The Learning Curve

Hard to express in a few words, my experience at Gaining Ground has meant growth, empowerment, challenge, and fulfillment. It’s also been sweaty.

I came into this season with very little farming knowledge. For many years now, I have studied plants—how to identify them, draw them, understand their biology. I have spent many countless hours watching and taking pleasure in plants, yet I didn’t really know anything about growing them effectively and felt clueless coming onto the field.

The beginning was a struggle. I wanted so badly to be good at what looked like easy tasks. Harvesting quickly and well, for example, is so much harder than it looks. I’d go home and research vegetables, watch documentaries on organic methods and food inequality and read books on farming. I wrote poems about radishes and made block prints of carrots in hopes I’d be a successful farmer one day! But the only thing that really helped me become better at farming was time and working hard through that intense learning curve. The coolest part is that the learning never ends. Farming is a constant stream of learning.

The true gift I have gained this season is learning how farming fills you with passion and a sense of deep strength, not only physically but mentally. Some tasks in the hot sun all day make you both want to cry and sing, they bring you closer with your crew. As ee cummings so eloquently puts work like this, it’s “puddle wonderful,” muddy and magical all at the same time. It fills you with love, for the everyday work and the structure of a field crew built on teamwork. It feels like family, with everyone sweating, smiling, and occasionally swearing over something we all love together. Farming is a labor of love.

Farming makes you proud of yourself, especially here. It brings you a sense of peace and mindfulness. While the work is often difficult and perhaps tests your patience, you learn how to breathe and keep going. It clears your mind because you are so focused on getting all the fennel in the ground as quickly as possible, because you only have an hour left to harvest before the market starts.

Farming both keeps you on your toes, and keeps your toes in the soil.

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