Farming is Tough Work

A tomato from La Vista Community Supported Garden
A tomato from La Vista Community Supported Garden | Source

An appreciation of farmers

About 15 or 16 years ago, I flew to Minnesota to visit my brother and his family. I flew into Rochester and had to rent a car to get to his place. He was living in a small town at the time. I can’t remember the name now, it was just one of the many small Minnesota towns he lived in for a number of years before moving to Rochester.

As I drove along the two-lane highway, passing fields of whatever it was that the farmers were growing at the time, I remember being amazed by two things.

First, that there was so much open land and how beautiful it was. Miles and miles of open space, filled with fields of corn, probably wheat as well.

The other thing I remember of that drive is how I began to get a real appreciation of farmers, the work they do and the lives they lead. Close to the land, moving through their days with the seasons.

Some of the flats of tomatoes to be planted
Some of the flats of tomatoes to be planted | Source

Planting tomatoes

I’m not a farmer, but I am very involved in a community supported garden. La Vista is a shareholder farm. That is, we sell shares of the season’s harvest to about 120 families. They share in the risks and rewards of the season. Three years ago, we had an abundance of produce and everyone was ecstatic over the harvest. Last year, we had a lot of problems – drought, new farmers, a new board of directors. We struggled through the summer but were able to finish strong in the fall. Still, we lost quite a few members who chose not to return this year.

As a member of La Vista, I'm obligated to put in three hours of volunteer time on the farm. As a member of the board of directors, it's even more important to put in my time (not that I don't already - many hours, actually).

Last month, I and two other board members helped the farmer and his wife and our assistant farmer plant about 600 tomato plants. Before we could begin to plant them, Eric, our farmer, mixed rabbit poo with mulch. This was incorporated into the field with a hand tiller. Then Tom, a board member, used a post hole digger to make a hole that Cindy and I then dropped the tomato plants into.

We had a system going and were able to plant them all in about 3 hours.

Chef Jacques tests a recipe during the annual Tomato Fest contest
Chef Jacques tests a recipe during the annual Tomato Fest contest | Source

Fruits of our labor

Tomatoes are one of the vegetables everyone clamors for in the summer, and so we planted beefsteak slicing tomatoes and Paul Robeson heirloom tomatoes. We also planted romas. Already in the field were two types of cherry tomatoes. That was round one. We’ll do another planting so that we can reap many of this favorite vegetable in time for our annual Tomato Fest in early August.

Our Tomato Fest is a time when we gather as a garden community and share recipes and have a recipe contest, play games using overripe tomatoes (such as tomato golf and hopscotch) and just generally have a chance to come together as a community and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

This is the fifth in a series of monthly hubs I’ll be writing in 2011 about La Vista Community Supported Garden in Godfrey, Illinois. I joined La Vista in 2005 and became a member of its board of directors a year later. This series – La Vista: Nurturing land and people – will take the reader through a year at the farm, sharing the struggles and triumphs of operating a CSA and the benefits of membership. I hope you find this series useful and interesting and, as always, feel free to leave a comment.

Next month: Tips for using herbs in medicines and cooking

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Comments 22 comments

Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 5 years ago from Euroland

That's a nicely written and well laid out page Danette.


Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

Danette, what a neat endeavor this is! Thanks for sharing this hub...beautiful idea that you're a part of. :)


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California

Nicely done, especially in a half hour. I have to tell you, I LOVE beef steak tomatoes. My father-in-law grows them, and, there was this one year (and don't ask me what happened or why it was different... even he doesn't know)... they were so amazing. I mean, like, "the best tomatoes of a forty year experience" kind of thing. You know, like, why would I make that up? They were divine. Never had one from anywhere, fair, store, farmers market, neighbor's garden that touched them. But, even short of that summer, I LOVE 'em. (Great hub, thanks for playing!!!)


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 5 years ago from USA or America

Hey Danette, very nicely written for the challenge. I certainly hope things get better for the group. It can be a challenge doing that type of work, but with some help from some people like yourself, it can be made to benefit many people. Thank you for sharing. :)


Jewels profile image

Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

Can't beat the real home grown tomato variety. I'm lucky in my area, the farmers market is set up for farmers, which includes the home growing variety. So the locals get in on the act with the walnuts that fall off their trees, lemons, grapefruits, apples, the lot. I love community gardens. As well as the fabulous produce, it's the people who want to work on them that is fantastic.


wheelinallover profile image

wheelinallover 5 years ago from Central United States

My nearest neighbor runs a green house and grows all kinds of tomatoes. He has about 3/4 of an acre which is outside behind the green house where his garden is. He grows other things too and sells them "on the honor system" from a small cart he keeps right off the driveway.

I hope you enjoyed the challenge as much as I did. I think I learned a little more about some of the authors here on hub pages.

I am keeping my hub up for two reasons. I think it has the potential to be better, but I want it so I can read other hubs written by the contestants.

I am glad my last comment failed. When I tried to publish it said hub pages was down for maintenance. I am a slow thinker so it was a wonder to me I was even able to write and publish a hub in 33 minutes.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Great hub, Sister. It was Manketo-(sp) the town he lived in. :) Very touching-rated up, awesome and useful. I admire your work with the La Vista Group.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

@ Mark -- thanks, I already had the pics on my computer and was just waiting for a chance to use them. :)

@ Motown2Chitown - Community supported gardens (of all types) are definitely a growing movement. This particular model is an effort to provide a living wage for a farmer while good produce to the shareholders.

@Shadesbreath -- my husband would never eat a tomato unless it was in a salad. Two years ago he 'discovered' how good they are, especially the heirloom types. I'm glad he'll eat them now but still not like me, I can eat the cherry tomatoes right off the vine or just in slices.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

@Cagsil - thanks for setting up this challenge along with Shadesbreath. I really enjoyed it and hope to do it again sometime.

@Jewels - our town as a farmers market that has been steadily growing not only in the number of venders but the people who attend. Many people are looking for local produce now that they know where it's coming from. We donate our farm's excess produce to the local food bank - part of our mission statement is to provide a living wage for the farmer as well as take care of the under served in our community.

@wheelinallover - I definitely had fun doing the challenge and it was nice to meet some new hubbers. I'll probably tweak this a little bit but keep it up. It wasn't half bad for pulling it together in just 30 minutes (although I think I was a few seconds past the deadline). It was fun.

@ Denise - Well, he also lived in Owatonna and Albert Lea. I just can't remember which town he was in that I visited him, once with Sam but this particular time on my own.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

Nice job. The tomato fest sounds like a blast. I love fresh tomatoes and getting great recipes for them. My inlaws always have an overwhelming amount of tomatoes toward the end of August. That's where the canning comes in! You'll have to sahre some of those recipes.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

It is fun and everyone looks forward to it every year. It must be a Handlon thing to love tomatoes. In the past, Chef Jacques, a friend of our garden's founder, would judge the contest but I don't think we'll get him back this year. We always posted the winning recipe on our website. I'll try to send you the link later. The one thing Jacques makes that a lot of people ooh and aah over is a tomato sorbet - definitely NOT to my liking!!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

Indeed, farming is tough work. I'm a member of a CSA where I buy a share of the farm's harvest, but at this one it is the farmer that does all of the work. In my own yard, however, I have attempted to grow a variety of things, and just the weeding alone is an unwelcome task. Nice hub earning you a vote-up.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Phil, thanks for stopping by to read my hub. It's great that you are a member of a CSA. I see you are in Quebec. Is the "eat local" movement growing as much in Canada as it is here in the US?

Our biggest battle are the weeds, especially by July, so I can relate to weeding being an unpleasant chore.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

I so appreciate the farmers! And lucky me growing up I had the pleasure of spending summers in NC where many of my elders were farmers. What freedom and good food I had.

What a great idea having this tomato fest. I love all the innovative ideas.

Thanks for a great hub! Rated up as always.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you BkCreative for stopping by to read and your compliment. I appreciate it!

Those who have grown up on farms or had the chance to spend lots of time on them truly are lucky, especially as time goes by and more and more land is eaten up by developers.


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

I love and appreciate the open countryside that farmers gives us in addition to food. To see prosperous fields or cows grazing in the meadow gives me a sense of calm in some way. And I appreciate all their hard work to accomplish all this. Thanks for a great hub and for telling about the share holder farm, it sounds like a vey good idea and you seem to have some fun too!

Voted up, Tina


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 5 years ago from Midwest

600 plants in 3 hours? I am very impressed! That is a lot of hard work - but there is nothing like a freshly picked, organically grown tomato :) awesome work you are all doing. If I lived closer to that area I would join you.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

@Tina - it's nice to see open fields with row upon row of corn or soy instead of row upon row of buildings. I hate to see farmers sell their land to developers. Thanks for reading and the vote up.

@Christin - 600 plants does seem like a lot, but we had a system going that made it go like clockwork. Thanks for reading.


manthy profile image

manthy 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

Voted up & awesome

We call em maters doen here in Alabama ;0)

I have about 20 plants out this year and yes it is hard work. but the payoff is well worth the effort, I love giving people a bag of tomatoes - and they will love you for it.

Thanks for visiting my hubs - I will be back by yours again soon.

God-Bless-Us-All


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Yes, everyone loves the 'maters' don't they? Thanks for reading my hub manthy.


akune profile image

akune 5 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

I wanted to be there when I read this.

Tomatoes for golf? My boys would love to watch this while my daughter would like to play!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks akune. Watch for my hub on our annual Tomato Fest coming in a day or two with more pics. It is a fun time and will include winning recipes from our contest.

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