Though it’s not April, I am doing the A-Z challenge. Today’s letter is F, for farmer.
“And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise
and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.
God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows,
work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of school board.
I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die, and
dry his eyes, and say, maybe next year.
I need somebody who can shape an axe handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of hay wire...
Who, with planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then paying his tractor back, put in another 72 hours,’ so God made a farmer...”
Farmers-Caretakers of the Earth
I took the above excerpt from a commercial by Paul Harvey, aired during this year’s SuperBowl. When I first heard it, I was in the midst of eight or ten boisterous football fans, who paused in their raucous behavior, to silently absorb the words being spoken. There is more of the commercial, that I did not transcribe, but there is enough here to get the general idea. Farmers are a tough breed and they work interminably long hours, every day of their lives.
Though I have grown a vegetable garden, practically every year of my life since 1974, I have never farmed. I have worked in the auto parts industry, I have labored in the trades, and I have taught in the local school district. When someone farms, he or she does not work in one industry, and also farm. No, when a person farms, as Paul Harvey indicates, it’s a full-time occupation, and then some.
My son farms. He grows vegetables and fruit organically, and he works the hours described above. I have known him to work from dawn to dusk, and then don his head lamp, and work until midnight, while I stumble off to bed around eight o’clock, wondering to myself how anyone could have that kind of drive and ambition.
He and his partner run a CSA, a Community-Sponsored Agriculture program, supplying Northern Mendocino County with fresh, organic produce, on a weekly basis. From May through October, he orchestrates his produce being available at three different farmers markets. Even now, in February, with the temperature currently resting at 28 degrees, he has a tremendous amount of produce, happily growing, the more tender varieties housed in eight greenhouses of varying dimensions.
Though the earth up here consists of rolling hills, with almost no flat area, he has carved his farm out of the land, by using a technique more often associated with the ancient Incan culture. He has carved steps out of the sloping land, the earliest ones done by hand, removed many of the pre-existing manzanita groves, sifted through the soil to remove the rocks, and planted his crops. This is all back-breaking work, and exceeds my limited capabilities. Of course, I am not thirty years old anymore.
Whether you pay attention the the politics of labeling food, and are aware of the travesty of GMO production, you must be aware that food grown organically is superior to food grown otherwise. It not only tastes better, it is free of the harmful additives that allows corporate farming endeavors to produce the vast amounts of produce that stock the Safeway and Alpha Beta markets of America.
Growing organically means that a certain percentage of what’s grown, becomes dinner for the insects, birds and rabbits of the area; think of it as a toll tax on the highway of healthy eating. Certain crops do exceptionally well up here on the mountain: garlic, brassicas (that would be broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, etc.) beets, carrots and a plethora of different salad greens. Other crops do not fare as well, such as corn, and potatoes.
In the summer, our hot-weather crop season starts around June first, maybe a tad later than desirable, but extends well into the fall, often into November, because the higher elevation (3,300 feet) keeps the frost away until later than in the valleys. It’s all good, as Casey would say. He keeps his customers supplied all year round.
I should know, because I am his biggest fan. Both Annie and I are thrilled to have one of our three sons up here on the land; it was one of the most significant reasons why we pulled up stakes in 1982, and moved out of San Jose, to settle up here in the rugged country of Northern Mendocino County. Twenty acres is a lot of land to farm and Casey’s not there yet. However, I have two other sons, both involved in the fire-fighting industry. There may come a time when they decide to engage in a little less exciting field than fighting fires. If so, then there is plenty of room and plenty of opportunity. Until then, at least we know that when it comes to wildfires, someone’s got our back.
Meanwhile, help yourself to the salad greens, why don’t you? Just remember to bring your own salad dressing.