Through the Eyes of a Young Farmer
Growing up in Chicago, summer was always my favorite season. It meant wiffle ball in the streets, ice cream cones larger than my face, lightning bugs, movies in the park, running through sprinklers, and annual camping trips. But as I’ve gotten older and travelled around more, spring is something I look forward to most. It’s a time to pause and appreciate signs of new life and the tiny starts of so much growth ahead. In Chicago, this was marked by the return of the robins and sandhill cranes breaking the songbird silence of winter and making their way back north along Lake Michigan. While living in Montana, this was the exciting time when bison calves were welcomed into the world, wildflower blooms painted mountain sides, and rivers rushed powerfully with spring snowmelt. And while living in Guinea, West Africa, the red dust of the dry season was washed away by the early rains of the six-month-long monsoon season and rice fields and tree plantations were ready to be planted. Here in the Northeast we’ve already heard the spring peepers, have hopefully seen lots of wood frogs and salamanders already, and have appreciated all of the beautiful buds and blooms.
Here on the farm, spring has meant that our eyes catch fleeting glimpses of bluebirds, maple trees have been tapped, the bees and butterflies are active, cover crops have been raked away, tarps have been removed, fields have been fed with organic compost and fertilizer, and plant seedlings have rooted into new homes in the soil. One of the most frequent questions we receive from folks visiting the farm is about where we get all of the plants. And it’s a delight to watch their faces light up in awe when we say that we start most everything from seed in the greenhouse or we sow the seeds directly into the ground. It’s an exciting time to cheer on the germination of all the crops that will soon fill the fields with abundance.
Now, as we pass mid-June and the days get warmer and our harvest list grows longer and longer, we are seeing the fruits (and vegetables!) of that labor and abundance. Carrots, turnips, radishes, and beets are already coming out of the ground, and kale, chard, lettuce, bok choy, mustard greens, peas, cucumbers, and arugula are bountiful. After this last year and a half of collective grief and trauma through a global pandemic, these small barometers of growth and new life feel especially healing and hopeful.
As a young farmer during such a time marked by rising food insecurity and widening inequities in our food system, my mind races trying to understand how we as a team and as a nation can get more food into the hands of those who need it. Yet the farm never fails to remind me that there is always opportunity for growth and flourishing after a long winter and shock to our system. That collective action and community are the heart of any place. That we must always remain open and adaptable to the unforeseen challenges ahead. That the seasons will continue to change. And that we have a choice in how we build a healthy relationship of reciprocity and collective flourishing with the people and plant life around us. I’m looking forward to this summer and all the harvests to come with gratitude for what spring has provided and for the community of folks that have rallied around this farm that I am still new to and learning quickly to love.
Photo credit: Tony Rinaldo Photography LLC