Water: Life at the Wash and Pack Station

Without water life does not exist. Water makes up 60 percent of the human body, 70 percent of the earth, and almost 90 percent of many of the vegetables we grow, like cucumbers and tomatoes. This season I have spent my days surrounded by this sacred substance—using it to spray, dunk, shimmy, and shine our vegetables. Since April we have been harvesting almost every day, which requires someone to be working at our wash and pack station. This year that person is me, Anna Kelchlin—an organic vegetable grower, yoga practitioner and teacher, and water lover.

Each vegetable requires a unique set of treatments to get it ready for distribution to our current food pantries and meal programs each week. The rooted vegetables get the works: a power wash with our spray gun in their harvest crate, a dunk for the leaves, and another quick spray on just the roots. The arugula, mustard, and lettuce mixes need to be fully submerged in cool water, and then they undergo a centrifugal spin in our converted washing machine in order to drain the excess water. Other crops like bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, and cabbage just go for a dip and simply drain on the wire mesh tables before they are ready to be packed into banana boxes. I must say vegetables clean up nicely and especially on those cloudy rainy days, the vibrant colors come alive, presenting us with some true wonders of nature. 

The wash and pack station has offered a place for much contemplation in this year of reflection. Staying in one place, I can observe all the intricacies within that space, absorbing and embodying my environment. I hear the sounds of the wood on the barn creaking. I hear the whining of the valves as I turn one off and the other on, then a pressure relief spray releases at the source. I feel the slight change in temperature of the water when a bin of summer lettuce gets immersed in cool water, allowing these beautiful heads to be preserved much longer than any store-bought lettuce. Even the smell of the carrots is noticeably fragrant as they arrive at the station. But never have I been more aware of water and its vital role it plays in our ecosystem and what it has to teach us about living.

I have always been drawn to water and its therapeutic, cleansing qualities. The vast, expansiveness of the Atlantic Ocean, the continuous movement of the Concord River, and the calm, tranquil reflection of a still lake—water is healing. It inspires me to keep moving, to go with the flow. It reminds me how we are all connected. Water at times is a gentle, loving force that always follows the path of least resistance. It assists in the transportation of nutrients for plants and animals and helps regulate temperatures. And of course, water has the impressive ability to dissolve and wash away many substances like soil. Let us appreciate this life force of nature that gives us humans so much. I feel honored to participate in this process of growth and nourishment and am grateful to have had the opportunity to manage the wash, pack, and distribution at Gaining Ground. 

I leave you with a quote from a book I read this summer called Emergent Strategy that I particularly relate to this year. “Water has been my greatest teacher—partially because I am a woman and it is a strong medicine that I carry, but also because of its sheer power. It has taught me to reflect on my own participation in work, taught me to remember the fundamentals that life is built on. That things cycle, that nothing is ever truly finished, so we have to stay vigilant and aware of how things move, even when we think we win. Lastly, water has taught me that with enough force and will, I am unstoppable.”

—Sharon Lungo (in the book Emergent Strategy, by Adrienne Marie Brown)