I definitely know that I love my job when I am more excited than ever for the growing season to begin, my fifth at Gaining Ground. And by “begin” I mean “continue,” as we have been harvesting and distributing fresh produce throughout the winter months.
At the end of last season, we finally decided to go for it. We took the leap to transition the farm into permanent no-till raised beds. “No-till” is the practice of growing crops without disturbing the soil. We discovered this method after constructing our first hoop house late in the winter of 2013.
After eight seasons with us, Kayleigh Boyle has moved on to Gibbet Hill Farm in Groton. We’re grateful for her many contributions here and wish her well in her next stages of growth.
Gaining Ground has been part of my life since I was 22. It is hard to believe it’s been eight years. I remember so clearly meeting the farm coordinator, Verena Wieloch, for the first time and taking a walk through the snow-covered March fields. She reassured me that it didn’t look like much at the time, but just wait until the fields were in full bloom.
I heard on the radio that the average 30-year-old spends five hours a day on their smart phone. As I turned 30 this year, this fact gave me pause. How does this technology fit into my daily life as a farmer? And what is my relationship between farming and technology?
Why do I volunteer at Gaining Ground? Interesting question. I started there because I was looking for a way to be useful in this world. I stayed because I get more than I give.
This year has been the most instrumental season toward my growth as a young farmer.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to let go, and that I cannot possibly live and die with each and every seed and plant on the farm. To practice patience and to stay present.
I am an interdisciplinary artist, engaged in various media: painting, drawing, textiles, sculpture, photography, video and sound installation, with a little performance thrown into the mix. For the past 40 years, I have been lured by the landscape and how human intervention has molded, nurtured, and altered the natural environment.
Recently I have been thinking about what I would do once my apprenticeship ends. As a somewhat last resort, I retook the the famous Myers-Briggs personality test online. I had taken it in high school as sort of a career guidance tool but had not thought about it again until recently. I am so glad I did, as it seemed to have opened a door to the inner workings of my psyche.
The first time I visited Gaining Ground I was in third grade with a school group. I was really impressed by the selflessness of the farmers: growing so much organic food, to then donate to charity. I had been looking for ways to positively influence those in need, and I decided that this was a great way to do so because I would be able to help others, while working and having fun.
After you go to all the trouble of building a barn by hand—from cutting every last joint to raising it by hand, resulting in a structure that will last for generations—you really can’t crown it with some made-in-China, mail-order weathervane. That would be like Alice Waters plating up Twinkies for dessert at Chez Panisse. It just wouldn’t be right.
I am writing this after the sun has gone down on the longest day of the year. Looking back on the day, it seems like a lot can be done with fifteen hours of light fueling you.
All of us farmers started the morning with our regular Tuesday walk around, observing how the fields have changed over the weekend (a lot, mainly weeds).
Spring at Gaining Ground reminds me of the beginning of Richard Wilbur’s poem “Seed Leaves:”
Here something stubborn comes
Dislodging the earth crumbs
And making crusty rubble
It comes up bending double
And looks like a green staple.
It could be seedling maple,
Or artichoke, or bean
That remains to be seen.
I wander around the farm as dusk settles in on this silent spring night, and I pause knowing this is the calm before the storm. This spring marks the beginning of my fourth season of growing at Gaining Ground. Which means I have walked all around and over this piece of land. Back and forth from the orchards to the greenhouse, up and down every row and through each field. I am blessed by the opportunity to walk the fields determined, yet again, to plough, sow and reap its soil, seed, and bounty.
Everyone has a food story. It just seems to take a little talking to learn it. Working with Gaining Ground volunteers over the years, I have heard many stories that I collected like slips of paper. It was just this year that I realized how these food stories come from all types of people. There was the woman who remembered the house made of pole beans her dad built her when she was small. There was mint that a third grade boy recognized because he and his dad stop to visit a patch every time they walk their dog. There are nostalgic descriptions of grandmothers’ gardens and the gardens of mothers and fathers vivid with vegetables even though some were planted fifty years ago. And, of course, there are the gardens growing at homes this season, with their woodchuck stories and their memorable one-strawberry harvests. There are always tales of the delicious meals made, too. Telling stories provides an easy way for everyone working to join in the conversation of favorite ways to use, eat, and preserve.
Hi! My name is Ryan Devlin, and I was one of the apprentices at Gaining Ground for the 2015 growing season. I am from Framingham and have been working on small organic farms for the past seven years. Despite my previous experience, Gaining Ground was the first full-sized farm where I worked for the entire growing season, and it was a wonderful place to do so!
As a long-time Board member and enthusiastic supporter of the Food for families program, I spend many Saturday mornings harvesting and distributing produce and flowers to Concord and Carlisle residents. Through the years, I have received so much joy from this community of recipients. Food naturally generates conversations and memories and has opened the door to my friendship with Concord resident Ingeborg Traulsen.