Kitchen Garden

A Shift at the Farm

Working in the Barn
Soil Blocking and Seed Planting

RURAL CEDAR TOWNSHIP— A real concern about severe weather hangs over the farm. When there is a forecast of thunderstorms and gusts of high wind, we move cars, tractors, wagons with seedlings on them, and other equipment into the barns. The vegetables growing in the field stand on their own, and a crop failure for any reason would be disastrous. It’s too late to start over.

In a community supported agriculture (CSA) project, unlike with commodity producers, the risk of a crop failure is not only financial. Shareholders would have to find food elsewhere. When a person joins a CSA, the expectation is to share in good and bad outcomes. However, there is a practical aspect of crop failure in that people have to eat. Industrial food supply chains, against which CSAs compete, are diversified enough to provide food during hard times. The effect of a failure would be to erode some of a CSA’s hard earned loyalty of members. Yesterday’s storm passed without significant damage and concerns receded like the flood waters. Equipment came back out of the barn.

Field of Garlic
Field of Garlic

After my shift of soil blocking and planting, I walked among the fields to look at the progress. The scapes of garlic are forming, plenty of rhubarb remains, and the rainy spring has everything growing.

With some crops, a process of laying down irrigation lines and then plastic on top is used and was a learning experience. It makes sense to protect against drought in a farm business, and when customers have other options, irrigation can help ensure there is a harvest.

At home, I water my garden, but sparingly. Partly to conserve water, but also because the vegetables should produce on their own. Home gardening is more about living within the actuality of the season, rather than producing a fungible commodity. It’s not really about the vegetables, but a way of life.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t sell excess— I have. Having a harvest is important, but not critical. There is a part of us that wants to connect with the elements in a fundamental way. Gardening fulfills that desire. Knowing the face of the farmer and where food comes from is essential to maintaining sanity in a turbulent world. That there are risks is part of the paradigm.

Yesterday’s themes— risk, irrigation, coping with crop loss and customers— in the context of working on a CSA, served to instruct as another shift on the farm ended. The compensation for this work is not only in vegetables.