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Farming is Tough Work
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.
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.
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