout out to Adam for all he's done. And speaking of Adam, he has a blog describing the garden that he is growing at the Lawrenceville, NJ communtiy garden plot. You can follow Adam's exploits at:

Another blog to check out is Farm Blogs From Around the World: The site is as its name indicates, blogs from farms from around the world. A very cool place to visit.

Happy and healthy eating to all.

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