I recently came across a newsletter I wrote for one of our very first CSA deliveries back in May 2010. "Deary morning ramblings of a young farmer" I called it. Six years later, I'm less of a young farmer and our business has grown and changed immensely, but the same difficulties and joys remain. On a similar dreary May day, the words I wrote then ring more true than ever:
If you ever had a home garden, you know there is nothing quite as satisfying as preparing a meal with food you have grown yourself. Last night we harvested and prepared the first crisp heads of bok choy. The mild juicy stems and delicate greens meld perfectly with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. We also enjoyed bright green oakleaf lettuce, only after mourning the fact that we could not sell this lettuce to our customers. Why not? Because, evidently, lettuce is a favorite treat for wildlife such as rabbits, deer, and groundhogs. We have installed a peanut butter-laced electric fence which, although it sounds silly, may successfully keep deer out of the vegetable fields. Netting can also be placed over tasty crops such as lettuce but it is time-consuming and frustrating to stretch hundreds of feet of plastic netting over delicate plants! Plus, the rabbits inevitably find a way under the netting. Groundhogs, apparently, are true to their name--not only do they feast on lettuce, beets, and broccoli, they will even eat the flowers off of young squash plants. That means no zucchini for you!
As we strategize ways to protect our crops from vermin, I can't help but thinking how funny it is that organic farming is often refereed to as "farming in harmony with nature." As delightful as this concept is, it causes us to overlook the real challenges and conflicts that arise when we try to farm in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and economically profitable. As a student of environmental science, I left college full of ideals and plans to save the world. But one season at an organic farm taught me that there are no easy solutions or obvious answers. The beauty of organic farming is that is is based on an ecological understanding of the world around us. We study and observe the activities of insects, fungus, and animals. We note subtle changes in the weather and consider potential impacts on plant life. Every day, we encounter new mysteries and are humbled by the problems we cannot solve. We try as best we know how to work with natural cycles and processes. As farmers, we like to think of ourselves as stewards of the land and water, caretakers of the soil. But sometimes, we are also warriors against the natural forces that threaten are livelihood. This is the way human life has always been and will always be. I feel blessed that each day I experience the beautiful reality of struggle, harmony, failure, and triumph. I hope that, by eating locally and seasonally, you too experience the beauty of connecting to the natural world around you.