We’re often asked, “where’s the bridge?” in reference to the name of our farm. “Its a metaphor,” I reply. In response to the inevitable confused expression I explain, “you know the saying, its better to bend than to break. Its a metaphor for resilience. To succeed as a farmer you have to be resilient. So we chose the name Bending Bridge Farm.”
“Is better to bend than to break,” I repeat to myself during these long hot summer days. Things haven’t exactly been going our way lately. After a full-time employee left unexpectedly in June, we’ve been scrambling to find enough help to complete all the planting, harvesting, and weeding. So far this year we’ve had to let one person go, another was recently injured in a car accident, and a third just gave us his two weeks notice in order to pursue another opportunity. This leaves us heading into the most labor-intensive two months of the year (for which we have been investing since February) with fewer than half the hands we need to get everything picked, packed, and off to markets. Only the most essential tasks are completed each day; weeds spring up relentlessly between rows of plants and surplus tomatoes hang unpicked on the vines. So far from the ideals and goals we had for our eighth season of production, its tempting to despair. Half-asleep over our morning coffee, Cameron and I look at each other and wonder if—how—we will ever succeed at this crazy thing called farming.
Then this morning, while transplanting a crop of fall fennel and wondering who will be around to pick it, a sense of peace settled into my tired body. Success, like security and control, is something we can never hold on to for long. There are those exhilarating moments when the tomato patch is perfectly trellised or the rows of beets are wonderfully weeded. There is the reward of an impeccably orchestrated work day. I can snap a picture and post it to Instagram. I can pat myself on the back for a job well done. A few days later the tomatoes are once again overgrown and those carefully weeded beets have been ravaged by a herd of hungry deer. It looks like failure. It feels like futility. But there too lies success, under heaps of frustration and exhaustion, just waiting for me to discover it.
Its the kind of success that can’t be captured in the picture everyone “likes” or the impressive farmers market display. This success is a spring in your step when you’re running on five hours of sleep. Its patience when you’re at the end of your rope. Its a belly laugh instead of a sigh, a smile instead of clenched teeth. This success is the one I define for myself, regardless of anyone else’s measure.
Its noticing the hum of cicadas as I kneel in the forest of cherry tomatoes. Its savoring the dramatic insect cacophony and oppressive summer heat because I know I’ll miss it all as soon as the cold silence of winter returns.
Its embracing the sensation in my back as I harvest okra alone at 8pm. Its moving among the scratchy leaves with grace and gratitude for strength. Its realizing “wow!” it is a beautiful summer night.
Success is remembering, some days for just a fleeting minute or two, that whatever goal I have for tomorrow is not worth the sacrifice of today’s kindness and joy.